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How to Find Public Records in Florida

Public Records Search: Florida State Archives

Florida’s State Archives may be accessed by visiting dlis.dos.state.fl.us/barm/fsa.html directly.

Unlike many state archival sites, Florida’s is organized in a search-friendly fashion providing considerable access to researchers attempting to locate public records and information.

Florida’s State Archives operate under a mandate to accumulate, preserve, and provide public access to “historically significant records of the state, as well as private manuscripts, local government records, photographs, and other materials that complement the official state records.”

The Archive’s core collection takes up the better part of 30,000 cubic feet; records from 1821 to the present can be found at the Florida State Archives. The Florida State Archives is located at R.A. Gray Building, 500 South Bronough Street Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0250. They are open Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 4:30 PM and on Saturdays from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM. When performing research on Saturdays, it is best to call on Friday to order records you will want to research. Saturday staff is limited, so it is important to make contact before you visit to ensure that the necessary documents can be procured for your perusal. Of course, not everyone can make a trip to the physical holdings.

Fortunately, a great deal of online research can be conducted through this website and many records and other materials can be obtained with the help of staff and by doing your own part in the research process. According the website researchers “may contact the Archives to request the Archives staff to conduct limited research for specific information. Archives staff will search indexed records and books for a maximum of thirty minutes per request.”

Researchers planning to perform online searches can expect to find the following archival collections: local government records, state government records, manuscript collections, Civil War records, military service and pension records, Florida Folklife collection and many more.

Among the online collections researchers have more specific access to WWI service records, Florida Confederate pension applications, photographs, Spanish land grants, etc...Ideally, researchers may procure what information they require from the online databases; however, since all is not archived electronically, it may be necessary to submit a request from Archives staff.

Of course, when conducting a search for any type of public record contained by the archives, go to the main page and click on the link for “online catalog.” This is a complete catalog of the archive’s holdings. There is one data entry box where researchers can enter any keyword or name. For instance, words like deeds, marriage, vital, welfare, pension can be searched as well as any name search like “Smith, Mary” or “Jones, Davy.” As a sample search for the purposes of this tutorial, enter the keyword “marriage.” The search mechanism will reveal result page(s) for your specific query. This particular search, while broad, draws on a multitude of information. Some of the results from this search include State Board of Pensions, Florida

Combined Indexes of Marriages, Divorces, and Deaths for various years, Census Records, etc… The listing for each result includes the record / group number, series / collection number, creator (such as the Office for Vital Records), title, dates, and the amount (how much microform for instance). Searchers can scroll through the listings to find what they are looking for. If a particular result looks promising, click on the blue number preceding the listing to find more specific articles about the result. When you click on the link for more specific information, you will find listings denoting organization, restrictions (if there are any, such as too fragile for handling), terms governing use, biographical or historical summaries, main summary, finding aids, physical form (microfilm for instance), reproduction note, location of originals and duplicates, language notes, electronic access status and much more.

The amount of detailed information allows researchers to narrow down their queries to specific titles in specific locations of the archives. The online catalog allows researchers to accurately find where their information is located. This enables searchers to find their materials as well as to provide accurate instructions for archived staff should their services be needed for making copies.

When requesting copies for materials, note the fee schedule. While there appears to be no charge for requests, there are duplication charges. Check the fee schedule for your particular format copy. All in all, the Florida State Archives provides a detailed site that is far easier to navigate than similar archival sites. The main page offers links to other information and collections that may be useful to researchers.

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