Tennessee Death Records and Death Index

It may surprise you to learn how often genealogists face this particular set of circumstances. They are aware of when their ancestor was born, when they may have married, when their children were born but they just can’t find out when they died.

There are a fair few instances where the only information missing is the death date which can be very frustrating. This is why knowing what death records may be available to you can be vital in your research.

It is important to note that one of the biggest issues in finding a death record can be looking in the wrong place. You may be surprised how often people miss records because they are looking in the wrong county and sometimes even the wrong state.

In this post we will be looking at Tennessee state death records and indexes to try and help you find those elusive ancestors. So if you are confident that your ancestor likely died in the state of Tennessee then read on and hopefully we can help you out.

About Tennessee

On June 1st 1796 the state of Tennessee became the 16th to gain statehood. It was a 1795 territorial census of the region in 1795 that confirmed that the population numbers had reached a level to justify statehood.

A three-to-one majority referendum showed that support was in favor of applying for statehood so the ball was set in motion. The Congress vote to allow the application however was far closer but ultimately it was decided Tennessee could become an official state.

Social Security Death Index 1935 – 2014

All American citizens, naturalized immigrants and resident aliens require a Social Security number for proof of identification and authorization to work. This number follows us throughout our life and when we die this nine digit code is very important.

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a database of death records that was compiled from the United States Social Security Administration Death Master File. This was until 2014 when the rules changed and public access to the Death Master File had to take place through a certification program.

Those researching the deaths of ancestors in this state will likely find that most people who have died between 1936 and 2014 can be found on the Social Security Death Index. This does however only hold true if the person had a Social Security number when they died.

It is estimated that since 1973 the SSDI recorded 93% to 96% of the deaths of individuals aged 65 or over. The index was updated frequently and by June of 2011 there were 89,835,920 records available.

The index can be found on websites such as FamilySearch and Ancestry.com and offers details such as:

  • Given name and surname (middle initial since the 1990s)
  • Date of birth
  • Month and year of death (Full date of death for accounts active after 2000)
  • Social Security number
  • State or territory Social Security number was issued
  • Last place of residence when alive including ZIP code

Click here to search Social Security Death Index 1935 – 2014

U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

This is more or less an extension of the information you can find from the Social Security Death Index. It has been extracted from the SSDI records but features more details. It does not include all of the names found in the SSDI however but there are at least 49 million names included.

In this record you may find additional information such as:

  • Date and place of birth
  • Parents' names who, if deceased, would have been over 75 when you are viewing the records (may be redacted if under 75)
  • Citizenship status
  • Gender
  • Sometimes race or ethnic group

Click here to search U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

Tennessee Death Records and Index, 1908-1965

This index was initially compiled by the Tennessee State Library and Archives and featured on the Ancestry.com website. As part of Ancestry this collection of records does require a paid membership to be used.

The collection consists of digitized images of death certificates as well as indexes for those certificates. As death certificates are the most useful when it comes to genealogy there is plenty of information you can learn from this index such as:

  • Name of the Deceased
  • Age at Time of Death
  • Death Place
  • Death Date
  • Gender
  • Birth Date
  • Birthplace
  • Parents' Names
  • Parents' Birthplace

Click here to search Tennessee Death Records and Index, 1908-1965

Tennessee Death Records and Index, 1914-1966

Those without an Ancestry membership can find largely the same index over at FamilySearch which is a free website that only requires a registered account to use. The range of years is a little different but you can still find death certificate images in this index.

Click here to search Tennessee Death Records and Index, 1914-1966

Tennessee Wills and Probate Records, 1727-2008

This index of wills and probate records is available with an Ancestry paid membership and covers almost three centuries of Tennessee history. The scanned documents in this collection can tell you a great deal about who your ancestors' family was and what their status in the community was based on their wealth.

Click here to search Tennessee Wills and Probate Records, 1727-2008

Death Indexes, Obituaries and Cemeteries by County

Once you have searched at the state levels for online records you may not have found a great deal especially for older death events. At this point you should look to the county level as earlier deaths would have been recorded by county clerks.

County Death Indexes, Obituaries and Cemeteries by County
  • See Hamilton County
  • See Montgomery County
  • See Shelby County
  • See Davidson County


The state of Tennessee has no shortage of genealogical resources when it comes to researching the death of your ancestors. There are not only death records but also obituaries, burial information and probate indexes that can be searched.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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  • " Tennessee Death Records and Death Index". NameCensus.com. Accessed on December 6, 2023. https://namecensus.com/blog/tennessee-death-records-and-death-index/.

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