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Genealogy Gazette

Volume 7, Number 18
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
October 7, 2015
Publisher's Notes
In this article we discuss researching in Virginia. Since I was born in Virginia, it is a favorite of mine for research. It definitely helps to know the history of the state before you start looking for your ancestors. I have written many times on researching in Virginia and here are just a few articles that I have written if you missed them:

Fincastle County, Virginia

Virginia Land Records

Travelers from the Old Dominion

Virginia Research

Territory North of the River Ohio

Thank you,
James L. Douthat
Mountain Press
In a vast number of our genealogy charts, there is someone that goes back to the State of Virginia at some point. This is a great place to research, but also one of the more confusing places to try to find answers. Part of this is a lack of knowledge of the state history and another part is a false sense of location.
The territory that we now call Virginia began in Jamestown on the east coast in 1607. This little settlement was the state capital for a time in the beginning. It was here that a man by the name of Abram Woods, a council member of the area, heard the stories of the local natives about a huge body of water just seven days journey west. Woods assumed this to be the Pacific Ocean and formed an expedition to search this out. He and his men traveled westward for seven days and did come upon a huge river. This river, however, was flowing northward and he assumed that something was wrong and he turn back to Jamestown. The river was called “Woods River” for many years in Virginia history. Today we know this as the New River and yes it does flow northward from the mountains of North Carolina through Virginia into West Virginia and finally the waters reach the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
The capital was moved within a few years to Williamsburg during the colonial period and remained there until it finally moved to Richmond. Having lived in Wise, Virginia for a time, we discovered that if you draw a large circle with Wise as the center, there are eight state capitals closer to Wise than Richmond. It is such a long state.
There are several colonial census available prior to the first total one for the state in 1810. The 1790 that is presented frequently is not really a census, but rather the 1787-1788 tax list for each of the counties that existed at the time. You will need to go elsewhere for information on the colonial period. Since the state began to be subdivided into “shires” and not counties, the records are hard to find. This is where you need to look into the Parish records of the Church of England of the time period. These contain the records that we call those who are “hatched, matched and dispatched”. Once the counties came on the scene, the major record they contained in the early period were the land records. In 1853, the Virginia Legislature passed a strong suggestion along to the county official that they might want to collect the birth and death records on a voluntary basis. Many of the counties started this process and kept it up. This included the counties that were later to become West Virginia as well. Kentucky took up the cause a little later.
In the part of the state west of the Shenandoah Valley, the counties were not well formed until after about 1749. Virginia claimed the lands from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, but in reality they stopped at the Mississippi River and north to Canada. The boundary between North Carolina and Virginia was surveyed only as far west as the Washington County, Virginia area by “Lighthorse” Harry Lee, Robert E. Lee’s father. He claimed that this was a far as the state would ever extend - little did he really know. In 1772-1776 the county of Fincastle was created with lands from the Shenandoah Valley to the Mississippi River and north to Canada. At this time, there are seven states within the boundary of this one county. Having transcribed many of the few records that exist today there are a world of names of the men that created Kentucky and the western part of Virginia as well as West Virginia. You have not lost them, they are just listed in a different place.
In 1790 the government of Virginia, with consent from the Federal Government, created two new territories out of this vast land. They created the Territory South of the River Ohio, or the Southwest Territory; and the Territory North of the River Ohio, or the Northwestern Territory. This vast land mass existed until June 1, 1796 when Tennessee was created a state. The Southwest Territory covered all of Kentucky, West Virginia, western Virginia and the upper half of Tennessee. This latter portion was south to Kingston, Tennessee and across the Cumberland Plateau into Middle Tennessee near Nashville and a little west of that. There were many different Indian tribes covering most of this southern and western portion of Tennessee.
The Northwestern Territory included some of Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan; then all of Indiana and Illinois. Many records exist for all of these territories at the time. In the Northwestern Territory, there were many of our families that took part in the various Indians conflict, namely the Shawnee Wars. Quite a number of different tribes had their homelands in this area. This was also a territory disputed by the British, French and Spaniards. Each of these had settlement in the area in the long history of the lands.
Today, the Virginia State Archives is a great source of detailed information on each of the time periods, as well as the counties and territories as they were formed. In fact, you can access microfilm from them on an inter-library loan system and get copies of records for each county during the time period you need. You will need to consult your own local library anywhere in the United States and they will help you secure these records to look at in your own local library.
Happy Hunting!




Virginia Books



Virginia Book Sale

Since we are focusing on Virginia Research this week, we are offering 20% off all Virginia books until Sunday, October 11th at midnight. Just enter VASALE in the Coupons and Special Offers section of the shopping cart. The code must be entered for the discount to calculate. Here are just a few of our Virginia books.

Giles County, VA Register of Births 1855-1880


1900 Directory of Virginia Teachers


1919 State Board of Education of Virginia


Tazewell County, Virginia Birth Records Part 1 1853-1860


Land Grants in Fincastle County, VA 1772-1776


The Militia of Washington County, Virginia


Wythe County, VA Will Books 1-2 1790-1822


Lee County, VA Deed Book Number 1 - 1793-1804


Virginia Wills Before 1799



If you have any questions or suggestions for future editions, please email us at jimd@mountainpress.com.