Monthly Archives: March 2013

- History Restored: Free Negro Registers Conserved


Amelia County Free Negro Register, 1855-1865, with original boards. Volume also contains Freedmen's Marriage License Book, 1865-1869 (Barcode number 1138338).

While watching the February 2012 episode of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? featuring actor and Petersburg native Blair Underwood investigating his family history, Library of Virginia staff could not help but notice that one of the original volumes displayed on the show was not in great shape.  The Amherst County Register of Free Negroes, 1822-1864, was used on the show to prove that one of Underwood’s ancestors had been a free person prior to the Civil War.  The front and back covers of the volume had become detached from the spine, pages were loose, and overall it did not look like the book could withstand much handling without sustaining further damage to its fragile pages.  This led to a reevaluation of the existing conservation priority for the 30 free Negro registers in the Library’s holdings.  Previously it was thought that since all of the free Negro registers were microfilmed, the original volumes would not be handled by the public any longer, thus conservation money would be better spent on other items.  However, the resurgence of interest in African American genealogy, the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and related issues, and interest in the registers for display in exhibits clearly indicated that a change was necessary.  A conservation inventory was done for all of the volumes and the ones that require treatment will … read more »

- “You Say It’s Your Birthday:” Virginia’s Executive Mansion Turns 200


Governor's Mansion.

On 16 March 2013, Virginia’s Executive Mansion celebrated its 200th anniversary with a birthday party at the Library of Virginia.  The highlight of the event was a public screening of a new Mansion documentary, First House, produced by Blue Ridge PBS in partnership with Appeal Productions. The Library of Virginia and Citizens’ Advisory Council for Interpreting and Furnishing the Executive Mansion also published a commemorative book, First House: Two Centuries with Virginia’s First Families, written by Mary Miley Theobald. Out of the Box decided to jump on the bandwagon with a post highlighting some of the archival records about the Executive Mansion at the Library.


Plat showing Governor's House, kitchens, ravine, gardens and private property to be purchased.  Virginia General Assembly, House of Delegates, Speaker, Executive communications, Report, valuation, and plat, 1813 February 17. Accession 36912, State government records collection, The Library of Virginia.

The history of the Executive Mansion (also called Governor’s House or Governor’s Mansion) is well represented in the Library’s archival collections.  The Auditor of Public Accounts, Capital Square Data Records, 1779-1971, document the construction, furnishing, and repair of the 1813 Executive Mansion and the various buildings used by the governor prior to the Mansion’s construction.  The Drawing and Plans Collection includes a photographic copy of a page from Alexander Parris’ sketchbook depicting the floor plan for the Virginia Governor’s Mansion.  Parris designed the mansion in 1811-1812.  An Executive Communication to the Speaker of the House of Delegates, dated 17 February 1813, includes photocopy of a report from David Bullock, William McKim, and Robert Greenhow, … read more »

- My dear and most affectionate lover


Letter, 16 July 1861, from George Ward to Mary Jane Ratliff. Scanned as part of the CW150 Legacy Project.

Laura Drake Davis and I spent most of 2010-2012 on the road scanning and collecting images for the CW150 Legacy Project. It was not until recently that I have had much time to study and catalog the images that we scanned. I just came across this lovely letter that was scanned in Tazewell County, Virginia, in September 2010.

What grabbed my attention was the first line: “My dear and most affectionate lover…”  What a way to start a letter–doesn’t it sound racy? But actually many letters written during the 19th century were as full of love and feelings as modern letters are. The difference is that the 19th-century term “lover” does not necessarily carry the same connotations as it does today. This was a letter written by George Ward (1837-1927) of Tazewell County on 16 July 1861, while serving with 21st Virginia Infantry Regiment, Company H, to his love interest, Mary Jane Ratliff. Ratliff (1842-1905) was the daughter of Abednego and Louisa Vicey Matney Ratliff, also of Tazewell County. George writes of his feelings for [Mary] Jane (“dear Jinnia”), his hopes to marry her, and how he hated parting from her. George mentions the possibility of his death numerous times in the letter, ending it with his hopes that they meet in heaven should he not survive the war.

Transcript of George Ward letterread more »

- Augusta Co. Images All In!


Genealogical chart for the heirs of Jeremiah Aude, Augusta County Chancery Cause Recv. of Nicholas C. Kinney, etc. vs. Admr. of Jeremiah Aude, etc., 1857-082.

The final images from the Augusta County chancery causes are now available on the Library of Virginia’s Chancery Records Index. With this addition, all Augusta County chancery causes covering the time period from 1746 to 1912 can be viewed online—a  total of 10,268 suits and 878,490 images.  The collection is one of the most significant collections of historic legal records in the nation.  From 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. 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.  Cases are also included from the Staunton Superior Court of Chancery, with a jurisdiction of over 28 localities, from 1802 to 1831.

Following are a few suits of interest found in this latest addition of Augusta County’s equity suits. Augusta County Chancery Cause 1818-099 is a dispute over the estate of John Edmondson that included numerous slaves. The suit contains a chart documenting the hiring out of slaves owned by Edmondson. Administrator of Andrew Moore vs. Representatives of John Stuart, etc., 1845-015, gives some perspective on the ways in … read more »

- “At the Belmont Manor, oh yes”


The bar area at the Belmont Manor Golf and Country Club, overlooking the state-of-the-art pool with 7-foot windows. Burnett Family Papers, LVA Accession 44300.

We are now into the month of March, and winter continues to drag on.  For those of you suffering from seasonal affective disorder, the Library of Virginia brings you the sights and sounds of paradise in Bermuda at the Belmont Manor Golf and Country Club, courtesy of the Burnett Family Papers, 1881-1998 (LVA Accession 44300).

Located in Bermuda’s Warwick Parish, the club boasted 106 acres overlooking Hamilton Harbor, and accommodated 225 guests, who enjoyed the club’s own 18-hole championship golf course, tennis, and heated swimming pool.

The club’s president was Charles Ryland Burnett, Jr. of Richmond, Virginia.  Born on 7 October 1918, he attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria, and then graduated from the University of Virginia. Burnett married Toronto native Miriam Louise Weston (1922-2008), in Richmond on 17 April 1954. 

Weston’s father, Willard Garfield Weston (1898-1978), was a Canadian businessman and philanthropist who owned George Weston, Ltd. and its various subsidiaries and associated entities, including Associated British Foods.  He also served in the British House of Commons during World War II.

George Weston, Ltd. purchased the Belmont Manor Golf and Country Club in 1956, and soon Weston’s son-in-law Charles Burnett was on the island and serving as the resort’s president.  “This is a real paradise,” he wrote to his brother Griffin on 16 January 1957, “and I don’t know why they pay me a … read more »

- Finding What Was Lost: The Lost Records Localities Digital Collection


Pulaski County courthouse on fire 29 December 1989.

The Lost Records Localities Digital Collection consists of copies of records from counties or incorporated cities that have suffered significant record loss due to intense military activity (predominantly during the Civil War), courthouse fires, theft, vandalism, water damage, pest damage, and/or natural disasters. Copies are made from surviving records such as wills and deeds found in the court records of other localities as part of chancery and other circuit court records processing projects. The “lost” documents are digitally scanned and the images and pertinent information are added to the Lost Records Localities Digital Collection available on Virginia Memory.

The Lost Records Localities project has been an ongoing one for the Library of Virginia for decades. During the mid-1910’s, Virginia’s first state archivist Morgan P. Robinson sent a letter to all clerks inquiring about the state of the records in their courthouses.  Many responded saying the records were destroyed during the American Revolution, Civil War, courthouse fire, etc. The coming of the Circuit Court Records Preservation Program in the early 1990’s continued this project and enabled the hiring of additional archival staff to process circuit court records, mainly chancery causes. While processing chancery, archivists identify documents from localities that suffered loss of records–a Will of Matthew Koon, 1731, recorded in Stafford County and used as an exhibit in a Fauquier County chancery cause or … read more »