Category Archives: State Libraries and Archives

The Library of Virginia Collections

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.

Overlooked Resources for GeneaGems

There are several resources that I’ve mentioned in past posts while I’ve told some of my research stories, but I want to highlight just the resources in my next few posts because I rarely hear genealogy friends telling me they have used them and I don’t see too many people posting about the tidbits that they have found.

Resource #1 – State Libraries and Archives and Library and Archives Canada.

My husband has a Williams line that migrated from Virginia to Eastern Tennessee about 1805. I have spent years, no – decades, sorting out these families and the Tennessee State Archives and the Library of Virginia have helped me find information not available elsewhere and for free.

First example: Roger Williams and wife Cassie Ann Blair of Cumberland County, Virginia had a son, Thomas, who died in the 1820’s. Little is known about him, except that Thomas married Elizabeth Woodson and had five surviving sons at the time he died in Bedford County, Virginia about 1822. His children – Thomas, Woodson, John, Samuel B. and William W. – were named in Roger’s 1835 will.

The Library of Virginia has started a project to digitize its Chancery Court records.  A search of Roger Williams, with no county selected, brought up five files. They all pertain to “my” Roger Williams, but it is Case #3 that caught my interest – Roger Williams, plaintiff vs. Administrator of Thomas Williams, deceased.

There is a nine page file, which has been digitized and contains details about the court fight between Roger and John Woodson, administrator of his son’s estate. From this file, I was able to determine that the last child was born shortly after Thomas died and Roger was attempting to claim expenses to which he may not have been entitled. The administrator is identified as the brother of Thomas’s wife, Elizabeth.

The writing is not the easiest to read, but the images are of the original documents in the court file. A goldmine!

The Missouri State Archives has a growing database of free records to search. Among them are death records up to 1963. The actual images are posted, also free. Certified copies, if needed, can also be ordered. I can’t begin to count the number of times I have found previously unknown maiden names for women and burial places for elderly parents that moved to other counties to live with children.

I have included the Library and Archives of Canada here because I have Loyalist and Patriot roots and have done a lot of research in New Brunswick. The main national website for Canada has a few links to databases available on line, but be sure to check for the Provincial Archives for your location of interest. The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick is a fabulous site that only keeps getting better.

On one of my recent visits to the site, I about jumped out of my seat.  I came across “Records of Old Revolutionary Soldiers and Their Widows” so I searched for one of my Loyalists, Robert Carlisle. I already knew that the Carlisles were from Sussex, a small town in Kings County, New Brunswick. By 1830, the family had removed to Charlotte, Washington County, Maine and Robert appeared in that census. He was gone in 1840 and I assumed that he and Catherine had likely died there, buried in unmarked graves.

I clicked to search names and found “Carlile, Robert” and Catherine, his wife. There are five digitized images for them. The first is a list of pensioned widows, with Catherine’s entry dated 18 Aug 1840, when she lived in the St. Andrews District, New Brunswick.

Here is page 2 with Catherine’s statement in her pension request:


About a quarter of the way down the page, Catherine states that Robert served with the Royal Fencible (Americans), which I already knew. She then adds that he died in 1834 in the town of Charlotte, Maine and that she currently resides in Sussex, Kings County, New Brunswick! She returned home after he died. The only piece of information that is missing is her maiden name and their marriage date, but I was thrilled to have a documented death date and place for Robert.

Each archive site has different kinds of information available. Some states have digitized very little and instead describe what is available in an on-site visit. Many states have, at the very least, historical photos and images, but more and more are posting invaluable databases related to state residents from the earliest time records were kept.

Be sure to check the link above next to “Resource #1” to view individual state archives links. You, too, may find gold and access is free.