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GENERAL RESEARCH                

 
A visit to the Georgia State Archives(Atlanta)should be at the top of your research agenda. Georgia's Archives is particularly good, in that, most county records are available there on their self-serve microfilm(records after 1900 are likely to still be found in local courthouses). Many of these county records were filmed by LDS technicians in the 1950-60s, and are available through local Family History Centers(contrary to popular belief, county records are largely intact.General Sherman didn't burn everything! With four or five notable exceptions, most record losses can be attributed to isolated courthouse fires and floods).

If you already know where your ancestor lived, a visit to that county's courthouse should be next on your list. I have researched in at least thirty-five counties in Georgia, and nothing beats that "hands-on" experience. Most court clerks are extremely accommodating(I had trouble with only one). At the county-level, records are divided into the Superior and Probate Courts. The former has civil and criminal case records, and deeds. While the latter, is the genealogist's "goldmine"-with all marriage, guardianship, and estate records. Estate records include: Wills; intestate records(appraisals, inventories, records of sales-and annual reports). Tax digests often help locate your ancestor's home, even when deeds were not recorded; noting water courses, or even land-lot numbers. Again, many of these records have been filmed, and are available as noted above.

Often, intestate records are more helpful than simple wills; and give an insight into your ancestor's daily lifestyle. Guardianship bonds were required, even by mothers, when minor children were left. Persons who provided "security" for these bonds, sometimes give clues to family relationships.  Annual reports were filed before estates were finally closed-perhaps many years after the death; particularly on larger estates, and when minor children were involved. Don't rely on indexes!, If you don't find "your will" listed in the Probate records, consider the possibility that it may have been "contested", and carried to the Superior Court.  "Family squabbles" know no bounds! [Two of my most rewarding cases, involved just such examples; both, moving from the local court to the Georgia Supreme Court-(the Archives has those records)-neither of those wills were in the usual probate indexes; and, the Supreme Court files were more complete than the surviving county records. These estates ranged from $8,000(only $500-after the Civil War)to $80,000].

The National Archives has a local branch in East Point, an Atlanta suburb. There are  numerous other good genealogy libraries in Georgia. I have found the Hargrett Library, University of Georgia-Athens very useful; and, the Main Library(basement) has extensive microfilm records of Georgia newspapers, as well as those from other major Southern cities. The Washington Memorial Library in Macon has a large microfilm collection, and good adjoining state resources, for tracing your ancestor's migration to Georgia! My knowledge of Internet research is extremely limited, however, the LDS site-FAMILY SEARCH(http://www.familysearch.com) would be a great place to start. Many other sites are commercially-oriented, and often offer only generalized material; marriage indexes, census locations, etc. If you order any of their "original records" material, be certain that your ancestor was in that location, during that time span! Ultimately, the internet will be a marvelous genealogical resource-but primary records(originals, generated at time & place)will still be required to verify your conclusions.

Good luck with your Georgia research, and please share your family history.

Larry C. Knowles
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