Did your North Carolina ancestors head west to Tennessee? Then this is a post you will want to bookmark!
Amie Tennant is my guest blogger today sharing her advice on getting started with your Tennessee genealogy research.
The Three Most Important Steps to Tennessee Research
From Davy Crocket to Dolly Parton and Sequoyah to Justin Timberlake, there are no shortages of fun and famous people from the great state of Tennessee.
Do your ancestors hail from the Volunteer State? Wait, you didn’t know that Tennessee was nicknamed the Volunteer State? Why yes, it is! During the War of 1812, Tennessee played a prominent role by giving up her sons as volunteers.
Let me share a few things that might help you while researching your family history in Tennessee.
Know your location
When starting research in any place, I always take the time to learn about the location.
Tennessee is bordered by no less than 8 other states! They are Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri. You will want to determine if the Tennessee county where your targeted ancestor lived is close to the border of another state. If so, don’t forget to look there for important records as well.
Before statehood, parts of middle and east Tennessee were claimed by North Carolina. You can learn more about that by reading “Tennessee Counties Originally in North Carolina” at http://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/ghl/resources/genealogy/tncounties.html or use this interactive map to determine when and where your ancestor’s county was formed http://www.mapofus.org/tennessee/ .
Know what records exist
The first US Census was taken in Tennessee in 1810, however they were lost. Your next federal census opportunity would be the 1820 census. Again, there is a loss of about 20 of the eastern counties of Tennessee and the census made there. Tax rolls can be used to recreate the 1810 and 1820 censuses.
By 1830, you are good to go!
Tennessee held only one statewide census which was in 1891. This census enumerated male citizens of Tennessee over the age of 21. Even though this census only enumerated the adult males, it is a wonderful substitute for the 1890 Federal census that was lost.
Always make time to gather all censuses that your targeted ancestor appears in. When laid out, they can create a story board of clues and information about the life of your family.
Vital records include birth, marriage, and death. I had difficulty finding early marriage records for my Tennessee ancestors using traditional methods. An alternate research technique is to use pension applications.
A pension application from the War of 1812 gave me a treasure trove of dates and places for my 4th great grandfather, Hawkins Bowman.
In that case, I used Fold3.com to search for Hawkins Bowman. I was rewarded with 26 pages of “goodies”. I learned his wife’s maiden name, their marriage year and location, his death date and location, and her death date and location.
Birth records were not required statewide until 1914, however you can find some counties were recording births before that. When you are unable to find a birth record, search probate records. If a man died and left behind minor children, there will often be guardianship papers. Guardianship papers typically are dated and give the age of the child. Using that information, you can determine a calculated birth year, which is better than nothing!
Death records can also be hard to find prior to the 1870’s. Again, I would point you to pension records and probate records. And of course, there is always a tombstone picture!
When all else fails and you can’t seem to move forward, ask for help! You may find a county Facebook page with people who know the area and know the records. Tell them what you are looking for and maybe they can help you out.
You can also use RootsBid.com. RootsBid.com is a new up-and-coming website dedicated to helping you move forward in your research by posting a request for what you need. It is simple, effective, and easy to use. You can read more about it at RootsBid.com.
Good luck and happy hunting! Here’s to finding those Dixie lovers in your family tree!
 “United States Census 1810,” FamilySearch, (http://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/United_States_Census_1810#Missing_Records : accessed 5 Apr 2015).
 “1820 Census – Tennessee,” Census Online, (http://www.census-online.com/links/TN/1820.html : accessed 5 Apr 2015).
Amie Bowser Tennant is a research genealogist, speaker, and writer. She has served as a volunteer at her local Family History Center for more than 10 years. In 2011, Amie was awarded the National Genealogical Society Home Study Course Scholarship in American Genealogy. She currently writes her own family history blog and is a content specialist for RootsBid.com.