Source Information

Ancestry.com. Tennessee, City Death Records, 1872-1923 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
Original data: Tennessee City Death Records, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, 1848-1907. Nashville, Tennessee: Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Tennessee City Death Records Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis 1848-1907. Nashville, Tennessee: Tennessee State Library and Archives.

About Tennessee, City Death Records, 1872-1923

This database contains a collection of various birth records for three cities in Tennessee: Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. Tennessee was comparatively late in requiring statewide vital registration. Statewide registration began in 1908, with a statewide law passed in 1914. Prior to 1914, registration was sometimes done on a county or city level. Information contained in this database includes:

  • Name of deceased
  • Death place
  • Death date
  • Gender
  • Birth date
  • Birthplace
  • Age at time of death
  • Father’s name
  • Mother’s name
  • Father’s birth place
  • Mother’s birth place

Images in this collection are comprised of registers of deaths in a city, obituaries from newspapers, and individual death certificates.

Cautions about Death Certificates:

As any experience researcher knows, death records are only as accurate as the knowledge of the person who provide the information. Many informants are unaware of the name of parents or are unsure about dates and places of birth. Always try to find additional information about parents and dates and places of birth whenever possible.

Where to Go from Here:

Death records, both early and modern, can help you identify others related to the decedent. The information provided in the records is usually given to the authorities by a close relative. If the relative is a married daughter, the record will state her married name. Aunts, uncles, in-laws, cousins, and other relatives are listed as informants on death records. Each new name is a clue to the identity of other ancestors that should be pursued.

The death record informant may not have been the person who provided vital statistics to the funeral director or to the cemetery sexton. The death certificate names both the funeral home and the place of burial, so check both the mortician’s records and the sexton’s records to confirm the information on the death record and to look for additional information not included in the death certificate. Once you know the exact date of death, you can more easily look for an obituary notice in a local newspaper. Obituaries usually at least summarize the deceased’s life, sometimes including other towns of residence. They may also list all of the living heirs, as well as the names of parents, brothers, and sisters. Tracking backward with these clues, you can look for other members of the family and additional historical information.

Taken from Johni Cerny, “Vital Records,” The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy ed. Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2006).