Tennessee Occupations

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United States  Gotoarrow.png  Tennessee  Gotoarrow.png  Occupations
"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
  5. Saddles, bridles and harnesses
  6. Hats and bonnets
  7. Cabinetware
  8. Shoes and boots
  9. Textiles and yarn
  10. Firearms
  11. Houses and building materials[1]

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

  • Caldwell, Joshua William. Sketches of the Bench and Bar of Tennessee. Knoxville, Tenn.: Ogden Brothers, 1898. FHL US/CAN Film 1425711 Item 3; digital version at BYU Family History Archives.
  • Caldwell, Benjamin Hubbard. Tennessee Silversmiths. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1988. (Family History Library book 976.8 U2c.) The record includes an index.
  • Keever, Rosalie Ausmus. Some Pioneer Preachers and Teachers of Tennessee. Johnson City, Tennessee, 1974. (Family History Library book 976.8 U2k).

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:

  • Miller, Alan N. East Tennessee's Forgotten Children: Apprentices from 1778 to 1911. Baltimore, Md.: Printed for Clearfield Company, Inc., by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 2000. FHL US/CAN 976.8 U2m. Purchase at Genealogical.com.
  • Miller, Alan N. Middle Tennessee's Forgotten Children: Apprentices from 1784 to 1902. Baltimore, Md.: Printed for Clearfield Company, Inc., by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 2004. FHL US/CAN 976.8 U2ma. Purchase at Genealogical.com.
  • Miller, Alan N. West Tennessee's Forgotten Children: Apprentices from 1821 to 1889. Baltimore, Md.: Printed for Clearfield Company, Inc., by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 2006. FHL US/CAN 976.8 U2man. Purchase at Genealogical.com.

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.

See Also

  • 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.”

For more resources regarding occupations for Tennessee use the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:


  1. National Archives, Indexes to Manufactures Census of 1820 (1920; reprint, Knightstown, Ind.: Bookmark, 1977), 116-117.