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Tag Archives: health

- Virginia Untold: Lancaster County Fiduciary Records 1657-1872


Parr, Nathaniel, engraver, [Slave factories, or compounds, maintained by traders from four European nations on the Gulf of Guinea in what is now Nigeria], published 1746. Illus. in: A New and general collection of voyages / Thomas Astley. London, 1746, vol. 3, p. 64. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce the addition of the Lancaster County Fiduciary Records, 1657-1872, to Virginia Untold. This collection contains the earliest records added to Virginia Untold, and the largest number of names added from a single locality so far—over 20,000. Fiduciary records primarily consist of estate administrator settlements, estate inventories, dower allotments, estate divisions, estate sales, and guardian accounts that record a detailed list of all personal property owned by individuals, including enslaved people.

These records demonstrate the rapid growth of slavery in Virginia from the “20. and odd Negroes” who arrived in Jamestown in 1619. Two estate inventories recorded in 1670 named a combined total of 60 enslaved people. As the records progress into the 18th and 19th centuries, the number of enslaved people owned by individuals exploded. In some cases, a single person could own hundreds of enslaved people, and their residences were not confined to Lancaster County. For example, the estate inventory of Rawleigh W. Downman recorded in 1781, lists nearly 150 enslaved people who lived on estates he owned in Lancaster, Richmond, Stafford, and Fauquier counties.

Many of these fiduciary records document additional information about enslaved people, beyond a name and assigned monetary value. The authors often included comments about individual enslaved people which, though limited to a couple of words or short phrases, shed … read more »

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- “Muzzled Doctors vs. Unmuzzled Guns”: Lieutenant William Armistead Gills, M.D., versus the United States Navy


Gills, William Armistead, Scrapbook, ca. 1920-1940, Visual Studies Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va.

“Muzzled Doctors vs. Unmuzzled Guns” was a provocative phrase used by retired naval officer William Armistead Gills, M.D., to describe the poor condition of medical care for seamen during the first half of the twentieth century. Why would Gills, a World War I veteran and dedicated officer, pen such forceful criticism, hinting at military unpreparedness? A voluminous scrapbook and his War History Commission Questionnaire at the Library of Virginia reveal the details of this fascinating story.

A native of Amelia County, William Armistead Gills graduated from Richmond’s Medical College of Virginia in 1900. Demonstrating an affinity for the military, he served as a lieutenant in the Virginia National Guard medical corps for several years while attending the Army Medical School in Washington, D.C., from which he graduated in 1906. A faculty member at the Medical College of Virginia from 1904 to 1908, he served on the staff of Governor Claude Swanson. After serving in the United States Army medical reserve corps from 1910 to 1913 he entered private practice in Richmond.

With America’s entry into World War I in 1917, Gills enrolled as an assistant surgeon in the medical reserve corps. Commissioned a lieutenant, in October he was assigned to the U.S. naval base at Block Island, Rhode Island, where he directed the medical department. In January 1919 the influenza pandemic struck the base … read more »

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- Open Data for Public Good


Governor McAuliffe signing legislation related to opioid addiction, 2017.

“Abuse of opioids continues to kill Virginians.”

Governor McAuliffe made that blunt yet true statement in a February 2017 press release announcing his signing of several House and Senate bills designed to fight the epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose. Virginia is focused on addressing the disease of addiction as well as helping individuals, families, and communities recover from and ultimately prevent the spread of substance abuse. Governor McAuliffe has been committed to finding solutions to the opioid epidemic since 2014, when he established the Governor’s Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse.

Annually, the Governor challenges all Virginians to use the government’s publicly available data (also known as open data) to help address some of Virginia’s biggest challenges. On 28 and 29 September, teams of data analysts and programmers will descend upon the Library of Virginia to do just that for the 2017 Governor’s Datathon. Their focus will be on addressing the crisis of opioid addiction in Virginia.

The first Datathon, held in 2014, started out with only state agency teams participating. The goal was to help change culture and encourage state employees to use more data and analytics in their operations and decision-making. As the Datathon has evolved, the goals became more focused on the Governor’s highest priorities. Prior challenges included addressing education outcomes, health disparities, safer roads, and diversifying the New Virginia Economy. The … read more »

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- To Be Sold: Elizabeth’s Story


Slave Auction in the South, July 13, 1861, Harper's Weekly.

This is the second in a series of four blogs related to the “To Be Sold” exhibit which opens on October 27 at the Library of Virginia. Each post will be based on court cases found in LVA’s Local Records collection and involving slave traders. These suits provide insight into the motivation of individuals to get into the slave trading business as well as details on how they carried out their operations. Even more remarkably, these records document stories of enslaved individuals purchased in Virginia and taken hundreds of miles away by sea and by land to be sold in the Deep South. The following is the story of a slave named Elizabeth (also known as Lizzy or Betsey) found in Norfolk County Chancery Cause 1853-008, Thomas Williams vs. William N. Ivy, etc.

As told in last week’s blog post, Thomas Williams and William Ivy formed a partnership to purchase slaves in Virginia, transport them to Louisiana, hire them out to a local timber company for a year, and then sell them for a profit. Elizabeth was one of the slaves purchased by Williams and placed on a ship headed to Louisiana where Ivy was awaiting them. When Ivy received the first shipment of slaves, he was not happy to see the slave girl Elizabeth coming off the ship. He could not understand … read more »

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