Tag Archives: Local Records

- CSI: OLD VIRGINIA: SCENES OF MURDER AND MAYHEM IN THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT RECORDS COLLECTION

Chesterfield County, County Court, Criminal Causes, and Grand Jury Presentments, Commonwealth v. Willis and Whitehead, 1870.

Editors Note: This post originally appeared in the former ”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 … read more »

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- What’s New in the Archives

Interested in what’s new in the archives at the Library of Virginia? You can find out in two reports compiled quarterly by LVA staffers: The Library of Virginia Quarterly Report of Archival Accessions and Primary Sources: Quarterly Report of Newly Processed Collections.

The Report of Archival Accessions lists the creator, title, size, brief description, and accession number of the local, map, private, and state archival collections described and/or received during the time period. Some of the local and state records collections listed may be closed for processing; check with Archives Research Services regarding availability for research use.

Primary Sources lists the latest collections processed, microfilmed, or digitized by the Library. Like its companion publication, Report of Archival Accessions, Primary Sources gives the creator, title, size, and accession number for each collection processed during the previous quarter. It also contains links to published finding aids for each collection.

Current reports are located on the Library of Virginia’s Web site under the ”News and Events” section (linked above). Older reports are located under Library Collection Releases.… read more »

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- IRON, WHISKEY, RAILROADS, AND RACE ARE FINDS IN NEWLY PROCESSED CHANCERY COLLECTIONS

A page from a stock certificate book used as an exhibit in the Craig County case of Kanawha Valley Bank vs. Manganese Iron & Coal Co., etc., 1911-011.

Transcript of Sen. Glasgow’s letter.

(Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that scanning has now been performed on the Craig County and Pulaski County chancery causes. The digital collections are now available online through the Chancery Records Index.)

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that processing and indexing of the Craig County and Pulaski County chancery causes is now complete.  Each of Virginia’s circuit courts created chancery records that contain considerable historical and genealogical information. Because the records rely so heavily on testimony from witnesses, they offer a unique glimpse into the lives of Virginians from the early 18th century through the First World War. The indexes for both counties have been added to the Library’s online Chancery Records Index and are now available for research.

Craig County chancery covers the years 1853-1942, with the bulk of the cases falling between 1853 and 1912.  One suit of particular interest to researchers of African American education is the suit of Paris W. Compton vs. Admr. of Cornelius Compton, 1913-009, in which Paris was suing his father’s administrator to receive his inheritance.  In his bill, he states that he and his mother had moved to “Ardmore near the city of Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania, at which place your complainant has been attending school, for the … read more »

- What’s New in the Archives

Interested in what’s new in the archives at the Library of Virginia?  You can find out in two reports compiled quarterly by LVA staffers:  The Library of Virginia Quarterly Report of Archival Accessions and Primary Sources: Quarterly Report of Newly Processed Collections.

The Report of Archival Accessions lists the creator, title, size, brief description, and accession number of the local, map, private, and state archival collections described and/or received during the time period.  Some of the local and state records collections listed may be closed for processing; check with Archives Research Services regarding availability for research use.

Primary Sources lists the latest collections processed, microfilmed, or digitized by the Library.  Like its companion publication, Report of Archival Accessions, Primary Sources gives the creator, title, size, and accession number for each collection processed during the previous quarter.  It also contains links to published finding aids for each collection.  Notable collections processed between July and September 2010 include:  Charlotte County Chancery Causes, 1765-1912 (bulk 1784-1912);  Robert S. Bloxom Papers, 1978-2003; and Governor Timothy M. Kaine, Counselor’s Office, 2001-2009 (bulk 2006-2009).

Current reports are located on the Library of Virginia’s Web site under the ”News and Events” section (linked above). Older reports are located under Library Collection Releases.… read more »

- Reunion of The Class of 1865

The Robertson Hospital Reunion Register dated 30 June 1896.

Love and respect for one remarkable woman drew Civil War veterans from across the United States to Richmond during the summer of 1896. The occasion was a reunion of soldiers who spent time in the care of Captain Sally Tompkins and the staff at the Robertson Hospital.

The hospital reunion register, recently cataloged here at the Library of Virginia, records the names, signatures and, occasionally, military units of former soldiers who attended a patient reunion during the Grand Confederate Reunion of 1896. Some wives’ names are also listed. The attendees came from at least nine states, from as far away as New York and Texas, further testimony to the respect and love that soldiers on both sides felt for the care Tompkins bestowed on all. Their admiration was not one-sided; Tompkins paid for the party herself, renting a house and providing food and drink for the entire company.

Tompkins was the only female commissioned officer in the Confederate army. She was born 9 November 1833 in Poplar Grove, Mathews County, Virginia. She moved to Richmond following the death of her father before the Civil War and used her considerable inheritance to open a private hospital at the outbreak of the war in April 1861. It stood at the corner of 3rd and Main Streets at the home of Judge John Robertson, thus giving the … read more »

- “I Declare My Intention to Become a Citizen of the United States of America …”

 Immigrants take the oath to become citizens of the United States in January 2010 at the Library of Virginia.

Ghio Transcript Fisch Transcript Adams Transcript

On November 3, a naturalization ceremony will be held at the Library of Virginia.  A group of people from various nations will take an oath declaring their allegiance to the United States.  The coming ceremony prompted me to investigate the extent of naturalization records in the Local Records collection.  We have naturalization records for approximately 30 localities.  You would expect to find naturalization records in some localities such as  Newport News, Portsmouth, and Norfolk County because of their location along the coast.  However, LVA has naturalization records for western localities as well including Roanoke County, Russell County, and Rockingham County.  The bulk of the records are dated before 1906. The reason being that prior to 1906, the naturalization process was the responsibility of local and state courts. 

The predominant documents found in the naturalization records are the declarations of intent.  An immigrant seeking U.S. citizenship would first file this document in which the applicant declared his or her intent to become a citizen and renounced allegiance to a foreign government.  Information found in the declaration included name of applicant, place of birth, date of birth, age, and name of the ruler to which he or she renounced allegiance.  A person could declare intent to become a citizen at any time and in any place after arriving in the United … read more »

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- Take a Bow. Five Million Documents Scanned!

Attendees compare inkjet copies of selected original images from the Goochland chancery collection.

Library of Virginia (LVA) staff, partners, and dignitaries gathered at the Goochland County courthouse Thursday to celebrate a milestone in a project that aims to put Virginia’s historic chancery court documents online.

The Goochland County Chancery Causes include the five millionth chancery image scanned by the Library of Virginia’s innovative Circuit Court Records Preservation Program. The records are the latest local records to be processed, indexed and digitally reformatted. “It’s an opportunity to celebrate what we’ve accomplished as a team,” said Carl Childs, Local Records Services Director. “It really is a team effort. It takes many different areas of the LVA working closely with the staff at the courthouses to complete these projects.”

The chancery digitization project began in 2005 with a pilot program in Fauquier County and now includes collections from 47 Virginia localities. Each of Virginia’s circuit courts created chancery records that contain considerable historical and genealogical information. Because these records rely so heavily on testimony from witnesses, they offer a unique glimpse into the lives of Virginians from the early 18th century to the eve of the First World War. A broad spectrum of citizens—rich and poor, black and white, slave and free—appear in the records. Chancery cases are a valuable source of local, state, social, and legal history and serve as a primary source for understanding local history.  They show the … read more »

- Don’t Throw That One Out!

Harper’s Weekly, 21 July 1866. "Taking the Oath."

Sometimes an archivist must be a detective looking for things everyone else missed.

As part of an appraisal project in local records, I reviewed blank volumes sent to the Library of Virginia from county courthouses searching for entries that may have been overlooked in their initial description.  Several volumes that were described as blank actually contained information, most notably a large bond book from Frederick County.

The book was in pieces, tied together with string, with only one of its leather covers remaining.  The pages printed with executors bonds—outlining the obligations of individuals carrying out the directions and requests in wills—were completely blank.  However, the back of some of the pages were filled with faint, but legible, writing.

The book was used not for its original purpose, but instead was used to record loyalty oaths after the Civil War.  These oaths, dated 1865–1866, consisted of statements signed by residents of Frederick County in which they promised to “support the Constitution of the United States and the laws made in pursuance thereof as the supreme law of the land.”  Each oath recorded the individual’s name, age, and sometimes his profession (for example, Henry Brent was a cashier at the Bank of the Valley of Virginia, and C. Lewis Brent was a lawyer).  The volume also contains an alphabetical index that the record keeper crafted by tracing … read more »

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- Broken Vows

The Gray's marriage certificate found in a chancery court case in Spotsylvania County.

In 1913, Mary Ella Gray stated in a deposition that she moved to her parents’ home in Fredericksburg after her husband James “continuously abused me, and was very profane to me and often told me that he bore for me no affection whatever, and I could pull up and leave whenever I got ready.”  Court documents show that, prior to reaching this point, happier times were evident in their marriage.

Like so many other Spotsylvania County chancery causes, Mary Ella Gray vs. James Oliver B. Gray, 1913, appeared to be a fairly routine divorce case; however, the marriage certificate was not so ordinary.

The couple was married in the District of Columbia on 1 November 1902.  The certificate is a noteworthy document, illustrative and colorful.  It cites a Bible verse, Ruth 4:13, describing the marriage of Ruth to Boaz, and features an illustration of Ruth gleaning barley in Boaz’s field.  The document was published by Jennings and Dye of Cincinnati, Ohio, printed in Germany.

Divorces were granted through county chancery courts.  The marriage certificate was included in the cause, possibly as an exhibit.  The Spotsylvania County Chancery Causes Collection contains about 40 cubic feet of records and covers the years circa 1811-1925.  It is currently closed for processing and will be digitized.

-Joanne Porter, Local Records Archivist… read more »

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- Charlotte County Chancery Causes Now Available

The Library of Virginia (LVA) is pleased to announce the completion of an additional digital scanning project. The processing, indexing, and digital reformatting of the Charlotte County chancery causes is now complete. The images have been added to the Chancery Records Index (CRI) on Virginia Memory. The Charlotte County chancery images span the years 1765 through 1912 (the index covers through 1914).

This locality joins forty-five counties and cities whose chancery causes have been digitally reformatted and made available through the Library’s innovative Circuit Court Records Preservation Program, which seeks to preserve the historic records of Virginia’s Circuit Courts. 

To date, The Library of Virginia has posted over 4.9 million digital chancery images. Additional localities are presently being scanned and will be posted in the coming months. However, due to the recent reductions to the Library of Virginia’s budget, the pace of the agency’s digital chancery projects will necessarily proceed more slowly. Please know these projects remain a very high priority for the agency and it is hoped that the initiative can be resumed in full when the economy and the agency’s budget situation improve. Please see the Chancery Records Index for a listing of the available locality chancery collections.

Chancery causes are cases that are decided on the basis of equity and fairness as opposed to the strictly formulated rules of common law … read more »

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