Skip to main content


Special Collections Online at UT

Penelope Johnson Allen Collection

Identifier: MS-3060

  • Staff Only

This collection contains the papers of historian and genealogist Penelope Johnson Allen, from the 1770s to the 1980s, primarily the 20th century. The four series here include: I. Personal Papers, with correspondence, certificates, and other material belonging to Mrs. Allen; II. Research Material, with maps, melungeons, and Cherokee information; III. Genealogical Research Material, with correspondence and legal documents from the 1770s and 1880s, as well as several different families' histories; IV. Publications, with newspapers, pages from Allen's book Leaves of the Family Tree, and the 1904 plat book of Chattanooga, Tenn.

See also, MS.2033: Penelope Allen Collection, 1801-1984.


  • 1777-1983 (bulk 1860-1983)

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite, and a minimum of 2 business days are needed to retrieve these items for use. Researchers interested in consulting any of the collections are advised to contact Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in this collection remain with the creator. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library.


5.25 Linear Feet


This collection contains the papers of historian and genealogist Penelope Johnson Allen, from the 1770s to the 1980s, primarily the twentieth century. The collection includes personal papers, research material, genealogical research material, publications, and more.

Biographical/Historical Note

Penelope Van Dyke Johnson was born on October 27, 1886, in Chattanooga, Tennessee to James Whiteside and Sue Coffin (Cleague) Johnson. After graduating for Chattanooga High School in 1904, she attended Western College in Oxford, Ohio. On February 17, 1909, she married Samuel Boyd Allen of Knoxville, Tenn., and on July 31, 1911, the couple's daughter, Penelope Van Dyke Allen, arrived.

Allen enjoyed many different careers, including as a society editor, advertising salesman, political writer, and sports reporter for the Chattanooga News from 1919-1923. She actively campaigned for woman's suffrage and in 1922 narrowly lost a seat in the Tennessee State Legislature. In 1923, she began work as a traveling advertising agent of the Chattanooga Medicine Company. From 1933-1937, Allen wrote for the Chattanooga Times Magazine feature "Leaves from the Family Tree," which she published as a book in 1982.

During the 1920s, Allen became state historian for the Daughters of the American Revolution in Tennessee, and in the 1930s she directed the gathering of local records for the Works Progress Administration. As an authority on the Cherokee Indians, she developed a large collection of Cherokee books, manuscripts, letters, and other documents, and published several articles and the book History of the Cherokee Indians. Allen wrote several other books, including Historic Chattanooga, A Guide Book, and Tennessee Soldiers in the Revolution.

Penelope Johnson Allen died on January 9, 1985, in Chattanooga, Tennessee


Collection consists of three boxes in five series:

Missing Title

  1. Series I. Personal Papers, 1902-1982
  2. Series II. Research Material, 1921-1983
  3. Series III. Genealogical Research Material, 1777-1982
  4. Series IV. Publications, circa 1899, 1933-1937, 1975-1981
  5. Series V. Oversized Materials,

Acquisition Note

Collection is property of the UT Special Collections Library.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA