Many of Tennessee First Families settled here

John Thompson • Jan 26, 2019 at 10:07 PM

What began in 1993 as a project for Tennessee’s bicentennial observance, First Families of Tennessee, now has over 17,000 members from every state and eight foreign nations who have traced their ancestors back to the days when the state was America’s first frontier.

On Saturday morning, Cherel Bolin Henderson, executive director of the East Tennessee Historical Society in Knoxville, presented a program on First Families of Tennessee to the Jonesborough Genealogical Society at the society’s January Genealogy Day at the Washington County-Jonesborough Library.

The meeting was very well attended, with nearly every seat taken. She said the popularity of the First Family of Tennessee program is brought about because it inspires an interest in history and family. More information on FFT can be found on the society’s website at http://www.easttnhistory.org/FFT.

Henderson provided many colorful stories on Tennessee and Cherokee men and women. Many of those stories were discovered by the research of members of the First Families of Tennessee.

Henderson also provided humorous examples of why not to trust the wives of pioneer doctors with your medical malady when the doctor is gone. She has served with the East Tennessee Historical Society since 1987 and founded the ETHS bicentennial First Families of Tennessee program. She was also editor of the book “First Families of Tennessee: A Register of Early Families and Their Descendants.”

She reminded her audience that many of Tennessee’s first settlers lived in this section of the state and their heroic activities took place right here. Henderson also showed how rapidly territories changed in the 1780s and 1790s, causing one first family to change their address every couple of years even though the family remained at the same location.

Although many of the people attending the meeting were genealogists, Henderson kept the discussion light and she did not get too technical. She encouraged listeners who were not already involved with local genealogy to get involved.

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