1500 Volumes of Tennessee Genealogy Records

This week has been National Historic Preservation Week.  No mention in the national media.  And I would like to comment here about the importance of preserving what was compiled in the past for our use.

Penelope Johnson Allen of Chattanooga TN dedicated her life to the preservation of Tennessee genealogy and history.  In 1982, at the age of 95 years, she gave permission for her newspaper column, Leaves From the Family Tree, to be reprinted by The Rev. Silas Emmett Lucas, Jr., and his Southern Historical Press.  Copies of the columns in the McClung Collection at the Knoxville Public Library were printed in facsimile.

Leaves is a collection of 110 family histories.  One family was omitted because Ms Allen discovered some inaccuracies and some columns she wrote were missing in the McClung collection.

The migration pattern of the family is included, often with dates.  Vital records are printed for each family, some taken directly from family Bibles.  Photos, cemetery readings, tax lists, and even coats-of-arms can be found in these columns.

What interested me most:  The Preface which described Ms Allen’s devotion to preserving the lives and histories of Tennessee’s families.

Much of Tennessee history might have been lost had it not been for Mrs. Allen’s discovery of many deteriorating early public documents.  Through her encouragement,
the Tennessee DAR undertook the project of copying these documents, with government aid from the WPA Work Program that she had sought and was made supervisor of. Her efforts continued until 1945 and filled 1500 volumes.

Your tax dollars at work!  Penelope Johnson Allen’s work yielded 1500 volumes!  Her vision, to use a new government aid program to fund her DAR volunteers, ensured that transcripts of documents no longer in existence are still available to fill in where so much record loss has occurred.

We do owe her a debt of gratitude for such foresight.

How do we find and use the 1500 volumes.  Some have been microfilmed by the Family History Library.  Some have been donated or otherwise acquired by local Tennessee public libraries.  Some were sent to the National DAR Library in Washington DC.  Some ended up in the state archives in Nashville.  And some were acquired and then sold by used book dealers–I have one of those volumes.

So this is a personal plea, as National Preservation Week comes to an end–WATCH for her volumes.  Usually bound, typewritten pages (some as carbon copies),  8 and 1/2  X 11 inches in size.  

Doing professional research in the field, I visited many local Tennessee public libraries, university and college research centers, used book stores, etc. across Tennessee.  Nowhere have I found, total, more than 350 volumes!  

WATCH for these volumes and persons who quote from them.  They are often as close to original as we can hope to get.  Your favorite Tennessee genealogist, Arlene Eakle  http://www.arleneeakle.com

PS  Our readership is growing–and I am so very glad about that! 

PPS  Linda Brinkerhoff and I will be finishing our book, begun several years ago,  American Migration Patterns.  It will include the actual routes of travel, with contemporary maps.  County-by-county as the families moved across the land.  Special migrations of churches, and armies, and ethnic groups.  Checklists of records that identify migrating families and persons, “just passing through.”   

I sorted material collected over twenty years, from special migration libraries like the Twin Falls ID Public Library, and archives with old card files of mineral leases acquired before the settlers showed up.  Then I packed the stuff away in 2004, while I cared for my ailing husband. Well, those boxes  are coming out, that material will be updated and prepared for print.  Stay tuned–this is one book you won’t want to miss!     



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