Georgia was founded in 1733, and the Crown granted governance to a group of trustees, headed by James Oglethorpe. This arrangement had some similarities to the system of proprietors of the other southern colonies, and land was granted to individuals by the trustees. The grant to the trustees expired in 1753, and Georgia became a royal colony for the remainder of the colonial period.
Georgia was divided into twelve parishes for some administrative purposes, but these parishes did not generate court, land, or probate records. These functions remained with the colony government. Only with the 1777 constitution were counties established, with eight counties being erected in that year. Thus, there are no county records from the colonial period.
The range of surviving colonial Georgia records is quite limited for several reasons. Georgia existed for less than half a century in the colonial period, retained no records at the county level prior to 1777, and suffered serious record losses beginning during the Revolutionary War. Probate and land records were maintained at Savannah. Robert Scott Davis Jr. has compiled a list of such records as have been published or microfilmed.
In 1904, Allen D. Candler, with the authority of the Georgia legislature, began publishing records from the Public Record Office in England pertaining to Georgia and, by 1916, had brought forth twenty-six volumes. More recently this project has been revived, and six additional volumes have been published, based on the copies obtained by Candler.
As an example of what is contained in this series, the earliest volumes contain the records of the meetings in England of the Trustees for Establishing the Colony of Georgia in America, and of the Common Council of the Trustees. The most recently published volume incorporates “Entry Books of Commissions, Powers, Instructions, Leases, Grants of Land, Etc. by the Trustees” for the years 1732–38.
Robert Battle, “Ancestors and Descendants of William Spencer, Immigrant to Georgia in 1742,” American Genealogist 77 (2002): 81–93, 196–207. Letters published in Volumes 5 and 25 of the Colonial Records of the State of Georgia provide the essential clue leading to the discovery of the English origin of this immigrant. The author uses the same set of printed records to support many of his conclusions, including details of the immigrant’s office holding and landholding. He also exploits the colonial-era wills. The county records come into play only in the Revolutionary period and later.
- Robert Scott Davis Jr., Research in Georgia (Easley, S.C., 1981), 169–73.
- The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia, 32 vols. (Atlanta and Athens, Ga.: 1904–89).