Monthly Archives: July 2011

- New Bedford County Database Available for Genealogists at LVA!

Apple Orchard Mountain, the highest point in Bedford County. Image courtesy Wikimedia.

There is a new database for researchers interested in Bedford County, Virginia. Filed as Accession 45528, the Donald E. Hill Collection: A genealogy database of over 80,000 families of Bedford County, is now available to researchers at The Library of Virginia. The database in RootsMagic4 is housed in the Manuscript Room and may be accessed by library patrons during regular hours of operation.

The long-time project of Mr. Hill, the database contains over 200,000 entries and includes birth, marriage, and death records when available, as well as a variety of relationships. The software allows searches by name and creates displays by pedigree, descendant lists, and/or immediate family group sheets. The user can shift between display formats and can pursue the ancestry by following red arrows indicating additional information.

It is also possible to create reports in numerous formats – Ahnentafel, Box Chart, Descendant list, Family Group Sheet, Individual summary, Narrative, Pedigree chart, Source list, and Wall Chart. These may be printed for a fee and some include an index.

We are excited to have this resource for Bedford County researchers. The compiler, Don Hill, is continuing to extract information from records and will periodically send updates to The Library of Virginia. They will be entered upon receipt and available to researchers.

We invite you to come by the library and try out this new database.… read more »

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- Everybody’s Doing What? The Turkey Trot!: Irving Berlin’s Song and Latest Dance Craze Too Much For Newport News.

Watch the full episode. See more Masterpiece.

(Editor’s Note: The short scene above from Downton Abbey, part of PBS’s Masterpiece, though an English period drama, is set only weeks after the trial in Newport News and is a great example of a couple dancing the Grizzly Bear to “Everybody’s Doing It Now.”)

If you’ve ever heard “America The Beautiful” or “White Christmas” then you know the music of Irving Berlin. Considered by many critics to be the country’s greatest songwriter, many of his songs are American classics. It was very strange indeed then when one of our archivists discovered the sheet music to one of Berlin’s songs entered as evidence in an obscenity trial in Virginia.

On the evening of 3 April 1912, Newport News police arrested Olympic Theater owner E. T. Crall, song-and-dance troupe leader Palmer Hines, and his six dancing girls. That night’s act, judged too hot for the public good by police, combined Palmer singing the suggestively titled Berlin song “Everybody’s Doing It Now” with the girls dancing the Turkey Trot, the racy and very latest “animal” dance to sweep the nation.

The animal dances which emerged around 1909 and later, such as the Turkey Trot, Grizzly Bear, and Bunny Hug, were the dances of ragtime music, the popular music of its day. The Turkey Trot was the first … read more »

- A Few Of Our Favorite Things: Letterheads In The Archive Part 1

 Letterhead of Layman Brothers farm supply company in New Castle.

Commercial stationery can offer a fascinating snapshot of a place or time. Scholars of this subject point out that the rich illustrations and elaborate printing of commercial letterheads, billheads, and envelopes correspond with the dramatic rise in industrialization in America. According to one expert, the period 1860 to 1920 represents the heyday of commercial stationery, when Americans could see their growing nation reflected in the artwork on their bills and correspondence. As commercial artists influenced the job printing profession, the illustrations became more detailed and creative.

Robert Biggert, an authority on commercial stationery, wrote an extensive study of letterhead design for the Ephemera Society of America entitled “Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery” and donated his personal collection of stationery, now known as the Biggert Collection, to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.

 The primary role of these illustrations at the time of their use was publicity. The images showed bustling factories, busy street corners, and sturdy bank buildings– all portraying ideas of solidity, activity, and progress. Other types of symbolism can be found in commercial stationery the most ubiquitous being “man’s best friend.” Dogs show up on all sorts of stationery, especially that of banks or other financial companies. Often seen is the illustration of the dog lying in front of a vault or safe, the “watch … read more »

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- New Discoveries in World War I Questionnaires


Photograph of Lt. Richard Fuller Woodward's grave in France, Miscellaneous Reel 4701, Virginia War History Commission, Series II. Virginians of Distinguished Service Records, 1922-1925, Accession 37219, state government records collection, Library of Virginia.

Created in 1919 by Governor Westmoreland Davis, the World War I History Commission’s task was to collect, edit, and publish source material concerning Virginia’s participation in the Great War. The Commission also conducted a survey of World War I veterans in Virginia using a printed questionnaire mailed to each soldier or nurse by local branches of the Commission. The soldier or a family member completed and returned the questionnaire to the local branch, which forwarded a copy to the Commission’s Richmond office. In June 1928, the Commission disbanded, transferring all records to the Virginia State Library (now the Library of Virginia). An invaluable source of genealogical and military information on Virginians who served in World War I, this collection of nearly 14,800 questionnaires was processed and microfilmed in 1996 and digitized in 1998.

When I joined the State Records section in 1999, I began processing the remaining records of the World War I History Commission. Much to my surprise, I discovered additional questionnaires filed separately, which had not  been filmed or included in the digital collection. As it turned out, staff of the Commission had set these records apart from the remainder of the collection by design.

In preparation for its first source volume, Virginians of Distinguished Service of the World War, published in 1923, the World War I History … read more »

- 150 years later, nearly 400 letters reveal one couple’s Civil War story

Some of the nearly 400 letters written between Cecil A. Burleigh of the 20th Connecticut Infantry, and his wife, Caroline, during the Civil War.

The CW 150 Legacy Project was recently in Fairfax for a scanning event at the City of Fairfax Regional Library. The event was a great success with a number of diaries, letters, and photographs scanned. We also had one of our biggest ‘wow’ moments when a donor brought in a box of almost 400 letters from her ancestor for scanning. Most of the letters, written between Cecil A. Burleigh of the 20th Connecticut Infantry and his wife, Caroline, were still in their envelopes. It is exciting and rare to see a collection that is not only large but also comprehensive, with letters written from husband and wife. These materials give both sides of the story of a couple separated by war, as Cecil wrote from localities such as Stafford Court House and Alexandria, Virginia, and after participation in the Battle of Chancellorsville, while Caroline gave updates on life in Connecticut.

Due to the size of the collection it will take us a while to scan and post everything, but to have such a great resource from one family is just amazing!

-Renee Savits, CW 150 Legacy Project — Eastern Region… read more »