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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 March and June 2010 include: Smyth County Register of Colored Persons Cohabitating Together as Husband and Wife, 27 February 1866; Barnard-Nickels Family Papers, 1929-1972; and Governor Timothy M. Kaine, Executive Office-Governor, Records, 2005-2009.
When Mary Walker Cabell died in 1862, a series of chancery suits were filed in Nelson County by her numerous descendants in an attempt to settle her estate. Such complicated cases could not be remedied by courts of law and were usually decided according to fairness by courts of equity, called chancery courts in Virginia.
In 1863 this hand-drawn family tree was entered into the case to note the lineage on Cabell’s father’s side. Cabell was the paternal granddaughter of Charles Hill Carter (1733-1802) of Shirley Plantation. Charles Hill Carter was the grandson of Robert “King” Carter (1663-1732) one of the richest men in 17th century colonial America. His parents, John Carter and Elizabeth Hill, built Shirley Plantation in 1723. The home, a private residence in Charles City County, remains in the family today.
This family tree serves as a reminder that chancery court cases are often invaluable to genealogical researchers because courts frequently sought to determine heirs and family connections. Though this example is of the powerful Carter family, most suits concerned ordinary Virginians and some even document the lineage of the enslaved.
This large chancery cause, Executor of Mary Walker Cabell, etc. vs. Peyton H. Skipwith, etc. & Representative of Charles Carter Lee, etc. vs. Executor of Mary Walker Cabell, etc., 1882, is part of the Nelson County Chancery Collection and … read more »
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 Russell County chancery causes is now complete. The images have been added to the Chancery Records Index (CRI) on Virginia Memory. The Russell County chancery images span the years 1864 through 1933 (the index covers through 1960).
This locality joins forty-four 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 4.8 million digital chancery images. Additional localities are presently being scanned and will be posted in the coming months. However, due to the recent budget 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 … read more »
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 »