Kinsearching June 9, 2013




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     As genealogists quickly learn, understanding the history and geography of the area where they are tracing ancestors is essential. Without that knowledge, locating the documents you need for your research can sometimes be very difficult, especially when governmental authorities and boundaries change over time. In addition, you will overlook clues that may lead you in the right direction when you hit those so-called “brick walls.” To help people overcome these obstacles, Dorothy Williams Potter has compiled the latest addition to the popular “Genealogy at a Glance” series: Old Southwest Genealogy Research. Following the standard format of the series, Potter uses her expertise to condense into four laminated pages the fundamental resources and recommendations on the subject.

     Potter begins with a “quick facts” section in which she supplies a brief historical background about a few details that family researchers should be aware of as they track forebears in the region. For example, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the “Old Southwest” encompassed land east of the Mississippi River, including Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and parts of Florida and Louisiana. Much of this area included lands of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek Indians. At various times, the region was under the domination of the Spanish, French, and British. Only after the American Revolution did the United States gain control in stages, beginning with the Mississippi Territory in 1798. As a result, a vast amount of records were created during the pre-statehood era.

     Since much of the material was generated by other nations, Potter offers helpful tips to keep in mind when delving into the early materials. For instance, when Protestants settled in Spanish-held lands, details about their baptisms, marriages, and burials will be found in Catholic Church records. Also, their English names may be translated into the Spanish equivalent, such as Pedro for Peter or Diego for James.

     Because settlers from the original Thirteen Colonies had began moving into the Old Southwest even before the United States gained control, they were required to obtain passports for passage through Indian or foreign-hold territory east of the Mississippi River during the period of approximately 1770-1820, thus creating important documents for family information. Potter discusses this major resource in some depth as well as another important resource, the American State Papers collection. Individuals holding land prior to the U. S. takeover had to prove ownership so the settlement of private land claims on public domain is only one type of document found in the Papers. Others include militia claims, claims by refugees, and agreements with Indian nations. In addition, the author describes the earliest migratory paths and the main travel routes into the area, including American flatboats coming down the Mississippi River.

     Approximately half of Potter’s compilation furnishes data about other major document collections in printed form and on microfilm. A bibliography of books provides references for further research. She also provides the names and contact information for major area libraries and URLs for state archives and libraries, the National Archives, and non-government websites.

     Because the Old Southwest covered such a wide area of what eventually became the United States, genealogical records can be far-flung and sometimes sparse due to the lack of censuses and county court records. Therefore, Old Southwest Genealogy Research is a quick and useful reference tool for people who are seeking data about their progenitors in the region.

     To the guide's price of $8.95, buyers should add the cost for postage and handling charges. For U. S. postal mail, the cost is $4.50 for one item and $2.50 for each additional copy; for FedEx ground service, the cost is $6.00 for one copy and $2.50 for each additional item. The guide (item order 4679) may be purchased by check, money order, MasterCard, or Visa from Genealogical Publishing Company, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 260, Baltimore, MD 21211-1953. For phone orders, call toll free 1-800-296-6687; fax 1-410-752-8492; website

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