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Early Tennessee Legislative Records

Records from 1795 - 1868

# Record Group 60, Tennessee State Legislative Records

Record Group 60, Tennessee State Legislative Records, is one of the most important and valuable collections at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. This record group is a chronicle of the activities of the Tennessee State Legislature and consists of records dating back to when Tennessee was “The Territory South of the River Ohio” through the most recent General Assembly. These Legislative Records touch almost every major event in the state’s history including establishing qualifications for the state’s highest offices, raising troops for war, and changing the state’s constitution. The very foundations of the state’s political history can be found here.

The records in Record Group 60 consist of many and varied record types including acts, original bills, failed bills, resolutions, amendments, messages, petitions from citizens, and vote sheets. Acts are the laws passed by the General Assembly and are divided into Public Acts and Private Acts. Public Acts are laws affecting matters of public or widespread concern, while Private Acts are exclusively for the settlement of private or limited interests. Original bills are extremely useful to legislative researchers as they track changes to the language of laws from the time of their introduction to their final passed form. Failed bills are those bills introduced but not passed by the legislature. They are often more interesting than those passed as incendiary items that do not appear in the published legislative record can be found here and researched. Bills of many kinds, such as attempts to outlaw slavery as early as 1819, can be found in failed bills. Vote sheets, while rare in the early portions of the collection, show how a legislator voted on particular items. Though many vote topics were poorly identified by the clerks of the time trends and party lines are clearly visible when studying them. Petitions are requests from private citizens seeking bills from the legislature to remedy any number of issues, from changing a personal name to establishing a new county. Petitions were the most common way for a Private Act to reach the legislature during its earliest years. These petitions can be a valuable source to genealogical research as they were often signed by many citizens and can be easily located in a specific county or town in Tennessee.

Record Group 60 is a constantly growing collection with records transferred to the Tennessee State Library and Archives at the end of each General Assembly. Only the earliest records are currently searchable through this portal, but new additions will be made as records for General Assemblies are added.