Background Sources for Florida

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This entry was originally written by the Florida Pioneer Descendants Certification Program Committee of the Florida State Genealogical Society, Inc. for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Florida Family History Research series.
History of Florida
Florida Vital Records
Census Records for Florida
Background Sources for Florida
Florida Maps
Florida Land Records
Florida Probate Records
Florida Court Records
Florida Tax Records
Florida Cemetery Records
Florida Church Records
Florida Military Records
Florida Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Florida Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Florida Immigration
Florida Naturalization
Ethnic Groups of Florida
Florida Territorial Records
Florida Early Election Records
Florida County Resources
Map of Florida


Many of Florida’s early records exist at archives and university libraries. Each year new records are discovered, such as those in the Spanish archives in Seville, Spain. Local histories such as county, town, church, and business are available; however, their scarcity means that much of the material can only be found in special collections of archives, historical societies, or libraries at the geographic locations. The largest collection of Florida history can be found at the P. K. Yonge Library in Gainesville and the Florida Room of the State Library of Florida in Tallahassee (see Archives, Libraries, and Societies). A bibliography of county histories, some of which may be acquired by interlibrary loan at public libraries, was published in 1988 by Beverly Pittman Byrd; a copy can be found at the state library or online at its website http://dlis.dos.state.fl.us under “Florida Collection.”

Florida’s history is constantly changing. Michael Gannon, Distinguished Service Professor of History at the University of Florida in Gainesville is the editor of the latest reference, The New History of Florida (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996). This book includes some changes, such as the controversial discussion on the initial landing site of Ponce de Leon, and provides an overview from pre-history to the present, including well-known Florida historians who are authorities in their field.

An indispensable source for articles, references, and book reviews is the Florida Historical Quarterly publication of the Florida Historical Society (see Archives, Libraries, and Societies). The quarterly and other historical and archaeological collections are fully searchable online at PALMM (Publication of Archival, Library & Museum Materials), a cooperative initiative of the public universities of Florida to provide digital access to important source materials for research and scholarship. See http://palmm.fcla.edu/collection.html.

A comprehensive bibliography of excellent resource materials in places beyond the libraries is the James Albert Servies bibliographies: A Bibliography of Florida (Pensacola, Fla.: the compiler, 1993–2002), vol. 1, 1507­–1845; vol. 2, 1846–80; vol. 3, 1881–99; vol. 4, 1900–15; and A Bibliography of West Florida (Pensacola, Fla.: the compiler, 1982, 1978), vol.1, 1535–1915; vol. 2, 1916–71; vol. 3, Index; vol. 4, 1981 supplement.

A worthwhile online project is the Florida migration project, whose purpose is to track groups or individuals into or out of Florida. In some cases, the information is very extensive and well documented (see www.rootsweb.com/~flgenweb/projects/flmig.html).

Other publications to help researching and understanding the background history of Florida:

  • Chapin, George M. Florida, 1513–1913. 2 vols. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1914.
  • Cutler, Harry Gardner. History of Florida, Past and Present: Historical and Biographical. 3 vols. Chicago and New York: Lewis Publishing Co., 1923.
  • Fairbanks, George R. History of Florida: From its Discovery by Ponce de Leon, in 1512, to the Close of the Florida War, in 1842. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co.; Jacksonville, Fla.: Columbus Drew, 1871.
  • Tebeau, Charlton. A History of Florida. Coral Gables, Fla.: University of Miami Press, 1999.
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