Death records provide familial information to genealogists, statistical information for researchers, and an occasional chuckle for archivists. My morbid fascination with death registers paid off one day when I found the 1876 death record of one John Smith of Fairfax County. The person who recorded his death couldn’t resist adding:
”Killed by trap gun set to shoot thieves. It got Mr. S. on the first fire – It is feared there are no chickens where John has gone.”
Naturally, this made my whole week. Hope you enjoy it too!
-Kelly Gilbert Sizemore, Senior Reference Archivist
Editors Note: This post originally appeared in the Virginiana section of Virginia Memory.
The beautiful maps in the Voorhees collection and those that reside in Special Collections are well known to Library of Virginia researchers. Yet thousands of rough but informative maps exist in the Library’s local government records collection. Often classified as “plats,” these detailed property maps were created and filed as part of county land records, chancery records, or other legal proceedings.
Some of the most interesting local plats are found within criminal papers. Murder trials occasionally required jurors to consider a particular crime scene, and the resulting sketches created for this purpose offer fascinating glimpses into landscapes and violent episodes. One is featured on the Library’s 1997 web exhibit The Common Wealth: Treasures from the Collections of the Library of Virginia. This drawing shows a portion of Manchester, Virginia, in 1869, at the time of a barroom-related shooting, complete with building facades and streets. And in her 2003 book A Murder in Virginia, based on three Commonwealth Causes against Pokey Barnes, Solomon Marable, and Mary Abernathy, historian Suzanne Lebsock drew upon a court-directed plat from Prince Edward County to illustrate the scene of an infamous 1895 crime involving four black defendants.
While processing Henry County’s criminal causes, I came across a number of particularly gruesome plats. The most remarkable one … read more »
Before the Civil War, Virginia did not have a comprehensive public school system. Lawmakers passed various measures to fund public schools, but these measures were directed primarily toward schools for a small segment of the population, the children of indigent white families. These schools were known as “free schools” or “charity schools,” and only the very poor attended. African Americans, free and enslaved, were excluded from these schools because it was illegal to teach them. With the end of the Civil War and ratification of a new state constitution in 1870, lawmakers established Virginia’s first public school system for all children, in order to “prevent children growing up in ignorance, or becoming vagrants.”
As local officials complied with the new state law, they set about drawing school districts segregated by race. This could be a challenge, however. While cataloging Alexandria/Arlington County school records recently, I came upon this hand-drawn map of Jefferson Township (in what was then Alexandria County, part of present-day urban Arlington), which shows white and African American families living closely together. To create two districts segregated by race, the map-maker drew what looks like a badly gerrymandered voting district. The map was attached to an 1870 census of school-aged children in Jefferson Township. Each dwelling is designated W (“white”) or C (“colored”).
Jefferson Township was located near what is now Crystal City … read more »
One of the benefits of studying more recent history is the opportunity to see and hear historical figures on film, providing information about speech, mannerisms, and personality that can be difficult to capture in words. For students of 20th-century Virginia history, a series of public television programs taped in the mid-1970s to late 1980s gives just this sort of glimpse at key state leaders.
Hosted by Richmond Times-Dispatch (RT-D) political reporter James Latimer (1913–2000), and jointly produced by Central Virginia Educational Television and the RT-D, the Living History Makers series featured lengthy interviews of influential Virginia politicians. While the details of each man’s career have been hashed out in print many times, these extensive on-camera interviews breathe life into the story of Virginia’s leadership during times of exceptional stress, including World War II and the battle over school desegregation.
In 1975, Colgate W. Darden (1897–1981, governor 1942–1946) and William M. Tuck (1896–1983, governor 1946–1950) sat down with Latimer for the first Living History Makers program. As public personas, the two men were strikingly different. While the dignified Darden was once hailed by a political opponent as “the noblest Roman of them all,” Tuck was a brash good-timer described by the Richmond News Leader as having “the comfortable appearance of a man who has just dined on a dozen pork chops.” Yet the two … read more »
We here at Out of the Box are so excited about our one-year anniversary that we decided to throw a new coat of paint on the old blog. One year and more than 80 posts later we are still happy to share with our readers what we discover as we work in Virginia’s archive. Many thanks to our IT department and graphic design for helping us create a new look. Also, we are very happy to announce a new blog from LVA Special Collections. Multiple Exposure is a catablog (a cross between a blog and catalog) that will draw from the 500,000 item LVA Prints and Photographs Collection.
Find the link to Multiple Exposure in this post or on our blogroll. It’s sure to become a favorite. Congratulations to LVA’s Special Collections department for this worthwhile project!
The staff at Montgomery County’s Circuit Court Clerk’s Office recently rediscovered the county’s cohabitation register, one of the most valuable records used for African American genealogical research. Its official title is The Register of Colored Persons of Montgomery County, Virginia, Cohabiting Together as Husband and Wife on February 27, 1866. Watch as this video tells the story of this register and its preservation at The Library of Virginia. Montgomery County is one of only 19 Virginia localities known to have a surviving cohabitation register. The video script was co-written and narrated by our own Sarah Nerney, Local Records Senior Archivist. Thanks also to Audrey Johnson of Special Collections, Leslie Courtois of Etherington Conservation, and videographer Pierre Courtois for their invaluable contributions to this video production. See a previous blog post about the Smyth County cohabitation register.
-Dale Dulaney, Local Records Archival Assistant… read more »
In 1996, Samuel Cooper, circuit court clerk of Accomack County, contacted the Library of Virginia about a large amount of county records he found in the attic of the clerk’s office. He requested assistance from LVA to determine their value, with the possibility of transferring them to LVA. A team of archivists travelled to Accomack County expecting to examine only a few boxes of old court papers. After climbing through the narrow opening of the office ceiling, they discovered a treasure trove of court records dating from the late 1600s to the early 1700s. Unfortunately, due to the poor environmental and storage conditions the records were in extremely fragile condition. Approximately 50 cubic feet of county records were transferred to the Library of Virginia where they were stabilized.
During the course of several years we examined these records to determine what they were and whether they could be recovered through conservation. The examination revealed that the records were primarily wills, deeds, fiduciary records, judgments, and chancery suits dated from the colonial era of Accomack County. Regrettably, the vast majority of these records are unsalvageable. Victims of heat, humidity, and insects, they can never be recovered. (images above) Fortunately we were able to identify a few gems that could be restored. They include tobacco plant censuses, 1728-1729, tithable lists, 1738-1769, and oaths of allegiance… read more »
In recognition of Preservation Week, April 24–30, the Library of Virginia is offering a special event highlighting the Library’s ongoing commitment to preserving Virginia’s history for future generations through its professional conservation programs. Join us to see preservation demonstrations showing proper document repair techniques, examples of conserved materials from around the Library, and also for tours of our in-house conservation lab Wednesday, April 27th at 11:45 AM and 12:30 PM. All events and parking are free and open to the public. Light refreshments and coffee will be provided.… read more »
At the 24 February 1910, meeting of the Manchester Ordinance Committee, committee member W. W. Workman moved that the city auditor be requested to advertise for bids for tin wagon license plates. J. H. Gallagher, house and sign painter, submitted his bid for the job by letter declaring he would do the job at 5 cents per license for the year 1910. Included with his letter were two identical samples of his work. Measuring 2 x 7 inches, the tin signs are painted a dark yellow with black numbers and red letters. The initials l.H.W. possibly mean licensed hack wagon, while C.M. surely stands for the City of Manchester.
The following meeting of the Ordinance Committee was held on 23 March 1910, when Mr. Broaddus moved that the bids for the license plates be laid on the table until the next meeting. Unfortunately for Mr. Gallagher and any other bidders, no one was to receive the job. The City of Manchester was annexed to the City of Richmond in April 1910.
The original licenses and the Ordinance Committee Minute Book, 1904-1910, are available on microfilm.
-Sarah Nerney, Senior Local Records Archivist
Tameka Hobbs will sign copies of To Collect, Protect, and Serve: Behind the Scenes at the Library of Virginia at the Virginia Shop on March 17 from 4:00 to 7:30 PM. The new children’s book, published by the Library of Virginia, teaches young people about the important work done by Library staff. The book uses engaging cartoon figures—Archie the Archivist, Libby the Librarian, and Connie the Conservator dedicated to fighting Archival Enemies called Liquid Lenny, Andy Acid, Mildred Mold, Bartholomew B. Bug, Fred the Flame, Lucia Light, Surge, and Worm.i.am—to explain the roles of librarians and archivists in keeping historical documents safe for future generations. The illustrations are by Les Harper of Lightbox Studios, who previously worked with the Library on the graphics for the Library’s 2009 exhibition Poe: Man Myth, or Monster.
The first 50 elementary teachers will receive a FREE copy of the book. The Virginia Shop will offer a special discount to educators throughout the evening. The book was funded through a grant from the Garland and Agnes Taylor Gray Foundation. The Library will distribute copies of the 36-page softcover book to students who attend programs at the Library and to select schools in Virginia. Individual copies can be purchased through the Virginia Shop (804-692-3592) for $15.99.
There is free parking under the Library for this event. Enter from … read more »