The Library of Virginia’s Local Records Services branch, in partnership with the Montgomery County Circuit Court Clerk, was recently awarded a 2-year grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to support the processing of the Montgomery County Circuit Court Records Collection, 1777-1912. The grant provides for the processing and indexing of the Montgomery County Chancery Causes with an eye toward future digitization as well as the creation of electronic finding aids for the remaining loose historical court records found in the clerk’s office in Christiansburg. The project will utilize a new strategy for the LVA in that all work will be completed by professional archivists in the clerk’s office rather than at the Archives in Richmond.
The NHPRC recognized the national significance of the Montgomery County court records as the county was ideally situated on routes west to experience the travel and migration of people seeking opportunity, land, and adventure in the West. These court records also illuminate the lives of numerous under-documented populations and have national significance for researchers interested in the African American experience, women’s history, westward migration, and southern labor and business history in the antebellum and post-Civil War periods.
In their current state, the Montgomery County chancery records are only known and utilized by a select few historians and humanities researchers. When completed the Montgomery County Chancery Causes … read more »
Individuals today wishing to conduct research using Rockingham County court records may encounter a few stumbling blocks. Due to two major events in the locality’s history, Rockingham County is identified as one of Virginia’s Lost Record localities. The first loss of Rockingham records occurred in 1787 when a courthouse fire destroyed primarily wills and estate records. A second and even more devastating loss came during the Civil War.
In June 1864, with the threat of Union troops advancing into the valley, concerned citizens of the county wanted court records (mostly volumes) removed from the courthouse so that the records could not be destroyed. A judge granted permission for these records to be moved to a safer place east of the Blue Ridge. A teamster and wagon were hired to remove the records, but the wagon was left on the Port Republic-Forge road after a rim was lost and a tire came off. During this delay, Union troops spied the wagon and partially destroyed the records by setting fire to it. The mother of a Confederate soldier extinguished the fire by carrying water and smothering the fire with green hay just cut from a nearby field. She retrieved what was left of the records and took them to her home for safekeeping. The records remained at her home for quite some time, and because … read more »
While watching the February 2012 episode of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? featuring actor and Petersburg native Blair Underwood investigating his family history, Library of Virginia staff could not help but notice that one of the original volumes displayed on the show was not in great shape. The Amherst County Register of Free Negroes, 1822-1864, was used on the show to prove that one of Underwood’s ancestors had been a free person prior to the Civil War. The front and back covers of the volume had become detached from the spine, pages were loose, and overall it did not look like the book could withstand much handling without sustaining further damage to its fragile pages. This led to a reevaluation of the existing conservation priority for the 30 free Negro registers in the Library’s holdings. Previously it was thought that since all of the free Negro registers were microfilmed, the original volumes would not be handled by the public any longer, thus conservation money would be better spent on other items. However, the resurgence of interest in African American genealogy, the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and related issues, and interest in the registers for display in exhibits clearly indicated that a change was necessary. A conservation inventory was done for all of the volumes and the ones that require treatment will … read more »
The Virginia Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Part of the Library of Virginia’s Local Records Services branch, the program was created in 1992 to address the preservation needs of some of the most important records in the state – the records of Virginia’s 120 circuit courts. The CCRP continues to not only preserve, digitize, and microfilm historic records from around the commonwealth but also to reach out to circuit court clerks in each locality, offering them consultative services and financial assistance through its grant program. Since its creation twenty years ago, the program has awarded over 1100 grants, totaling nearly $16 million, to Virginia circuit court clerks to help address the preservation needs of records stored in their localities.
Twenty years later, access to Virginia’s historic court records has never been wider with more than 7 million digital chancery court images from fifty-seven counties and cities now available online through the Chancery Records Index (CRI), created to increase access to Virginia’s historic equity cases. In celebration of this important milestone, we’ve created this video celebrating the twenty year history of this innovative program that has helped ensure the preservation and accessibility of records that are a treasure trove of state and local history.
-Bari Helms, Local Records Archivist
In the early 1980s, Mary Helen Gravitt went looking for a coffin. Gravitt, then a secretary at Virgilina Elementary School, was looking for a Halloween decoration in an old store building but stumbled upon a piece of Virgilina’s history. So began the strange turn of events that led to the town of Virgilina’s first town council minute book’s arrival at the Library of Virginia where it will be preserved, reformatted, and stored for posterity.
Recognizing the significance of Gravitt’s find, teacher Hallie T. Owen studied the book and published an article in the South Boston News and Record back in February 1983. Owen wrote in celebration of Virgilina’s 83rd birthday and described the town’s ordinances and regulations which ranged from the prohibition of playing marbles in town streets to allowing bar partitions that separated white and African American customers. Not knowing what to do with the volume but recognizing its importance, Mary Helen Gravitt held onto the book for the next thirty years.
At the chance request of a South Boston history buff, Owen’s 1983 article was reprinted in February of this year and spotted by the mother-in-law of one our archivists. Local Records director Carl Childs followed up on the article and with the help of Hallie Owen was able to track down the whereabouts of the minute book and persuade the … read more »
The Executive Papers of Governor Thomas Jefferson, 1779-1781, have been named one of Virginia’s top ten endangered artifacts by the Virginia Association of Museums. The letters and manuscripts documenting Jefferson’s service as the second governor of Virginia address the challenges he faced during the Revolutionary War, the drafting of the Articles of Confederation, the negotiation of the boundaries of Virginia and her neighbors, and the dangers of the frontier. The papers are currently undergoing conservation treatments thanks in part to a $110, 000 grant received from Save America’s Treasures. Watch as the video shows Leslie Courtois, Senior Conservator with Etherington Conservation Services, as she works to restore these valuable records in the Library of Virginia’s conservation labs. Thanks to Paige Neal for her script writing and narrating, to videographer Pierre Courtois, and to Audrey Johnson and Dale Neighbors of Special Collections for providing images. For more information on the collection and grant see the earlier blog post “Grant Allows Jefferson’s Papers to be Preserved.”… read more »
The Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP) Grant Review Board met on May 25, 2011, at the Library of Virginia to consider records preservation grant requests from 46 circuit courts across the commonwealth. A total of 54 applications were submitted with requests totaling over $424,000. After careful evaluation and discussion of all applications, the board approved 47 grant projects for $375,859.32.
The CCRP is a part of the Library of Virginia’s Local Records Services Branch. Funded through a $1.50 of the court clerk’s recordation fee, the CCRP provides resources to help preserve and make accessible permanent circuit court records. The program awards grants to the commonwealth’s circuit court clerks to help address the preservation needs of the records housed in their localities. Since 1992, the CCRP has awarded over 1100 preservation grants for more than $15 million dollars. For a full listing of awarded grants, please see the meeting minutes here.
The board is comprised of five members: 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 Local Records Program Manager. The review board convenes regularly to evaluate grant applications to award grant funds for processing, conserving, securing, and increasing access to circuit court records. Clerk members of this year’s board were Judy Worthington of Chesterfield
The staff at Montgomery County’s Circuit Court Clerk’s Office recently rediscovered the county’s cohabitation register, one of the most valuable records used for African American genealogical research. Its official title is The Register of Colored Persons of Montgomery County, Virginia, Cohabiting Together as Husband and Wife on February 27, 1866. Watch as this video tells the story of this register and its preservation at The Library of Virginia. Montgomery County is one of only 19 Virginia localities known to have a surviving cohabitation register. The video script was co-written and narrated by our own Sarah Nerney, Local Records Senior Archivist. Thanks also to Audrey Johnson of Special Collections, Leslie Courtois of Etherington Conservation, and videographer Pierre Courtois for their invaluable contributions to this video production. See a previous blog post about the Smyth County cohabitation register.
-Dale Dulaney, Local Records Archival Assistant… read more »
In recognition of Preservation Week, April 24–30, the Library of Virginia is offering a special event highlighting the Library’s ongoing commitment to preserving Virginia’s history for future generations through its professional conservation programs. Join us to see preservation demonstrations showing proper document repair techniques, examples of conserved materials from around the Library, and also for tours of our in-house conservation lab Wednesday, April 27th at 11:45 AM and 12:30 PM. All events and parking are free and open to the public. Light refreshments and coffee will be provided.… read more »
The Library of Virginia’s Chancery Records Index (CRI) program received an impromptu endorsement last week from members of Virginia’s local historical societies attending the Where History Begins workshop held at the Library.
During a panel discussion titled Facing Digitization Issues, Digital Initiatives & Web Services Manager Kathy Jordan was showing off the LVA website and highlighting various digital collections. When she mentioned the Chancery Records Index, “the room broke out into loud, sustained applause,” according to Local Records Services Director Carl Childs. “Needless to say, [it was] a good feeling and testament to our good work and how much it is appreciated.”
In addition to historical and genealogical information, chancery court records offer a unique glimpse into the everyday lives of Virginians from the early 18th century on because the records rely so heavily on testimony from witnesses. The CRI is the result of a sustained effort to process, preserve, microfilm and digitize those records to make them available to the public. Access the CRI at http://www.virginiamemory.com/collections/chancery/.
It is always nice to feel appreciated but it is especially nice to know that local historical society members – the people who are often on the front lines of preserving and celebrating Virginia’s local history – recognize the LVA’s work.
An estimated 115 people representing 58 local historical societies from around Virginia attended the workshop. It … read more »