Tennesseans who want to get a glimpse at the foundations of our state’s political and social history can do so with the help of a new resource from the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The Early Tennessee Legislative Records database is now online, providing an index to records from as early as 1793 through the 1840s. These papers chronicle the most important events in Tennessee history of that era, including the formation of county and boundary lines, the mustering troops for war and amendments to the state constitution.
Researchers of the Early Tennessee Legislative Records can see, for example, how the first legislative attempt to ban slavery in Tennessee was drafted and failed in 1819. Many of the documents indexed in the collection have not been seen since the original clerks folded them away at the end of the legislative sessions. Included in the records are acts, original bills, failed bills, resolutions, amendments, messages, petitions from citizens, and tally sheets showing how members voted on the issues.
During this period, the legislature dealt with matters now considered quite personal. Divorce petitions, disputes over land boundaries and requests to recognize illegitimate children all appear in the early legislative records. Genealogists and historians can learn a great deal about early Tennesseans and their lives from these files.
“This is an exciting addition to TSLA online collections, because the Early Tennessee Legislative Records are such a rich source of information about the beginning of our state,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “In addition to these records beginning with our state’s infancy, when Tennessee was merely the ‘Territory South of the River Ohio,’ TSLA also houses all the subsequent records up through the most recent General Assembly. The Legislative Records are a veritable gold mine for historians and average citizens alike.”
While the majority of the records indexed date from before 1830, newer records will be added on an ongoing basis. This is a collection that is constantly growing. The Early Tennessee Legislative Records index can be found online at phttp://tennsos.org/TSLA/rg60/.