Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Historical maps of all 95 Tennessee counties now online

By Sara Horne and Zach Keith

Finally! Maps of all of Tennessee’s 95 counties (not to mention the so-called "lost" counties that are no longer in existence) can be found in our Tennessee Virtual Archive collection. Our map collection is always growing as our staff continuously works to discover, select and digitize a wide variety of maps for the public. Over the past three years, the Library & Archives has been digitizing the largest and most significant collection of historical maps in the state available for public use.

Individual Tennessee county maps can contain a wealth of detail and can be especially useful for genealogical and local historical research. What kind of maps can you expect to find for your county?

Rural Free Delivery (RFD)

Rural free delivery maps were most likely created for use by postal carriers. Many of them are blueline or blueprint maps created from 1900 to 1940. They are very detailed down to individual houses and buildings and may contain names of homeowners and landowners.

Soil Maps and Geological Surveys

These late 19th to early 20th century maps show counties in incredible detail, including the most significant economic and demographic features. They also colorfully indicate the soil types and geological attributes of each county, which was important for agriculture and mining.

Civil Districts

These maps were drawn to establish new civil districts after the ratification of the 1835 state constitution. They show the early features of each county and sometimes include landowners' names, election precincts, roads and boundaries.

Rural Electrification

These maps give electricity-related details, residences, churches, schools, filling stations, stores, industries, tourist camps, garages, airports and geographic features. They were drawn as part of New Deal public works projects in rural Tennessee.

These historical county maps show many bygone features and are indispensable guides to the rural landscape of Tennessee before modernization. The Library & Archives preserves many other maps and map types. If you see any you would like digitized, please contact our staff.

The Library & Archives is adding new items to the digital collection monthly so check back regularly to see our new additions! We also provide monthly updates on our Facebook page. There are currently more than 400 maps online in our historical map collection: http://sos.tn.gov/tsla/maps.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State


  1. Nice work! Sara and Zach--you scorched it.

  2. Every map that I looked for generate this notice: [Smith County historical map]
    View Description
    This image is not yet available online. Currently, access to this resource is only available at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. To view this map, please contact archival staff at Reference.TSLA@tn.gov or 615-741-2764.

    1. Thank you for your question, Mark. We're sorry your search for Smith County maps proved unsuccessful.

      The announcement celebrates that we have at least ONE map from each county digitized and made publicly available on the TeVA site. This is an ongoing project, and our plan is to add at least 5-10 maps per month, as our staff are able to do so.

      The map currently digitized for Smith County is located here: http://teva.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15138coll23/id/481/rec/7

      You can also search on “Smith County” http://teva.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/search/collection/p15138coll23/searchterm/smith%20county/field/all/mode/all/conn/and/order/result/ad/asc However, many of the results seem to refer to Smith, rather than show it. We're working to refine this search as we move forward on the project.

      Anyone looking for other maps (those not yet scanned) should consult the thousands of database entries in the online collection, and talk with an archivist. If you open or "Browse the Collection," you will see records for our scanned maps followed by a great many non-image (or metadata-only) records. If you use the "Search" bar to narrow your results, those results will display scanned and non-image map records mixed together. The non-image entries will provide certain information about particular maps: Title, Description, Dimensions, and Location - where the map can be found in our collections. Armed with that information, users can consult with a Public Services archivist about access to that particular map. Many important maps are part of individual manuscript collections and record groups and are not yet digitized.

      We hope this advice is helpful. If you have a specific request, please consult with an archivist on our Reference team at Reference.TSLA@tn.gov, or call us at 615-741-2764. We'll be happy to help you navigate these map records.

      Thanks again for writing.

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