Tag Archives: courthouse fires

Courthouse Fires Still Happen! Disaster in Van Buren County, Tennessee

We often think courthouse fires happened a long time ago, destroying our ancestors’ records and making genealogical research challenging; however, fires can and do occasionally happen today. Fortunately, there are ways around record losses caused by fire and other disasters. Some records have been copied, microfilmed, or digitized, and many have been placed in state archives and other repositories. A good example is Van Buren County, Tennessee. See the following post from UpFront with NGS, republished here with the editor’s permission:

Bad News & Good News — Van Buren County TN Office Destroyed By Fire & Microfilmed Copies of Many Records Available

Posted: 14 Jan 2015 03:30 AM PST

Image Source,

Bad News …

We always hate to report when a repository for documents has been destroyed.  Unfortunately, last week the Van Buren County (TN) administrative building was destroyed by fire.

Historical records from the 1840s and later were destroyed, including Civil War artifacts, pictures from the Civil War, birth certificates, death certificates, and thousands of historical records. The local historical society also was housed in the building and lost everything as well.

Read more via Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter.

Good News …

Though we can never replace those original records that were lost and apparently there are backup copies of some county records (the extent of those holdings is unclear), I did some checking at Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) and FamilySearch, two great resources for TN records, and found that they both have fairly extensive collections of materials for Van Buren County.

Clear here to see what TSLA has which includes records on microfilm encompassing …

  • marriages from 1840
  • wills from 1840
  • inventories of estates from 1840
  • deed index from 1840
  • chancery court minutes from 1868
  • county court minutes from 1840
  • circuit court minutes from 1840
  • tax books from 1886

Additionally, the FamilySearch Catalog lists these resources …

Do also check out the FamilySearch TN collection (both indexed and image only historical records).

TSLA also has a partnership with where select TN records are available via the Tennessee Electronic Library to residents of Tennessee, as well as to subscribers at

And, Linkpendium lists quite a few resources for this county also.

So, though we are greatly saddened to hear of the fire, it feels a bit better to know that many records had been microfilmed and/or digitized for Van Buren County and are still available to researchers.

This is a reminder that the more records that we can get microfilmed, scanned/digitized, photographed or preserved in some other way and then widely distributed elsewhere, increases the likelihood that in the event of a disaster, backups might be available so that all is not lost!

Editor’s Note: Related Upfront with NGS posts …

+ Even now records are at risk to be lost … Fires, flooding, theft, etc., are NOT just something that happened to our ancestors!

+ Disaster Preparedness for Genealogists — Are you Prepared?

+ Underground Storage = Records Preservation


copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370.

NOTE: Permission to republish this post was granted 14 January 2015 to Angela R. Lucas by Diane L. Richard, editor of UpFront with NGS.

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Posted by on Saturday, January 17, 2015 in Repositories, Tennessee history, TN, Van Buren Co.


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