Tennessee began keeping birth records statewide in 1908. The larger cities in Tennessee did keep earlier birth records: Nashville (beginning in 1881); Knoxville (beginning in 1881); Chattanooga (beginning in 1879); and Memphis (beginning in 1874). Only the early Nashville birth records are indexed.
Tennessee birth records 1869-1909 are available online thru a partnership with Ancestry.com on at Ancestry.com's Tennessee State Library and Archives web page. Tennesseans: learn more about how to access these records for free.
Birth Certificates 1921 - present
1908 - 1912 and 1914 to 1920
The Tennessee State Library and Archives has statewide birth records for the years 1908-1912 and 1914-1920. To find a birth record, we need the following information: name of child, date of birth or approximate date of birth, county of birth (if known) and names of parents (if known).
Delayed Birth Certificates 1869 - 1920
These delayed certificates were filed at the request of the individual or that person's representative for legal reasons. To locate a delayed birth certificate, we need the following information: name of child, date of birth or approximate date of birth, county of birth (if known) and names of parents (if known). Visit the Ask Us a Question! web page to contact the Library and Archives and we can check our index to the "delayed" birth records for a specified name. Please specify that you are requesting a "delayed" birth certificate. The Library and Archives will respond to e-mail requests promptly; response time may vary, depending on the amount of research required to answer your question and the unique nature of your request. If you need immediate assistance you may call the reference desk at (615) 741-2764 or visit us in person.
Memphis Birth Records
The Library and Archives has copies of the city birth records for Memphis for 1874-1883; early Memphis birth records for 1884-1917 are held by the Shelby County Archives.
An online index to Shelby County birth records for the years 1874-1916 is available on the web site of the Shelby County Register of Deeds.
Nashville Birth Records
The Metro Archives of Nashville and Davidson County has posted an online index to Nashville city birth records for 1881 - 1913.
The state of Tennessee did not require the keeping of death records until 1908. This law expired at the end of 1912. In 1913, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a new law that called for the keeping of more detailed death certificates. This law went into effect in 1914.
When the first law expired at the end of 1912, however, no individuals or agencies were charged with the responsibility of keeping death records. For this reason, 1913 is frequently referred to as a "dead year" for death certificates in Tennessee.
The larger cities in Tennessee did keep earlier death records: Nashville (beginning in 1874); Knoxville (beginning in 1881); Chattanooga (beginning in 1872); and Memphis (beginning in 1848). Only the early Nashville and Memphis death records are indexed. The Library and Archives can search the unindexed records for one year only; you must provide us with the name of individual, date of death, the city, and the name of the spouse (if known).
Tennessee death records 1908-1965 are available online thru a partnership with Ancestry.com on at Ancestry.com's Tennessee State Library and Archives web page. Tennesseans: learn more about how to access these records for free.
Death Records 1971 - present
Death Records 1908-1912 and 1914-1970
To find a death record, we need the following information: name of individual, date of death (or three year range to search), county of death (if known) and name of spouse (if known). Please keep in mind that some deaths were not recorded, due to poor record-keeping by local officials. TSLA has searchable indexes for these records that includes the name of the deceased, county, year of death and certificate number. The following indexes can be used to order a copy of the death certificate from the Tennessee State Library and Archives. A sample death certificate is available for viewing on our web site.
- Index to Tennessee Death Records 1908 - 1912 - This index covers nearly 98,000 deaths occurring in Tennessee and recorded between 1908 and 1912. Although deaths were not registered as carefully and regularly as they were beginning in 1914, the index includes all extant records. If no year of death was given on the certificate, it is noted in this index as "1908-12". Children with no given name are listed under "infant".
Death records in this time period do not give parents' names. They do include the individual's age, occupation, place of birth and cause of death. Names have been transcribed as found on the original record, and may include spelling errors. There may also have been typographical errors made in preparing this index. If you see an error of this type, please notify us by email.
- Index to Tennessee Death Records (1914-1933) - This index lists name of deceased, county of death, and volume and page number of the certificate; beginning with death certificates issued in 1926, the certificate number is listed instead of the volume and page. (The index replaced the Partial Index to Tennessee Death Records 1914-1925, which covered only 38 counties in Tennessee and did not include children under two years of age.)
When using this index, please keep the following in mind:
- Check for alternate spellings of the surname. Handwriting is not always legible and could be misread. Spelling variations are common. A surname such as Hale might be spelled Hale, Hayleor Hail; a surname such as Dickson might be spelled Dickson, Dixon, or Dixson.
- Check for alternate spellings of the first name. The name William A. Smith may be listed as Smith, William or Smith, Will or Smith, Wm. or Smith, Bill or Smith, W. or Smith, W.A. The first name may have an abbreviation that is not in current usage, such as Jas. for the name James.
- Some records did not include the given name of the deceased. These records are listed at the beginning of each surname, such as Williams, (blank) or King, (unknown) .
- Many death records for young children did not list a first name for the child. These listings appear in the index as Smith, Infant of or Jones, Infant of John. There are also listings for older children, such as White, Son of John or Case, Child of Henry.
- Death certificates for some married women are listed under the name of the husband, such as Adams, James (Mrs) .
- Titles relating to occupation will be listed after the first name of the individual: Johnson, Martin (Rev.) or Hibbert, John (Dr.) or Blake, Charles (Maj.).
- If the individual died out of state, there will not be a death certificate issued in Tennessee, even if the body was returned here for burial.
- Death certificates during this time period were filled out by funeral directors. If the deceased was buried in a family cemetery and no funeral home was involved, there will not be a death certificate on file in Tennessee.
- There are some death records for individuals who could not be identified ("unknown white male, in late 40s"). These are not included in this index.
Davidson County Death Records 1900 - 1913
A searchable index to the Davidson County Death Records 1900 - 1913 is available on the Genealogy Index Search Site. Davidson County (as distinct from Nashville) began keeping their own death records in 1900 and continued to do so through 1913. The death records in this index include the following information: last name, first name, race, date of death, age, place of burial, and the volume & record number.
Please note that many of the recorded names in this index do not appear in the Index to Tennessee Death Records 1908-1912.
Shelby County Death Records
An online index to Shelby County death records for the years 1848-1966 and a state-wide index to Tennessee death records for the years 1949-2014 is available on the web site of the Shelby County Register of Deeds.
Tennessee counties were not required to record marriages in bound record books until 1838. While not required to do so, many counties in Tennessee did record their early marriages. The early marriages were recorded in ledgers by the County Court Clerk. The clerk usually recorded only the names of the bride and groom, the minister or justice of the peace and (sometimes) the bondsman.
PLEASE NOTE : Marriage records in Tennessee have changed during its statehood. In many cases, the marriage license itself was given to the bride and groom. The official marriage record on file in the state will be an entry made into a marriage ledger book by the County Court Clerk. Generally, the clerk recorded only the names of the bride & groom, the minister or justice of the peace, and (sometimes) the bondsman. A limited number of counties began issuing duplicate marriage licenses in the 1880s. The information on marriage records can vary county by county. Some counties began listing the names of the parents of the bride & groom in the 1880s; some counties did not include this information until the mid 1920s. When you request a search for a marriage record from the Library and Archives, we will check to see if there is a marriage license on file. If there is no license on file, then we will send the entry from the county's marriage ledger book.
Tennessee Marriage Records 1970 - Present
For marriage records from 1970 to the present, contact the Tennessee Department of Health, Office of Vital Records.
Tennessee Marriage Records July 1, 1945 - December 31, 1969
For the dates July 1, 1945 - December 31, 1969, there is a year-by-year statewide microfilm index to Tennessee marriage records. The index is arranged by the name of the groom; the bride is listed only by her first name and the first letter of her maiden name. A request for a marriage record search for the years dates July 1, 1945 - December 31, 1969 must include the name of the groom. The Library and Archives will, for a fee, search a five year range in this index. The search request requires the name of the groom and the date of the marriage (or we will search the five year range 1945-1965); the name of the bride & the county of marriage are not required, but should be included if known.
Tennessee Marriage Records 1861 - June 30, 1945
Marriages 1861 - June 30, 1945 can be found in the records of each county. There is no state-wide index to marriages during this time period. We can search the microfilmed county records for a marriage record if given the names of the groom and bride, county of marriage, and the date of the marriage or a 5-year date span. If the marriage occurred in one of the four metropolitan counties (Davidson County, Hamilton County, Knox County and Shelby County), then a 3-year date span must be specified. PLEASE NOTE that the Tennessee State Library and Archives does NOT have Davidson County marriage records for May 1941 - June 1945. These records are available through the Metropolitan Archives of Nashville and Davidson County.
Tennessee Marriage Records 1780-1861
A list of extant (in existence) marriage records in Tennessee for the years 1780-1861 has been published. You may visit the Ask Us a Question! web page to contact the Library and Archives with the name of the bride or groom, the approximate year of the marriage and (if known) the county where the marriage took place. Please send only one e-mail search request at a time for a single marriage record search. We will check the index and send a reply by e-mail at no charge notifying you if a listing for the marriage record is found. The Library and Archives will respond to e-mail requests promptly; response time may vary, depending on the amount of research required to answer your question and the unique nature of your request. If you need immediate assistance you may call the reference desk at (615) 741-2764 or visit us in person.
Tennessee Divorce Records 1971 - Present
For divorce records from 1971 to the present, contact the Tennessee Department of Health, Office of Vital Records.
Tennessee Divorce Records July 1, 1945 - December 31, 1970
The Tennessee State Library and Archives has a state-wide divorce index which covers the dates July 1, 1945 - December 31, 1970. If the divorce took place during this time period, the Library and Archives will search a five year range state-wide for a divorce. You must to provide us with the name of the husband & wife, the date of the divorce or a five year range to search, and (if known) the county where the divorce was granted.
Tennessee Divorce Records prior to July 1, 1945
If the divorce took place prior to July 1, 1945, then the Library and Archives will search a five year range in ONE specified county for a divorce. You must to provide us with the name of the husband & wife, the date of the divorce or a five year range to search, and specify ONE county where the divorce was granted.
Divorce Records in Court Minutes
Court minutes are another location to search for records concerning the granting of a divorce. You must provide the name of the husband & wife, the year of the divorce (or a five year range to search), specify one county, and specify one court to be searched. If the divorce took place after 1834, and involved a dispute over the division of property, then it would have been heard in the Chancery Court; if the divorce did not involve a dispute over the division of property, then it would have been heard in the Circuit Court.
Tennessee Divorce Requests with the TN General Assembly - 1796 - 1850
In the early days of Tennessee, divorce requests had to be approved by the Tennessee General Assembly. The Search the Acts of Tennessee 1796-1850 to check if there is a listing for a particular individual. The Library and Archives can, for a fee, copy up to three chapters from the published Acts of Tennessee. If an act is located, we can also check to see if a legislative petition is on file for the divorce.