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.
In cataloging the papers of Grayson B. Boyer (1915-1970) of Grayson County, Virginia, one cannot help but notice the dramatically-titled and cheekily-illustrated “Certificate of Survival” issued to Boyer upon completion of the Battle of the South Atlantic during World War II. As well as being a unique marker of the end of a major wartime naval effort, the document also helps offset the Library of Virginia’s surprising scarcity of holdings featuring cartoon images of lusty, bare-chested mermaids.
Dated 2 May 1945 and given some semblance of credibility by the facsimiled signature of Admiral J.H. Ingram, commander of the South Atlantic forces, the document humorously celebrates the various achievements of Boyer and his fellow sailors. These range from spending months (19, in Boyer’s case) “in a state of moral indecision and physical peril,” to “enduring the rigors of Gin tonicas and Caçhaca.” The mock-solemn text concludes by commending Boyer’s “placing in sacrifice the best years of his life on the gilded altar of Pan-American Relations.”
The document’s light tone is further indicated by its comic drawings. The aforementioned mermaid and two similarly-clad women (who are given the courtesy of names–Maria and Inez–if not opaque bikini tops) are surrounded by fish, sea horses, and shells. Still, the accompanying aircraft carrier, blimp, and seaplane remind the viewer that this is war, not merely a pleasure cruise.
Our hero … read more »
Here on Out of the Box we like to take the occasional Friday to let patrons of the Library of Virginia tell our readers of their research success stories. We call it Big Find Friday, and today we bring you the latest installment.
James and Andra Krehbiel made the long journey all the way from Arizona to Richmond to research the descendants of Jacob Wees (1733-1826) of Muddy Creek, Pennsylvania, and Elkins, (West) Virginia. Their visit yielded valuable information on some ten generations of the family (variations of the surname include Weese, Wease, and Wiess).
“While we had names and dates for most, we were in need of a great deal of assistance to locate ‘the story’ of each,” the Krehbiels wrote in their “My Big Find” submission. “This could never have been done without the amount of help your staff provided and which we never expected.”
The couple specifically thanked Bill Luebke, Dave Grabarek, Ginny Dunn, and Lisa Werhmann for their help, adding that “As both of us have doctorates and have done our share of research, we can attest that the staff of the Library of Virginia is outstanding.”
If you want to “get to know” your ancestors a little better, we would love for you to take advantage of our unique and impressive resources – including our dedicated reference staff. For those … read more »
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 »