- Henry Co. Cohabitation Register and African-American Naming Practices


This visual representation of the names of the mothers found in the Henry Cohabitation Register illustrate the frequency of use by the size of the name.(Word images created using wordle.net)

The Library of Virginia has completed the digitization and transcription of the last of the cohabitation registers in its possession, the Henry County Cohabitation Register, 1866. Others have already been transcribed and are available in the cohabitation register digitization project via Virginia Memory. For African-American genealogical researchers, the names contained herein provide priceless clues to retracing their ancestors. Cohabitation registers imparted legal legitimacy to African-American marriages and children. This was also the first time many of these individuals would appear in public record under their own names.

Naming under the practice of slavery was fraught with power dynamics. The enslavers often gave names to the enslaved. The amount of input the family of the child would have in his or her name varied, but journals of slave-holders indicate they specifically assigned names to slave children on a regular basis.[1] Newly enslaved Africans were often issued a new name by their captors, causing their identities to become yet another site of colonization. Naming was a powerful tool for enforcing cultural assimilation and denigrating African cultural identity.[2]

When viewed simply as data, the set of names used for slaves seems to have been larger and more varied than the set of names used for free people. Slave names tended to fit within five categories: diminutive versions of English names (Jim, Bess), place names … read more »

- Kaine Email Project @ LVA – Human Touch Edition



Secretary of Public Safety John Marshall, Governor Tim Kaine, and Chief of Staff Bill Leighty, 9/11 Fifth Anniversary Ceremony, Bell Tower, Capitol Square, 11 September 2006, Press Office, Office of Governor Tim Kaine.

This is the third in a series of posts spotlighting recently released email from Governor Tim Kaine’s administration.  These posts are not meant to be comprehensive but to encourage further exploration in the Kaine administration records (electronic and paper).

Much of the Kaine email deals with public policy, legislation, and governing.  Issues such as the state budget, transportation legislation, and the governor’s State of the Commonwealth Address garner wide media attention.  But there other messages that focus on less publicized aspects of a governor’s administration:  life and death decisions, grief, and remembrance.    This week’s post focuses on, for me, some of the most powerful and moving email in the Kaine collection.

Tim Kaine opposes capital punishment.  But when he ran for governor in 2005, he promised, if elected, he would uphold the law.  Eleven executions took place during Kaine’s administration.  The decision to proceed with an execution was not easy for Kaine.  John Yancey Schmitt was executed on 9 November 2006.  This brief exchange that night between Sherrie Harrington, Kaine’s confidential assistant, and Larry Roberts, Counselor to the Governor, that evening conveys this. 


Voice Mail, 2006-06-05 22:58, LRoberts3.pst, Email Records from the Office of the Governor (Kaine: 2006-2010), Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA.

Capital cases also took a toll on Larry Roberts.  A few days before the 10 June 2006 scheduled execution of Percy Lavar Walton, Marilyn Tavenner, Secretary of Health and Human Resources, reached out to Roberts.  There was some question … read more »

- Early Warwick Co. Records Added to Lost Records Digital Collection


Picture frame once containing a writ taken from the Warwick County courthouse by Union soldier George H. Sterling. The writ is believed to have been Simson vs. Hubbard, 1725. Inscribed on the frame back: This Writ was taken from Warwick Court House, Warwick Co. Virginia by Geo. H. Sterling.

Warwick County records that date from 1650 to 1840 have recently been added to the Lost Records Localities Digital Collection available on Virginia Memory. The types of records found in this addition include wills, deeds, court suits, estate records, jail reports, a docket book, a complete order book, and pages torn from order books. Many of these documents were removed from the Warwick County courthouse during the Civil War by Union soldiers as spoils of war. Over the course of the last century, they made their way back to Virginia.

A page from a 17th century order book, removed by John Hart of the 29th Massachusetts Regiment in 1862, ended up in the hands of LaRoy Sunderland of Boston, Massachusetts, who donated it to the New England Historic Genealogical Society. The society discovered the torn order book page while in the process of moving to a new location in 1964 and returned it to Virginia. Other documents were returned to Virginia after being discovered amongst family papers. E. Russell Jones of Pennsylvania and Charles Fitchorn of Missouri both discovered Warwick County records taken during the Civil War among the belongings of their deceased relatives. In 1914, James P. Williams returned Warwick County records he received from a friend named Edward G. Wood whose grandfather was a collector of relics. In a letter … read more »

- “I told you I had no money & therefore could not pay you”


Ad placed by James Juhan in the 19 April 1787 issue of the VIRGINIA GAZETTE.

In 1771, James Juhan, musical instrument maker, arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, from Boston, Massachusetts. From 1771 to 1772 he advertised in the Charleston newspapers as a music teacher and repairer of musical instruments. Years later, having recently moved to Portsmouth, Virginia, he advertised in the 15 April 1786 issue of the Virginia Gazette, stating that he taught music, repaired instruments, and was a “Harpsichord and Forte Piano maker.”  He also advertised as a journeyman cabinetmaker or joiner (Virginia Gazette, 19 April 1786, 3-3). The following letters and accounts, found in the Henrico County judgments Southall vs. Juhan and Blodget & Eustis vs. Juhan, provide a unique description of Juhan’s Virginia career and provide further information on the history of music in this country, especially American-made organs.    

In 1786, Juhan rented a house “lying on a back street in Williamsburg” from James Southall.  When Juhan later left Williamsburg for a job opportunity in Petersburg, he departed without paying the rent he owed to Southall.  He attempted to satisfy the debt by offering Southall his piano forte and promising further payment from organ-building jobs in Petersburg and Richmond.  In a 20 April 1788 letter, Juhan told Southall “you’ll be pay’d Sooner So than in going to law Suit.” Unconvinced, Southall chose the lawsuit route, as documented in Southall vs. Juhan (Henrico County … read more »

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- Bad Romance


Postcard, Petersburg (Va.) Judgments, Permelia F. McKinney vs. Frank Roberts, Letters used as Exhibits, 1915-1916, Local Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to bring a bit of romance to Out of the Box, but when one spends her day working with historic court records, it’s rare to find evidence of a happy couple. In fact, I am convinced that there may never have been a sighting of connubial bliss in Virginia’s circuit court records. Divorce cases, however, are abundant, and this Petersburg couple never even made it to the altar before heading to the courthouse in 1916.

A recently widowed Permelia F. McKinney, born in Connecticut around 1880, met grocery store owner Frank Roberts while visiting friends in Petersburg. Little is known about their initial meeting, but after her return to Connecticut, the two commenced a courtship conducted entirely through letters, with correspondence dating from 4 January 1915 through 26 July 1916. During their year and a half courtship, one would hope for a steamy love affair conducted in the written word, but the couple’s correspondence was tame, with most letters filled with longing to see each other while making plans for Permelia to head south.  On 7 March 1915, Frank wrote, “I for one would like to see you here among us,” but first it was too cold for Permelia to travel, then too hot. It seemed that Permelia would never make her way back to Petersburg.… read more »

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- Mug Shot Monday: Ed Carr, No. 11516


Photograph of Ed Carr, No. 11516, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs and Negatives, Box 171, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Welcome to Mug Shot Monday!  This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  Ed Carr, the subject of this week’s post, escaped from a convict road camp in 1913.  Jealousy led to his recapture in 1932.

Ed Carr was arrested in April 1913 and charged with grand larceny of a diamond ring.  Hoping to get a shorter sentence, Carr lied about his age.  “At this time,” Carr wrote Governor John Pollard in 1932, “I was 15 years old.  When I was arrested on the charge the people who were in jail with me, told me that if I told my correct age they would send me to a reform school until I was 20 or 21 years old, but that if I ran my age up, and in case of conviction, I would get a year in the Penitentiary.  I listened to this, and gave my age as 25 when I came up for trial.”  It did not work.  Carr was convicted on 3 May 1913 in the Corporation Court of Norfolk City and sentenced to 10 years in the Virginia Penitentiary.  Carr was assigned to State Convict Road Force Camp No. 5 in Russell County.  He didn’t stay long.  Carr escaped on 7 August 1913 having served less than 90 … read more »

- We Raise Our Glasses to Carl Childs


Montgomery County Circuit Court Clerk Erica Williams, Local Records Services director Carl Childs, Senior Local Records Archivist Sarah Nerney, and Local Records Program Manager Greg Crawford, Montgomery County Courthouse, 22 July 2013.

The editors of Out of the Box would like to give a belated good-bye to Carl Childs, the Library of Virginia’s former Local Records Services director.  Last month, Carl started his new job as Director of Archives and Records for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.  When former local records archivist Dale Dulaney first proposed our little blog five years ago, Carl’s support, encouragement, and leadership helped Dale’s idea become a reality.  The result:  the Out of the Box blog may be the most successful outreach tool used by the Library of Virginia.  For the fiscal year ending 30 June 2013, Out of the Box had 435,859 page views, 221,667 visitors, and 369,123 visits.

Out of the Box is one of many innovative projects that Carl has been a part of at the Library.  In a 20-year career at the agency, Carl moved into increasingly responsible positions, from his first job as a front desk attendant, to state records archivist and then local records archivist and, beginning in 2005, Local Records Services director.  Carl brought enthusiasm and a willingness to try new things to every position.  Accordingly, in his tenure overseeing the Circuit Court Records Preservation (CCRP) grants program, Carl helped strengthen the application and oversight process, resulting in a more efficient and beneficial program to care for historic records in Virginia’s circuit courts.  Similarly, … read more »

- Fancy Skating


Advertisement dated 5 May 1885 found in Rockingham County Chancery Cause Christina J. Ergenbright vs. Administrator of Jacob Ammon, etc., 1888-021, Local Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

While processing collections, archivists often come across items that don’t directly relate to the collection at hand but which often provide a window into a different subject altogether.  One good example of this is from an 1888 Rockingham County chancery case.  Amid the various items in the case is an advertisement that reads: “Mr. John Christian, Champion Colored Fancy Skater of Virginia, will give an exhibition at 9:15.” Having never heard of “fancy skating,” I wanted to know more about the sport and who John Christian was. After a little research some questions were answered and others were not.

Roller skating became very popular in the 1880’s, and most towns had their own rinks where the general public could skate.   Industrial advances made this fad possible, allowing for average citizens to own their own skates. At its height, in 1885, it is estimated that $20 million of roller skates and related equipment were sold. Local newspapers seem to back up this trend. The People, a Harrisonburg newspaper, reported on 1 May 1885: “it is hard times, but the skating rink is furnished nightly with $30.00 houses.”  This new craze appeared to be popular with black as well as white citizens. It was also segregated. In the same issue of The People it was reported that “the colored people have a skating rink over Kavanaugh’s … read more »

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- Kaine Email Project @ LVA – Transportation Edition


Governor Tim Kaine, Press Conference, Patrick Henry Building, 2007 April 4, Office of the Governor.

This is the second in a series of posts spotlighting recently released email from Governor Tim Kaine’s administration.  These posts are not meant to be comprehensive but to encourage further exploration in the Kaine administration records (electronic and paper). 

Transportation was one of the issues that dominated the Kaine administration.  In 2007,  Kaine reached an agreement with the Republican General Assembly on a compromise transportation package that would have been the largest transportation funding increase since 1986.  This week’s post focuses on this legislation, HB 3202, and the controversial abusive driver fees it contained.  The legislative process is messy and complicated.  John Godfrey Saxe’s quote, “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made,” applies to this blog post.  Consider yourself warned.

House Bill 3202, Chapter 896 of the 2007 Acts of Assembly, was enacted on 4 April 2007.  Through a mixture of bonds, new taxes and fees, the law was designed to generate more than $500 million in new dedicated funding for highway construction and transit capital projects as well as highway maintenance and transit operating costs.  Passing this package required compromises from both Republicans and Democrats.  In this series of emails from February 2007, Governor Kaine informs his senior staff of conversations he’s had with members of the General Assembly and his thoughts … read more »

- Kaine Email Project @ LVA – Budget Edition


Governor Tim Kaine budget signing, 30 June 2006, Office of the Governor.

This is the first in a series of posts spotlighting recently released email from Governor Tim Kaine’s administration (2006-2010).  These posts are not meant to be comprehensive but to encourage further exploration in the Kaine administration records (electronic and paper).

Governor Kaine took office shortly before the beginning of the “Great Recession,” the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. From 2007 to the end of his administration in January 2010, Kaine cut nearly $5 billion in state spending in order to balance the budget without raising taxes.  This week’s post focuses on the budget development process, budget cuts, and what might have happened if Virginia did not have a budget by 1 July 2006.

The Virginia Department of Planning and Budget website provides an excellent overview of the Commonwealth’s budgetary process.  Virginia has a biennial budget system, which means it adopts a two-year budget. The biennial budget is enacted into law in even-numbered years, and amendments to it are enacted in odd-numbered years.  This process takes months and has five distinct phases:  agency budget preparation, budget development, legislative action, governor’s review, and execution.

Budget Process

The governor has vast authority in shaping a budget that reflects the administration’s priorities.  A great example from the collection is a 15 October 2007 email from Governor Kaine to his leadership team with the subject line:  … read more »

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