Tennessee cemetery records often identify birth, death, and relationship information. They sometimes have insignia or symbols that provide clues about military service, religion, or membership in an organization, such as a lodge. Nearby markers may help identify children who died young, or women who were not recorded in family or government documents.
The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) collection contains tombstone inscriptions from many Tennessee cemeteries. The DAR collection is described in the Tennessee Genealogy article.
Genealogical society members often copy and publish tombstone inscriptions. The USGenWeb Archives have records of more than 800 cemeteries listed county-by-county on their Internet site:
- The Tennessee Tombstone Transcription Project in USGenWeb Archives Digital Library. Highlighted cemeteries include tombstone abstracts.
- Search Tennessee tombstone abstracts
Once a cemetery listing is found for relatives in books or online, local volunteers through Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, in many Tennessee counties, are willing to visit the cemetery and photograph gravestones for free.
A county-by-county list of cemetery record transcripts and the book and film numbers to locate them at the Family History Library as of 1988 is:
- Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Family History Library (Salt Lake City, Utah.) Index to United States Cemeteries. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1988. (Family History Library films 1206468–94.) Films 1206489–90 contain a listing of the cemetery records in Tennessee.
Some compilations of inscriptions from graveyards throughout the state are:
- Acklen, Jeannette Tillotson. Tennessee Records: Tombstone Inscriptions and Manuscripts, Historical and Biographical. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1976. (Family History Library book 976.8 V3ac 1976; 1933 edition is on Family History Library film 1000313 item 2.) Each entry gives the surname, most given names, dates of birth and death, and burial location. A surname index is included.
- Cemetery Records of Tennessee. Two Volumes. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1951–62. (Family History Library book 976.8 V3c; film 874007.) The record is arranged by cemeteries in a county. Each entry contains at least the surname, given name, date of birth, and date of death.
Burials in 65 Tennessee cemeteries along the old Wilderness Road are recorded in:
- Johnson, Robert Foster. Wilderness Road Cemeteries in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. Owensboro, Kentucky: McDowell Publications, 1981. (Family History Library book 973 V3j.)
The Wilderness Road led from Virginia through northern Tennessee and into Kentucky. The source is arranged by state, county, then cemetery. Tennessee is listed on pages 225–264. Entries list the deceased’s name, birth date, and death date.
Two sources for locating the cemeteries and graves that were relocated during the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) project are:
- Complete Surname Index of TVA Grave Removals. Signal Mountain, Tennessee: Mountain Press, 1989. (Family History Library book 976.8 V32c.) This source is currently unavailable to Family History Centers.
- Tennessee Valley Authority (Tennessee). Master File Relocation Card Index for Grave and Cemetery Removal and Relocation, 1934–1954.Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah. 1996. (54 Family History Library films beginning with 2050038 item 4.) These films include all states associated with the TVA project: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Records include: name of deceased, birth date, death date, age, nearest living relative or informant, informant’s address and relationship to deceased, place of removal, and place of relocation.
Periodicals may publish inscriptions and inventories of Tennessee cemeteries.
Sexton records do not have a standard format and may vary in content. They may include the birth date, birthplace, parents’ names, name of spouse, death date and place, cemetery name, if previously buried and name of the cemetery removed from, and the date the lot was purchased.
Remember that the information is secondary and is only as reliable as the person who gave the information. These records are usually in the current sexton’s charge, but they may be in the town or county clerk’s office. They may also be in the custody of private individuals.
Funeral Home Records
Funeral home records may list the cemetery and may include an obituary; birth date; birthplace; names of parents, spouse, children, and siblings; addresses and biographies of surviving relatives; insurance company; church affiliation; and officiating clergyman. Funeral home staff know where the local cemeteries are. Telephone calls or personal visits are usually more effective than letters. See the United States Cemeteries article for a nationwide directory of funeral homes.
The following research guide, prepared by a Certified Genealogist, includes a useful guide for Tennessee cemetery records:
- Bamman, Gale Williams. "Research in Tennessee," National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 81, No. 2 (Jun. 1993): 106. FHL US/CAN Book 973 B2ng v. 81 (1993).
For related records see the Tennessee Obituaries and Tennessee Vital Records articles. For more information on cemetery records, see the United States Cemeteries article. See the Tennessee Archives and Libraries article for facilities with regional collections which might include cemetery records. The Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog lists more sources under:
TENNESSEE - CEMETERIES
TENNESSEE, [COUNTY] - CEMETERIES
TENNESSEE, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - CEMETERIES