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Searching for Your Manatee County Ancestor

The Records Library contains a wealth of information to genealogists doing research in Manatee County and all in one location.

One of the easiest records to use is the Marriage Licenses that date from 1856. They are indexed and easily found and accessible. If the marriage involves minors there may be a permission note to marry from a parent in the files with the license.

Indexes are crossed checked so you can research by Bride and Groom; the bound Marriage Applications from 1927 to 1972 are only by the groom’s last name.

Birth and death certificates are not housed at the Library; they are state documents and can be obtained from the State of Florida from 1917. Occasionally a death certificate may be included with a probate or recorded in the Miscellaneous Books or the Official Record Books. Note: If the Social Security number or cause of death is on the death certificate filed in the courthouse the information will be covered before a copy can be made of the document. The State only releases a birth certificate to the person on the certificate, parents, and guardian or by court order.

We do have some Delayed Birth Records that were filed with the court for people who did not receive a birth certificate at their birth, most are before 1940. For you to view these files you must be the person or furnish a death certificate for that person. The Librarian will be happy to check for the name you are looking for.

Probate files 1856 –current can offer many clues about your ancestor. The files can be very large or one or two pages. The person may have died testate (with a will) or intestate (without a will). The files are indexed by name and are available at the Library, if they are closed files. The probate files from 1973-1977 are stored at another location; with notice they can be brought the Courthouse.

City Directories are always a good place to find people. The Library has many volumes of the city directories on the shelves, the earliest being 1916. We also have a copy of the 1897 directory, no streets are mentioned, but it is a great list of household names throughout the county.

Voter’s registration is always helpful when you are looking for people. Our collection covers 1887 to 1959 they are shelved by district. If a voter moved or died during the year that information may be jotted down by his name.

Tax rolls are invaluable for finding families; we have various tax rolls from 1858 to 1870 and all from 1870 to 1977. You didn’t have to own land to be on the early tax rolls; many people ran cattle on the open range and never purchased any land but paid taxes on the cattle.
Males had to pay a poll tax that is in one of the columns on the tax roll, watches, musical instruments, docks, boats and many other things were taxed on the early rolls.

Soldier and Sailor Discharge Books may show your ancestor’s discharge from the military. It was very common to record your discharge when you returned from service at the county level. The books cover World War 1 to Korea, before that discharges were recorded in the Deed Books. This practice was seldom continued after Korea, there a few discharged from Vietnam in the Official Record Books.

Chancery Court Books is where final discharges of divorces, adoptions and other people cases are recorded until 1959, after that date they started to be recorded in the Official Record Books.

We have many volumes of mortgages; probably the most interesting are the Chattel Mortgages. These are mortgages were people would put up their horse, mule, cattle herd, their tractor or next year crop for a couple bucks to get them by until things improved. They were usually short term notes 30, 60, or 90 days. Some chattels include furnishings from hotels and houses when they were sold; the early volumes are not indexed. There is a printed index from 1933 to 1959 the mortgages continued in the Official Record Books after 1960.

The Library is fortunate to have in our collection the School Attendance books for many of the local schools. These are early records approx 1915 to the 1930 for some of the County schools.
They are filed by schools name, teacher then year. The small books show the children’s attendance in school, the guardian or parent and sometime a notation if the child moved and at least in a couple instances I have come across where they moved to.

If your ancestors went to court we have volumes of the Circuit Court Minute Books, County Court, Civil Court some Justice of the Peace books and Chancery Court that is mentioned above. Some are indexed.

The US and State Census abstract for the years 1860, 1870, 1880, 1885 and 1895 and the Tombstone Book were published by the local Manasota Genealogical Society. The Tombstone book covers the local tombstones to 1979 but not burials just marked graves. The Society maintains the Obituary File of obits that ran in the Bradenton Herald from 1975 to current.

We have started a Family File for genealogies on local families having historical connections to Manatee County. It is a very small collection right now but we hope it will grow to include the families that helped settle the county. If you have a genealogy and you don’t mind someone making copies of your material you are welcome to place a copy in the Library.

Many books have been written about the area, they can be used at the Library, they can not be checked out. Many books such as the Singing River, Lures of the Manatee, They called it Fogartyville, History of the Practice of Medicine cover the people and the early settlement of the area. The public library has many of these and more available for checkout.