By-pass some of the official record loss in Tennessee with church sources–Who are the officials of the church Congregation? Who are the organizers of the Denomination your ancestors attended?
The officials and organizers of the church are the ones who created the records, keep the records, and are often responsible for their preservation. As you research–in any record–looking for your ancestors, also watch for and make a running list of these important persons.
__Census enumerations where “pastor” or “minister of the gospel” is the occupation.
__County and local histories that list elders, deacons, and sometimes even treasurers in biographical sketches and accounts of local churches.
__Heritage Books, especially those for southern counties, where descendants describe the part their church-going ancestors played in the local community.
__Ministers’ diaries, journals, account, and memo books. The Family History Library has microfilmed hundreds of these records. Check their Catalog for the places where your ancestors were connected.
__Publications of the churches themselves–annual reports, weekly or monthly periodicals. The Methodist Church published 9 regional Christian Advocates which circulated to members every week, pages full of births, marriages, and deaths. And the Roman Catholic Church issued weekly and monthly newspapers and news magazines on the American frontier as early as 1809 with death notices and obituaries. One of the largest collections of these self-published church materials is at Wright State University, Dayton OH. The collection, amassed by a private collector, was without a home until Wright State agreed to house and manage the collection.
To find these wonderful record treasures, consult the Family History Library Catalog by locality and name of official. Then check the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections in print and online; Worldcat from the Library of Congress to identify collections by name and locality. And finally, use Google and other online browsers and search engines to find these records online and in other repositories.
Reading annual reports of the Congregational and Baptist faiths, I tracked a minister from colonial Connecticut, across New York, into Ohio where his theology, declared heretical by succeeding congregations, meshed with that of the Mormons. He joined the LDS Church and migrated to Utah. Here he established his new home, a bank that operated successfully for over a hundred years, and a posterity of thousands. And from here he missionaried in Tennessee, convincing key southerners to cast their lot with him and his new church.
Most surviving annual reports before about 1825 are available on microfiche as a part of the Evans early American Imprints. This was a make-work project through the WPA to identify and preserve what America had printed. Some have been microfilmed by the Family History Library. Many deposited in libraries and archives across the country.
Break your Tennessee losing streak. Baptists do not record births and christenings, because they believe adults can commit themselves to God. So genealogists often overlook their wonderful, black-bordered death notices and their collections of obituaries–remembrances of lives that may not be found elsewhere.
Your favorite Tennessee Genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://arleneeakle.com
PS The FGS Conference is being held in Knoxville the middle of August 2010. Are you coming? Have you registered? The Federation of Genealogical Societies invites you and I invite you to come and check out the East Tennessee archives and libraries before and after the conference.