Phillips County, Arkansas Genealogy

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United States Gotoarrow.png Arkansas Gotoarrow.png Phillips County

Guide to Phillips County, Arkansas ancestry, family history, and genealogy birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, family history, and military records.

Arkansas State with State Seal.png Arkansas
Online Records

Phillips County, Arkansas
Map of Arkansas highlighting Phillips County
Location in the state of Arkansas
Map of the U.S. highlighting Arkansas
Location of Arkansas in the U.S.
Founded May 1, 1820
County Seat Helena
Address Phillips County Courthouse
600 Cherry Street
Helena, AR 72342
Phone: 870.338.5505

County Courthouse

Phillips County Arkansas Courthouse.jpg

Phillips County Courthouse
600 Cherry Street
Helena, AR 72342
Phone: 870.338.5505

County Clerk has marriage records from 1831 and probate records from 1850; Clerk Circuit Court has divorce, court, and land records from 1820.[1]

Beginning years for Phillips County, Arkansas Genealogy government records[2]
Birth Marriage Death Court Land Probate
1914* 1831 1914* 1820 1820 1850
*State birth and death records began in 1914. Limited compliance until 1920's

Government and Related Websites

County Government and other Local Websites (unofficial site) Clerks have jurisdiction over birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, land use, land rights, real estate, and other court records. Site provides links to unofficial websites with online records (unofficial site) Provides links to County officials and public records


Phillips County, Arkansas was formed from Arkansas County on 1 May 1820 by the territorial legislature. Located in Eastern Arkansas, the county's eastern boundary is the Mississippi River.

The county is said to have been named for Sylvanus Phillips, who became the first settler in 1820. Phillips served from Arkansas County, Phillips County's parent county, in the territorial legislature in 1820. Some sources refer to Phillips, Patterson, and Mooney as having been the earliest settlers at what became Helena. Helena, which was laid out by Sylvanus Phillips and became the county seat in 1830, is said to have been named for his daughter.

An early and influential settler was W.B.R. Horner, a lawyer who arrived in the area in 1811. Horner pushed for the division of Arkansas County into two separate counties, and as a result Phillips County was formed in 1820. Evidently the legislative act to divide Arkansas County passed in Feb 1820, but did not take effect until May 1st. Horner then served as the county's first representative in the second legislature.

Phillips County's original county seat was referred to as St. Francis. By 21 Jun 1821, The Arkansas Gazette was referring to Helena as being Phillips County's seat of government. Although the early history is not clear, it would appear that rather than moving the county seat, its name was changed from St. Francis to Helena.

The earliest Phillips County records appear to date to 1820. The earliest deed in the county was recorded 13 Oct 1820, but also though the land involved was near Helena, it was described as being in Arkansas County. The earliest deed for land recorded as being in Phillips County is dated 19 Nov 1820.

The town of Helena was nearly entirely destroyed by fire in 1852. The town was then hit by a yellow fever epidemic in 1855.

Historically, the county is perhaps best known as the site of the well-known Battle of Helena (Wikipedia), an important Civil War battle. This battle took place at Helena in Phillips County on 4 Jul 1863.

This was after the town became occupied by the Union army under General Samuel Curtis in 1862. During the Battle of Helena, Curtis' troops were attacked by three Confederate generals, Holmes, Marmaduke, and Walker, in an unsuccessful attempt to regain Helena. Helena remained in Union hands from 1862 through the rest of the Civil War.

In 1941, Helena was the scene for the beginning of the now-legendary blues radio program, "King Biscuit Time," over KFFA.

For more, see:

  • Hellmann. Paul T., Historical Gazetteer of the United States. New York: Routledge, 2005, p. 63 (section headed "Helena"). online copy in Google Books 
  • McCabe, James D., Jr. A Comprehensive View of Our Country and its Resources. Philadelphia: Hubbard Brothers, 1876, section headed "Helena," p. 992. online copy in Google Books
  • Shinn, Josiah Hazen. Pioneers and Makers of Arkansas, Vol. 1, Washington: Genealogical and Historical Publishing Co., 1908, especially pp. 117-131. online copy in Google Books
  • Whitaker, Robert. On the Laps of Gods: The Red Summer of 1919 and the Struggle for Justice that Remade a Nation. New York: Random House, 2008 (discusses 20th century racial issues and earlier plantation society in Helena and Phillips County). Google Books preview

Parent County

  • 1820--Phillips County was created 1 May 1820 from Arkansas and Hempstead Counties. County seat: Helena [3]

Boundary Changes

One factor that must be taken into account in conducting research pertaining to Phillips County is that the Mississippi River has, on occasion, changed course.

In addition, parts of Phillips County later became other counties:  Crittenden in 1825, St. Francis in 1827, Monroe in 1829, and Lee in 1873.

For animated maps illustrating Arkansas county boundary changes, "Rotating Formation Arkansas County Boundary Maps" (1813-1925) may be viewed for free at the website.

Variant Spellings

Record Loss

There is no known history of courthouse disasters in this county.


Town/city records in the FamilySearch Catalog

Populated Places

Neighboring Counties

Arkansas  • Bolivar County, Mississippi  • Coahoma County, Mississippi  • Desha  • Lee  • Monroe  • Tunica County, Mississippi

Philips CountyLee CountyMonroe CountyArkansas CountySt. Francis CountyDesha CountyTunic CountyCoahoma CountyBolivar CountyJefferson CountyLincoln CountyWoodruff CountyDrew CountyPrairie CountyARPhillips.JPG

History Timeline

Emphasis for this timeline is on events that affected migration, records, or record-keeping. Unless otherwise mentioned, the events below were taken from the Phillips County page on the website, The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. [4]

  • 1797 - Sylvannus Phillips, was living in what is now Phillips County , having come from North Carolina.
  • 1820 May 1 - The Arkansas territorial legislature established Phillips County out of Arkansas County
  • 1829 & 1873 - Phillips County was reduced in size twice: first when Monroe County was established, and later when Lee County was established.
  • Today (2010) - Phillips county is one of the few Arkansas counties where African Americans outnumber whites. They do so close to 2 to 1.

Genealogy Resources

Research Guides

African Americans

Bible Records


Online Phillips County, Arkansas cemeteries
from state and national resources
Search for names of people
in Phillips County
Get a list of cemeteries
(then click to names of people)
Find printed records
(Often more complete)
  • Find A Grave Click "Refine Last Search" on the left, change the name, then "Search"
  • Billion Graves Change the name, then "Search" (Statewide, many counties nil)
  • ARGenWeb Select a county, then "Cemeteries." Some overlap with USGenWeb.

More cemetery lists


Individual Cemeteries:


Church Records




Land and Property

Phillips County deed records from 1886 to 1906 were microfilmed by the Arkansas History Commission in cooperation with the Arkansas History Commission. This was a part of a project which was completed in 2007. The filming project is discussed in an Internet news item in the Arkansas History Commission website.

Local Histories

Local histories are available for {{{1}}} County. They may include biographies, church, school and government history, and military information. Click for a brief Timeline History of the county. For more about local histories, see Arkansas Local Histories.



Revolutionary War
  • Rejected or Suspended Applications for Revolutionary War Pensions. Washington, D.C., 1852. Reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1969, and 1991. Reprints include "an Added Index to States." FHL Collection 973 M24ur; digital version at Ancestry
Civil War

Regiments. Service men in Phillips County, Arkansas Genealogy served in various regiments. Men often joined a company (within a regiment) that originated in their county. Listed below are companies that were specifically formed in Phillips County, Arkansas Genealogy:

- 13th Regiment, Arkansas Infantry (Confederate),
- 2nd Regiment, Arkansas Cavalry (Union)
- 3rd Regiment, Arkansas Cavalry (Union)

Online Records

Civil War Battle

The following Civil War battle was fought in Phillips County.

Map showing Civil War battles in Arkansas.



Finding More Arkansas Newspapers Additional newspapers abstracts can sometimes be found using search phrases such as Phillips County, Arkansas Genealogy newspapers in online catalogs like:


Probate Records

Online Probate Records


Vital Records

See also How to order Arkansas Vital Records

  • 1820 - 1879 - Murray, Dorothy L. Phillips County, Arkansas, 1820-1879: Computer Indexed Marriage Records. Hunting for Bears, 1991. Google Books page
  • 1831 - 1946 - Phillips County Marriage Books 1, A-Z, A1-N1 Index 1831-1946 in Arkansas, County Marriages, 1837-1957 at FamilySearch - free.[6]
  • 1831 - 1921 - Phillips County Marriage Books 1, A-Z, A1-N1 Index 1831-1921 in International Genealogical Index at FamilySearch - free.[7]
  • 1860 - 1976 - Arkansas Church Marriages, 1860-1976 at FamilySearch — index and images
  • 1921 - 1951 - Phillips County marriage records from 1921 to 1951 were microfilmed by the Arkansas History Commission in cooperation with the Arkansas History Commission. This was a part of a project which was completed in 2007. The filming project is discussed in an Internet news item in the Arkansas History Commission website.
Vital Record Substitutes

Genealogy Societies and Libraries

Major catalogs for hard copy collections of Phillips County, Arkansas Genealogy
Books, microfilm, or manuscripts of genealogical records
FamilySearch Catalog Select topics. For towns, click here.
WorldCat Click an item for libraries near you. For more information, see WorldCat Online Catalog.
Allen County Public Library Located in Indiana, they are heavily involved in digitizing much of their collection.
Arkansas History Commission Select the county Arkansas state agency involved in organizing, digitizing, and maintaining the records of state and local history.
Local libraries and Arkansas Archives and Libraries may suggest other catalogs

Family History Centers

Family History Centers provide one-on-one assistance and free access to premium genealogical websites. In addition, many centers have free how-to genealogy classes. See Family History Center for more information. Search the online FHC directory for a nearby family history center.


Sites with online indexes or images of records
ARGenWeb Free Data may be submitted by individuals or complete transcriptions
USGenWeb Archives Free Data may be submitted by individuals or may be complete transcriptions
RootsWeb resources Free Data may be submitted by individuals or may be complete transcriptions
Sites that search for links pertaining to Phillips County, Arkansas Genealogy
Linkpendium Free Click links. Some sites they link to may have fees ($)
CyndisList Free Click links. Some sites they link to may have fees ($)
StateofUS Free family history resources and government records

Social networking sites pertaining to Phillips County, Arkansas Genealogy Phillips County, AR Genealogy Forum Phillips County Message Board


  1. The Handybook for Genealogists : United States of America, 10th ed., (Draper, UT: Everton Publishers, 2002), p. 69.
  2. Alice Eichholz, Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources, 3rd ed. (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Pub., 2004), 65-67. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27rb 2004.
  3. The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America,10th ed. (Draper, UT:Everton Publishers, 2002).
  4. Billy Steven Clifft, The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, ( : accessed January 15, 2016), “Phillips County.”
  5. Heritage Preservation Services, Civil War Battle Summaries by State, (accessed 2 August 2012).
  6. FamilySearch Wiki contributors, "Arkansas County Marriages (FamilySearch Historical Records)," in FamilySearch Wiki.
  7. Genealogical Society of Utah, Parish and Vital Records List (July 1998). Microfiche. Digital version at