The Library of Virginia’s Local Records Services Branch was recently awarded a $150,000 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to support the scanning of the Augusta County Chancery Causes dating from 1745 to 1912. NHPRC, the grant funding arm of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), recognized the national significance of the Augusta County collection and validated the importance of and great benefits provided by LVA’s ongoing digital chancery initiative.
Chancery causes are invaluable to family historians and those interested in studying the history of a locality or region and its inhabitants. Chancery causes are legal proceedings that could not be decided readily by existing written laws. Decisions were made by a county justice or judge, not a jury, and on the basis of fairness, or equity, in place of the strictly formulated rules of common law.
The Augusta County chancery causes are the most voluminous of any locality in Virginia and are one of the longest and most complete continuous collections of chancery records of any locality in the country. They document an unusually large geographic area. For the period 1745 to 1770, the boundaries of Augusta County encompassed most of western Virginia and what became the states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, and Ohio, and parts of present-day Pennsylvania as far north as Pittsburgh. In fact, the … read more »
Virginia’s historic records have always existed under the threat of floods, hurricanes, fire, and war. Sometimes the records were saved. Sometimes they were lost.
When the Botetourt County courthouse was gutted by a fire on 15 December 1970 no one at the time could foresee that such a horrible loss would spur the creation of legislation five years later that created a uniform system for records management in Virginia. The Virginia Public Records Act, passed in 1975, set in motion an effort not only to manage all the state’s records but also to preserve and copy vital historic records contained in local courthouses.
Preservation and duplication efforts continue today with The Library of Virginia’s (LVA) records managers and archivists. The Circuit Court Records Program (CCRP), which began in 1991, continues to not only preserve, digitize, and microfilm historic records from around the state but also to reach out to circuit court clerks in each locality, offering them professional support and financial assistance in the form of grants. To date, the CCRP has funded nearly 1,000 projects worth more than $15 million to preserve records in the circuit court clerks’ offices. Nineteen years later, access to Virginia’s historic records has never been wider with more than 5 million chancery court images now available online. Clerks also have the option of sending historic record collections to the archives which is … read more »
Sixteen-year-old Lizzie Dodson was convicted of burglary in Fairfax County in 1897 and sentenced to five years in the Virginia Penitentiary in Richmond. After serving half her prison term, Governor James Tyler granted Dodson a conditional pardon on 24 March 1900 and she was discharged two days later.
The conditional pardon would not be the last time a sitting governor would intervene for Dodson, later described by the Richmond News Leader as a “dangerous character.” Her remarkable story of crime, clemency, and violence is one of many contained in the Virginia Penitentiary Records Collection, 1796-1991 (bulk 1906-1970), at the Library of Virginia.
In order to receive a conditional pardon under the 1897 law, a prisoner had to serve one-half of his or her term, have a good prison record, and obtain post-prison employment. F.B. Robertson gave Dodson a job at his grocery store in Richmond, but her freedom was short lived. On 5 June 1900 Dodson was found guilty of grand larceny and sentenced to three years in the Penitentiary (she also had to serve the remaining time from her first conviction and five additional years for her second conviction). Dodson was the first prisoner ever to violate a conditional pardon and returned to the Penitentiary.
Dodson’s stay at the Penitentiary was brief. At 5:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve 1900, Dodson, clad only in her underwear, used a bench to climb … read more »
The fall 2010 issue of Broadside, the Library of Virginia’s quarterly magazine, is now available. Broadside describes and illustrates the holdings and happenings at the Library of Virginia. Discover fascinating items from the collections as well as events, exhibitions, educational programs, and opportunities to become more involved. The current issue includes articles on U.S. Census records and the Robert Alonzo Brock collection.
Interested in what’s new in the archives at the Library of Virginia? You can find out in two reports compiled quarterly by LVA staffers: The Library of Virginia Quarterly Report of Archival Accessions and Primary Sources: Quarterly Report of Newly Processed Collections.
The Report of Archival Accessions lists the creator, title, size, brief description, and accession number of the local, map, private, and state archival collections described and/or received during the time period. Some of the local and state records collections listed may be closed for processing; check with Archives Research Services regarding availability for research use.
Primary Sources lists the latest collections processed, microfilmed, or digitized by the Library. Like its companion publication, Report of Archival Accessions, Primary Sources gives the creator, title, size, and accession number for each collection processed during the previous quarter. It also contains links to published finding aids for each collection. Notable collections processed between July and September 2010 include: Charlotte County Chancery Causes, 1765-1912 (bulk 1784-1912); Robert S. Bloxom Papers, 1978-2003; and Governor Timothy M. Kaine, Counselor’s Office, 2001-2009 (bulk 2006-2009).