If your roots started in Tennessee before it became a state, there are a couple of certificate programs available, which would make a wonderful way to recognize and honor your pioneer ancestors.
First Families of Tennessee (FFT) was established by the East Tennessee Historical Society (ETHS) in 1993 as a Tennessee Bicentennial project. Membership is open to anyone who can prove direct descent from a person or persons living in any part of what is now Tennessee before or by statehood in 1796.
First Families of Tennessee Research Collection
To help you in your search, the First Families of Tennessee Research Collection, representing more than 15,000 members from every state and eight foreign countries, comprise the largest collection of information on the state's early settlers and their families. The FFT Collection is housed in the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection at the East Tennessee History Center, where they provide a wealth of research materials for present and future historians and genealogists.
First Families of Tennessee Certificate
Descendants who can prove their pioneer connection to Tennessee through acceptable records, a handsomely designed certificate is issued by ETHS to applicants who qualify and are admitted to membership in FFT. The certificate features the state seal, along with the applicant's name and the name of the applicant's pioneer ancestor. There is a one-time membership fee of $25 for membership in First Families.
To qualify for a First Families of Tennessee certificate, the applicant must directly descend from an ancestor who settled in Tennessee prior to December 31, 1796. The applicant must be able to prove descent from the ancestor (male or female) by an official record or records for each generation, including proof for the applicant. Current Tennessee residence is not necessary.
For more information, visit the First Families of Tennessee website at http://www.easttnhistory.org/FFT
Tennessee Ancestry Certificate Program
Another pioneer recognition program is the Tennessee Ancestry Certificate Program, offered by the Tennessee Genealogical Society (TNGS), which recognizes the contributions of your Tennessee settler ancestors who settled in Tennessee during one of five settlement periods:
- Colonial -- prior to 1 June 1796
- Territorial -- prior to 15 June 1836
- Antebellum -- prior to 6 May 1861
- Civil War -- 1861-1865 or applied for TN Confederate War Pension
- Nineteenth Century -- prior to 31 Dec 1900
Tennessee Settlers and Their Descendants
TNGS will provide an attractive certificate, suitable for framing, with the prime ancestor's name, date and place of settlement, to each person whose application meets program qualifications. The cost of a certificate is $30 and three books, Tennessee Settlers and Their Descendants, have been published from applications submitted for these certificates. Tennessee Settlers and Their Descendants – Vol. 1 includes applications received before Dec. 31, 1993; Vol. 2 includes applications submitted between Jan. 1, 1994 to Dec. 31, 2004 and includes 266 early Tennessee families with over 1,400 surnames. Vol. 3 was published November 2015 and includes applications from Jan. 1, 2005 to Oct. 31, 2015 All volumes are fully indexed and may be ordered from the TNGS Bookstore.
For more information on TNGS’s Tennessee Ancestry Certificate Program visit http://www.tngs.org/certificates.