Tennessee County and City Deaths (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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This article describes a collection of records scheduled to become available at FamilySearch.org.
Tennessee, United States
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Flag of Tennessee
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Location of Tennessee
Record Description
Record Type Deaths
Collection years 1881-1995
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites

What Is in the Collection?

This collection contains death records that were created between 1881 and 1955.

Collection Content

Sample Image

Most counties in Tennessee kept birth and death records beginning in 1908. These records were kept by the county clerks in each county and then sent to the State Board of Health. However, many deaths were not registered. There are no statewide birth or death records for 1913 because the law requiring registration expired in that year. On January 1, 1914, a new law requiring deaths to be registered was passed.

Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis kept birth and death records prior to 1908. Some counties kept records as early as 1881. State registration requirements were not comprehensively complied with until about 1927

What Can This Collection Tell Me?

Death records may include the following genealogical information:

  • Name of the deceased
  • Date of death
  • Place of death
  • Sex
  • Color or race
  • Age
  • Usual residence of the deceased
  • Length of residence
  • Marital status
  • Place of death
  • Hospital where died
  • Cause of death
  • Place of birth
  • Date of birth
  • Name of the father
  • Birthplace of the father (state or country)
  • Maiden name of the mother
  • Birthplace of the mother (state or country)
  • Occupation
  • Military service
  • Name of the physician last in attendance
  • Place of burial
  • Date of burial
  • Name of the informant

How Do I Search the Collection?

To search the collection it is helpful to know the following:

  • The name of your ancestor.
  • The approximate date of death.
  • The residence of your ancestor.
  • The names of other family members and their relationships.

Search by Name by visiting the Collection Page:
Fill in the requested information in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the ancestors in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor.

What Do I Do Next?

When you have located your ancestor’s death record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family.

I Found Who I Was Looking For, What Now?

  • Use the death date or age along with the place of death to find or verify their birth records and parents' names.
  • Use the death date or age along with the place of death to find the family in census records.
  • Use the residence and names of the parents (if the deceased is a child) to locate church and land records.
  • Occupations listed can lead you to other types of records such as employment records or military records.
  • The name of the informant may be a relative. This can be helpful in identifying your ancestor.
  • The name of the officiator is a clue to their religion or area of residence in the county.
  • The name of the undertaker or mortuary could lead you to funeral and cemetery records which often include the names and residences of other family members.
  • Compile the entries for every person who has the same surname; this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual.
  • Continue to search the records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives of the deceased who may have died or been buried in the same county or nearby. This can help you identify other generations of your family or even the second marriage of a parent. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify.
  • When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.

I Can't Find Who I'm Looking For, What Now?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Look for another index. Local genealogical and historical societies often have indexes to local records.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor.

Citing This Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.  

Collection Citation
Tennessee Deaths, 1881-1955, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org). Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, Tennessee and various county courts throughout Tennessee. FHL microfilm and digital images. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record will be available with each record once the collection is published.

Image Citation

The image citation will be available once the collection is published.

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