Thursday, June 20, 2019

New Resource for Genealogists at the Tennessee State Library & Archives

By Chuck Sherrill, State Librarian and Archivist

A new tool for researchers is now available on the Library & Archives website. The all-in-one Genealogy Index Search brings together over 1 million names appearing in Tennessee’s most important historical records. Inspired by the way and other online services search multiple record groups from a single screen, staff at the Library & Archives worked with the Secretary of State’s Information Technology Division over a two-year period to create this new resource for genealogists and historians.

The Genealogy Index Search includes sections on Death Records, Military Records and general Tennessee research. A listing of the individual databases and the number of entries in each is found below. The individual indexes were compiled by staff at the Library and Archives over many years. According to Ron Lee, the Assistant Director of Public Services, the work began in the late 1990s. “We had one of the first web sites in Tennessee government, and for several years the Library and Archives web site was among the top three most visited of all state government websites.”

The ability to create indexes to interesting or popular groups of records and post them online motivated Library & Archives personnel to collect the data from historical documents such as the Civil War records of Nashville undertaker W. R. Cornelius. The names of nearly 5,000 soldiers, former slaves and citizens whose bodies were buried or moved and re-buried by Cornelius are included in this index.

Pages from the W. R. Cornelius Burial Records, just one of the many resources now available in the Library & Archives Genealogy Index.

“This is an index,” notes Lee. “People today often expect to click on a name and see the original documents pop onto their screen, but that won’t happen here.” The index allows researchers to learn that the person they are looking for appears in a certain group of records. The View Entry link beside each name provides additional information not listed on the table. But the user may need to visit or contact the Library & Archives to get a copy of the original record.

In some cases, scanned records are included along with the index entry. The records of Tennesseans who died in service during World War I, for example, are linked to the files about those 1,500 soldiers which may contain military documents, personal letters and photographs.

One of the useful features of the index is the ability to sort search results by facets. For example, if you search the entire collection for the surname Watson, over a thousand results are returned. Boxes at the side of the page indicate how many Watsons appear in each of the 25 indexes that are in the search. For example, there are 10 Watsons in the Cornelius Burial Records. Additional boxes also allow the researcher to narrow the search by county and year.

Sample search of "Watson" surname in the W. R. Cornelius Burial Records.

Many Library & Archives staff members and volunteers contributed to the index project. We want to recognize the extraordinary efforts of Ron Lee in Public Services, Renee Register in Library Technical Services and Rudy Barrett in the Secretary of State’s Information Technology Division.

Over time, more digital images will be added to the index. Currently, the following information can be found through the Genealogy Index Search. We encourage researchers to give it a try. If you find something that doesn’t seem to work correctly, please send an email to and let us know – it is a work in progress.

Index Name
Number of Records
Davidson County Death Records 1900-1913
Death Notices in Nashville Newspapers 1855-1907
Nashville Obituaries and Death Notices for 1913
Tennessee Death Records 1908-1912
Tennessee Death Records 1914-1933
Acts of Tennessee 1796-1850
TN Research
Laborers at Fort Negley in the Civil War
TN Research
Family Bible Records
TN Research
Inmates of the Tenn. State Penitentiary 1831-1870
TN Research
Southern Claims Commission (Civil War)
Tenn. Supreme Court Cases
TN Research
Confederate Relief Assn. of Memphis
Tennesseans in World War I
Tennesseans in the Spanish-American War
Tennessee Confederate Pension Applications
Tennessee Confederate Physicians
Tennessee Confederate Soldiers’ Home
World War I Gold Star Records
World War I Veterans’ Questionnaires
Union Provost Marshal Files
W.R. Cornelius Burial Records (Civil War)


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

1 comment:

  1. This will be a wonderful resource for anyone interested in TN genealogy. The East Tennessee Historical Society in Knoxville also has a wonderful collection of books, records, city directories, films, census records, etc. Thanks so much for all the hard work.