Mississippi Government records cover a broad range of genealogy subject areas that can help you as part of your research, such as land ownership, courts, taxes, and naturalization’s. Given that Mississippi court records cover such a wide selection of topics, they could aid you in many different ways. As an example, they could aid you in finding ancestors’ residences, identify occupations, locate financial information, determine citizenship status, or shed light on relationships between individuals. The whole thing relies upon on the type of court records that the ancestors” names show up in. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia.
Mississippi Courthouse records change extensively from county to county in both level of quality and volume. You will find different kinds of court records that are most likely to possess information related for your genealogical research below.
Mississippi Court Records
Although the chancery court does hold probate records, it also holds records relating to other matters as well. Some of those records include mortgages, land titles, and other courthouse documents.
In 1817 the term “circuit” was used when state judges were forced to move around on a circuit in a given area to preside over civil court issues. Those courts are still much the same today as they were back then. The circuit court maintains records of marriage licenses, criminal court minutes, naturalization declarations, voter registrations, and related documents. The public can access those records at the courthouses themselves, at the FHL, or at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. See Also Research In Court Records.
Mississippi Land Records
Land documents have been granted from Spain, France, Britain, and the U.S. state of Georgia at various points in Mississippi’s history. Each of those grants were given before 1798, when Mississippi gained its statehood. Grants from former jurisdictions are known as private land claims. After Mississippi became a state, each landowner was required to file such a claim with the government of the United States. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has those records on file, along with a guide to them.
The General Land Office (GLO), a division of the federal government, was responsible for the first land distributions in Mississippi after 1798, which is why Mississippi is known as a public land state. The GLO is now known as the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and may hold any or all of the following record types: Field Notes,
Surveys, Tract Books, Official Monthly Abstracts, Patents, Entry Records.
Local federal land offices recorded transactions where individuals purchased land from the federal government. Mississippi had a total of 8 land offices that operated at various times. They were:
- St. Stephens Land Office (The District East of the Pearl River) – (26 December 1806-1817): This district was both the first to open in the region and the first to close. It was located in what is now Alabama, in Washington County. It was responsible for covering land ceded to the government from Georgia between 1798 and 1802, along with other land in the southeastern district. Later, the Augusta land office took over those duties.
- Washington Land Office (Adams County, or District West of the Pearl River) – (1807 to 1861): This office included land obtained in sales from the Choctaw tribe.
- Huntsville, Alabama Land Office (Madison County, Alabama) – (1810 to Present): This office managed the lands obtained in treaties with the Cherokee and Chicksaw tribes in 1805 and 1906.
- Jackson Land Office (Hinds County) – (1827 to 1836): This office handled land sales in the west-central part of what is now the state of Mississippi.
- August Land Office (Perry County): This land office was moved to Paulding (Jasper County) from 1860 to 1861. It was responsible for land in eastern-central Mississippi from 1820 to 1859.
- The Columbus District Land Office (Lowndes County) – (1833 to 1861): This office covered the northern part of eastern-central Mississippi.
- Chocchuma Land Office (now Grenada County) – (1833 to 1840): This land office was located along the Yalobusha River, in Choctaw District. However, from 1840 to 1860 it was moved to Grenada. At that point it was responsible for land in northwestern Mississippi.
- Pontotoc Land Office (Pontotoc County) – 1836 to 1861: This land office served the extreme northeastern portion of Mississippi.
- As of 1869, all land offices were merged into one. That office was located in Jackson.
After the closing of all Mississippi land offices, the records were moved to the BLM. However, the secretary of state’s office holds original plat books and field notes. Researchers may send inquiries to Public Lands Division, 401 Mississippi St., Jackson, MS 39205. However, the staff charges fees for research.
Several land entry records were filed. There were private land claims, which recorded claims issued by other countries. There were also bounty land grants issued for those who served in the military. There were also both cash entries for lands that were cash only after 1820 and credit entries for those who purchased land prior to that on credit. Donation entries also exist. Those signified land set aside by the government for a certain purpose. Under the Homestead Act of 1862, settlers were also given land, which was recorded. Researchers can find a lot of useful genealogical information in all of those land records.
When land was sold from one individual to another after the original federal sale or land grant, those records were also recorded. The records were created at the county courthouse and then given to the chancery clerk to file. Many of those records are on microfilm and organized by county at both the Salt Lake City Family History Library (FHL) and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
Both original land sale records from the land commissioner’s office and the original records of subsequent sales from the chancery clerks’ offices have been copied and are on file at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Several congressional records are also available to researchers, including: Land Legislation, Petitions from Individuals, Land Company Records, State and Local Government Land Claim Records from 1795 to 1872.
Copies of Native American treaties involving the sales of land can also be found among those records. The collection also contains other federal, territorial, state, and provincial records. There are also maps and surveys of the lower Mississippi Valley region available.
It can be difficult for researchers to fully track the records of ownership for a given piece of land in Mississippi, but the land files can be full of useful genealogical information. See Also Guide to U.S. Land Records Research
Mississippi Probate Records
Mississippi Territory separated circuit courts from chancery courts, according to English law, even though it was also influenced by other European countries throughout the years.
The 1817 state constitution created courts of probate in Mississippi, but they were originally known as “orphans’ courts.” They handled matters of guardianship and other probate cases. As of 1832 the courts were renamed “probate courts” but their functions remained about the same. Although, they came under the administration of chancery clerks at that time. Chancery courts were abolished in 1857, causing circuit courts to take over probate functions. However, chancery courts were brought back in 1869.
There are many duties that fall under the jurisdiction of Mississippi’s chancery court. For example, the chancery court clerk was also a judge in probate matters. They were responsible for recording wills and testaments. They were also responsible for admitting wills to probate, guardianship cases, mediating claims against estates, and assorted other functions. Most of those records can be found in county courthouses, but many are also available at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History on microfilm.
There are also several “loose papers” available for the state of Mississippi. Many of them are on microfilm at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, but some can also be found in individual county courthouses. See Also Guide to U.S. Probate Records Research