Background Sources for Arkansas

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This entry was originally written by Wendy Bebout Elliott, Ph.D., FUGA in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
Arkansas sil.png
the Arkansas Family History Research series.
History of Arkansas
Arkansas Vital Records
Census Records for Arkansas
Background Sources for Arkansas
Arkansas Maps
Arkansas Land Records
Arkansas Probate Records
Arkansas Court Records
Arkansas Tax Records
Arkansas Cemetery Records
Arkansas Church Records
Arkansas Military Records
Arkansas Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Arkansas Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Arkansas Naturalization
Native Americans of Arkansas
African Americans of Arkansas
Arkansas County Resources
Map of Arkansas

Excellent, comprehensive discussions of Arkansas history are available and were used in developing the material in this chapter. John L. Ferguson and J. H. Atkinson, Historic Arkansas (Little Rock: Arkansas History Commission, 1966) and John Gould Fletcher, Arkansas (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1947) are two excellent single-volume treatments of all periods of Arkansas history.

Probably the best reference for genealogists is Rhonda S. Norris, Arkansas Links: A Comprehensive Guide to Genealogical Research in the Natural State (Russellville, Ark.: Arkansas Genealogical Research, 1999). Arranged by counties, it provides reference information for maps, city directories, county histories, land patents, and newspapers, as well as census, county, land, church, cemetery, marriage, military, vital records, and an invaluable bibliography.

Other helpful reference works include the Arkansas Genealogical Society’s Original Resource Directory, 5th ed., updated and revised (Hot Springs, Ark.: Arkansas Genealogical Society, 2000), and The WPA Guide to 1930s Arkansas: Compiled by Workers of the Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Arkansas, with a new introduction by Elliott West (Lawrence, Kans.: University of Kansas, 1987).

Several regionally based volumes of biographical and historical information on Arkansas and its people were published by Goodspeed Publishing Company in the late 1880s. These volumes, reprinted in 1978 by Southern Historical Press, are divided into the following regions: East, West, Northeast, Northwest (which included the Ozark region), and South. The counties of Baxter, Boone, Cleburne, Marion, Newton, Searcy, Stone, and Van Buren in the Ozark region of the state are only briefly covered in the Northwest volume.

Originally published in 1864 and recently released is William Baxter, Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove, with an introduction by William L. Shea (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000). This invaluable primary source provides background information concerning civilians in Arkansas during the Civil War.

Many histories have been published for Arkansas counties. Copies of these are in the Arkansas History Commission, which maintains two alphabetical card files—one biographical and the other on subject/place—abstracted from primary sources and published volumes. These cards note names, dates, places, and sources in various works pertaining to Arkansas and its people. Numerous works are helpful in developing an understanding of Arkansas, including:

  • Carter, Clarence Edwin, comp. and ed. The Territorial Papers of the United States: The Territory of Arkansas, 1819–1825. Vol. 19. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1953.
  • ———. The Territorial Papers of the United States: The Territory of Arkansas, 1825–1829. Vol. 20. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1953.
  • ———. The Territorial Papers of the United States: The Territory of Arkansas, 1829–1836. Vol. 21. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1953.
  • Dillard, Tom W., and Michael B. Dougan, comps. Arkansas History: A Selected Research Bibliography. Little Rock: Rose Publishers, 1979. A valuable list of publications pertaining to the state.
  • Hallum, John. Biographical and Pictorial History of Arkansas, 1887. Reprint. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, n.d. Early history of the state and its pioneers.
  • Hempstead, Fay. Historical Review of Arkansas, 1911. Reprint. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1977.
  • Herndon, Dallas Tabor. Centennial History of Arkansas, 1922. 3 vols. Reprint. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1977. Volume 1 is general history; volumes 2 and 3 are biographical sketches.
  • ———. Annals of Arkansas, 1947: A Narrative.... 4 vols. Hopkinsville, Ark.: Historical Records Association, 1947. A continuation of the above three volumes by Herndon.
  • Shinn, Josiah Hazen. Pioneers and Makers of Arkansas. 1908. Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1967. Basic reference for Arkansas researchers.
  • Thomas, David Yancey, ed. Arkansas and Its People, A History, 1541–1930. 4 vols. New York: American Historical Society, 1930. A detailed historical work with biographical information.
  • Writers’ Program, WPA, Arkansas. Arkansas: A Guide to the State. New York: n.p., 1941. Contains historical data and an excellent bibliography.