Only a small portion of the land granted in Tennessee was free land, and that was granted to those who provided some form of service to North Carolina. Earliest land records, including early grants issued by North Carolina and Tennessee, are microfilmed with a card index available in the Public Services Section of the Tennessee State Library & Archives. Other holdings include land warrants, survey certificates, and records from county register of deeds offices.
Early Land Record Guide
This is a free guide to the records of the land office, State of Tennessee, record Group 50.
To search for a deed, you will need to know the name of the individual to be searched, the county and a 5-year date span.
Then use the following procedures:
- Locate the cumulative index (if available), usually in a book separate from the deed books. If there is no cumulative index, use the index appearing in each volume of deeds.
- Check to see if the index indicates the date of the deed. If it does, search the portion of the index covering the dates requested for the name requested.
- If the dates are not shown in the index entries, determine which deeds books were in use during the dates requested in the search. For example: if the request is for a deed dated 1860-1865, and you find that Deed Book C covered 1856-1861 and Deed Book D covered 1861-1866, you would search that portion of the index that includes entries for Deed Books C and D.
- Within the time period requested, look for deeds matching the name of the person requested. Both grantor (seller) and grantee (buyer) indexes need to be searched. Deed indexes are not always completely alphabetized, but often grouped under each letter of the alphabet. For example: to locate deeds for Moses Wallace, we scan the entire letter “W” in the index.
Deeds are not always recorded in the year they are written, so a deed written in 1845 but not recorded until 1859 will not be located using this search strategy. There is no way of ascertaining whether a deed was recorded when it was written.
Name of grantor is not always the expected name; some properties are sold by power of attorney, sheriff or court clerk to satisfy a legal judgment, so the deed would be indexed under the name of that person.
Online Tennessee Land records
- Partial census of 1787 to 1791 of Tennessee as taken from the North Carolina land grants
- Land Claims Record for West Tennessee, 1807-1820
Land claims records filed with Judge McNairy for West Tennessee, August 1807-December 1820. These records contain information in columns headed “Owners Names,” “Land Description” (including the name of the county and identifying water courses), “Number of Warrant,” “Number of Lot,” “Number of Acres,” and “Date Claim Was Filed.” Some of the land was awarded by military warrants. A few entries are signed and dated by the surveyor.
- Fourth survey district of Tennessee, 1808-1810
John McClellan, surveyor : Anderson, Bledsoe, Campbell, Knox, Overton, Rhea, and Roane counties, Tennessee.