Jessica is the Senior Accessioning Archivist at the Library of Virginia. She holds degrees from the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The papers of Earl Hamner, Jr., creator and writer of the popular television series The Waltons, are now available for research at the Library of Virginia. One might wonder what the papers of a famous Hollywood figure are doing in Richmond. Granted, Hamner was born in Schuyler, a small town in Nelson County, but he left Virginia in 1949. His many accomplishments in film and television took place outside of his home state. But when Hamner left 65 years ago, it wasn’t as though he didn’t look back.
Much of Hamner’s inspiration and ideas grew out of the first 25 years of his life growing up in Nelson County and attending college at the University of Richmond. Delivering the commencement address at his alma mater the University of Cincinnati in 2008, Hamner said, “What has inspired me has been the family and neighbors I grew up with in rural Virginia during the Great Depression. They were a decent, God-fearing, patriotic people. Like most Appalachian folk, they were frugal, proud, and self-reliant. They were story tellers and I listened.”
While a student at the University of Richmond just prior to World War II, Hamner was working on a short story which described the feelings of a boy when he joined his father for his first deer hunt. As the story grew, Hamner realized the … read more »
Today we bring you another installment of our Big Find Friday series. While we love those “Eureka!” moments where a patron finds the exact, obscure document that unlocks an entire family history in one fell swoop, occasionally the historical record keeps a stingy grip on its secrets. This post shows that sometimes a patron’s “big find” is the Library of Virginia itself.
Donna Potter Phillips of Spokane, Washington, visited us in May 2014 for the National Genealogical Society’s conference. While here, she hoped to find evidence of the 1725 marriage in Williamsburg of her ancestor Marquis Calmes (b. 1705, Stafford County, Virginia) to a “fine English lady,” Winnifred Waller, and learn the identity of Waller’s parents. “Alas, I accomplished neither,” Phillips wrote to us afterward, prompting optimistic archivists to shed forlorn tears. Ah, but wait! She didn’t stop there, adding, “But I surely had a great time looking.”
As Phillips exhausted the resources of not only the Library of Virginia, but also Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg and William and Mary’s Swem Library, she was able only to determine that her ancestors did not marry at Bruton Parish. Undeterred, she proclaimed herself “comfort[ed] to know the ‘final score’ from a reputable source.” She closed by sharing that “I happily looked at everything on the Waller family that your great staff could dig up for me. … read more »
“I send you two patients to the mad stone. They are natives of this place and had their children bitten today.”
-J. Reuben Richerson to R. L. Harrison, 26 June 1893
“1/3net receipts from mad stone since same was placed into hands of R. L. Harrison.”
-written on checks from Harrison to Richerson and Maria L. Motley, 14 March 1893
“Mad stone? What’s a mad stone?” I wondered out loud.
I’d stumbled across the R. L. Harrison Papers, 1893-1901 (Library of Virginia accession 26527), during the dog days of summer. This business records collection consisted of correspondence, checks, accounts, and receipts from Harrison, a druggist in Richmond during the 1890s-1910s, to J. Reuben Richerson, Nannie E. Richerson, and Maria L. Motley, all of Caroline County, concerning something called a mad stone (or madstone) and payments for its use. Piqued by this reference, I set out to answer my own question.
I learned from the Oxford English Dictionary that a mad stone is a “stone or similar object supposedly having the power to counteract the effect of the bite of a rabid or venomous animal.” Furthermore, thanks to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, I discovered that it was a “stony concretion (as a hair ball from the stomach of a deer).” In appearance, it looked like a small stone; according to various descriptions, it could be … read more »
Here at the Library of Virginia, we love seeing patrons locate records that answer a long-held question, fill in branches of the family tree, or otherwise connect the present to the past. We recently began collecting such stories from patrons eager to share their discoveries, gathering them as part of our “My Big Find” project. You’ll see these stories popping up in various LVA outreach outlets, including here at Out of the Box in an occasional segment, beginning today, which we are calling “Big Find Friday.”
It’s fairly common for someone to say that something–a work of art or literature, a photograph, or perhaps an archival record like the ones we preserve here—“speaks to” him or her. In one of our latest “My Big Find” submissions, a patron found that expression to be particularly appropriate. With a little help from Archives Reference Coordinator Minor Weisiger, patron Jennie Howe discovered a record of the 1800 naturalization of her third great-grandfather, weaver Robert Nisbet (1746-1812). As she studied the document, she noticed that Nisbet’s birthplace of Ayr, Scotland, had been recorded as “the County of Ier in Scotland.” Howe explains that “I felt as if the over 200-year-old paper literally spoke to me, as the clerk recorded the ‘Ier’ he heard for the ‘Ayr’ that Nisbet said with his Gaelic accent.”
Has the past “spoken” to you … read more »
When John Hager Randolph Jr. wrote to his parents in Richmond near the end of his Virginia Military Institute career in the spring of 1942, he had a few things on his mind. There were the girls he was interested in, the potential for a “bawling out” from Mom and Dad once they received his grades, and the average college student’s ever-present concern: money (“Please send me the money soon!” was his plaintive postscript to one letter). But, while his life at this point resembled that of pretty much any other soon-to-be graduate, Randolph was on the verge of a new chapter of adventure and danger, thrown in the midst of one of history’s greatest conflicts. His service as a World War II bomber pilot is detailed in the letters he sent home, preserved in the John Hager Randolph Jr. Papers (Acc. 51038) at the Library of Virginia.
After VMI, Randolph entered the Army Air Corps, training stateside as a pilot with the war looming ever larger in his future. At the end of a prolonged period of uncertainty as to his eventual assignment, he found himself heading to the Pacific Theater in the spring of 1945. There, he would take part in an aerial battering of Japan that would test its resistance to surrender before the atomic bomb finally brought it down. … read more »
Digital images of legislative petitions to the Virginia General Assembly, 1776 to 1865, from Fairfax County through King William County have been added to the Legislative Petitions Digital Collection available on Virginia Memory, the Library of Virginia’s digital collections website. The list of localities added includes the present-day West Virginia counties of Fayette, Gilmer, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hancock, Hardy, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, and Kanawha, as well as Kentucky County, now a part of the state of Kentucky. It also includes numerous localities classified as Lost Records Localities such as Fairfax, Gloucester, Hanover, James City, King and Queen, and King William Counties. With this addition, the number of legislative petitions available for viewing online currently exceeds 11,000.
One common topic found in the legislative petitions that would be of particular interest to genealogists is that of name changes. Virginia citizens could petition the General Assembly to have their names changed. Typically this was done for inheritance purposes. In 1851, Richard Ballinger of Floyd County filed a petition to change the surname of his nine stepchildren from Lovell to Ballinger so that they could be heirs at law of his estate. William W. Finney of Accomack County filed a petition to change not just his surname but his whole name in order to receive his inheritance. Finney’s uncle, John Arrington, wrote in his will that the only … read more »