Online and Offline Genealogical Resources for Alabama

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Are you looking for information on your Alabama ancestors? You will be happy to know that there are plenty of places to look, both online and offline. Alabama is one of the better states in the south for finding genealogical information. It has very few counties with courthouses that burned, even during the Civil War, and it has a long and strong commitment to preserving old records. With many southern states, you might run into brick walls and frustration due to lack of information at the county, state, and even federal level. This is not so in Alabama. Here are the best online and offline sources for discovering your Alabama ancestors.

 

  1. The Alabama Department of Archives and History

Located in Montgomery, Alabama just across the street from the state capitol building and next door to the first White House of the Confederacy, the Alabama Department of Archives and History is a treasure trove for anyone who is doing Alabama genealogy research. You can easily spend days in here going through their vast collection of Alabama historical and genealogical records. Among their collections, you will find such things as:

  • Ancient marriage records
  • Old military records (both service and pension)
  • Old newspaper records organized by family surname
  • Books on Alabama families, many with old family stories re-told in them
  • Probate records
  • Land records
  • Cemetery records
  • Old maps
  • And much more

A perfect way to use these records to get a full picture of your Alabama ancestors is to find where they are buried and where they lived, then go out and find these places and get pictures for your family history collection. As long as you’re in Alabama, you may as well make the most of it by getting every bit of research out of it that you can. The information at the Alabama Department of Archives and History will give you a lot of new details on your ancestors, and point you in the direction for some solid in the field research once you’re done combing through the record stacks in the building.

 

  1. The US GenWeb Project

This free website organizes user-submitted Alabama genealogy information by county. Most county pages are searchable by last name, though there may be some exceptions. This is the place where you will find gems you won’t find anywhere else, such as church records, wills, tax records, obscure newspaper records, family Bible records, written but unpublished genealogies, and more. Anyone who is doing Alabama genealogy research should use this site, as you never know what you are going to find there. There could be information on it submitted by a user that has never been accessed by anyone but immediate relatives for generations, and is not published anywhere else. You really need to look at it to see if there is anything there that could help you in your own research or that gives new information on your ancestors by name.

 

  1. Ancestry.com

This paid membership site is the leader in online genealogy research. You can find many things here that you could only find otherwise by making a lengthy trip to the record source. Instead, Ancestry.com allows you to research from the comfort of your own home. You will find U.S. census records for Alabama on this site, which are enormously useful in genealogical research. You will also find birth, death, and marriage indexes for the state going back into the late 1800’s, and sometimes earlier. There are family history books on Alabama families in their entirety on this site, many of them not available anywhere else outside of their local libraries. You can also find user submitted family trees on Alabama ancestors, some of which may include photos of ancestors whose faces you’ve never seen before, or have only seen as old people (if the photos posted are of your ancestors when they were young). If you are doing any kind of Alabama genealogy research, this is the place to start it.

 

  1. County Courthouses in Alabama

In addition to these sources, you can go to individual courthouses in the counties of Alabama and get records of court cases that involved your ancestors. These usually aren’t published anywhere. You can contact the courthouse in the county where your ancestors lived to see if they have any records pertaining to them before you go there. Sometimes, court cases can reveal a lot of detail about your ancestors lives and who they were as people.

These sources should be enough to launch you on a productive search for your Alabama ancestors. Use them, and be amazed at all the incredible new details on your ancestors from Alabama you will discover. Your family tree will thank you, as will future generations who will get to know these ancestors through your work. Go on and get started.


Why Did Some African Americans Fight for the Confederacy?

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The presence of African American soldiers in the Confederate army is a little known fact of the Civil War. Because the Civil War was largely about the issue of slavery and whether or not it would continue to be allowed in this country, the existence of African American Confederate soldiers seems bizarre. What were their reasons for fighting against the people who would free them? Why did they side with the Confederacy? Or was it more complicated than that? Here are the answers you need to know.

The existence of African American Confederate soldiers was noted with disdain and a bit of pity by popular abolitionist speaker and former slave Frederick Douglass during the Civil War. Union soldiers reported encountering them. Why were they there?

First of all, while there were indeed African American Confederate soldiers, they were not legally permitted to fight for the Confederate army until the last month of the Civil War. This was when the Confederacy was in extreme need of all the extra soldiers it could get, as it became increasingly likely the Union would win the war.

No one knows exactly how many African Americans fought for the Confederacy, but scholars estimate the number to be between 3,000 and 6,000 people. Another 100,000 or so worked for the Confederacy in supportive roles such as laborers and servants to white soldiers. They did the hard work of fortifying the Confederacy’s infrastructure of roads and weapons factories, which white people did not want to do, or could not be spared to do.

The reasons the actual soldiers who were African Americans fought for the Confederacy. Some were forced to do so by their owners, either because extra manpower was needed or because the owner could no longer fight and needed the slave to fight on his behalf. Others fought because they genuinely believed the Confederacy would win the war and they were promised their freedom once the war was over if they took up arms for the Confederate cause. Others became soldiers because they were slave owners themselves, and had the same interest in preserving the institution of slavery for economic reasons as their white counterparts. Black slave owners were not common in the Confederacy, but they did exist, mainly in Louisiana and other areas on the western fringe of the Confederacy.

For a long time, scholars argued that no African American soldiers fought for the Confederacy. However, the historical evidence, mainly in the highly trustworthy sources of first hand accounts of them by people who saw them, and Confederate war records that identify them prove they did exist. Some even fought in an unofficial capacity before African Americans were officially allowed to become soldiers in the Confederate States of America.

While their presence as Confederate soldiers makes up only about one percent of the 750,000 white soldiers, the fact that there were any African American Confederate soldiers at all is historically important. Their various reasons for fighting for what would seem the wrong side for them gives us a lot of insight into what was really going on in the south during the pre-Civil War era, as well as during the war itself. Knowing they were there helps us understand the history of the south better.


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