A gazetteer is a list and description of places, such as villages, towns, cities, and may also mention neighborhoods, cemeteries, sizes of population, rivers and mountains, and other geographical features. It can be used to locate the places where your family lived. It usually includes only the names of places that existed at the time the gazetteer was published. The place names are generally listed in alphabetical order, similar to a dictionary. The Tennessee State Library and Archives has produced an excellent gazetteer that is available for free online:
- Tennessee Place Names and Post Offices: Introduction and Index Lists of post offices in Tennessee and their dates of operation will be helpful to genealogists and historians hoping to identify the location of a particular place name. Users should be aware that the county listed in TSLA's guide is the county in which the post office was located at the time of its creation. Later changes in county boundary lines may have affected the home county of that post office. This list is based on records at National Archives listing postmaster appointments from 1832 to 1971 (see National Archives microfilm publications M1131 and M841).
Additional guides to place names in Tennessee include:
- Adams, Louis A. Adam's Directory of Points and Landings on Rivers and Bayous in the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. (includes Tennessee) New Orleans : W.L. Murray, 1877. Digital version at Internet Archive.
- Fullerton, Ralph O. Place Names of Tennessee. Nashville, Tennessee: Tennessee Department of Conservation, Division of Geology, 1974. FHL film 928174 item 2; book 976.8 E2f. The record is arranged alphabetically by county, then alphabetically by place. Included is the quadrangle of each place.
- Easton Morris’ Tennessee Gazetteer 1834 and Matthew Rhea’s Map of the State of Tennessee 1832. 1834. Reprint, Nashville, Tennessee: Gazetteer Press, 1971. FHL book 976.8 E5m. The record contains a general description of the state, an alphabetical list of places, a map, and a list of government officials.
- Tennessee Atlas and Gazetteer. Freeport, Maine: DeLorme Mapping Co., 1989. FHL book 976.8 E7t 2004. Provides topographical maps.
- Tennessee Geographic Names: Alphabetical Listing. Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1985. FHL book 976.8 E2u. The record includes the name of each place, type of feature, county, coordinates, elevation in feet, source, and map.
- Tennessee State Geological Survey. The Resources of Tennessee, Vols. 5 and 6. Nashville, Tennessee: Tennessee State Geological Survey, 1916. Free digital copy. Lists rivers and land descriptions by county.
- Tennessee State Geological Survey. The Resources of Tennessee, Vols. 7-9. Nashville, Tennessee: Tennessee State Geological Survey, 1918. Free digital copy. Lists rivers and land descriptions by county.
- Switzer, John Albert. Water-power; Doe River, Tenn. Nashville, Tennessee: Baire-ward Printing Co., 1914. Free digital copy. Shows maps and descriptions of waterways through middle and east Tennessee.
How did your ancestor find the correct destination out West? Quite possibly they had a copy of Brown's book:
- Brown, Samuel R. The Western Gazetteer or Emigrant's Directory, Containing a Geographical Description of the Western States and Territories, viz. The States of Kentucky, Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Mississippi: and the Territories of Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Michigan, and North-Western. Auburn, N.Y.: H.C. Southwick, 1817. Digital versions at NIU Library Digitization Projects and World Vital Records ($).
For more place-finding aids for Tennessee, see the Tennessee Maps article. The United States Gazetteers article contains additional sources and information on gazetteers. See the Tennessee Archives and Libraries article for facilities with regional collections which might include gazetteers. Tennessee gazetteers are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
TENNESSEE - GAZETTEERS
TENNESSEE - HISTORY
TENNESSEE - NAMES, GEOGRAPHICAL
- The University of Tennessee Map Services: Gazetteers Links to national and international gazetteers