Tag Archives: slavery

- Nelson Co. Chancery Now Available


One of Nelson County's historical markers. (Image used courtesy of author Artaxerxes.)

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that Nelson County Chancery Causes, 1808-1912, are now processed, indexed, and conserved; and the index is now available on the Chancery Records Index. These records contain considerable historical and genealogical information. Because the records rely so heavily on testimony from witnesses, they offer a unique glimpse of the people of Nelson County from the early 19th century through the First World War. Following are a few suits of interest found in this collection.

In chancery cause Tobias~ vs. Heirs of John Campbell, 1816-005, Tobias, a free Negro, sues for the payment of a judgment won against the administrator of John Campbell.  In chancery suit Eliza A. Figures vs. Christopher T. Estes, 1838-035, Eliza Figures was hired by Estes, a tavern owner, to take care of the house business and culinary affairs, and she sued for lack of compensation.  In Eliza Ann Figures vs. Dr. Matthew Figures, 1840-013, the same individual is the plaintiff suing for divorce from her husband citing cruelty, abandonment and repeated acts of adultery.  Daniel M. Harris, trustee vs. Christopher T. Estes, etc., 1846-017, includes a typical item found in many of Nelson County’s pre-Civil War chancery causes – a cash valuation of slaves.  The effects of the Civil War are noted in Elijah R. Walker vs. read more »

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- Cohabitation Registers Added to Digital Collection


Goochland Co. Regsiter of Colored Persons Cohabiting, 1866, information includes ages, occupations, names of slave owners, and names of children the couple had together or from a previous relationship.

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce the addition of records from Fluvanna, Goochland, and Montgomery Counties to the cohabitation register digitization project.  This project, via the Virginia Memory website, aims to index, digitize, transcribe, and provide access to all known Virginia cohabitation registers and the related registers of children whose parents had ceased to cohabit.

The cohabitation registers were the legal vehicles by which formerly enslaved couples legitimized their pre-slavery marriages and the children of unions that no longer existed in 1866 due to death or other circumstances such as the wife being sold away.  These records are invaluable resources for genealogists and historians alike.

Goochland and Montgomery have to date only uncovered their cohabitation registers.  Fluvanna, however, includes both the cohabitation register and the register of children whose parents had ceased to cohabit by 1866.  The registers, transcriptions, and searchable indexes are available online along with the other registers from Virginia localities in the Cohabitation Register Digital Collection in Virginia Memory. To find it use either the link provided or go to Virginia Memory, choose Digital Collections, then Collections A to Z, and finally Cohabitation Registers.

For more information on the cohabitation registers, see an earlier blog post Solid Genealogical Gold, about the Register of Colored Persons of Smyth County, Virginia, cohabiting together as Husband and Wife on 27read more »

- CSI: Old Virginia: Coroners Edition


Slave quarters under the oaks at the Hermitage in Savannah, GA., circa 1900-1915. (Image public domain/used courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.)

At one o’clock in the morning on 1 September 1859, Milly T. King arrived at the home of James Clary and found his slave Hannah “lying on the hearth gasping for breath, and I thought dying.” When King saw Hannah an hour later, she was dead. The following day Brunswick County coroner William Lett arrived to examine the body.  With him were twelve men, none of whom had a medical background but rather were chosen as upstanding men and representatives of the county. The office of coroner held inquisitions in cases when persons met a sudden, violent, unnatural, or suspicious death. In this case Hannah had certainly met a sudden and suspicious demise.

Hannah, owned by the late Elizabeth H. Harwell, had been in the possession of James Clary, who adamantly maintained that the marks found on her feet and legs and the wound on her head were not from anything suspicious but came as a result of a fall from a window occurring a few weeks before her death. The coroner and his jury of white men were left to decide if Hannah had suffered an accidental death or if her death had been caused by something more malicious. Clary’s wife, Eliza, backed up her husband’s statements and claimed to know nothing of Hannah’s death, maintaining that her wounds were caused by the fall. … read more »

- Petersburg Chancery Reveals Rich African American History

 Newspaper notice describing the physical appearance of runaway slave Davey, Petersburg Chancery Cause 1827-003, William Smith vs. Benjamin W. B. Jones.

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that the first installment of images from the Petersburg chancery causes digitization project have been added to the Chancery Records Index. This project has been funded, in part, through a $155,071 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Images for the first forty-four boxes of chancery suits have been added to the index (circa 1803-1845). The boxes are not strictly chronological, so not all images for a given year are available. Additional images will be added periodically as the project progresses. Be sure to check back!

Here are some interesting suits that archivists found while processing, indexing, and conserving the collection. Many other fascinating and complex stories will surely be uncovered once the project is complete and the collection is studied by students, scholars, and family historians.

Transcript of Benjamin W. B. Jones Letter to William Smith, 5 February 1826

Petersburg chancery cause 1827-003 involves a dispute over a runaway slave named Davey, alias Davey Smith. Exhibits found in the suit include a notice published in a local newspaper describing Davey’s physical appearance, occupation, and his escape (image 22). The suit also contains letters from Benjamin W. B. Jones of Alabama claiming that he was Davey’s owner (image 27). 

Also in the newly released images there are two suits that involve an African American … read more »

- Maybe we can learn from doodles…

"Registere of James Taylor" and sketches drawn on St. Peter's Parish Records, 1685-1758

Guest contributor Tricia Noel joins us to share an interesting disovery left by an anonymous artist on some New Kent County church records.

Although they can provide valuable genealogical and historical information to researchers, poring over church records can be dull and tedious work. The records of Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in New Kent County (Accessions 30117, 19729, and 19740), however, are anything but boring. The vestry books and register, which cover 1685-1801, are heavily adorned with drawings and sketches. These drawings, which occupy many of the records’ margins and blank spaces, are mostly amusing depictions of horses, dogs, people, and a building or two. Some drawings of most interest to the historian include several of people with clear depictions of contemporary clothing, including a man in a knee-length, cut away coat, and another in a long, curly wig. The faces were drawn with an attention to expression, and many, with their large noses, huge feet and messy hair, are not flattering. There are a few depictions of symmetical, Colonial style houses. There are several dogs, one of them labelled “Rover,” many horses and deer, and one unknown creature, covered with bristles and with a mouth full of dangerous-looking teeth. Several of the images include odd captions, such as “Give me an apple.” It is not known who the anonymous artist was, but one can … read more »

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- Franklin Co. Chancery Added To CRI!

One of the county's historical markers. Image from Wikimedia and used courtesy of MarmadukePercy.

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that digital images for Franklin County chancery causes, 1787-1912, are now available on the Chancery Records Index.  Digital images are available for the years 1787-1912. The complete index covers the years 1787-1929, and original records 1913-1929 are available at The Library of Virginia. Additional post-1913 records are available at the Franklin County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office. Following are a few suits of interest found in this collection.

Franklin County chancery cause 1873-050 includes a detailed report on the division of slaves (image# 10-12), including the ages of the slaves.  There are suits such as 1836-009 and 1885-027 that involve Franklin County native son and Confederate General, Jubal A. Early, who practiced law in Franklin County before and after the Civil War.  Chancery cause 1867-005 is a sad but scandalous divorce suit between James C. Smith and Lucy F. Smith.  James Smith returned home from fighting in the Civil War only to learn that his wife had been unfaithful while he was away (image# 2-3). The suit includes depositions given by Mrs. Smith’s paramours describing their secret getaways. Chancery cause 1870-006 gives details on the many difficulties women encountered while managing estates.  The plaintiff, Nancy B. Ferguson, entrusted the defendant, her nephew Thomas B. Ferguson, with running the day to day affairs of her estate which included … read more »

- Accomack and Fluvanna Chancery Now Available Online!

Plat, 1780, Fluvanna Co. Chancery Cause 1812-007 William I. Stone vs. William Galt &c

 

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that the Accomack County chancery causes, 1727-1805, and Fluvanna County chancery causes, 1779-1882, are now available on the Chancery Records Index.  The Accomack County material consists of chancery suits recovered from court records found in the attic of the clerk’s office in 1996. Additional chancery from Accomack County will be added at a later date. The Fluvanna County chancery causes were separated from court records housed at the Library of Virginia. Additional Fluvanna County chancery records are available at the Circuit Court Clerk’s office.

A number of the Accomack County chancery causes for this date range concern the division of slaves. An example is Accomack County chancery cause 1799-019. This suit includes a report of a division of slaves (image # 7) among the heirs of William Taylor.  Accomack County chancery cause 1783-013 (image # 13) contains a September 1777 letter that references British losses at the Battle of Brandywine.  Accomack County chancery cause 1801-005 is a freedom suit filed by a slave named Mary claiming freedom on the basis of her mother’s Native American ancestry. She argues that her mother, Mall Cook, was “one of the native aboriginal Indians of this country” (image #2).

Transcript for Report of read more »

- More Augusta County Images Are Here!

Dull Family Tree, Augusta Chancery Cause 1879-042 Heirs of Jacob Dull vs. Admr. of Jacob Dull &c

The latest images from the Augusta County Chancery Causes are now available on the Chancery Records Index. With this addition, one hundred boxes of Augusta County chancery covering the time period from 1867 to 1879 can be viewed online.

Following are a few suits of interest found in this latest addition. Augusta County Chancery Cause 1876-058 includes a letter (image# 252-253) written by one of the plaintiffs when he was a soldier in the 25th Virginia Infantry during the Civil War. In Augusta County Chancery Cause 1876-072 (image# 20), a liquor manufacturer sued the city of Staunton claiming the city had no right to tax its liquor. Augusta County Chancery Cause 1877-029 (image #11-15) involves a dispute between a group of former slaves and the executor of the estate of their former master. A genealogical chart of the Dull family can be found in Augusta County Chancery Cause 1879-042 (image#1765). 

Transcript of John J. Rusmisel letter to George Rusmisel

Transcript of Staunton City Treasurer letter to L. Bumgardner & Co.

Transcript of Sampson Pelter’s will

These cases are representative of the over ten thousand found in the Augusta County Chancery Causes collection that document the  rich heritage of Augusta County and western Virginia.  This project is made possible by a partnership betweeen the LVA’s Circuit Court Records Preservation Program and Augusta County Circuit … read more »

- Primary Source Offers Questions and Clues About Will, Runaway Slave

Accomack County, Free Negro & Slave Records Box 1, Barcode 1138011.

Located among the odds and ends of Accomack County court records is this 1758 advertisement from Landon Carter of Richmond County for his runaway slave Will.  Landon Carter was one of the sons of Robert “King” Carter of Lancaster County and a rich man himself.  The advertisement is typical of runaway ads in that it seeks to provide as much information as possible about Will in order to facilitate his recapture:  looks, personality, friends and family, residence(s), and conjecture as to possible destination.  The ads are always interesting for what questions they provoke:  What was this “ill-Behaviour” that caused Will to be moved five counties north from Williamsburg to Richmond County?  What characteristics did he possess that would cause his owner to call him “sensible for a slave” (presumably a compliment)?  Were Will and Sarah particularly close, so much so that after his escape he risked fetching her so that she, too, could be free of slavery and the Carters?  Did Will, Sarah and Peter make good their getaway?

 (Citation: Accomack County, Free Negro & Slave Records Box 1, Barcode 1138011.)

 -Sarah Nerney, Senior Local Records Archivist… read more »

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- Additional Prince Edward County Chancery Causes Added to CRI!

One of the county's historical markers. Image from hmdb.org and used courtesy of Craig Swain.

Additional Prince Edward County chancery causes are now available on the Chancery Records Index. These additions span the years 1754 through 1883. Combined with the previously released images for Prince Edward County, the locality’s chancery causes have been digitized for the years 1754 through 1913.

Chancery cases are especially 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 source for understanding a locality’s history. Chancery causes often contain correspondence; property lists, including slaves; lists of heirs; and vital statistics, along with many other records.  Some of the more common types of chancery causes involve divisions of the estate of a person who died intestate (without a will); divorces; settlements of dissolved business partnerships; and resolutions of land disputes.

Here are a few of the cases you will find in the newly updated Prince Edward County chancery collection. To see more suits, go to the EAD guide and choose “Selected Suits of Interest” on the menu at the left.

 1755-001- Bridget Braithwaite by etc. v. Edward Braithwaite.  The wife sued for separate maintenance. Her husband abandoned her and was cohabiting with Joanna Sinclair, “a woman of ill fame and reputation” in the same parish and county. Bridget Braithwaite and her small children “are … read more »

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