Background Sources for Mississippi

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This entry was originally written by Kathleen Stanton Hutchison for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

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


To begin researching Mississippi records, there are three publications of particular note that provide useful overviews of resources in the state. See Richard S. Lackey, “Mississippi” in Kenn Stryker-Rodda, ed., Genealogical Research Methods and Sources, vol. 2, rev. ed. (Washington, D.C.: American Society of Genealogists, 1983): 188-218; Ruth Land Hatten, “Genealogical Research in Mississippi,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 76 (March 1988): 25-51; Anne S. Lipscomb, Kathleen S. Hutchison, Tracing Your Mississippi Ancestors (Jackson, Miss.: University Press of Mississippi, 1994). For a broad historical account of the development of Mississippi, consult Richard A. McLemore, A History of Mississippi, 2 vols. (Jackson, Miss.: University and College Press of Mississippi, 1973). All four were consulted as resources in developing this chapter.

An excellent interpretive history is John Ray Skates, Mississippi: A Bicentennial History (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., and Nashville: American Association for State and Local History, 1979). It contains a good, short bibliographic essay at the end that suggests other Mississippi history to read.

In the later part of the nineteenth century, an historical and biographical compilation of information about Mississippi was put together in Goodspeed’s Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi, 2 vols. (Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1891), reproduced by Bell and Howell (Wooster, Ohio: Micropublishers, Micro Photo Division, n.d.). Information for these volumes was taken from oral histories, but the publication offers a genuine “flavor” of Mississippi.

With eighty-two counties in the state, it would be impractical to formulate a listing of all local histories. For a current listing, see P. William Filby’s A Bibliography of American County Histories (see page 4).

Original folders of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) county files, completed in the late 1930s, provide an introspective view of a county through a variety of sources found in each folder. Both the folders and a microfilm copy are at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The Mississippi Library Commission, 1221 Ellis Ave., Jackson, MS 39209-7328, has microfilm copies as well.

The Biographical Index found at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History is a card index to information on Mississippians during the territorial and early statehood days. It is also available online at the archives website. The genealogical sources indexed include territorial census and tax rolls, secretary of state’s register of commissions (lists of state and county office holders), select Mississippi newspaper notices, and Goodspeed’s Memoirs, cited previously. Also indexed are Mississippi soldiers who participated in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War.

For the best explanation of Mississippi military participation, see Dunbar Rowland, Military History of Mississippi, 1803–1898 (1898; reprint, Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Co., 1978). James F. Brieger, Hometown Mississippi (Jackson, Miss.: Town Square Books, Inc., 1997), provides an extensive listing of Mississippi places with a brief historical passage and can be important in locating communities that no longer exist.

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