Tennessee Biography

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Tennessee Wiki Topics
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Beginning Research
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Local Research Resources

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Biographies[edit | edit source]

Biographies provide useful genealogical information such as an individual’s birth date and place (including foreign birthplace where applicable); family members; occupation; education; and social, political, and religious affiliations. They may also contain a physical description, previous residences, and immigration information. Biographies are the product of family knowledge or previous research, often compiled on the early settlers and prominent citizens of the state, county, or town. Many lesser known individuals may have biographical sketches written about them, especially in local histories.

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Biographies in Local Histories[edit | edit source]

  • Biographical information is often found in state, county, and town histories.
  • Towards the end of the 19th century, began publishers soliciting short biographical/family histories from local founding families, offering to publish them in an upcoming local history. This then became an incentive for family members to buy a copy of the book.
  • Families represented were not necessarily prominent. Practically everyone living there, especially in the Midwest, counted as an early settler.
  • These biographies often start with the first member of the family to settle in the area, and detail their descendants at the time of publishing. They may tell where the family moved in from. Children's marriages often are given, with maiden names included.

Finding Biographies[edit | edit source]

  • The county Wiki page lists several county histories. It also lists local libraries, and societies which probably have copies of local histories.
  • Many histories are no longer under copyright and can be found in the following online, digitized book collections. Search with keywords "History" and "the name of your locality" (state, county, or town).
  • The FamilySearch library has extensive collections of these local histories. Many are digitized. Search the FamilySearch Catalog under your locality for the topics "Biography" and "History".

Repositories[edit | edit source]

Tennessee State Library and Archives[edit | edit source]

The Tennessee State Library and Archives has:

Memphis Public Libraries[edit | edit source]

The Memphis Public Libraries maintains extensive card indexes to biographical sketches in histories and related works.

Tennessee Historical Society[edit | edit source]

The Tennessee Historical Society has an extensive family surname file and a large collection of personal and family histories.

Family History Library[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library has a good collection of biographical sources. Representative biographical works for Tennessee include:

  • Allison, John Roy V. Notable Men of Tennessee: Personal and Genealogical with Portraits. Two Volumes. Atlanta, Georgia: Southern Historical Association, 1905. FHL film 24567; digital versions are at Ancestry ($); and MyHeritage ($). Includes a surname index.
  • American Genealogical-Biographical Index. Volumes 1–198+. Middletown, Connecticut: Godfrey Memorial Library, 1952–.  FHL books 973 D22am ser. 2; film 1698167 (first of 31 films); or online at Ancestry ($)  or Godfrey Memorial Library ($). This is a continuing series. An earlier edition of 48 volumes was published as The American Genealogical Index 1942–1951. The expanded edition consists of more than 198 volumes, indexing over 12 million brief citations (name, date, and source) to more than 1,150 manuscripts, periodicals, or books. To help interpret citations and to locate the original sources, use the colored pages in some volumes, or use: Key Title Index to the American Genealogical Biographical Index: Register of Family History Library Call Numbers. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1990. FHL film 1698167 item 4; fiche 6088377; book 973 D22am index at various libraries (WorldCat)
  • Crutchfiled, James. Timeless Tennesseans. Tomball, TX: Strode Publishers, 1984. FHL book 976.8 D3cj at various libraries (WorldCat) Indexed biographical sketches and illustrations.
  • First Families of Tennessee: a Register of Early Settlers and Their Present-day Descendants. Knoxville, Tennessee: East Tennessee Historical Society, 2000. FHL book 976.8 H2ff at various libraries (WorldCat)Includes full name indexes.
  • Griffey, Irene, compiler. The Preemptors: Middle Tennessee's First Settlers. Clarksville: P.p., 1989. FHL book 976.8 R2g at various libraries (WorldCat) Notes if grants were made to the resident (at the time that the commissioners visited in 1782-3) or to an assignee.
  • McBride, Robert M. Biographical Directory of the Tennessee General Assembly. Nashville, Tennessee: Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Tennessee Historical Commission, 1975. FHL book 976.8 D3mc at various libraries (WorldCat)There are six volumes, each representing a specific time period between 1796 and 1991. A surname index is included in each volume.
  • Memorial and Biographical Record: An Illustrated Compendium of Biography, Containing a Compendium of Local Biography, Including Biographical Sketches of Prominent Old Settlers and Representative Citizens of Part of the Cumberland Region of Tennessee, with a Review of Their Life Work; Their Identity with the Growth and Development of This Region; Reminiscences of Personal History and Pioneer Life; and Other Interesting and Valuable Matter Which Should Be Preserved in History. Also a Compendium of Biography, Containing Biographical Sketches of Hundreds of the Greatest Men and Celebrities America Has Produced in Various Walks of Life, Including Great Statesmen, Lawyers, Jurists, Scientists, Editors, Poets, Writers, Financiers, Railroad Magnates, Army and Navy Officers, Inventors, Speculators, Scouts, Merchant Princes, Humorists, Manufacturers, Abolitionists, Explorers, All the Presidents, Etc.Chicago, Illinois: George A. Ogle and Company, 1898. FHL film 1291. at various libraries (WorldCat) A partial index is included in this record.
  • Moore, John Trotwood and Austin P. Foster, editors. Tennessee: The Volunteer State, 1769-1923. 4 vols. Nashville: S.J.Clarke Publishing Co., 1923. Free online digital copy; FHL book 976.8 D3m v. 1-4. At various libraries (WorldCat). This indexed four-volume set includes church information and Tennessee history in addition to three volumes of biographies.
  • Speer, William S. Sketches of Prominent Tennesseans: Containing Biographies and Records of Many of the Families Who Have Attained Prominence in Tennessee. 1888. Reprint, Greenville, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1997. FHL film 833388 FHL book 976.8 D3s at various libraries (WorldCat) A surname index is included. Free digital copy Sloan Foundation.

TheLast Names Search of the FamilySearch Catalog will lead you to biographies and published family histories on specific surnames. Using the term “Tennessee” in the Keyword Search will narrow the search to families in Tennessee.

The Family History Library has many collected biographies and local or county histories with biographical sketches on residents. These can be found in thePlace Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:





East Tennessee Historical Center[edit | edit source]

601 S. Gay St.
Knoxville, TN 37901-1629
Phone: 865-215-8801

The East Tennessee History Center houses the Knox County Archives, the Museum of East Tennessee History, and the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection. A card index to biographies (mainly obituaries) is available, as well as indexes to First Families of Tennessee applications, and surname files.

The McClung Historical Collection’s primary focus is east Tennessee; it holds one of the country’s leading research collections about the region. The collection contains books, newspapers, directories, manuscripts, maps, microfilm records, and photographs. In addition to the east Tennessee material, the collection also contains research guides and census indexes for many states in the United States, especially 11 states in the South. The Knox County Public Library offers the free online Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection.

Germantown Regional History and Genealogy Center[edit | edit source]

7779 Poplar Pike
Germantown, TN 38138
Phone: 901-757-8480

The Germantown Regional History and Genealogy Center (GRHGC) is the special collections division of Germantown Community Library. It is a repository for non-circulating books, microfilm, periodicals, photographs, and maps for genealogical and historical research for the Mid-South, Eastern and Southern states.

Select Bibliography[edit | edit source]

The Draper Manuscript Collection

  • Draper Manuscript Collection[1] The collection consists of nearly 500 volumes of manuscripts, papers, and books collected by Lyman Copeland Draper about the history of the trans-Allegheny West, a region including the western areas of the Carolinas and Virginia, all the Ohio River Valley, and part of the upper Mississippi Valley from the 1740s to 1830. The collection is divided into 50 series. Some series are titled by geographic area, some by the names of prominent frontier leaders, and some by topic. The bulk of the collection consists of notes from interviews, questionnaires, and letters gathered during Draper’s extensive travels and research to learn about frontier history. Personal papers are much more rare than government or military records.

The collection includes many items of a genealogical or biographical nature. For an inventory and partial indexes, see:

  • Guide to the Draper Manuscripts by Josephine L. Harper. Madison, Wisconsin: State. FHL book 977.583/M1 A3h. This guide gives series and volume descriptions for some of the Draper manuscripts. There are several indexes at the end of the book, including a name and subject index, an additional personal data index, and a list of references to Illinois.
  • Index to Lyman C. Draper Manuscripts. [2]The name index gives the series and volume numbers, but is not complete.

Other Tennessee Biographical Collections:

Specific Biographies

  • Col. Crockett's Exploits and Adventures in Texas. 1848. By David Crockett. New York: Wm. H. Graham, Tribune Buildings. Online at Internet Archive.
  • Peeps into Life: Autobiography of John Mathews, a Minister of the Gospel for Sixty Years. 1826. By John Mathews. n.p.: Published by request of the Tennessee Annual Conference, 1904. Online at Internet Archive
  • Life of General John Sevier. 1910. By Francis Marion Turner. New York and Washington. The Neale Publishing Company. Online at Internet Archive.

Research Guides[edit | edit source]

Published family histories of numerous local residents are identified for many counties in Tennessee. Locate these histories on the individual Tennessee county page of the FamilySearch Wiki.

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. FHL film 889097 (first of 147 films)
  2. Wolfe, Barbara Schull. Index to Lyman C. Draper Manuscripts. Logansport, Indiana: B.S. Wolfe, 197–?. FHL book 977.583/M1 A3w