The Library of Virginia was previously mentioned in my post on State Archives and Libraries. However, one mention of its Chancery Court digital collection doesn’t do this website justice. It is chock full of hard-to-find information and more is being added to its digital collection regularly.
Click on “Virginia Memory,” which is on the left hand side in the “For the Public” choices.
Next, click on “Digital Collections” on the far left side of the green tool bar.
An index, by category, to the current collections appears. Even if I am looking for a specific collection of records, I always check the “What’s New?” collection first. Today, there are several new collections listed on varied topics such as a World War II Poster Collection, the digitizing of their Rare Books Collection and The Virginia Czech and Slovak Folklife Festival. Although this festival was recently held (19 Oct 2013), participants were invited to bring family histories and photos to be scanned by the LVA. There are 46 individual family files – I have Slovak heritage, but, unfortunately, my family lived in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The next item in the list is the “Featured Collection,” which currently is “Legislative Petitions,” here described:
Petitions to the General Assembly were the primary catalyst for legislation in the Commonwealth from 1776 until 1865. Public improvements, military claims, divorce, manumission of slaves, division of counties, incorporation of towns, religious freedom, and taxation were just some of the concerns expressed in these petitions. The petitions often contain hundreds of signatures and are a useful tool in genealogical research. Frequently, the petitions contain supplementary support documents useful in research, including maps, wills, naturalizations, deeds, resolutions, affidavits, judgments, and other items.
I put in a search for just Pittsylvania County and 247 files came up, ranging from slavery petitions, war claims and pensions, wills and administrations, and private relief and compensation requests. There is even a petition from residents of Stokes County, NC in support of a ferry with signatures of those petitioning.
The next category, “Collections A to Z,” contains a wide variety of items of interest to genealogists. The Chancery Records Index, before mentioned, is found here. There is also a top notch collection of Civil War maps, Cohabitation Registers listing marriages of former slaves and Confederate soldier and widow records. The list goes on, but this one is a true hidden gem:.
The Lost Records Localities Digital Collection is tremendous! The Library has created a digital collection of records found in other counties relating to residents of “burned counties”, whose own records have been lost. Buckingham County is one such county; its records were lost in 1869. A search of the “Lost Records” collection turned up 139 files. The last one is a marriage bond dated 1765 (!) for Pryor Wright and Cowzey Staples, found in Cumberland County.
Their descendants would be over the moon to find this document! The Lost Records Collection is an on-going project and worth revisiting if you have families in Virginia burned counties.
Other notable mentions include the Virginia Land Office Patents and Grants, the War of 1812 Bicentennial Collection and the WPA Life Histories Project, which includes interviews with fifty former slaves.
In addition to all the digital file collections, the Library houses hundreds of original manuscripts, family histories and other genealogical items which require an on-site visit to access.
Anyone with Virginia ties should have the Library of Virginia page bookmarked.