What Can You Do To Break Your Losing Streak?

Tracing an ancestor through Tennessee back to origins in Virginia or North Carolina or South Carolina or Pennsylvania or Maryland is the most difficult American lineage of all to prove!

But, you already know that.

So what can you do to break your losing streak?

Newly accessible records for Tennessee ancestors often reveal their origins in North Carolina, and Virginia, and Maryland, and Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

New indexes along with accompanying transcribed records, that lay for centuries in the state archives vaults, are now available. In print. (Some now online.)  These records prove that the ancestor in Tennessee is the same man who came from NC, VA, MD, SC, or PA.

Three Reasons why Tennessee is such a genealogy research challenge:

  1. Sources we usually search to complete a family chart were not kept consistently–birth records do not begin until after 1900.  Marriage records often were lost in courthouse fires.  Wills that do survive are scattered–some original wills are filed in family vertical files at the State Archives or local public libraries and are not recorded in the county at all.  Wills transferring real estate to churches were often given to the church and ended up deposited in collections far removed from place of residence.  Cemeteries mark graves with field stones that carry no inscriptions.
  2. Migration patterns may run north and south–into Kentucky or into Georgia and Alabama–instead of west to follow rivers.  Family relationships, militia and church districts may dictate where the people go.  During Indian Wars and the Civil War–called the War Between the States in Tennessee–settlers moved out of harm’s way as the invading armies criss-crossed the state.  Settlers were recalled during the Revolutionary War into Southside Virginia or over the border into North Carolina or up the Shenandoah valley.  So, identifying counties of residence during these turbulent times takes special indexes and careful study of maps for each specific time period.
  3. Settlers come from Northern and New England states as well as from Virginia or North Carolina.  Surnames may not be helpful in locating origins since they could come from anywhere. This requires more research in  local siources and family and local histories to ensure that you follow the right kinship networks and tie into the correct lineage. 

For these reasons and several others we will discuss in future blogs, field research in Tennessee is recommended for tough pedigree research. These problems cannot be resolved by quick internet searches or printed books available in your local library.  And sometimes these tough lines cannot be traced using microfilmed records at the Family History Library alone. 

To trace a hard-to-find Tennessee ancestor, you need access to collections along the migration path and interview descendants still living on the family land.  Since Tennessee is still primarily rural, modern development has not yet eradicated local evidence or displaced local records to some other area.  The people and their records are still close to home—for each ancestor.

And I still have a 96% success rate tracing Tennessee ancestors back to their origins.  I plan one or more trips into Tennessee each year to do the field research necessary:  gathering local data including family Bibles and photo collections, matching family traditions to actual record sources, and fitting all the pieces together.  

Without the field research, the pieces usually don’t fit together.

If you have a tough Tennessee research problem, Let me take a crack at it–while my Genealogy Research Grants and Economic Stimulus Packages are still available.  Details on my Home Page http://www.arleneeakle.com

Your favorite Tennessee Genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  You can still get on my July-August trip schedule.  Choose your Research Grant and your Stimulus Package and send them along to me with your genealogy data. TN, KY, OH, PA, RI, and perhaps VA too. 

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