Tennessee Biography

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United States  Gotoarrow.png  Tennessee Gotoarrow.png Biography

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.


Sen. Benjamin Hawkins (1754-1816)

Tennessee State Library and Archives

The Tennessee State Library and Archives has:

Memphis Public Library and Information Center

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

Tennessee Historical Society

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

Family History Library

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 US/CAN Film 24567; digital versions are at Ancestry ($); and World Vital Records ($). Includes a surname index.
  • American Genealogical-Biographical Index. Volumes 1–198+. Middletown, Connecticut: Godfrey Memorial Library, 1952–.  FHL US/CAN Books 973 D22am ser. 2; on 31 films starting with 1698167; 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 US/CAN Book 973 D22am index; Film 1698167 item 4; Fiche 6088377. This shows the call numbers for those sources that are at the Family History Library.
  • McBride, Robert M. Biographical Directory of the Tennessee General Assembly. Nashville, Tennessee: Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Tennessee Historical Commission, 1975. FHL US/CAN Book 976.8 D3mc. 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 US/CAN Film 1291. 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. (Family History Library Book 976.8 D3m v. 1-4.) 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 US/CAN Book 976.8 D3s; Film 833388. A surname index is included. Free digital copy Sloan Foundation.

East Tennessee Historical Center
601 S. Gay St.
Knoxville, TN 37901-1629
Telephone: 865-215-8801
Internet: http://www.easttnhistory.org

The East Tennessee History Center houses the Knox County Archives, the Museum of East Tennessee History, and the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection.

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
7779 Poplar Pike
Germantown, TN 38138
Telephone: 901-757-8480
Internet: http://www.germantown-tn.gov

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

Other Tennessee Biographical Collections:

Specific Biographies

Biographies in the Family History Library Collection

The Surname Search of the Family History Library 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 the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:





Published family histories of numerous local residents are identified for many counties under the Tennessee county pages in FamilySearch Wiki.

Research Guides

The following research guide, prepared by a Certified Genealogist, includes a guide for Tennessee biographies:

External Links

  • Tennessee Biographies. These biographies have Tennessee ties to help with your online genealogy research to find your family tree.
  • Tennessee Authors past and present is a website deditacted to identifying authors who have called Tennessee their home as well as identifying their major works.