Ethnic Groups of 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.
Voluminous records of various aspects of black life in Florida have been surveyed for The Black Experience: A Guide to Afro-American Resources in the Florida State Archives (revised; Tallahassee: Florida State Archives, 2002), which is now available online on its website (see Archives, Libraries, and Societies). Compiled by Debra D. McGriff, former curator of the Florida State Archives’ genealogy collection, this invaluable resource gives record groups and series titles, coverage dates, and descriptions for a vast array of primary sources for research on the African Americans of Florida.
The archives’ public record and manuscript holdings include slave books, African-American church membership lists, the governors’ administrative correspondence, Black Teacher Association papers, and the papers of Judge Joseph Lee, a prominent African-American Republican of Duval County. African-American marriage records, deeds documenting African-American ownership of land, and probate files containing wills and appraisement inventories including lists of slaves are interspersed throughout the archives’ county records microfilm collection. A few counties (Gadsden, Leon, and Gulf) provide indexes for “Negro” or “Colored” marriages, but there are no separate indexes for deeds or probates involving African Americans. Chancery case files, marks and brands, mortgages, guardianships, and court-order books can also be useful to the researcher of African-American genealogy.
There are currently two African-American societies in Florida: Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society-Central Florida Chapter, 6013 Wedgewood Dr., Orlando, FL 32808 (mailing address: P.O. Box 1347, Orlando, FL 32802-1347) www.rootsweb.com/~flcfaahg/; and South Jacksonville African American Historical & Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 10693, Jacksonville, FL 32247 www.jacksonvillestory.com.
Some research centers available for African-American research are:
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tallahassee, FL 32307 www.famu.edu/acad/coleman/index.html the state’s “historically black university,” maintains an African American Collection, including a microform reproduction of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and History, an important resource for the study of African American people.
The African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33311 www.broward.org/aarlcc.htm contains more than 75,000 books, documents, artifacts, and related materials that focus on the experiences of people of African descent. Local history is a cornerstone of the available resources.
The Black Archives Collection, History and Research Foundation of South Florida, Inc., The Joseph Caleb Community Center, 5400 NW 22nd Ave., Miami, FL 33142 constitutes another resource for researchers.
In addition to websites of national interest for African-American research (see pages 14-15), Internet sites for Florida include:
- Florida African-American Roots www.rootsweb.com/~flafram/home.html
- Florida Slave Data www.rootsweb.com/~flafram/Slavedata.htm
The following is a select group of important or unusual sources:
- Brown, Carter, Jr. Florida’s Black Public Officials, 1867–1924. Tuscaloosa, Ala.: University of Alabama Press, 1998.
- Jones, Maxine D. and Kevin M. McCarthy. African Americans in Florida. Sarasota, Fla.: Pineapple Press, Inc., 1993.
- Midwifery Program Files, 1924–75, at the Florida State Archives, contains a few applications for licensing of black midwives under the state midwifery program.
- Rivers, Larry E. Slavery in Florida: Territorial Days to Emancipation. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000.
- Smith, Julia Floyd. Slavery and Plantation Growth in Antebellum Florida, 1821–1860. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1973.
- Voter registration rolls for 1868, at the Florida State Archives, lists each registrant’s name, race, length of residence in the county and state, nativity (by state), naturalization (where, when, how), and the date of registration.
Today’s true “Florida Indians” constitute three separate but historically related groups: the Seminole, the Miccosukee, and the Creek tribes. Thousands of them were transported during the mid-1800s to Oklahoma, where they formed one of the “Five Civilized Tribes.” Many still live on federal and state reservations in or near the Everglades. The most common starting place for Native American research on the pertinent tribes is the index to Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory: Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek, Seminole (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2003).
The Seminole tribe, 6300 Stirling Rd., Hollywood, FL 33024 www.seminoletribe.com has more than 3,000 members on six reservations: Big Cypress, Brighton, Fort Pierce, Hollywood, Immokalee, and Tampa. Extensive information about their resources is provided on the website.
The Miccosukee have a reservation forty miles west of Miami on the Tamiami Trail www.miccosukee.com/tribe.html.
The Seminole provide community libraries on five of their six reservations:
Billy Osceola Memorial Library
Rt. 6, Box 668
Okeechobee, FL 34974
Dorothy Scott Osceola Memorial Library, (Broward County)
3100 NW 63rd Ave.
Hollywood, FL 33024
Willie Frank Library (Hendry County)
HC 61 Box 46A, Big Cypress Reservation
Clewiston, FL 33440
Tampa Reservation Library
5219 Orient Rd., #K
Tampa, FL 33610
Immokalee Reservation Library
303 Lena Frank Dr., Ste. 3
Immokalee, FL 33934
Two research guides assist with Seminole family research:
- Lennon, Donna Rachal. Tracing Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes: Southeastern Indians Prior to Removal. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 2002.
- Wickman, Patricia R., Ph.D. So You Think There’s a Seminole in Your Family Tree? Hollywood, Fla.: Seminole Publications; Seminole Tribe of Florida, 1997.
Some published materials available on researching Florida Native Americans are:
- Bowen, Jeff. Seminole of Florida: Indian Census 1930–1940, with Birth and Death Records 1930–1938. Signal Mountain, Tenn.: Mountain Press, 1997.
- Kersey, Harry A. The Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes: A Critical Bibliography. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.
- Lantz, Raymond C. Seminole Indians of Florida, 1850–1874. Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1994.
- ______. Seminole Indians of Florida, 1875–1879. Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1995.
Many Floridians who have Cuban or Spanish ancestry will benefit from the files in the David Masnata Y De Quesada Collection at the University of Miami, Otto G. Richter Library, Archives & Special Collection Department (see Florida Archives, Libraries, and Societies). Masnata became a Cuban exile and moved to New York in 1961. When he left Cuba, he left behind records covering many years of researching family and local history. However, he compiled a new collection of documents on Cuban and Spanish families. A complete description of this collection can be found at www.library.miami.edu/archives/papers/MASNATA.html.
Other helpful sources, especially for tracing Spanish or Cuban ancestry.
- Cuban Genealogy Club of Miami, FL, Inc., 5521 SW 163 Ave., Southwest Ranches, FL 33331 www.cgcmiami.org/cuba]
- Cuban Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 2650, Salt Lake City, UT 84110 www.rootsweb.com/~utcubangs
- Los Floridanos Society, Inc., P.O. Box 4043, St. Augustine, FL 32085 www.losfloridanos.org. Los Floridanos Society represents descendants of the early Spanish settlers of St. Augustine, Florida, who arrived during the “First Spanish Period, 1565–1763.” Currently, the society represents the Solana and Sanchez families.
- Cuban Heritage Collection, Otto G. Richter Library, University of Miami, Florida (see Florida Archives, Libraries, and Societies).
Other resources include:
- Caribbean Historical & Genealogical Journal. Published four times a year by TCI Genealogical Resources, P.O. Box 15839, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93406.
- Carr, Peter E. Genealogical resources of Hispanic Central & South America. San Luis Obispo, Calif.: TCI Genealogical Resources, 1996.
- Carr, Peter E. Guide to Cuban Genealogical Research—Records and Sources. Chicago: Adams Press, 1991.
- Feldman, Lawrence H. Anglo-Americans in Spanish Archives: Lists of Anglo-American Settlers in the Spanish Colonies of America: A Finding Aid. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1991.
- Platt, Lyman. D. Cuba General Research Guide. Salt Lake City: Institute of Genealogy and History for Latin-America, 1991.
Other Ethnic Groups
Florida is a melting pot of people from different backgrounds, beyond the historical presence of Native Americans and African Americans. Hispanic migration did not occur until the last half of the twentieth century, except for the Spanish colonial period.
Among the earliest colonies still traceable are the Minorcans, who came from the Mediterranean, Greek, Spanish, and Italian isles with Dr. Andrew Turnbull to settle his ill-fated New Smyrna plantation on the coast south of St. Augustine in 1768. See:
- Griffin, Patricia C. Mullet on the Beach: The Minorcans of Florida, 1768–1788. St. Augustine, Fla.: St. Augustine Historical Society, 1990.
- Rasico, Philip D. The Minorcans of Florida: Their History, Language, and Culture. New Smyrna Beach, Fla.: Luthers, 1990.
- Quinn, Jane. Minorcans in Florida: Their History and Heritage. St. Augustine, Fla.: Mission Press, 1975.
Immigration to southern Florida in the 1920s by Jewish U.S. northeasterners of European heritage boosted today’s Jewish population. As a result, there are many Jewish genealogical societies and Holocaust Museums located in Florida, including Jacksonville, Broward County, Greater Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, Southwest Florida, Tallahassee, and Tampa Bay. Most can be located online through standard search engines (see page 17).