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How to Find Public Records in Arkansas

Public Records Search: Arkansas State Archives

Today, many states offer online databases whereby their treasury of archives may be browsed and specific records and information may be obtained. Arkansas provides an excellent online archival resource at ark-ives.com. By visiting this site, researchers have access to county records, U.S. Census records, photographs, newspapers, state government records, maps, military records, books, pamphlets, church and cemetery records.

Maintained by the Arkansas History Commission, this navigable website is geared to meet both documentary and visual needs of various researchers, according to its mission. This archival agency, created in 1905, is one of the nation’s oldest. The site states: “Today, the agency continues the tradition of preserving Arkansas's documentary heritage by collecting and providing access to manuscript materials, maps, books, visuals, family histories, and various county, state, and federal records. The Commission serves thousands of patrons and hosts several million visits to this website each year.”

The Arkansas History Commission can be visited online or you may visit them in person at 1 Capitol Mall, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201. This agency provides research rooms for handling and working with various archival materials. However, researchers should know that this agency will not perform research. Materials may be viewed or ordered online and researchers may perform their own research at the actual site. Staff is not equipped to perform these functions for visitors.

To perform a search of the site’s materials online look at the top of the main page. From the menu, click on “selected materials.” You will be directed to a page containing a long list of links—nearly everything the site offers in the way of records and information. Also, if you do not already have Acrobat Reader installed on you home computer (necessary to view the records), this page provides a link for you to download it for free.

Researchers will see at a glance the wealth of information that is a click away. Databases as well as links to request forms are cataloged on this page. Some of the links include: WWI and WWII records, Arkansas newspapers, Arkansas Confederate Home records, Small Manuscripts Collection, Arkansas Masonic records, Native American records, African American newspapers, Japanese American relocation camps in Arkansas, Arkansas vital records indexes, Shrader negatives, Arkansas photographs, etc…

As a sample archival search, click on Arkansas country records. When directed, you will be able to search a country from a drop down menu and add keywords in a data entry box. For instance, to search for an Arkansas marriage record for a specific county, choose the county and type the word marriage. You will be directed to a list of marriage records contained on microfilm and organized by dates. Write down a specific roll’s identifying numbers called the Family History Number. Microfilm may be ordered and viewed at any local Family History Center as well.

Much of the information contained on this site is free. Photocopies of materials are not free. If you need to send in a form for photocopies for Confederate pensions for example, expect a fee of $15.00. Most of the information on the site is free, however. Researchers should realize, though, that there are other Arkansas agencies dedicated to specific records like birth or death records. The great thing about this site is it has a variety of information for the public, though admittedly some areas are not complete.

Yet, for searching for various types of Arkansas records, the Arkansas History Commission has very much to offer. While using the website, if researchers find they have a question not easily answered by the site itself, they may call the Commission at 501-682-6900.

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