Divide and Conquer

After our amazing first evening in New Market, Tenn., the trip to the county archives the next day—ostensibly the whole reason for the detour to Jefferson County in the first place—was almost anticlimactic.

Jefferson County Archives

We had a wonderful night’s rest and breakfast at the Minnis House, then headed out to Dandridge, the county seat.  Dandridge is a lovely old town that dates back to the Revolutionary War. Almost swallowed whole by the creation of Cherokee Reservoir in the 1940s, Dandridge narrowly escaped inundation when the residents successfully petioned the Tennessee Valley Authority to build a dike that spared the oldest part of town, including the 1840 courthouse.

Amazingly, the courthouse has never had a fire, and so has records as far back as 1790!  I may be new to all things genealogy, but I know enough to appreciate that for the miracle it is.

Jefferson County Courthouse

We had just a few hours to spend in the archives before hitting the road back to Oklahoma, so we had to work fast.  Thanks to Lura Hinchey and the wonderful volunteer staff at the Jefferson County Archives, we were able to divide and conquer.   I sat down to search the impressive marriage record database with the help of one of the aforementioned volunteers.  I assigned my stepmother Cheryl to a microfilm reader and wills. And it turned out that there was a whole file in the back room devoted to the Haworths, so Dad got that project.

Resources at the archives

At then end of two hours we left the archive with copies of several original marriage records, some probate records, a copy of the Lost Creek Friends Church minutes (saved on a flash drive I had in my purse … yea!) and many photocopies from the Haworth file. One disturbing find in these records: At least one of my Haworth ancestors was a slaveowner.What was up with that? They were Quakers!

After a nice lunch in historic downtown Dandridge, we headed toward home, vowing to return to Jefferson County as soon as possible. I can’t say enough about the wonderful people we met in east Tennessee. They did everything but kill the fatted calf for us. Come to think of it, I did feel a lot like the prodigal daughter returning home. Which I guess I was.


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Nancy Shively of Skiatook, OK. Read all her posts at Family Tree University.

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