Top Genealogy Websites: Alabama Genealogy Resources

If you’re researching your family roots in Alabama, I suggest you rely on two online sources—GenealogyBank and FamilySearch—to find digitized newspapers and genealogy records from the “Heart of Dixie.”

Concentrating your Alabama genealogy research on these two websites will give you the documentation you need to learn about your family’s stories—and the specifics of their birth, marriage and death dates.

collage of Alabama genealogy records and newspapers from FamilySearch and GenealogyBank

Credit: FamilySearch and GenealogyBank

You want to focus on the best genealogy websites—the ones that have the information you need to trace your ancestry from Alabama.

GenealogyBank has the most extensive newspaper archive of Alabama newspapers online.

Search Alabama Newspaper Archives (1816 – 1992)

Search Alabama Recent Obituaries (1992 – Current)

FamilySearch has 14 collections of early Alabama records free online.

Search Alabama Census, Probate & Vital Records

Let’s look at the marriage of Joseph A. Gilbert and Margianna Whiddon on 4 August 1859 in Mobile, Alabama.

collage of records about the 1859 wedding of Joseph A. Gilbert and Margianna Whiddon, from FamilySearch and GenealogyBank

Credit: FamilySearch and GenealogyBank

Looking in GenealogyBank’s historical Alabama newspaper archive we find their marriage announced in the Mobile Register (Mobile, Alabama), 11 August 1859, page 2.

The newspaper article tells us:

  • The date of the marriage: 4 August 1859 at 8 p.m.
  • The exact place of the marriage: “the residence of Levi H. Norton”
  • Groom: Joseph A. Gilbert, formerly of Greenville, Butler County, Alabama
  • Bride: Margianna Whiddon, “adopted daughter of the officiating gentleman”

Great genealogical information—we have the who, what, when and where.

Let’s dig deeper and find out exactly who the “officiating gentleman” at the wedding was.

Looking at the Alabama marriage certificates online records on FamilySearch we can easily find the marriage certificate for Joseph Gilbert and Margianna Whiddon.

photo of the 1859 Alabama marriage certificate for Joseph Gilbert and Margianna Whiddon

Credit: FamilySearch

Who performed the wedding?

Looking at the signature of the Justice of the Peace, it appears to be L.H. Hardin or L.H. Nordin.

“L.H. Nordin” —that looks a lot like the Levi H. Norton named in the marriage announcement published in the Mobile Register. Their wedding was performed at his home.

So—we have the “officiating gentleman’s” name from the old newspaper and, although very difficult to read, confirmed again in the signature on the marriage certificate.

The marriage certificate gives us the basic facts given in the newspaper marriage announcement: their names and the date and place of the wedding, plus it tells us who performed the wedding.

The old newspaper announcement adds the important details that the officiator was her adopted father and that Joseph Gilbert was from Greenville, Butler County, Alabama.

By using only the best genealogy resources online we can find the facts we need to document our family and, importantly, the crucial details that fill in the stories of their lives…while focusing our ancestry research and saving time.

Note that this article is part of our ongoing series covering the top genealogy websites. To read the previous articles in this series visit the links below:

Top Genealogy Websites Pt. 1: Google

Top Genealogy Websites Pt. 2: Google Books & Internet Archive

Top Genealogy Websites Pt. 3: Burial & Cemetery Records

Old West Stories in Newspapers: Here Comes the Morning Stagecoach!

Maybe it was because of Father’s Day, but there were a lot of old western movies on TV this past weekend. Good ones, too, starring Gregory Peck, John Wayne, and more.

Daily Ohio Statesman -  Stagecoach Story Newspaper Article 1860

Daily Ohio Statesman (Columbus, Ohio), 10 May 1860, page 3

So, it was no surprise when I was combing through GenealogyBank today that I found this great newspaper article about an old western stagecoach, published in the Daily Ohio Statesman (Columbus, Ohio), 10 May 1860, page 3.

It read like the plot of a TV western—only these stories of the old Wild West were real.

This historical newspaper article reports that the Overland Mail Coach arrived with passengers “Lieut. Cogswell, of the USA, Dr. J. P. Breck, and Mr. and Mrs. Arnold.”

They brought news from the Texas frontier and points west. “They report the Indians very troublesome in the vicinity of Mustang Pond [Nevada], and between Mountain Pass Station and Phantom Hill.”

The stagecoach passengers provided details of several attacks:

“A blacksmith in the employ of the Overland Mail Company, and three men living at Mountain Pass, were murdered by the Comanches the day before the stage passed there.

“Fifteen Indians stopped at Mustang Pond and committed sundry depredations upon the whites.

“The scout for this stage saw some bands of Indians at the latter place, looking with eager eyes towards the coach, and the passengers prepared themselves for a fight, but the red skins were too wary, and it did not become necessary to fire upon them.

“Col. Fountleroy had started on a tour to select a site for Fort Butler.

“Maj. Ruff had been ordered with five companies of rifles to take the field immediately against the Kiowa and Comanches. His depot was at Fort Butler.

“Several ranging companies were out in the vicinity of Jackborough.”

Clearly, riding a stagecoach in the Wild West was just as dangerous as western movies later portrayed it!

Every stop was an adventure. This old Pony Express Route, April 3, 1860 – October 24, 1861 map (courtesy, Library of Congress) shows the overland route many travelers took from Missouri to California.

Historical Map of Pony Express Route that Stagecoaches Followed - 1860-1861

Pony Express Route, April 3, 1860 – October 24, 1861

The strength of historical newspapers is that they provide a daily record of the past.

GenealogyBank has the largest online newspaper archive, full of details about our American heritage. You can find stagecoach passenger lists, information about the early American pioneers and Native Americans and so much more in GenealogyBank. Carefully review GenealogyBank’s 1.2 billion records for the details of your family’s history.

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Genealogist, Mary Sue Green Smith (1933-2009)

Prominent Nashville, TN genealogist, Mary Sue Green Smith (1933-2009) has passed away.

She was President of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society. She published eight books between 1994 and 2006; mostly reference works to be used in tracing one’s roots in Nashville. She indexed tens of thousands of pre-Civil War civil court records, which added to standard genealogical resources, many families whose names don’t otherwise appear in records.

Tennessean, The (Nashville, TN) – April 25, 2009
SMITH, Mary Sue Green Age 76 of Nashville, TN, died Friday, April 24, 2009. She was a genealogist, whose contributions helped African-American families with Nashville roots to trace their families back before the Civil War.


She was preceded in death by her husband, Burrell G. Smith and one of her sons, Robert Shelton Smith, who died in 1972. She is survived by three sons, John Kennedy Smith and wife Barbie of Indianapolis, Stephen Thomas Smith and wife Barbara Ann Mech of Nashville, and Richard Douglas Smith and wife Julie of Fairbanks, Alaska.

Her surviving grandchildren are John R. Smith of Big Bear, CA, Michael B. Smith, midshipman at the Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, Thomas Shelton Smith and wife, Anne Kindt Smith of Knoxville, Katherine Holly Smith of Nashville, Andrew Kennedy Smith of Nashville, Jennifer Sue Smith of Fairbanks and Robert Elias Smith of Sault Ste. Marie, MI.

Her surviving sisters are Dorothy Strange of Loudon, TN, Barbara Butler of Nashville and Pam White of Nashville. Mary Sue Smith was a native of Nashville.

She graduated from David Lipscomb High School and attended David Lipscomb College, where she met Burrell G. Smith, who had served in the Army paratroopers in World War II. They were married in April, 1950. Hers was the first wedding in the newly built Otter Creek Church of Christ, at the corner of Otter Creek Road and Granny White Pike. Her father, the late Sam Kennedy Green, was an elder there.

The couple raised a family in Bellaire, MI. Burrell was an educator and a social worker. Sue served as clerk of the Antrim County Selective Service Board during the Vietnam War. She served on the mental health board of the county. After Burrell’s death, Sue returned to Nashville in 1986.

Sue was a genealogist and had served as President of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society. She published eight books between 1994 and 2006, mostly reference works to be used in tracing one’s roots in Nashville. She indexed tens of thousands of pre-Civil War civil court records, which added to standard genealogical resources, many families whose names don’t otherwise appear in records.

Her work made it possible for many African-American families to trace their parentage back into the years when persons held in slavery were listed, as property, in wills.

Memorial services will be conducted Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 3 p.m., at Woodbine Funeral Home, Hickory Chapel, 5852 Nolensville Road, by Tommy Daniel. Memorial contributions may be made to the charity of your choice. Visitation will be Sunday from 1 – 3 p.m., at WOODBINE FUNERAL HOME, HICKORY CHAPEL Directors, 615-331-1952; Still Family Owned.

Copyright (c) The Tennessean. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.

More newspapers added to GenealogyBank

GenealogyBank adds six more newspapers.

Iowa
Knoxville, IA: Knoxville Journal Express. 13 Nov 2008 to Current Issue

Massachusetts
Bridgewater, MA: Bridgewater Independent. 14 Nov 2008 to Current Issue
Hanover, MA: Hanover Mariner. 24 Aug 2005 to Current Issue
Marlborough, MA: Marlborough Enterprise. 8 Dec 2005 to Current Issue
Stoughton, MA: Avon Messenger. 19 Mar 2008 to 9 Jan 2009

Pennsylvania
Butler, PA: Butler Eagle. 6 Sept 2005 to Current Issue

Wild Bill Obama

May 27th was Wild Bill Hickok’s day – I wrote about how easy it is to find newspaper articles about him in GenealogyBank.

Wild Bill Hickok is in the news again – when Barack Obama mentioned his family tradition that he was a distant cousin to Wild Bill – James Butler Hickok (1837-1876).

(Photo: Texas Observer Blog 27 Feb 2007)

Don’t you love it when politicians talk about their genealogy!

The New England Historic Genealogical Society does and issued a statement yesterday verifying Obama’s family tradition:

Obama and Hickok are sixth cousins, six-times removed. Their common ancestor is Thomas Blossom, who came to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1629 from Leiden, Holland. Obama’s 4th great-grandfather, Jacob Dunham, was 6th cousins with Wild Bill. Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann, is also a Dunham.

“The ancestry of Wild Bill Hickok was published by NEHGS some years back, which showed he descended from the Blossom family of Cape Cod, an early family written up in one of our scholarly publications,” said Child. He added, “Since we had also recently done the ancestry of Senator Obama, finding this connection was a little easier.”

Click here to see the Obama – Hickok family tree – Wild Bill is related to Obama through his mother Polly Butler.

It’s Wild Bill Hickok’s Day ….

Wild Bill Hickok – James Butler Hickok – was born on May 27, 1837 in Troy Grove, Illinois.

Famous in movies, films and hundreds of newspaper articles – he is central to the legends of the Old West.

Newspapers serialized his story and pictured him fighting bears, outlaws and Confederate agents. Images by Van Ben.



Newspapers reported the high moments and the low ones – like the time he mistakenly killed a friend – Special Deputy Marshall Mike Williams.
(Aberdeen (SD) American – 10 Jan 1908).


They called him a hero and a coward (Columbus Daily Enquirer – 11 May 1899).


But the real coward was his killer Jack McCall who shot him – in the back – in 1876.

He was shot in the back and killed by Jack McCall in 1876 in Deadwood, SD.

GenealogyBank has over 3,400 newspapers packed with historical articles about the Old West right up to today. Give it a try right now.

Tracking down Family Bibles ….

Family Bibles have been treasured by families for generations, but finding them today can be difficult.

It was common for families to have a family Bible – a large bound book that was prominently displayed in the family parlor – “…a large octavo volume, with a more or less ornate binding, with blank pages inserted on which to record births, marriages and deaths, and sometimes the near-slaying of Isaac, Moses in the bulrushes, the infernal regions and other interesting dramatic and historic incidents narrated in the [Bible]“. (Boston Journal 13 May 1908).
(Image from Antique Holy Bible Item #330235937204 – Ebay.com)
I spotted quite a few newspaper articles that cited the old family Bibles and who their current owners were.

For example – Henry Peters of Trenton, NJ used his family Bible to prove that he was “sixteen years old and two months older than that” so that he could get in to the show at the Trent theater. (Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram. Nov 4, 1909).
An article in the Columbus (GA) Enquirer (2 Sep 1898) tells us that “Mrs. Billard, the daughter of the late Rev. Edward Oldrin, who lives on Bank Street [Stamford, CT]” … and that she got it “by inheritance from her father. … The book is in the original binding and well preserved, the Old Testament part having been printed in 1597 and the New Testament in 1596. The covers are of wood.”

This is an important point. Always check the dates that each of the Testaments was printed. Printers often printed them separately and then joined them together when they published the Bible. This is a way to date a family Bible.

“Inscribed on the yellow fly-leat are the words: Edward Oulldron owns this book and after his death to his son Edward Oulldron, given by his grandfather – 1651.” Elsewhere it states “Edward Oldrin’s [note the change in spelling] book, given by his father on is deathbed in the 1827, July 28, to be kept in the family.”

Mrs. Jennie Fairbanks Milligan of Springfield, Ohio brought the family Bible when she was called to testify in a case trying to break the will of the late Delavan Smith of Lake Forest, IL. (Dallas Morning News. 1 October 1921).

John M. Butler of Ocean Grove, NJ found out by double checking his family Bible that he was 101 and not 100 years old when he went to celebrate his birthday. He said it was a “pretty tough job trying to keep track of so many birthdays.” He said with a smile … “I must have lived two years in Brooklyn [NY, the] one year that I was there. That’s the only way I can account for the discrepancy.” (Evening Times – Pawtucket, RI – 17 jan 1901).

But you won’t find the Belin family Bible. It seems that in November 1908, Joseph Belin of Wilkes-Barre, PA “came home intoxicated and threatened [his mother] and then burned the family Bible.” There were 7 prisoners in court that day for “being drunk”. Six of them were fined $1.00 but Joseph Belin was fined $5.00. (Wilkes-Barre (PA) Times Leader – 18 Nov 1908).

Historical newspapers are packed with family history information. Research more than 3,400 newspapers and document your heritage on GenealogyBank.
Give it a try right now.