TSLA: “Save Our Past, Build Our Future” Campaign

The Tennessee State Library & Archives plays a crucial role for all of us that do research in the state.  It truly is a state treasure! I know I’ve personally benefitted from their services, collections, and staff expertise and I am sure many of our TNGenWeb site visitors feel the same.

With this in mind, yours truly was honored when asked by TSLA to contribute a statement of support for their “Save Our Past, Build our Future” campaign to get a new building.  In my statement, I wanted to convey how vital TSLA is for all that we do at TNGenWeb and all that you do as family historians and genealogy researchers. I’ve also personally benefitted and am so proud to be a loyal supporter of the library!  I was truly tickled pink when for the photos, they brought out copies of the Koonce to Koonce newsletters. As my family surname, when I discovered these newsletters at the library years ago, they were the start of my passion for beginning my Koonce Surname Research Project.

If you agree that TSLA is truly invaluable, won’t you consider helping TSLA and reaching out to offer your support for the new building as well? Learn more in this recent story featuring State Librarian & Archivist Chuck Sherrill.  Also, visit the TSLA Facebook page!

Update for Franklin County TNGenWeb Site

Over the past few months, our Franklin County TNGenWeb site has been in transition.  We are very grateful to the many years our former coordinator, Judy Phillips, dedicated to the site but she has resigned from the project and we now have a new coordinator.  Please join us in welcoming Susan Wilson James as our new coordinator. 

Susan has been a longtime user of the site and looks forward to continuing to add to it. Susan is also the librarian for the Franklin County Historical Society so is very familiar with local area resources. 

The site has been updated with new features added. Not only can you visit the site to keep up with relevant records and resources, but you can sign-up to receive site updates directly in your email.  The site is also optimized for mobile devices so will be easier to use on your phones and tablets. 

Franklin County TNGenWeb –

You may find it helpful to know that the site is organized as follows:

  • Records & Resourcesyour main “table of contents” for most of the site info
  • Research Aidsmailing lists, genealogy organizations, libraries, and other aids to help you in your research
  • What’s Newas new material is added, it will show up here.

Do you have relatives and/or ancestors from the county? Let Susan know and offer a submission. You never know how what you contribute can help others too. 



When Genealogy Is Shared It Makes an Impact

Yesterday, I attended a meeting of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society and I feel absolutely compelled to share the experience. This is my first year as a member of the society and the January meetings are reserved for show and tell. The purpose was for anyone who wished to share, to present an ancestor, story, or artifact from their genealogy research – whether it was the impetus for your entry into genealogy, or just an interesting piece of your past – the meetings are free and open to the public and all are welcome!

My heart was so full after everyone’s presentations! We had a range of stories presented that were heartwarming, awe-inspiring, uplifting, and demonstrate just how strong our connections to our ancestors can be!

I am probably going to mistakenly leave out some of the stories that were shared (I wish I’d written them all down!), but we heard from members and guests who:

  • lacked family photos from her own family, so now creates art based on black and white pictures she finds at various places – pictures that invoke past memories for her and so she paints – not to recreate the photo, but to capture the essence of her memories
  • has a set of diaries from his ancestor that chronicles several years of his life, in which is an original wedding invitation from his late 1870s wedding, and a receipt from the doctor for the delivery of his child in the 1880s (if I remember the time range correctly). This member also has hand hand-written newspapers created by his ancestor that were circulated during the civil war
  • shared that her entryway into genealogy stemmed from wanting to know more about the land in her family that bore her family name
  • had a desire to better understand how an African-American student came to have the same last name as his own ancestors despite having different ethnic ancestry
  • shared handmade embroidery from an ancestor that was created in the 1870s
  • researched the origins of a handmade quilt owned by a circuit-rider Methodist minister and tracked down the mystery of which of his sisters created it, and the source of the fabric used
  • described how a family story of an ancestor riding to get her husband out of jail from “The President” took her on her own adventure in family history
  • researched his grandfather’s family after learning from cousins in France that his grandfather had been a “stolen child”
  • a 1st time attendee who grew up going through absolutely EVERY photo in her grandmother’s photo albums became interested in genealogy after when her grandmother passed, discovered photos that she never even know her grandmother owned
  • and I shared a story on how Ancestry’s green shaky leaf helped me make a connection in my own family about a runaway slave.

It was in incredible display of our common shared goals of seeking to learn more about the history and lives of our ancestors.

And sharing is what we encourage our TNGenWeb researchers and site visitors to do. You never know if that keepsake you have stored away in your home, or the newspaper clippings that have been passed down through the family, can be of great benefit to another researcher trying to establish family connections much like I heard at the meeting yesterday.

We encourage you to get in contact with us and let us share online the precious family mementos and stories!  In fact, if you share a story in our comment thread below, about how information you may have learned from one of our TNGenWeb county websites or special project sites has helped you make a family connection, you will be entered into a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card that I will personally pay for. Leave a comment below by February 1st to get entered! As you leave your comment, specifically state which county or site you found the information on. 

Disclaimer: I am currently a board member for the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society.  TNGenWeb provides free resources for genealogy & family history and this post is not meant to promote membership for the society. I only intend it as a vehicle for sharing the impact genealogy has in our lives. 



TLSA Lecture Series – Supreme Court Case Files

Yesterday, yours truly had the opportunity to attend a presentation at the Tennessee State Library by Dr. Susan Knowles, “Unfolding History in the Tennessee Supreme Court Case Files.” I learned so much!

Sample of TN pink marble. Image from Wikipedia.

Dr. Knowles is a digital humanities research fellow at  Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Historic Preservation. Her dissertation work on history of East Tennessee marble is the foundation for an upcoming exhibit soon to open at the Museum of East Tennessee History, “Rock of Ages: East Tennessee’s Marble Legacy.”  Dr. Knowles’ dissertation topic was centered around the East Tennessee marble industry – particularly how the marble has been use in civic architecture and the people who built the industry. 

US Capitol Visitor Center – uses the pink hue of the TN marble. Photo by Taneya Koonce.

She led us through her experiences tracking these details after she learned, during a visit to the US Capitol Building, that it was full of marble from east Tennessee. Indeed, as many buildings in Washington DC, and throughout the United States are! There is also a block of east TN marble inside the Washington Monument. I visited the US Capitol Building earlier this year and didn’t even realize the floor I was standing on came from Tennessee.   🙂  During her research, Dr. Knowles found valuable information among the Tennessee Supreme Court Case files.  Hearing her descriptions of using the files was quite informative, and she noted the ease of use now that the Tennessee State Library provides an online, searchable index database.

The Tennessee Supreme Court records held at TSLA are a major component of their overall collection; they span about 1809-1950 and includes more than 10,000 boxes of material.  The online database is an ongoing work in progress and can be searched by county, date range, and keywords against the names, crime, and description fields.  According to the current information on the TSLA website, there are more than 35,000 cases indexed so far.

If you’ve not had the opportunity to investigate its use for your own research, you will definitely want to check it out. Even if you have used it, new records are continually added, so check for updates.  Before leaving TSLA, I looked for cases involving people with the Koonce surname (for my Koonce Surname Project) and spent about an hour looking through the case file of one of the individuals in my project; it was a file of around 200 pages with great detail about the family structure of those involved.

TSLA lectures are generally posted on the TSLA website, so check the site for updates. Currently, you can find videos from past presentations there – including one of our own TNGenWeb county coordinators, Jim Long.

If you are interested in learning more about the East Tennessee Marble industry, you can read Dr. Knowles’ dissertation online. And, if you are in the Knoxville area between November 18th – May 16th, be sure to check out the museum exhibit. 

Thank you Dr. Knowles for an insightful and interesting presentation! For our TNGenWeb friends, the opportunity to understand more about our state’s history adds helpful detail to our ancestors’ and relatives’ experiences. 


Haywood County Site Update

Do you have family from Haywood County? If so, you may be interested in knowing that we have a new coordinator for the Haywood County TNGenWeb site, and along with her, a new design for the site!

Your new coordinator for Haywood County is Jane Long. Jane is a native of the county and looks forward to continuing to build upon the work of former long-time coordinator, Jim Ackerman.

Among the useful records on the site are a database of more than 3,000 obituaries spanning several decades, and a marriage index of more than 11,000 marriages! The cemetery burials currently being incorporated into the TNGenWeb Cemetery Database is also expansive.  You can locate these, and more, from theRecords & Datapage on the site. 

haywood county new website

It is also now easier than ever to keep up as new material gets added to the site.  You can sign-up for the “email updates”  list and receive an email each time new content is added. More update options are in the right sidebar of the site. 

Please let Jane know if you have questions and/or wish to make contributions to the site.  Remember, each tidbit of information shared could turn out to be very useful for someone else in the future. 



Become a TNGenWeb County Coordinator!

Volunteering with the USGenWeb Project has been absolutely, hands-down, one of the most rewarding genealogy endeavors yours truly has ever undertaken.  

When I started doing genealogy, I was able to make great advances in my research because of the USGenWeb and the work that had been done by project volunteers. Seeking a way to give back, I looked at what sites were available in Tennessee (where I live) and jumped right in! I became the county coordinator of Blount County in 2007 even though I had NO familiarity with the county. But, what I did have was a can-do attitude and a dedication to the mission – to provide free resources and help for those researching their Tennessee roots.

volunteerstatemindIn that vein, we are on the hunt for individuals willing to also jump right in and help the project — we have several counties available for adoption and would benefit from the love and attention of a few good people.

Do you need to have knowledge of the county?  Of course it is always great if you do, but we can work with you if you’re willing to take the time to invest in learning more about the county. 

Do you need to have HTML skills? Nope! We can help teach that to you! And in fact, some of our adoptable sites are powered by a content management system which makes the process of making web pages just a little less scary. We have a great group of coordinators and we welcome any questions you may have as you start to learn how to add content to your county website.

What you DO need is a disposition oriented to helping others, and being willing to learn new things.  

The amount of time required each month varies by person — it all depends on how obsessed you become with the site.  We do ask that you add new material to your site on an ongoing basis and answer questions that may come to you from researchers and family history enthusiasts that may come to you via email. You are not expected to do research for anyone, but at the minimum, provide guidance on where they can go and/or resources they may wish to consider for their research. 

The sites currently available for adoption are:

Check ’em out and see what you think.  Once you become a coordinator, the “look and feel” of the site can be updated if you have different preferences.

If you are interested in joining our fantastic team,  please visit our Adopt A County page and get in touch with us – we look forward to hearing from you!


Follow Along with Cemetery Database Updates

The TNGenWeb Cemetery Database, coordinated by Jerry Butler, is one of our primary resources for burial records from across the state.  With close to 400,000 records from more than 15,000 cemeteries, you certainly want to make sure you are familiar with using the site.  


We have now implemented two new ways to make it easier for you to know when new burial listings are added! 

  • Email Newsletter — we can send you updates directly to your email. Just sign-up for the newsletter at and you will get our Cemetery Database Update newsletter each day new information is added. 
  • RSS Feed – do you use an RSS reader? Subscribe to our Feedly or Feedburner subscriptions and add us!


Give it a try! You never know when you’ll discover a new finding! 

And remember, the Cemetery Database grows as people send us submissions, so if you are interested in adding records, please get in touch with Jerry Butler.

Meanwhile, the database is one of our great Special Project offerings, but we also have listings on many of the individual county sites – be sure to consult your specific county of interest for possibly even more records.

If you’d like to be sure to receive all future TNGenWeb Blog updates, you can also sign up for the blog newsletter at




TNGenWeb Historical News Portal Featured at NEH Meeting

One of the special projects we offer here at the TNGenWeb is our Historical News Portal site. The Historical News Portal provides transcriptions of items from historical Tennessee newspapers organized in a way that makes it easy for you to find information by surname or county.  

The Historical News Portal site is still under development, but at the present time, contains almost 800 newspaper articles with a name index of close to 3,000 names. 

Much of the material on the Historical News Portal site comes from Tennessee newspapers digitized by the Tennessee Newspaper Digitization Project (TNDP).  Begun in 2010, the TNDP is a joint collaboration between the University of Tennessee Libraries and the Tennessee State Library and Archives.  With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the National Newspaper Digitization Program (NNDP), the TNDP has digitized almost 47,500 issues of newspapers from close to 90 titles spanning 1836-1922. That’s a lot of newspapers! And, a lot of opportunities to find stories about your ancestors!  

Though the newspapers are available in their entirety online, searching them may not always be the easiest thing to do. To help you, we began the TNGenWeb Historical News Portal so that we can do some of the organization for you.  On the site, you’ll find surname indexes by last name, by county, and even a few indexes for specific newspapers.  The indexes are still growing, so you can subscribe to keep up with new additions as we add them to the site.  We are always in need of volunteers, so drop a line if you are able to help.


Louisa presents about the TNGenWeb Historical News Portal

This past week, we were honored to be featured by TNDP Project Coordinator, Louisa Trott Reeves, at a recent NEH meeting.  The Tennessee project is just one of the 40 states with NEH funding to digitize historical newspapers and this past week, the NNDP held their annual conference to hear from state awardees about how the newspapers are being used for genealogy and family history research.  Louisa presented and included the Historical News Portal in her presentation as such an example!

Louisa tells us that her presentation was very well received and even the NEH Chairman, William Adams, gave encouraging remarks.  How cool is that? 

Thank you Louisa for taking the time to acknowledge the TNGenWeb and sharing aspects of our work.  

The TNGenWeb strives to do our best to make information as accessible as possible for our researchers and the more we spread the word, the better. And of course, many thanks to our volunteers that help provide information for our TNGenWeb sites!  

Disclaimer: I, Taneya Koonce, am a volunteer member of the TNDP Advisory Board.


FamilySearch Pilots Web-Based Indexing Extension

Do you use the incredible FREE collections offered by FamilySearch (FS) as you do your family history and genealogy? We know you use TNGenWeb (of course!!! 🙂 ), and there are also many other great free resources available. FamilySearch is often at the top of that list given the extensive amount of information they make available to us all as researchers.  Well, one reason their information is so valuable are the many, many hours put in by volunteers to index their image collections.  

Perhaps one of the biggest and most widely publicized efforts was their initiative to index the 1940 Census.  Images for the 1940 census were released in April 2012 and due to the extensive volunteer effort, indexing was completed in August of the same year.  We here at TNGenWeb even did our part – with a group of more than 50 volunteers, our TNGenWeb researchers indexed more than 360,000 names. It was a great experience!

Since then, FamilySearch has continued to make new records sets available for volunteer indexing, but here’s the kicker – we’ve had to WAIT for them to make those sets READY for indexing.  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to index ANY of their image-only collections and start contributing to the database?

Well, that day is soon coming as FamilySearch has now created a Google Chrome extension to be able to do just that!  

For now the tool is in a very early pilot stage, but the FamilySearch Pilot Tool (current moniker) allows you to pick any image-only collection at FamilySearch and index away! Once it goes live “for real”, any information you index will be added to the FamilySearch database for everyone to search (right now, in beta, it goes to a “dummy” database). Not only that, but when it is finally launched, you will be able to index information on any website that participates in the project.  Indexes created in partnership with other websites means more records for FamilySearch and more visibility for online record collections who participate as FS will link back to the originating source.  


example indexing – White County, TN marriage records

To test the pilot tool out, download the Chrome Extension here.  Once installed in your Chrome browser, the FamilySearch tree icon (with a green background) will appear in the top right corner. Click on the icon to open the tool and set up your configuration options.  The configuration options are fairly straightforward – you enter your language, country, name, email address, and you even can create up to 3 “custom fields” to add to the tool for indexing. Once configured, you restart your browser, navigate to an image-only collection on the FamilySearch website and get started! As you index, the tool keeps up with the number of submissions you’ve contributed and even lets you know if the record you are indexing has been indexed already. 

To help you get acquainted with how the tool works, I’ve done a brief video for you. Enjoy!

Give it a try and be sure to let us know how it works for you.  Since the tool is still in beta mode they will greatly appreciate the feedback.  Many thanks to FamilySearch for making such a extension available! 




African American Genealogy at the Hermitage

This month, in commemoration for Black History Month, the Hermitage is hosting a series of events. Today, I had the fortunate opportunity to attend a program highlighting resources for conducting genealogical research.  Today’s panel featured several presenters well-versed in their respective areas of expertise and were all great to hear!


panel presenters Shannon Christmas, Joel Walker, Pamela E. Foster, and Virginia Gooch Watson

Pamela E. Foster, with the Nashville Chapter of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society discussed the HBCU Newspaper Indexing Project and how HBCU student newspapers can be a great aid in research.  Student newspapers are great sources of information to better understand student experiences and this project aims to bring them more in the forefront. Disclaimer – yours truly has been working collaboratively with the society to implement the online aspect of the project. 🙂 If you have ancestors that attended an HBCU, please feel free to explore the project further and see how you can help!

Virgnia Gooch Watson, current President of the TSLA friends, gave an overview of the many resources at the Tennessee State Library & Archives (TSLA) that can help with African American ancestry research.  From tax records to military records, you have many options. Virginia gave a great example of a Southern Claims Commission record of one of her own family members that included pages of testimony of slaves the family owned and the rich detail provided.  TSLA is definitely a place to visit in your research.  Consult the TSLA African American Genealogical Resources guide for more information.

Joel Walker, head lawyer in charge of statewide Xarelto lawsuits, and Educational Specialist with the National Archives at Atlanta, told us about the records they hold. The largest of the multiple regional National Archives locations, the Atlanta branch holds an impressive 180,000 cubic feet of records. And you have to go visit because there is no way all of this can be made available online quickly. Do you know how long they calculated it would take to digitize all their holdings? 1,300 years! That’s dedicating a full-time person digitizing at the rate large commercial companies like Ancestry can do. But the records they have? So many treasures remain to be discovered in them. 

Shannon Christmas did a great job talking about genetic genealogy – why you would do it and what it can offer you. He shared specific case examples from his own tree that illustrate how DNA can help crumble brick walls and shed more light on the family history.  Shannon speaks often on genetic genealogy and is well-regarded in the geneasphere as a go-to person. I was particularly pleased to meet Shannon because he is a DNA cousin to my husband, and is thus a DNA cousin to my daughter.  You can keep up with Shannon and his work via his site

Taneya, Shannon, and Pamela

Taneya, Shannon, and Pamela

After the panel, Pamela, Virginia, and I consulted with audience members to help them get jump-started on their research.  While the sessions were short at just 15 minutes each person, these were great because each person wanted to learn more about their family members and I am sure I can speak for all of us in that we feel honored to be able to provide suggestions and resources to help them.

Here at the TNGenWeb, we aim to help you as you research, and of course, we’d love for you to help us help others.  As you work on your family history, let us know if we can help guide you, or if you have records you can share that may help others. African American research can be particularly challenging, but working as a collective, we can do so much to make it easier for each other.  Events like this one offered by the Hermitage today can be great starting points.  Many thanks to the Hermitage for a wonderful afternoon and a big thank you to all the presenters!