Many of the staff and researchers at the Library of Virginia remember our colleague and friend Robert Young Clay for his vast knowledge of the records in our collections. Bob, who died last year, left his papers to the Library, and I recently completed processing them. I knew Bob for about eight years before his retirement in 2001. I recall how he assisted me with answers to some of my most puzzling questions, and seeing him helping patrons with their genealogical research.
I also remember his biting humor, lack of patience at times, the slamming of the phone receiver, and banging of a book against the reference desk.
But for those who never saw it, there was another side to Bob, and that comes across in some of the items contained in his papers. While much of the collection is made up of his research on the Clay family and its allied lines, there are also materials which demonstrate the personal side of Bob, a “kinder and gentler” side that not all staff or patrons may have seen.
Back in 1984, a certain reference archivist did not endear himself to officials in Fairfax County. Business owners in Mercer County, West Virginia, were growing increasingly frustrated with state officials in Charleston. There was even talk of the county rejoining the Commonwealth of Virginia. “The way I … read more »
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
Not all records in the archives are on yellowed paper or centuries old.
Correspondence found in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Records gives unique insight into the recent history of Virginia’s most populous county, which now has one of the highest household median incomes in the country.
New York City native Audrey Moore came to Fairfax County in 1954 when the county still retained much of its original rural character. The young, apolitical wife and mother became concerned about what she saw as unchecked development in the county with little thought about future consequences for residents’ quality of life.
Moore decided to take on the county and spoke out on what were politically unpopular issues at the time. She ran for and won a seat on the board of supervisors in 1971. For many years Moore was an isolated and often ridiculed figure on the board, the lone voice opposing runaway growth, warning about future transportation nightmares, and advocating for more parks and open spaces. Her election in 1987 as chairperson of the Board of Supervisors marked the beginning of a remarkable planned-growth revolution in Fairfax County.
This enthusiastic letter to Moore by supporter and first-time campaign worker Anne Shotwell contains a poem and, charmingly, an origami crane. Both reside in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Records series, under subseries Correspondence–Audrey … read more »