Most of my family history is in North Carolina and East Tennessee (1750s-present) and I do most of my research remotely from Texas, so I'm generally limited to sources like Ancestry and FHL. My relatives moved to Tennessee around 1810 and lived mostly in sleepy towns and rural areas south of Knoxville, so I'm looking for anything interesting after that point.

But I have a trip coming up to Knoxville to visit family and I'm planning to go do some local research with my brother at local libraries.

I know what I can find online and I have some experience looking in historical archives (mostly at NCSA and GA), but I'm a little more lost when it comes to research at county or city resources.

What kinds of evidence should I look for that are far less likely to be digitized and indexed online, especially items I could find at a normal (not historical) library or county archive?

Some ideas I've had so far:

  • Headstones
  • Land ownership or tax records
  • Wills (these are generally online)
  • Newspapers (apparently very few survived from what I've heard so far)
  • Local school yearbooks

Are there other local records that are often overlooked that might be accessible to the general public?

  • genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/2269/… seems to be worth reviewing, especially the answer by @JanMurphy. As it stands I think your question may be too broad, so I'm going to try to refine its scope a little by adding Knoxville to its title and Tennessee as a tag.
    – PolyGeo
    Aug 13, 2017 at 22:25

3 Answers 3


What a great opportunity for you.

I would suggest the county recorders office for land records, and many other kinds of documents such as tax liens, some types of business documents, and mortgages. Also check with the county level courts for civil, and criminal court records. Life happens, when it does it usually leaves a paper trail. These types of records really help to tell the story of the lives of your ancestors, the good, the bad, and the ugly experiences.

It helps to ask a few questions of the staff when visiting the county offices. Important things to know are what types of records are there. How far back do the records go? Are there other/older records that have been sent to an archive? How to use the index to the filings. Generally they can be very helpful.

I have found many unexpected items while researching by name. Search with different variations of the name, and when available search with a wild card. Keep in mind that names get changed, misspelled, turned around and so on.

I would also recommend inquiring in the counties surrounding the county in which the family members lived.


I would look for death certificates. They can reveal quite a bit of detail and if you're in the right place (right county), you might be able to look at a lot of family members at once.

  • Welcome to G&FH SE! As a new user be sure to take the Tour. Where would the asker find those death certificates?
    – PolyGeo
    Aug 15, 2017 at 21:42

The county historical society in my hometown may be unique (and it's not in Tennessee), but they keep an index of local obituaries and their associated publication dates in the local newspapers, which are on microfilm, and a file cabinet of funeral cards that have been collected or donated over the years. They also have various "History of (Town)" books within the county. One of the most helpful things I have found (again, your mileage may vary) is cemetery inventory ledgers with the inscriptions recorded when they were still legible.

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