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Georgia Genealogy & Ancestry
The State of Georgia is bordered by Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina. It has a land area of 59,441 square miles, making it the 24th largest state. It was named in honor of King George II of England, and its state motto is “Wisdom, Justice, Moderation.”
As of 2017, Georgia’s population is 10,429,379. Its capital and largest city is Atlanta (486,290 residents). Other major cities include Augusta (197,166 residents), Columbus (194,058 residents), Macon (152,663 residents), Savannah (146,444 residents), Athens (125,691 residents), Sandy Springs (106,739 residents), Roswell (94,786 residents), Johns Creek (84,350 residents), and Warner Robins (74,854 residents).
Georgia’s nicknames include The Peach State and Empire State of The South. It was one of the original seven Confederate States, and is the 8th most populous state in the US. Its state website is https://georgia.gov
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History of Georgia
In 1540, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto led the first European expedition into Georgia. Accompanied by approximately 500 soldiers and searching for silver and gold (he found neither), de Soto’s foray proved disastrous for the indigenous population of the region. In addition to killing and enslaving hundreds of Native Americans, the explorers unwittingly introduced a host of foreign diseases which ultimately led to the downfall of Mississippian culture in the region.
The first occupation of Georgia occurred approximately 25 years later, when the Spanish – in response to a French attempt to settle on the state’s southeastern coast – established a series of Roman Catholic missions and military outposts on the Guale islands along the Georgian coast. Many of the original inhabitants of these islands converted to Christianity and adapted to a more permanent, settled way of life.
Towards the second half of the 17th century, the British forced the withdrawal of Spain from the area. They continued to consolidate their power in the region, establishing a trade monopoly with its residents based out of South Carolina. It was not, however, until the 1730s that European settlers began attempting to colonize the area.
Largely inspired by the efforts of philanthropist James Edward Oglethorpe – who wished to found a colony where the poor of England could build themselves a new life – King George II created a trust for establishing Georgia in 1732. The colony would also produce wines, silks, and spices, allowing England to shift away from its dependence upon other countries for those resources. Finally, Oglethorpe, who was himself a soldier, argued that the colony could serve as a bulwark against Spanish and French incursions from the south and west.
Due to Oglethorpe’s past involvement with debtor’s prisons Georgia quickly gained a reputation as a debtor’s colony – this in spite of the fact that no criminals or debtors were allowed to emigrate there. Nevertheless, trustees of the colony still sent about 5000 settlers from Great Britain, where upon arrival in Georgia each received fifty acres of land; those who paid their own passage received up to 500 acres.
Trustees of the colony sent about 5,000 persons from Great Britain to Georgia, and information about most of those colonists is published in E. Merton Coulter and Albert B. Saye, A List of the Early Settlers of Georgia (Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1949). Each colonist received fifty acres of land, while those who paid their own passage might have received up to 500 acres.
Georgia’s first permanent English settlement, Savannah, was founded in 1733.
The Salzburgers, central European Protestants, became the first non-British group to settle in Georgia beginning in 1734. They established themselves at Ebenezer in what is now Effingham County. After Georgia became a royal province in 1753, settlers began to move in from Virginia and the Carolinas in large numbers. Other immigrants included Scots-Irish, Scots-Highlanders, and Portuguese Jews.
When the Revolutionary War began, Georgia consisted of twelve parishes (which did not function as governments) and a large area of ceded lands that the Cherokee and Creek Indians had yielded to the colony in 1773. Georgia’s role in the Revolutionary war was complex and multifaceted, and it was the site of a host of conflicts between patriots and loyalists
Georgia’s first attempt at a constitution was in 1777, just two years after the start of the American Revolutionary War. It provided for the creation of the Wilkes, Richmond, Burke, Effingham, Chatham, Liberty, Glynn, and Camden counties. This was not the only constitution proposed amidst war.
Georgia’s distribution of counties is both complex and confusing for historical researchers, with the state at one point having more than 160. To make matters worse, many counties have the same name as towns not situated in those counties. The city of Macon, for example, is in Bibb county rather than nearby Macon county. Other counties such as Houston, Randolph, and Walton share names with counties that no longer exist.
Georgia found itself devastated in the wake of the civil war. The factories and foundries of Atlanta, Griswaldville, Rome, and Roswell were completely destroyed, and millions of dollars in capital were lost by due to emancipation. Worse still, the soil of the state had grown barren, and few farm animals were left alive – this placed enormous strain upon the state’s few remaining factories, while its fragile railroad system made travel extremely difficult.
Recovery was an arduous process, with direct federal taxes only adding to Georgia’s burden. Thousands of people of all nationalities were displaced or missed in the 1870 federal census, and racial tensions quickly led to violence throughout the state. This was only further exacerbated by a terrorist offshoot of the Georgia democrats known as the Ku Klux Klan. While the Democrats attempted to seize power back from the republicans, the Klan killed hundreds of African Americans.
The Democratic Party eventually regained control of Georgia in 1871 and began making an effort to institute a white supremacist, low-tax, and low service governmental climate. Former Confederate officers found themselves in the state’s highest offices, and racial tensions only grew worse. It was not until the 1890s, when Georgia was in the worst throes of its agricultural depression, that a political party known as the Populists rose to power, defeating the existing government and working to address economic concerns of small farmers.
During this time, Georgia experienced its last wave of nineteenth-century migration. North Carolinians came south to take advantage of the pine forests for turpentine and naval stores. Lumber, marble, granite, coal, and kaolin became major businesses, although cotton remained “king” through the first half of the twentieth century.
Racial conflicts continued throughout the late 19th and early 20th century amidst efforts to promote an industrial economy through measures such as textile manufacturing. Most of these efforts ended up centered in Atlanta, which – unlike the rest of the state – recovered from the civil war almost immediately. This further increased Atlanta’s explosive growth as an urban center of the south.
Today,Atlanta is still Georgia’s largest city and a nexus of transportation, with interstate roads, railways, and air travel. Modern Atlanta is an industrial, multicultural urban metropolis. It also represents a sharp contrast against the sharply-declining, relatively poor rural population in the rest of Georgia.