Westin A. Goodspeed, Nashville publisher, began selling historical books in the early 1880s. He combined state history with local history and biography, and published books by region (for example, the East Tennessee edition of Goodspeed’s history contained histories of thirty counties, with biographical appendages). Most of the biographical sketches are of people living in the 1880s, at the time pf publication, but the sketches often treat several generations within a family. These brief histories and “vanity biographies” are a good starting place for learning basic facts. They exist for 82 of Tennessee’s 95 counties:
Anderson, Bedford, Benton, Blount, Bradley, Campbell, Cannon, Carroll, Carter, Cheatham, Chester, Claiborne, Cocke, Coffee, Crockett, Decatur, DeKalb, Dickson, Dyer, Fayette, Franklin, Gibson, Giles, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hancock, Hardeman, Hardin, Hawkins, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, James, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Lake, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Loudon, Macon, Madison, Marshall, Maury, McMinn, McNairy, Meigs, Monroe, Montgomery, Moore, Morgan, Obion, Perry, Polk, Rhea, Roane, Robertson, Rutherford, Sevier, Shelby, Smith, Stewart, Sullivan, Sumner, Tipton, Trousdale, Unicoi, Union, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Weakley, White, Williamson and Wilson.
The sketches are usually about half a page in length.
The list below is an index to the biographical sketches found in these works by Goodspeed. It indicates the name of the individual, the county in which the sketch is located, and the beginning page number of the sketch.
The Tennessee State Library and Archives will, for a fee, photocopy the biographical sketch for one specified individual and send the copy through the mail. Please see the section on Ordering Materials (Miscellaneous) for ordering instructions.