Georgia History and Research Overview

By Family Tree Editors Premium

Sign up for the Family Tree Newsletter Plus, you’ll receive our 10 Essential Genealogy Research Forms PDF as a special thank you!

Get Your Free Genealogy Forms

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


After French and Spanish explorations in the 16th century, Spain claimed the Georgia-Florida area and established missions among coastal Indians. A century later, Britain chartered the Carolina colony. By the early 1700s, with Spanish settlements to the south and the French in greater Louisiana, Britain wanted to strengthen its presence and provide a buffer against attack on Carolina. Thus, in 1732 Britain chartered the Georgia colony to 20 trustees for 21 years, and the first settlers founded Savannah in 1733. Early immigrants included English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish, with some Italian, Portuguese, Swiss, and German settlers. Protestants and Jews were welcome, but not Catholics. Slavery was prohibited until 1749.

When the Georgia trustees relinquished their charter in 1752, Georgia became a royal colony. More settlers arrived from other British colonies, especially Virginia and the Carolinas. In southern Georgia, flat-to-rolling coastal plains were ripe for plantation agriculture. The northern highlands and mountains remained largely Indian lands until the 1830s.

As the 13 colonies moved toward independence, loyalist feelings were strong in Georgia, and it was the last colony to send representatives to the Continental Congress. The Georgia delegation joined the other colonies in voting for independence in July 1776. During the Revolution, the British occupied both Savannah and Augusta and controlled most of the state. In 1787, Georgia ratified the US Constitution.


As the nation expanded, Georgians pushed into northeastern Indian lands. Although gold had been found periodically in Cherokee territory, a gold rush began with discoveries about 1828. The forced removal of thousands of Cherokee from northern Georgia in 1838, during which some 4,000 died, became one of several Trails of Tears.

Railroads came to Georgia in the 1830s and gave impetus to some industries, especially textiles. Before the Civil War, the core of the state’s economy was agriculture, especially cotton cultivation using slave labor. By 1860, 44 percent of Georgia’s million residents were slaves; 1 percent were immigrants.

In January 1861, Georgia seceded from the Union, despite a sizeable anti-secession minority. Deprivation and destruction characterized the Civil War years, and in September 1864, General Sherman’s army destroyed Atlanta as it burned its way toward the coast. Reconstruction saw continued hardship and poverty. By the turn of the 20th century, Georgia’s economy was slowly industrializing, with logging, mining and related industries stemming from the state’s numerous natural resources. Cotton still fed Georgia’s textile industry, but crop diversification encouraged food-processing industries. By the mid-20th century, the population and economy were no longer predominantly agricultural.


(click to enlarge)
Georgia state map with county outlines

Georgia sources are available on microfilm at the state archives, and often, the Family History Library. They include:

  • State tax digests, by county, from the 1780s
  • Poor school and academy lists, fragmentary from the late 1820s to the 1860s
  • Civil War salt allotments
  • Men subject to military duty, March 1862: men from 16 to 60 who had not enlisted by the beginning of 1864
  • Reconstruction registration oath books and returns of qualified voters, 1867-1868
  • Register of “inmates,” 1901-1941, and Confederate widows’ applications for the Confederate Soldiers’ Home of Georgia
  • Confederate pension records from 1870


  • Federal Census Schedules: 1820 (except Franklin, Rabun and Twiggs Counties), 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890 (Washington County), 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • Federal Census Soundex: 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • Federal Mortality Schedules for all Georgia counties available at the Georgia Archives for the years: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880
  • Federal slave schedules: 1850, 1860. Schedules name slaveholders but rarely name slaves.
  • State census: 1798 to about 1879, various years, various counties


  • Ambiguous Lives: Free Women of Color in Rural Georgia, 1789-1879 by Adele Logan Alexander (University of Arkansas Press, 1991)
  • A Bibliography of the Writings on Georgia History, 1900-1970, revised edition,
  • by Arthur Ray Rowland and James E. Dorsey (Reprint Co., 1978)
  • Biographical Souvenir of the States of Georgia and Florida (F.A. Battey and Company, 1889)
  • Checklist of Eighteenth Century Manuscripts in the Georgia Historical Society compiled by Lilla Mills Hawes and Karen Elizabeth Osvald (Georgia Historical Society, 1976)
  • Colonial Georgia Genealogical Data, 1748-1783 by William H. Dumont (National Genealogical Society, 1971)
  • The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia compiled by Allen D. Candler, et al. (State printer, 1904)
  • Confederate Imprints at the Georgia Historical Society by Richard Barksdale Harwell (Georgia Historical Society, 1975)
  • Dictionary of Georgia Biography edited by Kenneth Coleman and Charles Stephen Gurr (University of Georgia Press, 1983)
  • The Federal Road Through Georgia, the Creek Nation, and Alabama, 1806-1836 by Henry de Leon Southerland Jr. and Jerry Elijah Brown (University of Alabama Press, 1989)
  • The Fledgling Province: Social and Cultural Life in Colonial Georgia, 1733-1776 by Harold E. Davis (University of North Carolina Press, 1976)
  • Genealogical Material From Legal Notices in Early Georgia Newspapers by Folks Huxford (Southern Historical Press, 1989)
  • Georgia Baptists by Jesse H. Campbell (J.W. Burke and Co., 1874)
  • Georgia Bible Records compiled by Jeannette Holland Austin (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985)
  • Georgia Biographical Dictionary (Somerset Publishers, 1994)
  • The Georgia Black Book: Morbid, Macabre & Sometimes Disgusting Records of Genealogical Value by Robert Scott Davis, Jr. (Southern Historical Press, 1982-1987)
  • Georgia Genealogical Gems: A Gathering of Articles Previously Published in the NGSQ (National Genealogical Society, 1981)
  • Georgia Genealogical Research by George K. Schweitzer (G.K. Schweitzer, 1987)
  • Georgia Genealogical Research: a Practical Guide by David H. Robertson (D.H. Robertson, 1989)
  • Georgia Genealogy and Local History: a Bibliography compiled by James E. Dorsey (Reprint Co., 1983)
  • The Georgia Gold Rush: Twenty-Niners, Cherokees, and Gold Fever by David Williams (University of South Carolina Press 1993)
  • Georgia Governor and Council Journal, 1761-1767 abstracted by Mary Bondurant Warren and Jack Moreland Jones (Heritage Press, 1992)
  • Georgia: a Guide to its Towns and Countryside by the Work Projects Administration (University of Georgia Press, 1940)
  • Georgia History: a Bibliography compiled by John Eddins Simpson (Scarecrow Press, 1976)
  • Georgia Indian Depredation Claims edited by Donna B. Thaxton et al. (Thaxton Co., ca. 1988)
  • Georgia Local and Family History Sources in Print, compiled by Marilyn Adams (Heritage Research, 1982)
  • Georgia Pioneers Genealogical Magazine, 24 vols. (Georgia Pioneers Publications, 1964-1987)
  • Georgia Sources for Family History
  • compiled by Robert Holcomb Warnock (Georgia Genealogical Society, 1995)
  • Georgia Through Two Centuries edited by E. Merton Coulter (Lewis Historical Publishing Co., ca. 1966)
  • The Georgians: Genealogies of Pioneer Settlers compiled by Jeannette Holland Austin (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1984)
  • Georgians Past: Special Files of Georgia Settlers and Citizens, Subjects and Counties, 1722-1970s edited by Robert Scott Davis Jr. (Boyd Publishing Co., 1997)
  • The Germans of Colonial Georgia, 1733-1783 by George F. Jones (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986)
  • Great Georgians by Zell Miller (Advocate Press, 1983)
  • A Guide to Native American (Indian) Research Sources at the Georgia Department of Archives and History
  • by Robert Scott Davis Jr. (R.S. Davis, 1985)
  • Historical Collections of the Georgia Chapters, Daughters of the American Revolution, Vol. 1: Seventeen Georgia Counties (C.P. Byrd, state printer, 1926)
  • Historical Collections of Georgia by Rev. George White (Pudney & Russell, 1854)
  • History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia (J.P. Harrison & Co., 1881)
  • History of Georgia, 4 vols. by Clark Howell (The S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1926)
  • An Index to Georgia Tax Digests, (Reprint Co., 1986)
  • Index to Georgia’s 1867-1868 Returns of Qualified Voters and Registration Oath Books (White) compiled by John David Brandenburg and Rita Binkley Worthy (J.D. Brandenburg, 1995)
  • Joe Brown’s Army: the Georgia State Line, 1862-1865 by William Harris Bragg (Mercer University Press, 1987)
  • Leon S. Hollingsworth Genealogical Card File (R.J. Taylor Jr., Foundation, ca. 1979)
  • A List of the Early Settlers of Georgia by E. Merton Coulter and Albert B. Saye (Univ. of Georgia Press, 1949)
  • Memoirs of Georgia; Containing Historical Accounts of the State’s Civil, Military, Industrial, and Professional Interests, and Personal Sketches of Many of its People, 2 vols. (Southern Historical Association, 1895)
  • Men of Mark in Georgia; a Complete and Elaborate History of the State from its Settlement to the Present Time, 6 vols. by William J. Northen (A.B. Caldwell, 1907-1912)
  • Methodist Preachers in Georgia, 1783-1900 edited and compiled by Harold Lawrence (Boyd Publishing Co., 1984)
  • The Moravians in Georgia, 1735-1740 by Adelaide L. Fries (Edwards & Broughton, 1905)
  • Old Bible Records and Land Lotteries, Published Under the Auspices of the Lucy Cook Peel Memorial Committee compiled and edited by Lelia Thorton Gentry (Stein Printing Co., 1932)
  • Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, 11 vols., by Folks Huxford (1951-ca. 2002)
  • Research in Georgia compiled by Robert Scott Davis Jr. (Southern Historical Press, 1981)
  • A Researcher’s Library of Georgia History, Genealogy, and Records Sources, 2 vols.,
  • by Robert Scott Davis Jr. (Southern Historical Press, 1987, 1991)
  • The Reuben King Journal, 1800-1806 edited by Virginia Steele Wood and Ralph Van Wood (Georgia Historical Society, 1971)
  • The Salzburgers and their Descendants: Being the History of a Colony of German (Lutheran) Protestants by Philip A. Strobel (T.N. Kurtz, 1855)
  • The Search for Georgia’s Colonial Records
  • edited by Lilla Mills Hawes and Albert S. Britt Jr. (Georgia Historical Society, 1976)
  • The Seed that was Sown in the Colony of Georgia, the Harvest and the Aftermath, 1740-1870 By Charles Spalding Wylly (The Neale Publishing Company, 1910)
  • Some Early Tax Digests of Georgia edited by Ruth Blair (Department of Archives and History, 1926)
  • Some Georgia County Records, 10 vols., compiled by Silas Emmett Lucas Jr. (Southern Historical Press, 1977-2002)
  • A Standard History of Georgia and Georgians by Lucian Lamar Knight (The Lewis Publishing Co., 1917)
  • The Story of Georgia and the Georgia People, 1732 to 1860, 2nd edition, by George Gillman Smith (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1968)
  • Whites Among the Cherokees: Georgia 1828-1838 edited by Mary B. Warren and Eve B. Weeks (Heritage Papers, 1987)

Return to the main Georgia page

From the Family Tree Sourcebook
Also available: the State Research Guide Book, State Research Guides CD and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.