If your county of interest in Tennessee is a burned county, often the only documents that detail early settlements are sections referenced in later documents: will copies or transcripts submitted to churches for property bequeathed to charity. Or pre-emption settlements where your ancestor filed on land several years after the fact. Or references to early pre-emptions in claims or sales documents many years later.
Some records, assumed to have burned, were carried away by the clerk’s heirs when they moved west. Or records taken home by a conscientious clerk, the day the courthouse burned–and in all the commotion simply forgot that he had them safe and sound in the upstairs closet.
Records secreted into wooden fence posts to keep them safe from marauding soldiers. Or documents buried in the sand along the river bank where they would be safe until dug up. Or records hidden in women’s skirt pockets–the kind that were worn like a money belt under their clothing.
Have you seen those wonderful pockets your great-grandmothers wore? They taught their daughters to sew them and wear them to safe-guard money, jewels, and documents.
Documents protected in these ways rarely get back to the courthouse. They are more likely to end up in the local Historical Society or among family archives. As you read the census (not generated in the courthouse and rarely preserved there) watch for court officials and county clerks by name and locality. Trace them and collections in their name deposited in local archives.
Why search for these documents?
They contain original signatures–keys to personal identity; state of health, including age; education level and place educated; character traits; and the original spelling of your ancestor’s name. Your favorite Tennessee genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://arleneeakle.com
PS Always check for local historical societies and record collections at your public library if the courthouse burned!