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Tennessee Genealogy – Guide to Ancestry and Family Tree Records


Tennessee Genealogy begins in 1540. Hernando de Soto, an explorer from Spain, first came to the area now known as Tennessee. In the 1670s and the 1680s several explorers from England and France also came to the area. They were Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet, Sieur de la Salle from France, and Gabriel Arthur and James Needham from England. Those explorations led to the area being claimed for both France and England at various points in time. In 1763, when the French and Indian Wars ended, Great Britain took over the region.

From 1784 to 1787 the “state” of Franklin was formed, but when area settlers were allowed to be North Carolina representatives Franklin was disbanded. The territory to the Ohio River’s south was officially organized by Congress in 1790. Tennessee was established as a the 16th state on June 1, 1796. Tennessee joined the Confederacy in June 8, 1861. Tennessee was readmitted to the Union on July 24, 1866. Tennessee contains 95 Counties. Tennessee’s capital is Nashville.

Tennessee is bordered by Virginia and Kentucky to the north, North Carolina to the east, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia to the south, and Missouri and Arkansas to the west.
See also Tennessee State History.

Getting Started with Tennessee Genealogy and Family Trees

Tips for Looking for Tennessee Genealogy Information – With its beautiful scenery and fascinating history, the State of Tennessee attracts a lot of attention from travelers and those looking to relocate, but it is also a place with a huge amount of genealogical interest too. Whether seeking information about African American ancestors, Native American heritage, or details about family land ownership, there is plenty of data available.

Successful Tactics for Tennessee Genealogy Projects – Naturally, the first step is to find the information, and this all begins with today’s most common tool for research – the computer. Doing work for Tennessee genealogy projects means using a number of resources available online. Here you can begin gathering data or requesting copies of the materials needed for Tennessee genealogy project.

Of course, this does not mean that ALL resources are available in the electronic format, and many of the archives, libraries and museums are still only offline options to those looking for Tennessee genealogy materials. It is a good idea to become familiar with these resources for Tennessee genealogy, and to learn which are the offline and which can provide you with materials right away through the Internet.

A Modern Method for Tennessee Genealogy Research – Once you are involved in the search, you will see that public records are found in many locations, and are entirely “digitized”. You still need to understand how to the records are categorized to help in your search for Tennessee genealogy materials, and these categories are shown below:

  • Vital Records – these include birth, marriage, divorce and death records from county, state, and national archives. They can also encompass military records, immigration and naturalization details, cemetery or obituary information, census records, newspaper items, and passenger lists and records as well. These tend to be available as online or offline resources for Tennessee genealogy.
  • State Records – this group includes probate information, surname lists, state census information, private manuscripts, newspapers, military or veterans information, marriage details, maps, land records, genealogical folders, estate information, deeds, death records, cemetery information, birth certificates and more. These are available as online and offline resources for Tennessee genealogy.
  • Local Records – state research begins when you visit a county clerk’s office or website. From there you can search historical societies, local genealogical societies, small local libraries, and school or college libraries for Tennessee genealogy information. These are items that are usually offline and viewable by appointment or special arrangement.

The Strongest Tools for Tennessee Genealogy – The computer is the genealogist’s strongest tool and will provide them with direct access to many sources for Tennessee genealogy data. Below are some of the best of resources for Tennessee genealogy:

  • Tennessee Vital Records, 1st Floor, Central Services Building, 421 5th Avenue, North, Nashville, TN 37243;
    Website: .
    This is an ideal resource for birth, death, marriage and divorce records that you can request via a written notice, or even online.

Additional state and local records can be found at the:

  • Tennessee State Library and Archives, 403 7th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37243;
    Website: .
    Resources on this site for Tennessee genealogy are extensive and contain all of the vital records, state records, Native American census data, newspapers, name indexes, military records and a tool through which direct questions can be asked to research staff.

Also, consider using the Tennessee Genealogical Society and Online Library at:

Finally, these three websites provide state-specific details to those in search of details for Tennessee genealogy projects.

Tennessee Ethnic Group Research

The DAR Library and the National Archives each have microfilmed 1850 and 1860 federal census slave owner schedules on file. Some African American Civil War soldier records can be found at the TSLA. There are also several online resources that contain information on African Americans in Tennessee.

Oklahoma holds most of the records relating to Native Americans in Tennessee. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Interior in Muskogee, OK holds many of those records. Others can be found at the Oklahoma Historical Society. A map called “Aboriginal Map of Tennessee” shows the early white settlements, forts, and native tribes.

On October 19, 1818 the Chickasaw tribe ceded their lands in the western part of present-day Tennessee. In December of 1835 the Cherokees began leaving the region after the last of their lands were ceded. However, a few Native Americans did stay in the area. A collection called “The American State Papers, Class II, Indian Affairs” has been published. It details actions taken by the Native Americans in the region. It is located in the TSLA, but access is restricted. Register Number 11, a collection of Cherokee records, and the 1835 Cherokee Census are available to researchers.

The FHL holds the Guion Miller Roll (Eastern Cherokee Roll). Eastern Cherokees that applied for 1905 monetary awards are listed in those records. Those claims were maid as a result of a lawsuit filed against the United States by the Cherokees. The record is indexed and includes around 90,000 names.

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