Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Virginia is for lovers - of Genealogy!

I love the Library of Virginia. Now I have never been to the library personally, but thanks to the Internet and the library’s terrific website, I have been able to do quite a bit of research on my Virginia ancestors without having to leave Ohio.


Having two sets of ggg grandparents who came from Virginia and one set of gggg grandparents born in that state, I have a significant interest in Virginia’s history and its genealogical treasures.


Below is a sampling of services that you can take advantage of if you too have Virginia roots.

1. Images and Indexes Online


This list of catalogues was my first “find” on the LVA website. It’s always the first place I go when I find a new twist on the Virginia part of my family tree. Some of the indexes include:

Death Records Indexing Project (1853 to 1896)Index to War of 1812 Payrolls and Muster RollsIndex to Virginia Confederate Rosters Obituary Index for Richmond Enquirer/Richmond Visitor Petersburg Public Library Newspaper Index

Below is a list of some of the databases that have online images attached. It was a real treat to see a small outlined map for my sixth great grandfather’s land in what was then Frederick County of Virginia.

Virginia Land Office Patents and Grants/Northern Neck Grants and SurveysWPA Life Histories Collection Confederate Disability Applications and ReceiptsConfederate Pension Applications Robert E. Lee Camp Confederate Soldiers’ Home ApplicationsWorld War I History Commission Questionnaires
Revolutionary Bounty Warrants


2. Chancery Court Records Index

Chancery Court cases are those involving two parties who are in dispute over conflicting claims. A judge listens to both parties and then renders impartial justice based on legal precedent, when there is precedent, or uses judicial discretion when there is not.


Types of cases found in Chancery Court would include estate division cases, settlements of dissolved business partnerships and resolution of land disputes.


This is an ongoing project for the Library of Virginia. You can use the index to search for parties involved in chancery cases for a particular county. Entries show the last names of defendants and plaintiffs, LVA’s index number and also the original case number.


Some of the cases have been microfilmed, some are still found only in the original papers, but some have been scanned and put online in a PDF format. Shenandoah County, for instances, falls in the latter category. I was able to find and VIEW a court case involving my ggg grandfather Joseph Good – which by the way, didn’t make him look very honorable.


For a list of what is currently available click here.

You will want to check back periodically, because as mentioned, this is an ongoing project.

3. Microfilmed County and City Records

LVA maintains a robust microfilm collection for each of the counties of Virginia and some of the major cities. Most of these are eligible for the library’s inter-library loan program. LVA does not charge for this service, however, my library, Birchard Library, does charge for the postage insurance to send the films back to Virginia. Last time I ordered three films, the total charge came to $2.45, which netted me some, land deeds, some marriage records, and a peek at the index to a particular county’s wills.


The Library of Virginia allows you to order up to five films, which you may keep for 28 days. You can renew these for another 28 days if for some reason you haven’t finished with them in the allotted time.


It’s hard to believe, but it’s easier for me to research various counties in Virginia than it is for me to research Ohio counties. Paul Heinegg, who has researched free African Americans pre Civil War, has said that he used this same inter-library tool to research Virginia records for his book, “Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware.”

Check to make sure your local library participates in the inter-library loan program. If it does, you are all set to do some great long distance searching – close to home.

Until Next Time – Happy Ancestral Digging!

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