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Research in Tennessee Church and Bible Records

Tennessee Church records definitely are a abundant resource for the genealogical and historical researcher. In many parts of Tennessee, church records predate civil records. They therefore record vital events, supplying birth, marriage, and death facts which could in any other case be lost. Apart from furnishing names and dates, church records may show you relationships between people and portray a family’s position in the community. In addition, entries of a personal nature are not unusual, and these could provide you with a glimpse into an ancestor’s persona or habits.

Well before Tennessee County and city governments gathered vital records, many people noted crucial times, events, and names in their family Bible. Family Bibles are important research tools. Although the dates can’t be guaranteed, Family Bibles are a tangible link with past generations.

Most Tennessee church histories have not been published. However, there are some church records available for nearly every Tennessee county. The three main religions that settled the state were the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. Most of the church records for the state are from those three denominations. Other religions in the area included: Lutheran, Church of Christ, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Jewish.

Only membership records and minutes were kept by most early churches in the region. However, some churches dud keep other records. Those records may include: Baptism, Marriage, Burial, Membership, Removal

However, no single church kept all of those record types. Some genealogical information may also be found in session minutes and registers from the Presbyterian churches.

Baptist congregations typically govern themselves and do not follow any set system of record keeping. Methodist ministers maintained permanent dismissal, baptism, and marriage records. Genealogical data may also be found in the registers of the Roman Catholic and Episcopalian churches.

Some guides to church records in Tennessee have been published. One of those guides is “Historical Records Survey, Guide to Church Vital Statistics in Tennessee.” That survey contains records from 39 counties in the state. However, the number of churches listed for each of those counties varies from 3 to 349.

The DAR has collected many Tennessee church records over the years. Those records can be found at the FHL or in Washington D.C., at the DAR Library. Several other organizations and individuals have published church records for the state over the years as well. Records from before 1900 for more than 100 churches in Tennessee can be found at the TSLA.

Microfilmed records from the Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches can be found in Knoxville, Tennessee. They are located in the McClung Collection at the Lawson McGhee Library. Several other resources are all located in Nashville. Those resources include: The Historical Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Disciples of Christ Historical Society, Catholic Diocese of Nashville Archives, Archives of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee

Research in Tennessee Cemetery Records

Many people know the importance of using vital records for genealogy records, but not everyone realizes how important Tennessee cemetery records can be to your work. In fact, many people who use Tennessee cemetery records as a last resort find these records are better than many other things you may try. It is no great secret, or at least it should not be. Tennessee Cemetery and gravestone inscriptions are a rich source of information for family historians. For Definitions of all Cemetery Terms See Symbols on Gravestones and Their Interpretations

The thing about Tennessee cemetery records is that you can get much of the same information on these records as many other kinds. For instance, you can still get a full legal name, a date of birth, date of death and usually even the location of the birth. In some cases, you may also be able to find out the names of other relatives, at least a spouse if there was one.

Clues to the Past – Tennessee cemetery records are a link to the past. It is a way to find out a great deal of data about people who you cannot find information for any longer by using other methods. Because some states guard certain records and documents and make them unavailable to the public, it is good to know you can get details from sources such as Tennessee cemetery records.

If you think you have come to a dead end in your data retrieval, it is time to give Tennessee cemetery records a try. Whenever possible make the trip to the burial plot to see if you can find more clues about related ancestry for a certain person too. This is yet another benefit from Tennessee cemetery records that other vital records may not help you with.

The bottom line is to try all resources possible. Tennessee cemetery records are not the only type of state vital records you can use. However, Tennessee cemetery records are sometimes the most useful. Few other records enable a person to search as far back as burial or death records. Once you have begun to use this, you will be amazed at the results. Use documents or tombstone transcriptions to find out how to begin using Tennessee cemetery records to complete your family tree.

Tennessee Cemetery Research Tips – Many cemetery records for Tennessee have been transcribed. They have been compiled by DAR chapter members. The Lawson McGhee Library’s Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection also contains cemetery records. Many can also be found at the FHL and the TSLA as part of the collection called Tennessee Miscellaneous Family and Cemetery Records. Notebooks full of cemetery record listings can also be found at the state library.

County genealogical and historical societies and local citizens have collected, compiled, and published numerous volumes of cemetery records. Other notable sources include:

  • Acklen, Jeannette T., et al. Tennessee Records. 2 vols. 1933. Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1974. Volume 1 contains tombstone inscriptions.
  • Hunkins, Lillian. Tombstone Inscriptions and Marriages of Middle Tennessee. Houston: the author, 1965.

County historical societies and genealogical societies have published many cemetery records. Private citizens have also compiled collections of those records throughout the years. Many of them have been published.

Famous People Buried in Tennessee Cemeteries


Tennessee Cemeteries