Category Archives: Local Records Blog Posts

- CCRP Grants Review Board Awards Funding


CCRP logo

The Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP) Grant Review Board met on 24 August 2017 at the Library of Virginia to consider records preservation grant requests from circuit courts across the commonwealth. Six members– four circuit court clerks, appointed annually by the president of the Virginia Court Clerks’ Association; and two staff members from the Library of Virginia, currently the State Archivist and the Deputy of Collections and Programs–comprise the board. Members meet once a year to evaluate proposals. Clerks of the Circuit Courts apply for funds to conserve, secure, and increase access to circuit court records. A total of eighty applications were submitted from seventy-nine localities with requests totaling $1,090,554.15. After careful evaluation and discussion of all applications, the board approved seventy-nine grant projects totaling nearly $850,000 (CCRP Grant Awards FY2018). Seventy-seven of the approved applications covered professional conservation treatment for items including deed books, will books, order books, surveyor books, minute books, and plat books housed in circuit court clerks’ offices which had been damaged by use, age, or previous non-professional repairs. The remaining two grants were for storage projects.

The following are a few of the items that received grant funding:

The CCRP is administrated as part of the Library of Virginia’s Government Records Division. Funded through $1.50 from the circuit court clerk’s land instrument recordation fee, the CCRP provides resources … read more »

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- The Fives Battery and the Injured Lynchburg Lott

When processing a collection of old court papers, sometimes archivists have to use their imagination to interpret what was written. The words don’t always make sense in the context of the sentence and we must decide whether the mistake is in the handwriting or in our interpretation. Is it how the word is used (or misused) in the sentence? Or might it be my own personal misunderstanding of the word in the context of the times?

That was what happened to me when I was processing an 1823 Lynchburg chancery case. The injunction suit, Daniel B. Perrow vs. Smith Barnard, etc., was unremarkable. Perrow had rented a house from Smith and William Barnard on Cocke Street in Lynchburg, and by all accounts, the dwelling needed some repairs. Various affidavits indicated that during “wet weather” the house was nearly uninhabitable. The renter and landlord had come to some sort of an agreement about the repairs that were needed, who would pay for them, etc.; that is what the suit was about. The repairs were to be made to the “house and inclosure” in order to make the property “tenantable.” Because of the repairs, a credit or allowance would be given to the tenant.

In the course of reading the affidavits, however, it became apparent that the tenant, Perrow, was doing more than repairing the house.

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- Beachhead Revisited: Parramore’s Island on the Eastern Shore


Flyer, 1868. Accomack County, Chancery Cause, 1876-038, William McGeorge, Jr. etc. versus Talmadge F. Cherry, etc. Local Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA.

In the late 1800s, land speculators became interested in selling islands along the Atlantic Coast to be used as summer resorts. “Parramore’s Island,” a barrier island on the coast of Accomack County, Virginia, was one such island. The island has been identified in its history by various names including “Parramore’s Beach,” Parramore’s Beaches,” “Parramore’s Great Beach,” and “Parramore Island.” Parramore’s Island and Parramore’s Beach were most frequently used.

Dr. Talmadge F. Cherry of Baltimore, Maryland, was interested in buying the island. He received two advertisements and a plat containing information about the island. These documents were used as exhibits in a chancery suit- Accomack County, Chancery Cause, William McGeorge, Jr. etc. versus Talmadge F. Cherry, etc., 1876-038.

J. Henry Ferguson of No. 80 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, Maryland, sent Dr. Cherry an advertisement that he printed on 15 July 1868. He gave many good reasons to buy the island. A second advertisement consisting of four pages was also given to Dr. Cherry. This document was divided into five sections, titled “NEED OF A GOOD SEA-SIDE RESORT,” “The Opportunity Offered,” “WHAT IS PROPOSED,” “Improvements Needed,” and “Peculiar Advantages as a Summer Resort.” This document provided information about building a summer resort and tried to convince the reader that it should be built on Parramore’s Island.

Dr. Cherry also received a hand drawn plat of the island … read more »

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- Jailing the Jerkers



Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church, Rockbridge County, National Register Nomination, Virginia Dept. of Historic Resources, http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/registers/Counties/Rockbridge/TimberRidgePresChurch_photo.htm, accessed 20 June 2017.

Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with the
Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, sponsored four residential fellows for the 2016-2017 academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. Doug Winiarski, Religious Studies professor at the University of Richmond, spent the spring semester researching and writing Shakers, Jerkers & the Shawnee Prophet: Religious Encounters on the Early American Frontier, 1805-1815.

Samuel Houston probably scoffed at the legal proceedings against him as he stood before the bar in the Lexington, Virginia, courthouse on 6 August 1805. How could his peers on the grand jury take this case of assault and battery seriously? After all, he was one of the most prominent men in the Rockbridge County: a decorated Revolutionary War officer, a wealthy planter, and a slaveholder. Most important, Houston was a devoted member and patron of the Timber Ridge Presbyterian Church, the handsome stone edifice that stood only a few yards from his imposing log house.

The charges against Houston stemmed from a bizarre new religious phenomenon known as “the jerks”: involuntary convulsions, in which the subjects’ heads lashed violently backward and forward in quick succession like a “flail in the hands of a thresher.” The strange bodily fits erupted unexpectedly during the Great Revival (1799–1805), the powerful succession of Presbyterian sacramental festivals and Methodist camp meetings that … read more »

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- The Courthouse Adventures of Morgan P. Robinson


Martinsville courthouse.

In 1915, Richmond native Morgan P. Robinson became the chief of the Archives Department at the Virginia State Library (now the Library of Virginia); three years later he was appointed the first state archivist. Almost immediately he began surveying the city and county courthouses to determine the completeness of their holdings. During these examinations he also rated the environmental conditions at each facility and noted whatever other observations struck him. He was sometimes assisted in this endeavor by the clerks, who supplied him with inventories and other information about their records. Many times, however, he received field reports from Milnor Ljungstedt, a seasoned genealogist from New England who assisted him with his inspections. How Robinson and Ljungstedt began working together and what her official role was remains something of a mystery.

With dates ranging from 1915 to 1929, these courthouse surveys consist of a collection of files for each of the inspected Virginia localities which had surviving reports. Now housed at the Library of Virginia, the surveys vary in size and completeness from almost nothing to huge inventories and everything in between. A typical file contains a brief report by either Ljungstedt or Robinson and a few photographs to document the inspection. The reports were often scribbled on an envelope that presumably held the small photographs taken during the on-site visits.

Both Robinson and Ljungstedt … read more »

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- Virginia’s CCRP Program Provides Preservation Grants


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The Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP) Grant Review Board met on 18 January 2017 at the Library of Virginia to consider records preservation grant requests from circuit courts across the commonwealth. Six members– four circuit court clerks, appointed annually by the president of the Virginia Court Clerks’ Association; and two staff members from the Library of Virginia, currently the State Archivist and the Deputy of Collections and Programs–comprise the board. Members meet twice a year to evaluate proposals. Clerks of the Circuit Courts apply for funds to conserve, secure, and increase access to circuit court records. A total of eighty applications were submitted from seventy-nine localities with requests totaling $1,746,149. After careful evaluation and discussion of all applications, the board approved seventy-nine grant projects totaling over $250,000 (CCRP Grant Awards 2017A). Seventy-seven of the approved applications covered professional conservation treatment for items including deed books, will books, order books, surveyor books, minute books, birth and death registers, and plat books housed in circuit court clerks’ offices which had been damaged by use, age, or previous non-professional repairs. The remaining two grants were for records reformatting projects and plat cabinets.

The following are a few of the items that received grant funding:

The CCRP is administrated as part of the Library of Virginia’s Government Records Division. Funded through $1.50 from the circuit court clerk’s … read more »

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- Virginia Untold: Petitions to Remain


Eastman Johnson,

As told in an earlier blog, James Dunlop of Petersburg emancipated his slave, John Brown, in April 1822 through a deed of manumission. One would imagine that Brown must revel in his freedom following a lifetime of bondage. However, his joy over being emancipated was surely tempered by the fact that his wife and children remained slaves. Worse, Virginia law required that slaves emancipated after May 1806 leave the Commonwealth within twelve months. One year after receiving his freedom, Brown would be forced to leave his family and reside in a free state where he knew no one.

Prior to emancipating Brown, Dunlop filed a petition with the General Assembly in December 1821 to permit Brown to remain in the Commonwealth following his emancipation. Dunlop asked the General Assembly “to suffer this faithful slave to spend the remainder of his days, in the enjoyment of freedom, and in the bosom of his family.” Dunlop had nearly one hundred white citizens of Petersburg sign the petition. They acknowledged Brown as worthy of emancipation and deserving of the opportunity to remain in Virginia. The committee in the General Assembly found the petition “reasonable,” drew up and reported a bill, however, the full legislature never acted on the bill.

Brown then had to apply to the local court for permission to remain in Petersburg. Before applying, Brown … read more »

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- York County’s Forgotten Founder


York County (Va.) Wills, 1719-1885. Local Government Records Collection, York County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

York County, originally named Charles River County for King Charles I, was one of the eight Virginia shires (counties) first enumerated in 1634. A document dated 7 January 1634 employs the name York County; a statute from that same year, officially changed the name to York County. This change was probably in honor of James, Duke of York, the second son of Charles I and, later, King James II. York County is one of Virginia’s Lost Records localities. Most of its pre-Revolutionary War era loose records are missing. A will that was discovered in a transfer of court records from York’s Circuit Court to the Library of Virginia is a significant historical find given the absence of so many original records. Recorded in York County on 16 February 1789, it is the last will and testament of General Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Thomas Nelson, Jr., was born on 26 December 1738 in Yorktown, Virginia, to William Nelson, a former colonial governor of Virginia, and Elizabeth Burwell Nelson. Among his many accomplishments, he served in the House of Burgesses from York County from 1761 to 1775, and represented Virginia in the Continental Congress. He is one of fifty-six signatories to the Declaration of Independence, seven of whom were from Virginia. Nelson represented York County in the House of Delegates between 1777 and 1783 and again between 1786 … read more »

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- Court Records Preservation Pioneers: Martha Woodroof Hiden


Portrait of Martha Hiden, Courtesy of Newport News Public Library.

The naming of the local history and genealogy reading room at Newport News Public Library after Martha Woodroof Hiden is well deserved. Born in Orange County, Virginia, in 1883, Hiden graduated from Randolph-Macon College and went on to graduate school at the University of Chicago and The College of William & Mary. In 1909 she married Philip W. Hiden, who became the first mayor of Newport News, the city where she spent the rest of her life. She ran her husband’s business after his death in 1936, and went on to serve as a member of the board of visitors at William & Mary, an executive at the Virginia Historical Society, and a board member of the Virginia State Library (now the Library of Virginia). An accomplished and scholarly researcher, she authored numerous reviews, articles, and books on Virginia history and genealogy.

With all those accomplishments, however, her work with Virginia city and county court records might be her most important achievement. More than most, she understood the historical significance of the records and their need to be preserved. Among her writing on Virginia history, she published essays on court records, outlining the importance of each of the “classes” or record groups, explaining their use and purpose as few had done before, and laying the groundwork for social historians of the future. In her aptly … read more »

- A Last Resort: Madison County Reenslavement Petitions


Madison County courthouse.

In 1856, the General Assembly decided that free African Americans could petition their county or city court to be enslaved. These individuals had to be at least twenty-one if male or eighteen if female and they could choose their own master. Once the General Assembly accepted the petition, the only difference between someone who was born a slave and someone who was enslaved as an adult was that the children of a woman born while she was free remained free.

Why would anyone wish to be re-enslaved? An 1806 law made it illegal for a former slave emancipated on or after 1 May 1806 to remain in Virginia for more than a year after emancipation. If the individual stayed past that time, period, the government could sell them as a slave. Individuals could petition the General Assembly to remain in Virginia, or their county or city court beginning after 1837. If the government rejected an individual’s petition, the freed person had to leave the state.

On 13 May 1844, Isham Tatum of Madison County wrote his will. Upon his death, three of his slaves—French, Edmond, and Findley—were to receive their freedom. Another slave, Barber, would receive his freedom after the remarriage or death of Isham Tatum’s wife, Frances. He described four slaves as “boys”—Jeptha, William, Thaddeus, and Timothy—who were also to be manumitted upon the … read more »

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