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How to Find Public Records in Mississippi

Public Records Search: Mississippi State Archives

The second oldest department of archives in the United States, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History was founded in 1902 to preserve the state’s archival holdings. The site may be visited at mdah.state.ms.us. There, researchers will find archived records and a vast collection of information maintained by this Mississippi agency.

The Mississippi State Archives are open to the public. The MDAH library can be found at 200 North Street in Jackson. Anyone with valid photo identification may handle the collection materials after signing research agreement form. While no materials may be checked out, photocopies may be made. Mississippi residents are entitled to one hour of free research from MDAH staff. Non-residents may pay $15 for one hour of staff research. Staff may spend no more than one hour on any specific request.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History preserves a collection of Mississippi spanning from prehistory through the present. “Government documents, bound volumes, maps and drawings, photographs, oral histories, and video and audio tapes” are only some of the agency’s holdings. Unlike many other state archives, MDAH is also involved in the preservation of landmarks like the Eudora Welty House and the Governor’s Mansion.

The online capabilities of the site are impressive and helpful to researchers who may not visit MDAH in person. The Sovereignty Commission Online and the Jefferson Davis Estate Papers are two databases of archives that may be searched online. To perform other online searches from the home page, click on the main heading (left side menu) Archives and Library. Next, click on the online catalog. MDAH provides a rather extensive search mechanism that is an excellent feature for long-distance researchers.

From this page, researchers may perform a basic catalog search or use the tools listed on the second half of the page to search specific collections. As a sample search, in the data entry box, type the word marriage to pull up archived listings of marriage records. At this point, the site directs you to a page listing the resources that contain your keyword in the title. This sample search pulls up a record for Marriages of Old Tishomingo County, Mississippi. Click on the blue number of this listing to view the entire record. You will then be directed to the record listing where the item is located as well as multiple descriptors.

From the online catalog, researchers may also look to the latter half of the page which provides links to the biographical index, cemetery index, county court case files, Freedman’s Bureau Record index, photograph collection, family coat of arms, newspaper holdings, county records on microfilm, etc…The site does not have a complete collection of vital records (it does explain how these may be maintained), but it does offer resources like census records where date for events like births or deaths may be obtained.

Online researchers may also browse the online collections such as the Master List of Microfilm, Natchez District or the Alfred Holt Stone Collection. This page is also unique because it allows researchers to perform advanced searches and also to access previous searches—a novel feature that makes online searching a touch easier.

MDAH accepts requests for records and materials by mail, email (refdesk @ mdah.state.ms.us) and fax (601-576-6964). Out of state request must be prepaid, so only mail requests may be honored. It’s important to include as much relevant information as possible when requesting information. When requesting death records for instance, be sure to include your topic’s full name, county of residence when death occurred, sex, race and the approximated date of death.

Whether you require census records or Civil War pension records, this site is a great reservoir of archived information and records. It’s important to carefully go over the help pages. Some requests require different information or a different process by which to get the information. Requesting Civil War records entails a different procedure than locating marriage records for example. Browse the site to find just how extensive their records and collections really are.

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