New GeneaGem: Virginia Untold

If you have Virginia ancestry and you don’t regularly visit the Library of Virginia’s website, then you are missing out on some fabulous resources as the library is actively expanding its online collections.

Virginia Untold: The African American Narrative is a GeneaGem as it has as its focus digital access to records that document some of the lived experiences of enslaved and free Black and multiracial people in the Library of Virginia’s collections.

Take the time to view the short YouTube video on the Virginia Untold home page to learn more about searching this collection.

I decided to search for “Samuel Williams” of Cumberland County, Virginia. He is a collateral ancestor to my husband’s Matthias Williams and I know that Samuel owned a plantation which used enslaved labor.

One hit came up on Virginia Untold:

Notice the yellow box at the top – it isn’t necessary to have an account or sign in to view the image, which was a public claim filed in 1820. Samuel died in 1823, so this claim was made late in his lifetime.

Notice, too, below the yellow box is a white box indicating where the digital version is housed. In this case, it’s in the Rosetta Repository.

I clicked on the link and a 4-image file opened. The most informative was the final image:

In Council, Octr 5th 1820.

The Governor submitted to the Board the Record of the trial of George, the property of Samuel Williams, condemned to be hung by the County Court of Cumberland, for having feloniously stolen a black horse, the proerpty of his maters. It is advised that he be reprieved for one year, and removed to the penitentiary for sale and transportation…

Samuel Williams was reimbursed the sum of $500 on 19 February 1821.

No further mention is made of George and it is not known whether he lived out his life in prison, was sold and transported elsewhere after a year or if he was eventually executed, as the reprieve was only for one year.

A List of Slaves and Free Persons of color received in the penitentiary of Virginia for Sale and Transportation from the 25th June 1816 to the 4th February 1842 did not include anyone named George from Cumberland County.

However, for others searching for an ancestor, the list includes the name of the person, date received at the penitentiary, where sentenced, owner’s name, age, value (not filled in) and dates of death, pardon or delivery of those sold.

While the existence of slavery is an inexcusable stain on American history, the creation and survival of these records gives a voice, however, small, to those who would otherwise be completely lost to history.

For those researching Virginia ancestors, whether free persons of color or enslaved, Virginia Untold is a must-visit online resource.

One thought on “New GeneaGem: Virginia Untold”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.