Morgan County Archives
Here, the county’s history is recorded, all the way back to 1819, when Alabama attained statehood, and Morgan County was named Cotaco County.
The Morgan County Commission created the Archives in 1995 as a permanent repository for inactive government records. The Archives were designed to be the centerpiece of the county’s records management program, a means by which the government could fulfill its legal obligations to preserve and make available to the public records of enduring value. To this end, all branches of county government send records to the Archives, as they are deemed no longer useful to day-to-day operations.
These record collections remain the hub of important genealogical and other research, yet the Archives have since grown to encompass much more, including exhibits and historical collections specific to understanding critical periods in our county’s rich history.
Resources seldom found elsewhere and available for research include:
County records, including Probate Court records critical to genealogy work
Books documenting the histories of local churches, communities, and schools
Biographies, maps, school annuals, and old directories
Special collections either grouped by topic or donated by a single source, such as the Donald P. Kyle Photograph collection and the Maurice Jones Civil War artifact collection
Indexes for searching public records, cemeteries, and other resources
No appointments are necessary, but if special assistance is needed, please call in advance.
We encourage schools and organizations to visit us for guided tours. Please call to schedule a time.
Although not primarily a museum, the Archives were charged in its charter with the gathering, preservation, and interpretation of the county’s rich history. In fulfilling this function, the Archives have accepted many artifacts, photographs, maps, personal papers, and other items from the personal collections of the county’s citizens. Some of these items are on display in rotating exhibits, while others are carefully stored for future display or research.
Exhibit topics include:
Morgan County’s role in the Civil War
The infamous 1933 trial of Haywood Patterson, one of the so-called “Scottsboro Boys”
A tribute to Morgan County veterans
“Morgan County Comes of Age,” 1866-1940
Making Alabama, an Alabama Bicentennial exhibit
The Archives also is the only place to view original bound copies of The Decatur Daily (from 1919) and The Hartselle Enquirer (from 1926). Earlier newspapers are available on microfilm.
The Archives is home to a large collection of photographs and postcards, many of which are available for reproduction. Subject matter includes buildings, schools, businesses, landmarks, and old family photos. Much of the collection is accessible from a digital catalog in the archives building.
Genealogical Research & Official County Records
The oldest group of records on file at the archives are Morgan County Probate Court records, these materials contain estate records dating back to the earliest days of the county. Records of marriages, court proceedings, voter registration, census materials, and other functions of government document times of war and peace, hardship, and prosperity.
Although much of the material deals with Morgan County, a great deal also covers the rest of Alabama and the entire South. Of particular value to the genealogist are numerous family histories, files of clippings and research by surname, and collections of genealogical publications from throughout the South and beyond. Much of this material has been cross-indexed by volunteers of the Morgan County Genealogical Society.
Accessing & Documenting Records
The following section summarizes records that are available based on our most frequently asked questions.
Marriage or Divorce Records
The archives hold the original record books for Morgan County marriages from July 18, 1821, to August 6, 1936. Records of the first marriages in the county, from February 1818 through July 1821, are missing. Records for marriages after August 6, 1936, are located in the Morgan County Probate Court’s vault in the Morgan County Courthouse. Familysearch.org, a free genealogical website, now has images of these records available for 1821–1952. The archives staff has indexed court records for divorces for 1845–1971. Ask staff for assistance.
Birth & Death Records
The Archives hold Morgan County’s birth and death indexes for the period of 1892–1912. The county kept no official indexes of births and deaths before this time. For children born within this time period, mother and father are listed but the child’s name is not always given. Mortality schedules exist for people who died in the years of Federal censuses, from 1850–1885. The Archives also holds wills and records relating to the probate of estates, 1818 to present. Archives volunteers have also indexed local newspapers from 1919 through 1977, and many birth and death announcements may be indexed for those years. Ask Archives staff for assistance. The state of Alabama has kept birth and death records since 1907, and these records may be obtained for a fee at any county health department in the state, or by contacting the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Patrons needing assistance with deed or tax records are encouraged to call the Archives, allowing time for searches.
Alabama Open Records Policy
Public records in the state of Alabama are subject to the state’s Open Records Policy. Legal opinion in the state has leaned toward openness when it comes to public records. Unless a statute, judicial ruling, or opinion of the attorney general has specifically barred a type of record from public inspection, the public may ask for access to it. Legal custody of the records remains with the departments that created them. The Archives may therefore be required to consult elected officials or department heads about the availability of certain records. Requests may take up to a week to process, so please call in advance for any requests that may be potentially sensitive or more recent.
Research Assistance & Documenting Records
Archives staff will perform basic research as time permits for a fee. In-state residents pay $15 ($25 for out-of-state residents) for research plus the first 10 photocopies. Copies of any additional documents cost $1 each.
Patrons are welcome to bring their own cameras. Many items may be photocopied for a fee. Certain larger volumes are restricted from being photocopied. Archives staff will photograph certain items for a fee.
A public computer workstation is available for use. Through it, the public can search online for resources that other institutions, such as the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Alabama State Archives, and others have to offer, as well as genealogical websites.