The Office of Register in Tennessee can be traced back to the period when this region was part of the English colony of Carolina. The office was provided for in the colony's first fundamental law, know as the Concession and Agreement of 1665, and was patterned along the English model, which had been in existence at least since Norman times. The register's general duties have always been to record various types of legal instruments and transactions.
The Register's Office in Carolina continued under the colonies Fundamental Constitution of 1715, when qualified voters elected three freeholders who became candidates for the office. The governor then appointed one of these three small landowners to be the register. The register was to serve "during good behavior."
When Tennessee became a state in 1796, its first Constitution included a provision for a register to be elected in every county by the County Court. The term of office was indefinite and the register continued to be expected to serve "during good behavior."
The Tennessee Constitution of 1834 provided for the popular election of the register, reflecting the trend of the Jacksonian era. Tennessee's Constitution of 1870 retained the Office of Register and made the term of office four years.
The 1978 amendments to the Tennessee Constitution retained the four-year term for the register.