Background Sources for Tennessee

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This entry was originally written by Wendy Bebout Elliott, Ph.D. FUGA for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
Tennessee sil.png
the Tennessee Family History Research series.
History of Tennessee
Tennessee Vital Records
Census Records for Tennessee
Background Sources for Tennessee
Tennessee Maps
Tennessee Land Records
Tennessee Probate Records
Tennessee Court Records
Tennessee Tax Records
Tennessee Cemetery Records
Tennessee Church Records
Tennessee Military Records
Tennessee Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Tennessee Archives, Libraries, and Societies
African Americans of Tennessee
Native Americans of Tennessee
Tennessee County Resources
Map of Tennessee

In the late 1880s, Goodspeed Publishing Company produced eighteen volumes of Tennessee county history, arranged regionally. Many volumes have been reprinted by Southern Historical Press, P.O. Box 738, Easley, SC 29640. Two are The Goodspeed History of Tennessee: Dyer, Gibson, Lake, Obion and Weakley Counties (1887; reprint, Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1978) and History of Tennessee: From the Earliest Time to the Present; Together with an Historical and a Biographical Sketch of Maury, Williamson, Rutherford, Wilson, Bedford & Marshall Counties '¦ (1886; reprint, Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1988).

Other volumes for the following counties are also available: Hamilton, Knox, and Shelby; Fayette and Hardeman; Lawrence, Wayne, Perry, Hickman, and Lewis; Madison; Sumner, Smith, Macon, and Trousdale; Montgomery, Robertson, Humphreys, Stewart, Dickson, Cheatham, and Houston; White, Warren, DeKalb, Coffee, and Cannon.

The WPA, under the New Deal, compiled, transcribed, and organized many valuable records in the state. A guide to these records is The WPA Guide to Tennessee, compiled and written by the Federal Writers' Project of the WPA for the state. It was first published in 1939 and was reprinted by the University of Tennessee Press in 1986. Almost every county government now has a website. Many include records or indexes to records held by various county agencies (see Tennessee County Resources).

Other published sources include the following:

  • Caldwell, Mary French. Tennessee, The Dangerous Example: Watauga to 1849. Nashville: Aurora Publishers, 1974.
  • Carter, Clarence Edwin, comp. and ed. The Territorial Papers of the United States: The Territory South of the River Ohio, 1790'1796. Vol. 4. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1953.
  • Corlew, R. E. Tennessee: A Short History. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1981. This is a condensed version of the standard, larger work, which follows.
  • Folmsbee, Stanley John, Robert E. Corlew, and Enoch L. Mitchell. History of Tennessee. 4 vols. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1960. Volume 2 includes a good bibliography, and volumes 3 and 4 contain family history.
  • Miller, Charles A. The Official and Political Manual of the State of Tennessee. 1890. Reprint. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1974. This volume was compiled by the secretary of state in 1890. It includes a chronological table from 1540 through 1888, briefly mentioning factors in Tennessee's history, and the constitutions of 1790, 1834, and 1870.
  • Schweitzer, George K. Tennessee Genealogical Research. Knoxville, Tenn.: the author, 1983. This valuable volume provides historical information as well as listing the most helpful source material. It details library collections and county records with dates.
  • Smith, Sam B. Tennessee History: A Bibliography. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1974. A comprehensive compilation of works pertaining to the state's history.
  • Williams, Samuel Cole. Beginnings of West Tennessee in the Land of the Chickasaws, 1541'1841. 1930. Reprint. Nashville: Blue and Gray Press, 1971.
  • . History of the Lost State of Franklin. Johnson City, Tenn.: Watauga Press, 1924. Includes early maps and well-documented history.