Research Guide, Rabun County, Georgia

Research Guide to Rabun County, Georgia

This guide is intended to cover primarily original, official records for Rabun County, Georgia, with brief, general descriptions including their locations and uses. Non-official records, such as Bibles, letters, journals and diaries, and so forth, may be covered at a later date (although links to available records are noted, where available). Federally mandated records are also not generally covered by this guide, with the exception of federal census records and certain military record sets. Published records and links to online transcribed records and indexes are included under the pertinent section, when and where available.

This guide is not intended to replace the ingenuity of the individual researcher, but to enhance his or her knowledge of available records. Genealogical problems can often be solved simply by expanding the search for information into previously unused records.

Research Guide to Rabun County is divided into the following sections. It is recommended that users of this guide read at least the first four sections (Authorship and Copyright; Record Losses; Repositories; Publications) before jumping to the sections on specific records.

Authorship and Copyright

This work was written by Dawn Watson. It is intended for the personal use of the lay genealogist, and as a guide for professional researchers who are unfamiliar with Rabun County's records sets. Please be aware, however, that other uses violate the copyright of this work. This includes, but is not limited to, photocopying with the intent to distribute, copying and pasting any part of the guide into another document, copying and pasting any part of the guide for publication online, and so forth. Historical and genealogical societies and libraries who wish to print these articles for use in their research rooms are encouraged to obtain prior, written consent from the author. That being said, anyone who wishes to link to the main page of this guide may do so freely, as long as authorship and origin are included with the link.

This guide is not intended to be an exhaustive list of records available, nor is it intended to be comprehensive in its description of various uses of those records. As records are discovered, they will be added. Thus, a regular review of this guide by researchers is recommended.

Record Losses

Rabun County was created in December 1819 by an act of the Georgia Legislature. The earliest records of the county, specifically for the years 1819 and 1820, are sketchy at best, if not missing all together. Deeds were recorded first in 1821, inferior court and Ordinary minutes (now held by the Probate Court) in 1822, and one docket of the Superior Court contains information on cases from 1822.

Although the above records began early on in the county's history, there are still gaps. For instance, many of the early land transfers were not entered into the official record. This was especially true for transfers between family members, where land was inherited and passed down through a family for generations before the transfers were recorded. Further, many original volumes have been transferred to other agencies, such as the Georgia Department of Archives and History and the Rabun County Historical Society. It is entirely possible that other volumes are held in the hands of private individuals or families, particularly descendants of county officials.

Many loose 19th century records have been lost or destroyed over time, although some do still exist. As far as is known, no 19th century loose estate records are extant, with the exception of two original wills held by the GDAH.


The main repositories housing genealogical and historical items related to Rabun County are as follows. Rather than discussing the holdings of each place, such information is given during the discussion of the various record sets. There may be other entities which house important collections pertaining to Rabun County, but these are the main ones.

  1. Probate Court, located in the County Courthouse in Clayton.
  2. Clerk of the Superior Court, located in the County Courthouse in Clayton.
  3. Tax Assessor, located in the old Health Department building across from the public library.
  4. Rabun County Historical Society
  5. Rabun County Public Library
  6. Rabun Gap Nachoochee School **
  7. Tallulah Falls School **
  8. Foxfire
  9. Hambidge Center **
  10. Hall County Public Library, main branch, Gainesville, GA.
  11. University of Georgia, main library and Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, Athens, GA.
  12. Georgia Department of Archives and History, Morrow, GA.
  13. Georgia Virtual Vault (sponsored by the GDAH)

** The extent of historical records held by these entities, if any, is unknown.


Please note that articles published in journals, quarterlies, and magazines may be found under the section relevant to the main emphasis of the article, where known.

The primary published resource for information on Rabun County is Sketches of Rabun County History, written by Dr. Andrew Jackson Ritchie and published in 1948 at the behest of county officials. While Sketches provides an incredibly useful overview of Rabun County's history prior to that time, using it can be problematic. The original volume contained no index; however, this was solved in 2000 when Hamilton Computer Services published an every name index to Sketches. Other problems are not so easily overcome. Dr. Ritchie, in his reluctance to criticize leading families, glossed over the more rambunctious nature of early settlers. Information on families, where given, can be sketchy and, in at least some cases, is outright incorrect. The information given on pioneer and Revolutionary War veteran John Dillard, for instance, has since been corrected by other researchers. Some items contain no source information, where such would be incredibly useful to modern researchers. Most of these problems can be overcome by a thorough search of available records, including those Dr. Ritchie himself used to compile the volume.

It is important to remember that, in spite of any flaws, Dr. Ritchie's work was not only an incredible undertaking, but also a significant contribution to the study of Rabun County, its people, and its history. Sketches of Rabun County History is available for purchase through the Rabun County Historical Society.

Three other works are essential to the Rabun County researcher's library: Rabun County Georgia and Its People, Vol. I, published in 1992 by the Rabun County Heritage Book Committee; and volumes one and two of Chips Off the Same Block by Monteen Keener Watts. The former is now out of print, and there are currently no plans to reprint it. The latter two volumes are difficult to find, let alone obtain. Mrs. Watts is now deceased. It is believed any remaining copies of either volume may be in the hands of her children.

Rabun County researchers are fortunate to have had several records sets published. Perhaps the earliest volume of compiled transcriptions is Records from Rabun County, Georgia, 1820 - 1939 compiled by Miss Lola Lee Daniell for the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution in 1940. Only one copy is known to be extant and accessible, and that is located at the Rabun County Public Library in the old book case. The library has made photocopies of this volume, which are located in the filing cabinet near the Genealogy and Georgia History section. Records contains transcriptions of several important documents, including: marriage licenses from 1820 to 1867; persons taking the oath of amnesty; poor children 1857 - 1858; school reports 1860 - 1863; John Kelly's will, 1849, and related items; and several cemetery transcriptions. Many of these items are now available online.

Several other authors have contributed greatly to transcribing and publishing Rabun County's records. John T. Coleman has transcribed the population schedules of federal censuses at least partially from 1830 to 1910. His Ordinary Court Records 1822 - 1850 Rabun County Georgia extracts names and dates from two early books of court minutes containing records pertaining to the settlement of early estates, as well as other items. Mr. Coleman may be reached at 890 Foxcroft Trail, Marietta, GA 30067.

Another significant work is Susan Lewis Koyle's Genealogy Extracted from Forest Service Court Cases in Rabun County Georgia, published in 2001 by Heritage Books, Inc. Included in the volume is an in-depth explanation of the purposes, uses, and location of these cases. Ms. Koyle's work is particularly important because the covered records can be used as substitutes for missing land records.

In 1998 Karen Ann Thompson Ledford published volume five of her series, These Men Wore Grey, which is a compilation of "genealogical, military, and interment records of Confederate Soldiers" for Rabun County. As far as is known, this entire series is still in print and available through Mrs. Ledford's web site.

The author of this guide hopes to have published by early 2012 a compilation of genealogical and historical items transcribed from Rabun County's earliest newspapers. The working title is Rabun County, Georgia, Newspapers: 1894 - 1899, and includes items from the three newspapers currently known to have extant issues from that time period: The Clayton Argus, The Tallulah Falls Spray, and The Clayton Tribune. More information will be available at a later date. Further information on newspapers published within the county can be found in that section.

There are many other volumes pertinent to researchers of Rabun County's history and genealogy, but which might be otherwise overlooked. Probably the most significant of these are the Foxfire books and magazines. These collections of interviews were taken by local students, who transcribed, edited, and otherwise published them into useable volumes. A master index of the magazines is available at the Rabun County Public Library. The books are widely available through local libraries, or may be purchased through the Foxfire Foundation.

Finally, no discussion of publications would be complete without mentioning the numerous published family histories and genealogies. What follows are books and family folders (ff) that can be found at the Rabun County Public Library (RCPL) or the Rabun County Historical Society (RCHS). Some of the items listed as books may be, in actuality, three ring binders of information (or similarly bound). Items marked by * are publications that may probably be purchased. Please be aware that not everything in print is accurate. It is always wise to verify information found in any publication, online or off.

� 2011 - 2012 Dawn Watson

This guide was begun 1 September 2011.

This page was last updated Saturday, 05-May-2012 10:40:50 MDT.