Basic Sources for Tennessee Research

The basic sources for your Tennessee genealogy research  are:

  1. *Marriage Records–up to 16 different official, public records could be kept.
  2. *Census Records–1790 through 1930 (1890 includes only surviving Civil War Veterans for states  L-Z alphabetically).  The early schedules were often vulnerable to loss by weather and war.  When lost, oaths of allegiance, militia rolls and pensions, inhabitant lists, and tax rolls can supply important details.
  3. *Probate Files–wills, inventories, petitions, guardianship papers, estate settlements, legal notices in the newspaper at any stage of the probate process.
  4. Cemetery Inscriptions–including Sexton’s Registers.  Many cemeteries have already been read, indexed, and published in print or online.  Watch especially for ethnic burial grounds.
  5. *Land and Tax Records–search the tax rolls first, then the deeds, then the grants/patents and surveys. When lost, land and military bounty claims can provide mini-census lists of persons who knew the claimant, migration patterns and dates, multiple generations of ancestry.   Local newspapers publish legal notices
  6. County and Local Histories–search later in your work so that you can spot related persons whose information may help extend your pedigree.  These sources often reprint and thus preserve records that can be lost when the courthouse burns.  They also save oral traditions and personal knowledge of the local history and doings.
  7. Vital Records–27 states are online.  Up t0 7 different categories of birth records could be kept. It is recommended that death certificates be searched for all children and siblings of your ancestors.  Cemeteries where children and siblings were buried may lead to burial places for the parents too.
  8. Newspapers–many are already indexed with images online.  Local newspapers publish notices of estate settlements, often with lists of heirs and their claims.  Powers of attorney and guardian appointments, sales of property, debts to be collected, contested estates, escheats–when the property reverts to the government because heirs cannot be collected.

*These records are missing in many counties of Tennessee because of courthouse fires and other record loss.  By-pass these vulnerable records by using substitute evidence from other sources–records not created or preserved at the county level. Your favorite Tennessee genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  Stay tuned for descriptions of other Tennessee sources and research tips on how to use them to advantage to trace and document a difficult-to-find ancestor.


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