Let’s not kid around here–Tennessee has some of the worst genealogy record losses in the whole United States! Few counties escaped some loss and many counties lost everything.
Read it and weep–
GAINSBORO TENN. Aug. 15, 1872–Between one and two o’clock last night the Courthouse at this place was discovered in flames. The fire made such progress before its discovery that it was impossible to save it or any of its contents, the flames having, from the appearances, evidently been kindled in the attic, and the offices all being upstairs, the records of the Circuit and County Courts, all of the Register’s books and a portion, if not all of the County Surveyor’s books, were destroyed, leaving our county a blank so far as public records are concerned, except those of the Chancery Court. Thus by the torch of an unknown incendiary, Jackson is almost ruined. The stillness of the night probably saved the whole village of Gainsboro from destruction.
Nashville Union and American, Nashville Tenn. Wed, Aug 21, 1872 (as quoted by UCGA, Vol XV, No. 4, p. 144)
When the public records are missing, you weep quietly, then you turn to the private records which still exist in large quantities…possibly more than you will ever have time to search.
Daybooks, memo books, journals, diaries, scrapbooks, store ledgers, pension transcripts and military lists, family Bibles and cemetery readings, personal letters, and genealogies compiled by descendants who often have all of these in their own possession.
I went through the first 15 volumes of the Upper Cumberland Genealogical Association Quarterly, UGCA. Page by Page. And I counted the number of family Bibles transcribed in each issue–64 Bibles with their genealogy pages of births, marriages, and deaths.
Then I counted the cemetery tombstones transcribed in the same volumes–154 family cemeteries, some with 5 or six graves only. 10 community cemeteries. 12 church graveyards. A total of 176 cemeteries identified,read, and shared by individual genealogists over 15 years of quarterlies.
I didn’t count the other private record categories, just noted that most years one or more of these records appear in these 15 volumes–beginning in 1966. The periodical is still being published–all these years later. Think of the store of genealogy information published by just this one association.
Jackson County Tennessee is one of the counties served by the Upper Cumberland group. And most volumes have something on Jackson County. You see, if they want to keep their subscribers, they have to offer information of interest to all of their readers. And they do a good job.
http://www.ajlambert.com On their website is a list of the back issues from Volume 1 to Volume 30 and a report of their meetings at the Putnam County TN Public Library in Cookeville TN with a picture of the current Board.
I researched Jackson County, in person, traveling there with Afton Reintjes. We visited the public library and its Genealogy Collection. Then we went to the Historical Society and to Special Collections at the College. Each time we used private record sources to trace the families back in time.
Comparing the data with the U.S. Census records and the Tennessee State Court Records, we visited local churches and cemeteries and finally put a pedigree in place with many full dates of birth, marriage, and death.
And you can do the same thing. Using the above checklist of private sources, to which you will add those you discover along the way. A burned county need not halt your genealogy progress for long. And if you are lucky, some of these records will now appear online–including photos of the very tombstones you seek! Your favorite Tennessee genealogist, Arlene Eakle
PS Next episode, I’ll give you a research strategy for success in a burned county and some special TN compiled sources and indexes that help bypass the records lost.
PPS And just consider–if the county tax assessor took the records home to work on them the night of the fire, as many taxmen did, they were not at the courthouse to be burned. The newspaper may never discover the saved volume(s) to report them to the public. And years later, the local genealogists reveal their treasures to us in periodical articles, that they duly index at the end of the year.