History, Genealogy, Travel and Social Sciences Department

(901) 415-2742

Explore the Department


Recommended Web Sites

Census Information

United States Census Bureau
This website allows users to use customized searches to retrieve population statistics from the 1990 and 2000 US Federal Censuses.
University of Virginia Library’s Historical Census Browser
This website allows users to search for information drawn directly from historical volumes of the U.S. Census of Population and Housing from the years 1790 – 1960.


United States Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs
This website provides current information regarding international travel, passports, visas, and family issues such as inter-country adoption. It also includes travel warnings, current information about countries, and information about studying abroad.
United States Department of State, Travel and Business
This website provides additional information about travel abroad including tips for preparing a trip, international business markets, emergency services, embassies, and travel documents.
Transportation Security Administration
This website provides information about travel safety. The TSA includes security officers, inspectors, directors, air marshals and managers who protect the nation's transportation systems by looking for bombs at checkpoints in airports, inspecting rail cars, and patrolling subways with other law enforcement.
National Park Service
The National Park Service cares for national parks including a network of nearly 400 natural, cultural and recreational sites across the nation. It also helps communities across America to preserve and enhance important local heritage and close-to-home recreational opportunities. NPS offers grants and assistance to register, record, and save historic places; create community parks and local recreation facilities; conserve rivers and streams, and develop trails and greenways. This website provides useful information to travelers including maps, historical information, and hours of operation for national parks.
The Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) developed this website in partnership with more than 2,000 leading travel industry organizations to promote the United States as one of the world's premier tourism destinations. The TIA created SeeAmerica, the universal brand for the entire U.S. travel and tourism product, in the absence of a federally-funded national tourism promotion agency. This site contains more than 10,000 links to hotels, airlines, attractions, convention and visitor bureaus, state tourism offices, and more.
Chamber of Commerce.com
This website provides links to local chambers of commerce around the United States. It contains useful information for travelers including profiles of communities and comparisons of hotel prices.

History and Sociology

Library of Congress Country Studies
The LOC Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.
CIA World Factbook
This website provides current information provided by the Central Intelligence Agency about countries around the world. It includes demographics, maps, government information, history, economics and travel information.
E-History is managed by the Department of History at The Ohio State University, in collaboration with the Harvey Goldberg Program for Excellence in Teaching and the OSU Web Media Collective. The website includes multimedia histories, primary sources, book reviews, online books, maps, and images.
United States Department of Education: History and Social Studies
This website includes links to information about United States and World history with maps, photographs, and timelines.
American Sociological Association
This website provides information about the American Sociological Association and its activities and publications. In addition, it provides access to research and statistics.

Tennessee History

The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture is a collaboration of different disciplines, perspectives, and approaches to history in the first updated, comprehensive study of Tennessee history since 1960.
Tennessee History Day
National History Day promotes historical inquiry, knowledge, and understanding among elementary and secondary students. Through an educational program culminating in nationwide competitions, National History Day encourages the development of research skills, analytical thinking, and creative expression. This website includes information for contestants, judges, and teachers in Tennessee.
West Tennessee Historical Society
The organization promotes all aspects of state and local history. It supports historical programs, archives, publications, preservation, markers, museums, and other historical collections. In addition, it publishes the West Tennessee Historical Society Papers.

Information about Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee:
General Information

City of Memphis
This website provides information for visitors and Memphians about local events, politics, culture, and city government. It includes links to city services, community resources, employment, entertainment, public safety, as well as contact information.
Official Government Website of Shelby County, Tennessee
This website includes information about Shelby County elected officials, boards and commissions, government services, employment information, and the Shelby County Code of Ordinances.
Memphis Convention and Visitor’s Bureau
This website provides information about lodging, tours, historic sites, special events, and dining in Memphis. It even includes coupons and an interactive map.
Center City Commission
This website includes information about the Memphis Center City Commission, including its annual report. It also contains demographics, programs, newsletters, entertainment, construction and revitalization projects, and descriptions of downtown Memphis neighborhoods.


Assessor of Property, Shelby County, Tennessee
This website allows real property searches in Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee by either by address, owner’s name, name of business, or parcel number. Search results include a description of the property, the name of the owner, and appraisal and assessment information.


Memphis City Schools
This website gives information about public schools in Memphis, Tennessee. It includes demographics, school profiles, MCS Board policies, information about TCAP, job announcements, and contact information.
Shelby County Schools
This website gives information about public schools in Shelby County, Tennessee. It includes school profiles, school zone locator, careers, lunch menus, student handbook, and contact information.


The Commercial Appeal
This website provides current local, national, and international news. In addition, it has a searchable archive of past newspaper articles, including obituaries, from June 27, 1990 to the present. Searching is free, but a fee of $2.95 per story will be charged to retrieve the full text of any article in the archives.
The Memphis Flyer
Memphis’s alternative newsweekly, started in 1989 by Contemporary Media, Inc., the locally owned publishers of Memphis magazine. It features stories about politics, local scandals, newsmakers, and entertainment.

Law, Law Enforcement, and Crime

Code of Ordinances of Memphis, Tennessee
This website allows the user to search for current city ordinances and the city charter. It includes information about zoning, building codes, public services, health and safety, and home rule amendments to the charter.
Memphis Police Department
This website provides information about the police department in Memphis, Tennessee, as well as outstanding warrants, Crime Stoppers, safety tips, Crime Mapper, and contact information.
Shelby County Sheriff’s Office
This website provides information about the sheriff’s department in Shelby County, Tennessee. In addition, it contains links to crime statistics, TBI’s most wanted, the Tennessee sex offenders registry, the Tennessee methamphetamine offenders registry, and a list of inmates incarcerated in the Shelby County jail.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation: Statistical Analysis Center
This website provides current and past crime statistics for Tennessee. It also it contains links to crime statistics, TBI’s most wanted, the Tennessee sex offenders registry, and the Tennessee methamphetamine offenders registry.

About the Department

Materials in this department include books, microform publications, audiocassettes, and videocassettes, all of which are located on the fourth floor of the Central Library at 3030 Poplar Avenue.

History, comprising archaeology, biography, daily living, politics, warfare, is divided into ancient, medieval, and modern periods and arranged as Europe, Asia, North America, South America, and Pacific regions. The world history materials include large sections on Great Britain, Africa, and World War II.
American History
American History features colonization, the revolution and early republic, along with an extensive collection on the Civil war era. Twentieth Century American history includes material on immigrants, civil rights, and an outstanding selection of presidential biographies. A large area within the American history collection covers state and local history.
Memphis & Shelby County Room
Memphis & Shelby County Room holds a wide variety of material providing information about the development of the city and county. The local history collection includes books, photographs, maps, newspaper clippings and pamphlets, Memphis periodicals, manuscript collections, and oral history tapes. Some of the most frequently requested materials are old city directories, telephone directories, high school yearbooks, and photographs.
Genealogy materials in microform and print enable one to research family history, tracing the movements of relatives, especially in the southeastern United States. The collection includes more than 20,000 genealogy books, as well as magazines and other kinds of material. The History Department staff along with the assistance from local volunteers has collected and indexed Shelby county marriage, death, probate, church, cemetery, and funeral home records.
Travel Collection
Travel Collection includes books, and videocassettes on all areas of the world. In addition to materials on planning trips both in the United States and abroad, the collection provides helpful information for those relocating in the country or abroad. Especially useful are the hotel guides covering most cities and resorts of the world.
African-American Popular Collection
African-American Popular Collection contains a wide selection of the most frequently requested titles on all aspects of African-American life.
Social Sciences
Social Sciences materials include such subjects as sociology, political science, military, women’s issues, education, holidays, customs, etiquette, social problems and issues, and cultural anthropology.


Memphis and Shelby County Room

Memphis Public Library & Information Center
Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library
History/Social Sciences Department
Memphis and Shelby County Room

The Memphis and Shelby County Room is an area within the History/Social Sciences Department where researchers may view items from the library’s archival and manuscript collections. These include historical records of people and families, maps, photographs, newspaper vertical files, books, and music and video recordings. These materials document the development of the community, government, economy, culture, and heritage of Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee.

Researchers may access the Memphis and Shelby County Room during regular library hours. Librarians provide assistance in selection and retrieval of needed materials, as well as the use of microfilm readers and photocopiers. Researchers may bring scanners or digital cameras to reproduce library materials upon obtaining permission from the History/Social Sciences Department manager.

Please help keep the Memphis and Shelby County Room clean and quiet by leaving food and drinks outside and holding conversations to a minimum. Books, manuscript, and archival items should stay in the Memphis and Shelby County Room, and the arrangement of the antique furniture should remain unchanged. The Memphis and Shelby County Room is intended for individual study and research. The library provides other facilities for study groups and those conducting meetings.

The staff of the Memphis Public Library & Information Center primarily provides reference and bibliographic services to residents of Memphis and Shelby County. As a result, the library is unable to provide all the reference and bibliographic services requested by customers from outside its service area. To help those with extensive information needs, the staff of the History/Social Sciences Department maintains a list, available upon request, of non-affiliated researchers available to conduct research and document reproduction for a fee.

The History/Social Sciences Department staff welcomes donations of print materials, audio and visual recordings, and photographs related to Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee.

Please call 901-415-2742 for more information.

Special Collections Available in the Memphis and Shelby County Room

The Journal of Josiah Hinds
The Historical and Genealogical Collection
The Frank Holloman Collection
The Howard Association Collection
The Hugh Higbee Huhn Collection
The Blair T. Hunt Papers
The Office Files of Robert B. James
The Sara Beaumont Kennedy Literary Collection With Papers of Walker Kennedy
The Kennedy Book Club Collection
The George W. Lee Collection
The Jerry Lee Lewis Collection
The Selma S. Lewis Collection
The Harry H. Litty Family Collection
Papers of Henry Loeb, III
The Ruth F. Loewenberg Shelby Farms Collection
The Robert F. Looney Collection
The Mary Graham Love Papers
The John William McAfee Collection: A Career in Journalism and Photography
The Florence McIntyre Collection
Senator Kenneth Douglas McKellar: A Register of His Papers
The George Mahan, Jr. Collection
The Personal Papers of Judge Walter Malone
The John D. Martin Collection
The Thomas E. Maxson Collection, A Career in Public Engineering
The Ethel Taylor Maxwell Collection
Memphians During War
The Memphis Art Association Collection
The Memphis Belle Collection
Memphis Civic Clubs – Jackson Boulevard and Rozelle Clubs
The Memphis Crippled Children’s Hospital and School
Memphis – Enschede Ties
An Index to the Memphis Historical Society Papers
Memphis Music Miscellany
Memphis/National Funeral Home Records, 1935-1971
The Memphis Open Air Theater Collection
The Memphis Open Air Theater Programs
The Mid-South Flood Collection
Register of the Henry A. Montgomery Family
The Official Papers of Shelby County Commissioner James W. “Jimmy” Moore
The Earl Moreland Collection
J.C. Oates and Sons Funeral Home Records, 1916-1970
The Berl Olswanger Collection
The Order of the Alhambra Talavera Caravan #32
The Papers of Memphis Mayor Watkins Overton
The Page/Lenox Collection
The Reverend Charles Carroll Parsons Collection
The General Gideon J. Pillow Collection
The Price/Davis Family Papers
The Julia Raine Collection of Correspondence and Music
Papers of the Raleigh Community Council
Office Files of John “Jack” W. Ramsay
The St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Collection
The Reverend Louis Sandford Schuyler Collection
The Susanne Conlan Scruggs Collection
The Searcy Collection
The Leo M. Seligman Collection
The Reverend Eron M. Sharp Collection
The Maxine Smith NAACP Collection
The Katherine Hinds Smythe Collection
The Morris Solomon Papers
The George Sparks Little Theatre Wartime Collection
The Jerry O. Potter Sultana Collection
The Tennessee Valley Authority Collection
The Frank Tobey Papers
The Trezevant Family Papers
The Ernest B. “Tony” Vaccaro Collection
The Dr. R.Q. and Ethyl H. Venson Cotton Makers’ Jubilee Collection
The Robert L. Waller Collection
The Roane Waring Collection
The Rabbi James A. Wax Collection
The Business Papers of Samuel B. Williamson, Napoleon Hill and Noland Fontaine
The Marshall Wingfield Collection
The Yellow Fever Collection
Zion Cemetery Burial Register, 1896-1974

The Memphis and Shelby County Room features:

National Archives Documents of Interest:

Library of Congress Documents of Interest:


Memphis History and Facts

Memphis History: A Chronology

c. 1541
Indians living near present-day Shelby County encounter the Hernando De Soto expedition.

French explorers build Fort Assumption on Memphis site.

Fort San Fernando de las Barrancas built by the Spanish.

The U.S. gains control of the area; Fort Adams erected.

The Chickasaw Nation signs treaty ceding West Tennessee to the U.S.

John Overton, James Winchester, and Andrew Jackson found the city of Memphis on May 22. Shelby County formed.

Frances Wright organizes utopian community of Nashoba near present-day Germantown.

Memphis incorporated on December 19.

County seat moved from Memphis to Raleigh.

Memphis Appeal organized.

U.S. government establishes a navy yard in the city.

Memphis and South Memphis merge.

The Memphis & Charleston Railroad completed, linking the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River.

On June 6, Union fleet defeats Confederate naval forces in the Battle of Memphis. Federal troops occupy the city.

Grant names Memphis as hospital and supply base to support the attack on Vicksburg.

The Memphis Freedmen's Bureau established to provide services such as banking and education.

Memphis regains the county seat.

City's most devastating yellow fever epidemic claims 5,000 lives.

Memphis declares bankruptcy, loses its charter, and becomes a Taxing District of the state.

Artesian well water becomes available for the first time.

Great Bridge at Memphis opened. Later named Frisco Bridge.

Cossitt Library opens, the first public library in Memphis. Memphis regains its city charter. Black millionaire Robert Reed Church, Sr. buys first city bond.

The ten-story Porter Building, the city's first skyscraper, opens.

Church's Park & Auditorium, the city's first park and entertainment center for African Americans, opens.

The Overton Park Zoo opens.

W.C. Handy writes the "Memphis Blues." Memphis adopts the commission form of government.

University of Tennessee Medical School merges with the Memphis Hospital Medical College and the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

A major Mississippi River flood brings high water to downtown Memphis.

Clarence Saunders opens his first Piggly Wiggly store.

The Universal Life Insurance Company, one of the largest black-owned insurance companies in the nation, is founded.

The present Peabody Hotel opens to the public. Tom Lee rescues 32 people when the excursion boat M.E. Norman capsizes in the Mississippi River.

The Orpheum Theatre opens; replaced Grand Opera House.

The Mississippi River Great Flood devastates huge area; thousands of homeless brought to Memphis.

City purchases the local utility company and renames it Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division.

The Naval Air Station at Millington is built.

The Army (now Defense) Depot and the Mallory Air Force Depot built.

Construction on the Memphis Harbor project begins.

Memphis named the country's quietest, cleanest and safest city on several occasions.

Tri-State Defender, local black newspaper, begins publication.

Kemmons Wilson opens his first Holiday Inn on Summer Ave.

E.H. Crump, Memphis political leader for 45 years, dies. Elvis Presley gives his first concert in Memphis.

Stax Records, creator of the "Memphis Sound," organized.

Federal court decisions end segregation in the city's public libraries, schools, parks and recreation facilities.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated Apri1 4 at the Lorraine Motel while in Memphis to support the Sanitation Workers' strike.

Federal Express Corporation organized.

Busing begins in order to bring about full integration of schools.

Benjamin L. Hooks elected executive director of the NAACP. Victorian Village named historic district.

Elvis Presley dies at Graceland on August 16.

Mud Island Park and River Walk open.

Redeveloped Beale Street opens as a tourist attraction. Jesse H. Turner becomes first black to serve as chairman of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners.

Lighting of the Hernando DeSoto Bridge features 2,000 lights in a giant M.

Ramesses the Great initiates the Wonders Series.

World War II Memphis Belle moved to Mud Island.

Dr. W.W. Herenton elected city's first black mayor. National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis Pyramid open.

Downtown trolley begins operation.
Wonders Titanic exhibit draws largest attendance in series.
AutoZone Park Redbirds Stadium opens downtown.
New Central Library opens in November at 3030 Poplar Avenue.
July 22, straight-line gale force winds cause heavy damage to the city.

© Compiled 2003 by the staff of the History Department

Memphis Facts

  • Founded: 1819
  • Incorporated: 1826
  • Altitude:
    Airport -- 331 feet above sea level
    Mississippi River -- 188 feet above sea level.
  • Area/Location:
    340 square miles as of 8/03
    35.10' North by 90.00' West at Madison and Front
  • Official City Flower: Crape Myrtle
  • Official City Tree: Dogwood
  • Government: Mayor and City Council
  • Climate:
    Temperature (Fahrenheit degrees):
    Average annual 61.9
    January average 41.2
    July average 81.2
    Record High 108 on July 13, 1980
    Record Low -13 on Dec. 24, 1963
    Average annual rainfall 48.6 inches
  • Bridges -- Dates opened:
    Frisco May 12, 1892
    Harahan July 14, 1916
    Memphis & Arkansas Dec. 17, 1949
    Hernando De Soto Aug. 2, 1973
  • Buildings - Tallest:

    100 North Main
    430 ft., 37 stories
    Commerce Square
    396 ft., 31 stories
    Sterick Building
    365 ft., 31 stories
    Clark Tower
    365 ft., 32 stories
    Morgan Keegan Tower
    341 ft., 23 stories
  • Largest Colleges & Universities:

    Christian Brothers University
    founded 1871
    LeMoyne-Owen College
    founded 1871
    University of Memphis
    founded 1912
    Rhodes College
    founded 1848
    Shelby State Community College
    founded 1972
    State Technical Institute
    founded 1968
    University of Tennessee College of Medicine
    founded 1911
  • Government:
    Mayor and Council form established in 1966.
  • Population:
    1820 364
    1830 663
    1840 1,799
    1850 8,841
    1860 22,623
    1870 40,226
    1880 33,592
    1890 64,495
    1900 102,320
    1910 131,105
    1920 162,351
    1930 253,140
    1940 292,942
    1950 396,000
    1960 497,524
    1970 623,530
    1980 646,356
    1990 610,337
    2000 650,100

© Compiled 2003 by the staff of the History Department

Shelby County

  • Established: 1819
  • Area: 755 square miles
  • Government:
    Mayor and Board of Commissioners (established in 1974)
  • Incorporated Cities:



  • Total County Population:
    1940 358,250
    1950 482,393
    1960 627,019
    1970 722,041
    1980 772,523
    1990 815,161
    2000 897,472

© Compiled 2003 by the staff of the History  Department

Memphis Shelby County Photograph Collection

The Memphis and Shelby County Photograph Collection is located in the Memphis and Shelby County Room.  The collection consists of 11,000 local and regional photographs.  These photographs are indexed in a contact print index which arranges the photographs alphabetically by topic (example:  Memphis - Streets - Main Street - 1888).

The works of two notable Memphis photographers are included in the collection.  J. C. Coovert and Clifford H. Poland captured buildings, events and scenes of everyday life in Memphis from the 1880s to the 1950s.  Major themes in the collection include bridges, buildings, the cotton and hardwood timber industries, fairs, floods, businesses, transportation, historic homes, portraits and street scenes.

The Library of Congress American Memory website has several Memphis photographs available.  Photographs of interest include Farm Security Administration photos of Beale Street, Memphis cotton classing houses and the Memphis Cotton Carnival as well as photographs of historic buildings taken by the Detroit Publishing Company and Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER). Click here to access their index.

Of particular interest are three Haines Photo Company panoramic photos of downtown Memphis and three J. C. Coovert panoramas of cotton fields. 

1910 Memphis Panoramic Photos

Visit the Library of Congress links below to view the full size panoramas.

Click to View Full Image at Library Of Congress
View full image at Library of Congress

Click to view full size at Library of Congress
View full image at Library of Congress

Click to view full size image at Library of Congress
View full image at Library of Congress

Cotton Field Panoramas 1907-1915

Visit the Library of Congress links below to view the full size panoramas.

click to view full size at Library of Congress
Click to view full image at Library of Congress

click to view full size image at the Library of Congress
Click to view full image at Library of Congress

Click to view full image at the Library of Congress
Click to view full image at Library of Congress

Researching Your Home in Shelby County

WHERE TO LOOK IN Researching Your HOUSE:

The History Department and the Memphis/Shelby County Room of the library contain a variety of materials that can be used in researching the history of your home. These sources include:

  • Maps: street and plat maps; Sanborn Fire Insurance maps
  • City Directories: 1849-1994; suburban directories 1964 to 1994
  • Memphis Room Information Files: See subject headings for real estate, historic houses, architects, and biography
  • Books: Neighborhood studies such as Cooper- Young, Annesdale-Snowden, Vollentine-Evergreen, Central Gardens and general works including Memphis: An Architectural Guide and Good Abode: 19th Century Architecture in Memphis and Shelby County
  • Manuscript Collections: Some collections such as the George Mahan (architect) Papers and the Page-Lenox Collections may be of assistance.
  • Photographs: See the contact print file for subject headings such as street names, historic houses, buildings, etc.
  • Historical Register listing for Memphis and Shelby County properties
  • Census records for Shelby County, particularly for 1900, 1910, and 1920
  • Newspapers on microfilm for photographs of new homes, new developments, real estate sales, etc. g

Other important sources which are not at the library include:

  • History of the property obtained from title companies
  • Tax records located at the Tax Assessors Office Early land deeds located at the County Register's Office



Located in the History Department on the fourth floor of the Central Library at 3030 Poplar Avenue, the Genealogy Collection is one of the library’s most frequently used resources. The collection’s strongest area is in microfilmed and indexed Memphis and Shelby County records. They are also United States census records for 1790-1920 on microfilm with indexes or Soundex, as well as genealogical source books, published family histories and magazines with an emphasis on 18th and 19th century southern United States, especially Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas.

Assistance and Instruction

Library staff and volunteers are glad to help you use the genealogy collection. We are unable to conduct your research for you, but assistance in using sources and equipment is available at the Genealogy Desk in the History Department. Instructional workshops are held in May and October. They cover different aspects of genealgy including an introduction to family research, African American research, using military records, United States census, immigration/naturalization records, vital records and research on the Internet

Donations to the Genealogy Collection

The History Department actively maintains and improves the genealogy collection. We also welcome contributions of genealogical works or money to purchase new materials. Each year the department selects a special project for the genealogy collection and sets aside gifts for that purpose. Please ask at the genealogy desk if you would like information on the current project.

The Memphis Shelby County History and Genealogy Index

The History Department has created an online master index to many groups of historical and genealogical records in its archival and local history collections. The creation of this database makes these indexes universally searchable. This is a continuing project with new indexes being added as they are completed.

Go to the History and Genealogy Index


This database provides instant online access to more than 1 billion names, more than 3,000 databases, primary source documents, images and a variety of genealogy research aids.

This database is not accessible outside the library and no more than two library users may access the database at a time, if the license exceeded message is displayed, try again later.

Go to AncestryLibrary 

The core titles to found are:

The service also offers several easy-to-use research tools including:


Where to Get Genealogical Records in Shelby County, Tennessee

Death Certificates: 1902-1954
Available online
Shelby County Register

Death Certificates: 1952-Present
Memphis and Shelby County Health Department
Office Of Vital Records
814 Jefferson Ave., Room 101- 103
Memphis, TN 38105
Death Certificate Information Line (901) 544-7691
Death Certificates: 1848-1951
Shelby County Archives
980A Nixon Drive
Memphis, TN 38134
(901) 379-4499
email: Derrick.Mink@shelbycountytn.gov
Web site: http://register.shelby.tn.us/index.php

Death records for Memphis (1848-1913) and all of Tennessee (1908-1946) are available on microfilm in the History Department of the Central Library. An index to all Memphis and Shelby County Death Records from 1848 to 1945 is available on the library’s web site on the History and Genealogy Database page at http://tempo.memphislibrary.org/dadabik/program_files/sform.php Note: This database is temorarily offline 09-10-09

Birth Records
Memphis and Shelby County Health Department
Office Of Vital Records
814 Jefferson Ave., Room 101- 103
Memphis, TN 38105
Birth Certificate Information Line (901) 544-7605
Marriage Records
Marriage Licenses: 2000-present
Shelby County Clerk
150 Washington St.
Memphis TN, 38103
(901) 545-4244

Marriage Licenses: 1820-1999
Shelby County Archives
150 Washington Avenue
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 545-4356
email: archives@shelbycountytn.gov>

Marriage records for Shelby County (1820-1946) and for many other Tennessee counties are available on microfilm in the History Department of the Central Library.

Probate Records
Probate Court Records: 1900-present (wills), 1933-present (minute books), 1900-present (loose records)
Probate Court Clerk
140 Adams Ave. #124
Memphis, TN 38103

Probate Court Records: 1820-1900 (wills), 1867-1997 (minute books), 1820-1900 (loose papers)
Shelby County Archives
150 Washington Avenue
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 545-4356
email: archives@shelbycountytn.gov>

Probate minute books (1867-1900) and loose papers including wills (1820-1900) for Shelby County and for many other Tennessee counties (various dates) are available on microfilm in the History Department of the Central Library.

Local Land Records
Land Deeds: earliest-present
Shelby County Register
160 N. Main St., Room 519
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 545-4366

Land Deeds: earliest-present
Shelby County Archives
150 Washington Avenue
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 545-4356
email: archives@shelbycountytn.gov

Deed records for Shelby County (earliest-1850) and deed indexes (earliest-1933) are available on microfilm in the History Department of the Central Library.

Naturalization Records
Naturalizations and Declarations of Intent:
US Immigration Naturalization
1341 Sycamore View Rd
Memphis, TN 38134 (901) 544-3508

Naturalizations and Declarations of Intent:
Shelby County Archives
150 Washington Avenue
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 545-4356
email: archives@shelbycountytn.gov

Naturalization records for Shelby County (1856-1906) are indexed in the Tennessee Biography Index and available on microfilm in the History Department of the Central Library.

Quarterly Court/County Commission Minute Books
Shelby County Board of Commissioners Office
Suite 619, 160 N. Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103
Phone - (901) 545-4301
FAX - (901) 545-4283

Quarterly Court/County Commission minutes for Shelby County (1820-1977) are available on microfilm in the History Department of the Central Library.

Divorce Suits
Circuit Court Clerk's Office
140 Adams Avenue
Room 324
Memphis, Tennessee 38103
(901) 545-4006

Chancery Court
140 Adams Ave.
Memphis, TN 38103



US Federal Census Records Collection

Census Records in the History Department, Central Library

Census Chart 1

Census Chart 2

Other Area Genealogy Research Centers

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Family History Center 
4195 Kirby-Whitten Road
Bartlett, Tennessee 38135
(901) 388-9974
Hours: Monday - Closed; Tuesday - 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Wednesday - 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Thursday - 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Friday - 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Family History Center
8150 Walnut Grove Road
Memphis, Tennessee
(901) 754-2545
Hours: Monday - 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; Tuesday - 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Wednesday - 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; Saturday - 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Tennessee Genealogical Society
7779 Poplar Pike
Germantown, Tennessee 38138
Phone Number (901) 754-4300
Hours: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday - 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Suggested Internet Genealogy Links

  1. General Genealogy Sites
  2. Deaths
  3. Cemetery Information
  4. Archives and Libraries
  5. African-American Genealogy
  6. Native-American Genealogy
  7. European Genealogy
  8. Immigration Sources
  9. Civil War
  10. Sources for Records
  11. Genealogical Studies
  12. Genealogical Societies and Organizations

1. General Genealogy Sites

Census Online
Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet
FamilySearch Internet Genealogy Service-Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
National Endowment for the Humanities-My History is America's History

2. Deaths

Memphis/Shelby County Public Library & Information Center's History and Genealogy Indexes on the Internet
The Commercial Appeal: Obituaries
The Commercial Appeal: Archives
Social Security Death Index Interactive Search
Vital Records Information: United States

3. Cemetery Information

Tombstone Transcription Project: Tennessee
Interment.Net: Cemetery Transcription Library
Elmwood Cemetery
824 South Dudley St., Memphis, TN 38104 (901) 774-3212
Memphis National Cemetery
3568 Townes Avenue, Memphis, TN 38122 (901) 386-8311
Shelby County, Tennessee-Cemeteries: USGS GNIS National Mapping Information
This site gives the names and locations of cemeteries in Shelby County.

4. Archives and Libraries

State Archives Referral List
State Library Web Sites
Tennessee State Library and Archives
Mississippi Department of Archives and History
Arkansas History Commission
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C.
New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, MA
New York Genealogical & Biographical Society, New York, NY

5. African-American Genealogy

AfriGeneas: African Ancestored Genealogy
The African-Native American History & Genealogy Webpage
American Slave Narratives: An Online Narrative
Christine's Genealogy Website
People of Color in Old Tennessee
Freedmen's Bureau Online

6. Native-American Genealogy

Native American Genealogy
All Things Cherokee: Genealogy-Helpful Links
Chickasaw Genealogy
Cyndi's List- Native-American Links

7. European Genealogy

Federation of East European Family History Societies - FEEFHS
Western European Genealogy Links
Genealogy.net - German Genealogy
GENUKI - UK & Ireland Genealogy
Irish Family History Foundation
The Italian Genealogy Home Page
JewishGen: The Official Home of Jewish Genealogy

8. Immigration Sources

Ellis Island American Family Immigration History Center
Immigration and Ships Passenger List Research Guide
ISTG - Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild

9. Civil War

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
Cyndi's List of Civil War Genealogy Sites

10. Sources for Records

Bureau of Land Management - The Official Federal Land Patent Records Site
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections
United States Railroad Retirement Board
Vital Records Information - State Index

11. Genealogical Studies

National Institute on Genealogical Research
Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy
Samford University Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research

12. Genealogical Societies and Organizations

Association of Professional Genealogists
Board for Certification of Genealogists
Cyndi's List - Societies & Groups
Federation of Family History Societies (UK)
Federation of Genealogical Societies
National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution


Civil War Collection

The History Department's Civil War Collection is a good place to begin research on Civil War topics. In addition to general Civil War coverage, there is a major emphasis on Tennessee Civil War history.

This collection will help answer questions on all aspects of the Civil War including military records of individual soldiers, regimental histories, and personal memoirs, as well as general information on particular battles, campaigns, and generals.

Library materials on the Civil War can be found in the catalog under the subject heading United States -- History -- Civil War.  The collection includes:

Unique Materials In The Collection Include: Library of Congress items of interest:


African-American Popular Collection

From Richard Wright and Toni Morrison to W. E. B. DuBois and Ida B. Wells, the African-American Popular Collection is a convenient one-stop source for many of the most requested titles on a variety of African-American subjects. Located on the fourth floor of the Central Library in the History, Genealogy, Travel & Social Sciences Department, this unique collection includes a sampling of materials from such varied subject areas as art, business, health and beauty, literature, religion and spirituality, as well as science and technology.

The African-American Popular Collection debuted to the public in January 1994 to coincide with the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. With input from customers, librarians throughout the Memphis/Shelby County Library system cooperated in the selections of more than three hundred of the most requested titles in African- American history and life. Not only did this create a diverse collection, but with the generous financial support of the Friends of the Library, it was possible to purchase these titles in multiple copies.

In addition to items in this collection, all subject departments maintain a wealth of material on African- American history, culture, and life. The Library wishes to thank Smith & Nephew for providing the on-going support of the African-American Popular Collection.