Our Tennessee Ancestors

Tips by Jeannette Holland Austin

Pictured is Cumberland Gap. Tennessee was settled by migrants from Virginia and North Carolina. They poled keel boats from the Ohio River up the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. They were a composite of ultimately millions of English, French, Irish, German and Ulster Scots who made land in New England during the early eighteen hundreds. But mostly they were poor families who, due to dire circumstances, turned explorers.

After the Revolutionary War, while the Loyalists escaped into Nova Scotia and Florida, the territories comprising Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia were making the cultural shift of mountaineering. That was when the State of Franklin was formed. Remember that we had thirteen separate colonies. The territory West of the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains was unexplored territory.

Some say that the residents of Franklin became a people distinctly different from those settlers in the Atlantic regions who fought the war for independence. Nevertheless, I have personally researched families who came from those same mountains and who enlisted in the war as well as the local militias. These rugged individualists set out to make a life for themselves along the Cumberland Gap and all the way to the Ohio River. They planted, fished, hunted, and fought off the Indians. For those who did join the battles of the Revolutionary War, their skills with the rifle made them some of the best soldiers. The genealogy hunt takes us across Burke County North Carolina into the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains.

The State of Franklin. At the time of its formation in 1784, the State of Franklin had four counties which belonged to North Carolina, now referred to as the Cumberland River Valley. These four counties merged into Northeastern Tennessee, thus claiming the counties known today as Blount, Sevier, Spencer, Wayne, Greene, Washington, Caswell and Wayne. Tennessee continued to attract settlers from the Atlantic States, moving further West into Arkansas and Texas. Whether we think of Tennesseans as “explorers” or “mountain people”, there is a lot of tracking dealing with finding their origins. Admittedly, the Cumberland Gap is a true haven of beauty and peace, and certain hill people adopted the hermit lifestyle. We are a record-keeping people, but what with Indian raids and massacres, the early explorers left little of the written word behind, save quaint mountain cultures and a unity of family. However, the militia records, revolutionary war pensions, and details of the Indian battles are fair game for research. We simply have to delve deeper into the historical records. There is some interestiing history contained in the old wills and estates. Rather than just skimming through for names, it behooves us to read carefully to story which unfolds before us. Then think about it. The clues and answers will come.

New Tennessee Records added to https://southeasterngenealogy.com (part of 8 Genealogy Websites and Georgia Pioneers)

Images of Claiborne County Wills, Estates and Settlements from 1812 to 1879. Members of Georgia Pioneers - After clicking on the “Login Menu” on Georgia Pioneers.com, click on “Tennessee”.

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