Tennessee Occupation and Business Records

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"The James Rice Gristmill at the Lenoir Museum Cultural Complex in Anderson County, Tennessee. The museum complex is managed by Norris Dam State Park. The mill was built in 1798 in what is now Union County and refurbished several times throughout the 1800s. The Civilian Conservation Corps moved the mill to its current location in 1935." Source: Brian Stansberry at Wikipedia.

The majority of early Tennessee settlers were farmers.

In the year 1820, the top 11 Tennessee manufactured products were (ranked from largest to smallest):

  1. Whiskey and other spirits
  2. Blacksmith's work
  3. Flour, meal, plaster, and grain
  4. Leather and leather products
  1. Saddles, bridles and harnesses
  2. Hats and bonnets
  3. Cabinetware
  4. Shoes and boots
  5. Textiles and yarn
  6. Firearms
  7. Houses and building materials[1]

Biographies or lists are sometimes compiled of members of professional trades. Tennessee examples include:

Apprenticeship records, often created when a child was orphaned and bound out to be raised by local residents, identify occupations of guardians and their wards. Many of these records have been published:

  • East Tennessee's Forgotten Children: Apprentices from 1778 to 1911. 2000. By Alan N. Miller. Baltimore, Md.: Clearfield Company. FHL US/CAN 976.8 U2m. Online at MyHeritage ($).
  • Middle Tennessee's Forgotten Children: Apprentices from 1784 to 1902. 2004. By Alan N. Miller. Baltimore, Md.: Clearfield Company. FHL US/CAN 976.8 U2ma.
  • West Tennessee's Forgotten Children: Apprentices from 1821 to 1889. 2006. By Alan N. Miller. Baltimore, Md.: Clearfield Company. FHL US/CAN 976.8 U2man. Online at MyHeritage ($).

In more recent times, larger companies have sometimes preserved records about their employees. These usually contain the hiring and termination details and may include biographical data about the employees and possibly their families. If the company where an ancestor worked is still in business, you may be given limited access to their historical employee records. Few employee records have been made public, so contact the individual companies regarding their records.

A list of slaves that were impressed to work on the railroads is in:

  • Bamman, Gale Williams. "African-Americans Impressed for Service on the Nashville and North Western Railroad, October 1863." National Genealogical Society Quarterly, September 1992, 204-210. Includes: name, age, height, complexion, name of owner, county, town, and other remarks.

A List of Lawyers in Tennessee was published in 1851.

Frisco Railway Employee Cards Online[edit | edit source]

The Frisco Railway (also called St. Louis-San Francisco) operated from 1876 to 1980 in the Midwest and south central United States:

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  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Kansas
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
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Starting in 1940 the Frisco Railway compiled thousands of employee cards that are now indexed and available for viewing on the Springfield-Greene County Library District Internet site. The information on a typical card includes:
Wikipedia has more about this subject: St. Louis – San Francisco Railway
  • Employee Name
  • Address
  • Birth Date
  • Birth Place
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Parent’s Names
  • Location of Assignment
  • Job Title

Pullman-Standard Employees Project[edit | edit source]

The Pullman-Standard Company of Michigan and Indiana was a well-known builder of railroad cars. During World Wars I and II, the company also "played a leading role as an arsenal," producing "freight cars, tanks, and munitions for America's war efforts during both World Wars."[2] The company's employee personnel cards at kept at Indiana University Northwest's Calumet Regional Archives and contain references to many natives of Tennessee. An index for employees with surnames beginning with the letters A to M is currently available online, along with a request form to retrieve copies of the original documents.

See Also[edit | edit source]

  • Tennessee: A Guide to the State. Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Tennessee. American Guide Series. (No Place: New Deal Network, 1996) Original published: Tennessee: State of Tennessee. Department of Conservation, Division of Information, 1939. Available online. Several chapters apply to Tennessee Occupations—including “Agriculture,” “The Working Man,” and “Writers of Tennessee.”
  • Tennessee State Library and Archives' Manuscript Collection includes business and organizational records which might contain information on individuals.

For more resources regarding occupations for Tennessee use the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


  1. National Archives, Indexes to Manufactures Census of 1820 (1920; reprint, Knightstown, Ind.: Bookmark, 1977), 116-117.
  2. "NWIGS - Pullman-Standard Employees Project," Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society.