First as a territory and then as a state, virtually all of Tennessee's land passed from various governmental jurisdictions to private owners through grants of one sort or another. Politics and land speculation were closely intertwined and land issues were a leading concern of early government.
Now the Tennessee State Library and Archives has made the entire collection of these early land records available to help people better understand the interactions between settlers, citizens, speculators and the public land system. This newly-processed collection of records, titled "Early Tennessee Land Records, Record Group 50," contains a huge volume of the early land records of Tennessee, many of them with the names of pioneer settlers who obtained land from North Carolina Revolutionary War veterans and their heirs.
|Land grant #5825, dated May 14, 1818 granting 200 acres of land in Washington County to Nathan Shipley. Signed by Governor Joseph McMinn.|
Early Tennessee Land Records, Record Group 50
Tennessee State Library and Archives
Other Tennessee settlers purchased public lands from the State of Tennessee during the early decades of the 1800s. The different types of records — warrants, entries, survey documents, plats and the grants themselves — contain valuable clues as to when early Tennesseans came to this country, where they may have settled and how and from whom they obtained land.
"We are proud to finally make these important historical records from the dawn of our great state available," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "Tennessee was a major destination of many immigrants on the Southern frontier during the late 1700s and early 1800s. These original handwritten records reveal the complex workings of the system our ancestors used to obtain the land where they built their homes and communities."
Archival work on this collection has been ongoing for the past 20 years. Staff members Ann Alley, now retired, and David Sowell conducted the bulk of the work.
"The volumes and papers in this large collection have been in disorder for many years. Ann Alley once speculated that they had been dumped in the floor and stirred with a stick! We are pleased to open the full collection to the public at long last. I anticipate many research and publication projects will result from the rich historical information they contain," said State Librarian and Archivist Chuck Sherrill.
To learn more, you may visit our finding aid to the collection: Early Tennessee Land Records, 1773-1922: http://share.tn.gov/tsla/history/state/recordgroups/findingaids/rg50.pdf
And our Resource Guide to Early Land Grants: http://sos.tn.gov/products/tsla/early-north-carolina-tennessee-land-grants-tennessee-state-library-and-archives
We also have a helpful page entitled, "How Do I Find Land Grants?" http://sos.tn.gov/products/tsla/how-do-i-find-land-grants
The collection is available to people visiting the Library and Archives, which is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, just west of the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville. The Library and Archives is open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, with the exception of state holidays. A limited amount of free parking is available around the building.
The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State