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Genealogy Gazette

Volume 7, Number 19
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
October 21, 2015
Publisher's Notes
In this article we discuss researching in Tennessee. Since I have lived many years in Tennessee and my wife's family is from here, this area is also one that I enjoy researching. Just like Virginia, it is so important to know the history of the state and the area you are researching. I have written many times on researching in Tennessee and here are just a few articles that I have written if you missed them: Tennessee Bible Records, Tennessee in 1836, Beyond Census Records in Tennessee, Cherokee Lands in Tennessee.

To celebrate our 125th Newsletter issue, we are offering a 20% discount on all Tennessee books now through Sunday, October 25th. Just type TNSALE in the Coupons and Special Offers section of the shopping cart. The code must be entered for the discount to calculate.

Thank you,
James L. Douthat
Mountain Press

Last time we talked about Virginia Research, so it is only fitting that we now turn our attention to the State of Tennessee. Keep in mind that this area was in flux for many years. In doing research, we found one man in Cocke County who lived in a log cabin on the side of a mountain that over a twenty year period of time this man was in three states, seven counties and never once moved off his front porch. This is the kind of situation that we will find in the early days of Tennessee.
The territory that was to become Tennessee was part of North Carolina, but the over mountain folks wanted to become free of Raleigh. However, North Carolina was very reluctant to give up this vast territory. So when some of the upper east Tennessee folks established the State of Franklin, political turmoil ensued. The fact that ten counties were established in the State of Franklin did not sit well with North Carolina. Personal conflicts arose between John Sevier, Governor of The State of Franklin, and several powerful citizens who finally had Sevier arrested and sent back into North Carolina for trial. Sevierís supporters rescued him from jail and returned him to the Tennessee territory.
North Carolina ended up ceding these western lands to the United States government which in turn established The Territory South of the River Ohio. The area came to be known as the Southwest Territory and included the western portion of Virginia, i.e. Kentucky and Tennessee. We have to remember that at this time, the only part of Tennessee that existed was the upper east Tennessee area from Kingston north to the Kentucky border and a small portion of middle Tennessee around Nashville. Those southern sections of the state were part of several Native American tribes as was west Tennessee.
When looking for our ancestors in these early days of Tennessee, we have to look far beyond the borders of the present State. Take for example, if you are looking for ancestors you know lived in the old area of Sullivan County, you donít look in Tennessee. Remember that Virginia claimed the area of the country north of the Holston River. This river runs from the headwaters in southwestern Virginia down to Kingston, Tennessee. In fact, many of the deeds for Sullivan County are recorded in Augusta County, Virginia at Staunton. You may also want to look in the Fincastle County, Virginia records since they detail many of the early records of upper east Tennessee. Over the years, I have had many questions from researchers since they do not understand why Tennessee deeds are recorded so far away.
By the time of statehood on 1 June 1796, many of these problems had been ironed out by the politicians. But as you can see, these early twenty years are extremely difficult to find as many of the records are no long available for research. For example, The State of Franklin records were once held at the courthouse in Jonesborough, county seat of Washington County, Tennessee. A number of years ago, a college professor picked up these records to be indexed and transcribed. According to the clerk in Washington County, they have never been seen since. What is left of the records from Fincastle County, Virginia are now held in the courthouse of Montgomery County, Virginia. Many of the state papers of North Carolina contain records of this western territory, but you have to read a lot of records to find a few facts.
When entering into research of the State of Tennessee it is best to establish the time period to know where to look for the materials. Here is a guide for the early years:
Pre-1784 - 1790 -check out the North Carolina records and the State of Franklin materials
1790-1796 - The Territory South of the River Ohio
1796-present - Material will be found in Tennessee county records.
When you are researching 1796 and up, get familiar with the county in question. The boundaries of each county sometimes changed quite dramatically. For example, Hamilton County [Chattanooga is the county seat today] was created in 1819 out of Rhea County, but only that portion of the territory north of the Tennessee River. The southern portion of the county was not given to Hamilton until after the removal of the Cherokee Indians in 1838.
Bledsoe County is another one that changed over the years. When established in 1807 from Roane County, it went south in Sequatchie Valley to almost present day Dunlap [now in Sequatchie County] and north to the Morgan County line. In 1855 Cumberland County was created out of Bledsoe and a little later Sequatchie County was carved out of both Marion and Bledsoe. Each step of the way will tell you where the records you want are located.
I will save for a future article the counties that were authorized by the legislature but never came into existence or lasted only a few years, i.e. James County. Hopefully, this gives you some clue as to where to look for records on your Tennessee ancestors.
Happy Hunting!




Tennessee Books



Tennessee Book Sale

Since we are focusing on Tennessee Research this week and celebrating our 125th article, we are offering 20% off all Tennessee books until Sunday, October 25th at midnight. Just enter TNSALE in the Coupons and Special Offers section of the shopping cart. The code must be entered for the discount to calculate. Here are just a few of our Tennessee books.

Hickman County, TN - Bible, Family and Tombstone Records


Hickman County, TN - Cemetery and Bible Records - Volume 2


Madison County, Tennessee Guardian Renewal Bonds 1868-1879


Marshall County, TN - Will Book Volume A 1835-1855


Tennesseans to Missouri - 1810 -1875


Sullivan County, TN Early Tax List 1796, 1797 and 1811/1812


Sullivan County, Tennessee - Rhea Papers


Washington County, TN Inventories of Estates - Vol. 10 - 1822-1831



If you have any questions or suggestions for future editions, please email us at jimd@mountainpress.com.