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Tag Archives: local government records

- 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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- Virginia Courthouses: Wellsprings of Democracy

Editors’ note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of the CCRP Newsletter.

 


Elwood Street, undated.

A long history of collaboration exists between the Library of Virginia and the state’s city and county circuit court clerks on the preservation of their records. In the early 1970s these preservation efforts became more formalized with the establishment of the Library’s Local Records Branch, and even more so in the early 1990s with the creation of the Circuit Court Records Preservation Program.

Over the years, several people have conducted surveys of the circuit court clerks’ offices across the state for various reasons. Some are more well-known than others, such as those performed by state archivist Morgan P. Robinson in the 1910s–1920s and by Local Records Branch director Connis Brown in the early 1970s. Less known are informal surveys conducted by Elwood Vickers Street (1890–1978), a Richmond social worker. Street was a competent writer and a regular contributor to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. In 1941 and 1942, he wrote a regular column chronicling his courthouse visits, which was published in the paper on Sundays. Entitled “Wellsprings of Democracy in Virginia,” the series covered the historical significance of the localities he surveyed, with an emphasis on the public buildings and, in particular, the courthouses and the status of their records.

Exactly what prompted Street to write these lengthy essays … read more »

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- Our History as Told by the Pittsylvania County Court Records


Photographic view of the Pittsylvania County courthouse, State Route 57 & U. S. Route 29, Chatham, Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

In the past few months, I have examined dozens of boxes of unprocessed Pittsylvania County court records dating back to the 1760s, searching for chancery causes for a future project. Most of the bundles appeared to have remained unopened since the day they were filed away over two centuries ago. Along the way, I discovered various documents that told the individual stories of people from different backgrounds that when brought together produced a integrated historical narrative of Pittsylvania County.

One box contained a bundle of declarations for Revolutionary War pensions filed in the Pittsylvania County Court. Declarations are narratives recorded by Revolutionary War veterans recounting their tours of duty fifty years earlier. One veteran named Lewis Ralph was 100-years-old at the time he filed his declaration in 1820. A native North Carolinian, Ralph enlisted in 1775 for a three-year term. He noted that he served “two years and a half a sargent [sic] under General Washington” and fought at the battles of Monmouth, Germantown, and Brandywine. He was discharged at West Point in 1778 and after the war moved to Pittsylvania County.

In a bundle of court papers dated 1811, I found the naturalization record of Alexander Brown. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Brown immigrated to the United States at the age of 18 in 1799. He initially resided in Petersburg where he worked as a … read more »

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- Virginia’s Circuit Court Records Preserved: Eighty-seven Grants Awarded

The Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP) Grant Review Board met on 24 July 2018 at the Library of Virginia to consider records preservation grant requests from circuit courts across the commonwealth. Five voting members comprise the board: three 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. Board members meet once a year to evaluate applications. Clerks of the circuit courts are eligible to apply for funds to conserve, secure, and increase access to circuit court records. In all, 87 localities submitted 89 applications requesting a total of $1,290,790.35.

After careful evaluation and discussion of all applications, the board approved 87 grant projects totaling nearly $920,000. Eighty-four 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 suffered damage from use, age, or previous non-professional repairs. The remaining three grants funded records reformatting and a security system.

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

The Library of Virginia’s Government Records Division administers the CCRP. The program is funded through a $1.50 recordation fee on land instruments recorded in the circuit court clerks’ offices. The … read more »

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- More Than an Entry in a Register: Local Government Convict Registers


Virginia Penitentiary, ca. 1865. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

For access purposes, archivists sort local government records held by the Library of Virginia into twenty-three categories, as well as numerous sub-categories encompassing the alphabet from A to W. Due to its size and scope, the court records category is further divided into seven series—chancery, clerk’s records, court finance, criminal, judgments, jury records, and personal documentation. There are also various court-related dockets, memoranda, and petitions, which do not fit into any particular series. The criminal records series contains a wealth of information for both the historian and the genealogist.

The convict registers found in local government records at the Library shed light on a once taboo avenue of research, factoring into the recent debate over felon disenfranchisement and the restoration of voting rights. The Library houses seventeen local government criminal registers—either in their original form at the main building or State Records Center (sample finding aid) or on microfilm in the reading room and via inter library loan. An additional ten registers are preserved only on security microfilm at the State Records Center and presently are not available to the public.

The title of one such register from the City of Alexandria clearly spells out their purpose as “a descriptive list of persons convicted of felony, or other infamous offences in the Corporation Court of Alexandria, Virginia since November 2nd, 1870.” … read more »

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- Warren County Chancery Causes Digitized


Warren County courthouse. Courtesy of Tracy Harter.

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that digital images for Warren County chancery causes, 1837-1912, are now available online through the Chancery Records Index on Virginia Memory. Chancery suits are useful when researching local history, genealogical information, and land or estate divisions. They are a valuable source of local, state, social, and legal history, and serve as a primary resource for understanding a locality’s history.

The following are a sample of causes of interest for researchers of African American genealogy and history found in the Warren County chancery collection. In John J. Johnston vs. William A. Mitchell, etc., 1845-006, Johnston accused one of the defendants, James C. Mitchell, of secretly carrying enslaved people from Fauquier County to Washington, D.C., under cover of darkness and selling them to the infamous slave trader Joseph Bruin. Guardian of James R. Ash vs. James R. Ash, etc., 1850-007, involves a dispute over expense payments related the capture and sale of a runaway enslaved man named Tom. The chancery causes Duskin, an enslaved person vs. Admr. of Henry Self, etc., 1850-001, and John R. C. Reed vs. Admr. of Mary Shambaugh, etc., 1859-003, describe the forced migration of African Americans from Virginia to free states such as Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa in the pre-Civil War era.

The social and economic impact of the … read more »

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- Virginia Untold: The Cullins family of Powhatan County


Original courtesy of Library of Congress.

Two years ago, the Library of Virginia launched Virginia Untold: The African American Narrative, a digital collection aimed at helping researchers break through the “roadblock” that has long impeded African American genealogical and historical research. Virginia Untold, along with other digital collections already available at the Library of Virginia such as the Chancery Records Index Virginia Chronicleand the Legislative Petitions Digital Collection, have brought to light the pre-Civil War experiences of African Americans once hidden in bundles of administrative, estate, property, and court records stored in courthouses, state agencies, attics, basements, and libraries. One example is the narrative of an African American family who resided in Powhatan County in the mid-19th century.

In 1833, John Cullins’s last will and testament was recorded in Powhatan County court. One of the terms listed in the will was the emancipation of a family of enslaved people: a mother, Nancy, and her five daughters, Jane, Sally, Ann, Judith, and America. However, their emancipation was not immediate. Cullins’s will stipulated that the family would remain enslaved until the deaths of John’s two daughters, Polly and Henley. Following their deaths a decade later, Nancy and her daughters finally gained their long awaited freed … except for Jane, who died before receiving her emancipation.

Once emancipated, Nancy and her daughters acquired the surname of their … read more »

- CCRP Grants Review Board Awards Funding


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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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- 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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