Colonial Records of Florida

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Colonial Spanish Borderland Research

This article is part of a series.
Overview of Colonial Spanish Borderland Research
Catholic Sacramental Records
Civil Legal Documents
Military Records
Catholic Church Diocesan Records
Spanish Land Records for the United States
Locating Colonial Records of Genealogical Value
Colonial Records of Texas
Colonial Records of New Mexico
Colonial Records of Arizona
Colonial Records of California
Colonial Records of Florida
Colonial Records of Louisiana
Colonial Records of the French and Spanish in the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi
List of Useful Resources for Colonial Spanish Borderland Research

This article originally appeared in "Colonial Spanish Borderland Research" by George R. Ryskamp, JD, AG in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy


The first European settlement in the United States was at St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565. While various missions were established in other parts of Florida, none of these became permanent, except the mission and military fort at Pensacola in what was known after 1763 as West Florida. At the end of the Seven Years War (French and Indian War) in that same year, Florida was transferred to British control, and Spanish officials and most of the colonists left for Cuba, taking their records with them. After the return of Spanish control in 1783, the colony was largely populated by British colonists and Americans crossing over from the north. In 1810, the Gulf Coast area known as West Florida was declared independent and merged with the American territory of Louisiana. With the Adams-Onis Treaty in 1821, East Florida was sold to the United States.

The majority of records for Florida during its Spanish periods are found in the Papeles de Cuba section of the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain. Copies of most, if not all, records of interest have been made, and many are published. The following repositories have collections of these materials as well as other records relating to Spanish rule in Florida:

The Florida State Archives, 500 South Bronough Street, Tallahassee, Florida, houses many records relating to the Spanish period, including all the land grant files. Its Web page at offers access to an online catalog as well as digitized copies of Spanish land grants.

P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History at the University of Florida in Gainesville offers the best collection of materials covering the Spanish periods in Florida. Its calendars of the John Batterson Stetson Collection, East Florida Papers, and Papeles Procedentes de Cuba, developed by the Spanish Florida Borderlands Program, consist of a series of 3 x 5 catalog cards, arranged chronologically within legajos, or sections. Efforts are underway to digitize those calendars and place them online. For more detail see

The St. Augustine Foundation Center for Historic Research at Flagler College at St. Augustine, Florida, holds more than 950 reels of primary documents on microfilm from Spanish or Spanish American archives, as well as a large library of secondary materials relating to Spanish Florida. For information about these collections and the computerized database being created from them, go to

St. Augustine Historical Society, St. Augustine, Florida, has a research library with more than 8,500 books, documents, manuscripts, and historical papers on Florida history. Go to

Library and Archives of the Pensacola Historical Society, Pensacola, Florida, contains manuscripts and reference materials relating to the Spanish period in the West Florida area. See

John C. Pace Library, University of West Florida, Pensacola, Florida, houses the Special Collections Department, which preserves, catalogs, and provides reference services to research materials that document the history and development of Pensacola and the West Florida and Gulf Coast regions. For more detail, see

Municipal Archives of the City of Mobile, Alabama, has records from the colonial period relating to the Mobile area and an index to land grant records for the area found in the Papeles de Cuba.

Census Records of Florida

Census records provide excellent coverage of the second Spanish period.

Locality Year(s) Reference*
General 1784'1820 GGS
General 1787 FFF
General 1792 AGI, Cuba
General 1812 AGI, Cuba
General 1814 AGI, Cuba
Escambia River 1820 GGS
Pensacola 1784 LGR 27:367
Pensacola 1788 LGR 27:367
Pensacola 1802 LGR 27:368
Pensacola 1805 LGR 27:368
Pensacola 1819 LGR 27:368
Pensacola 1820 LGR 27:368
S. Augustine 1783 1,014,120
S. Augustine 1786 FHQ 18:11'31; FFF; 1,014,120
S. Augustine 1789 AGI, Cuba
S. Augustine (indexed) 1793 1,014,120; FFF
S. Augustine 1805 LGR 27:368
S. Augustine 1812 LGR 27:368
S. Augustine 1813 FFF
S. Augustine (Msqto terr) 1814 1,014,120; FFF
West Florida 1805 LGR 27:368
  • AGI, Cuba: The Papeles de Cuba section of the Archivo General de las Indias in Seville, Spain.

LGR: Those found in the historical manuscripts section of the Loyola University Library, New Orleans, Louisiana.

The following are identified only in published form:

GGS: Genealogical Guide to Spanish Pensacola by William S. Colker.

FHQ: Florida Historical Quarterly.

FFF: Florida's First Families, Volume I, by Donna Rachal Mills.

Six- or seven-digit numbers with no other reference are film numbers from the collection of the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, available through local Family History Centers.

Catholic Church Records

While a large number of Catholic missions were established at various times during the first Spanish period, only those of St. Augustine and Pensacola had the permanence to maintain parish sacramental records.

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External Links