Lessons learned from experience in Virginia genealogy!
1. Contact living relatives for data. You and your relatives store a wealth of genealogy data about your family in memory. While something you remember, at first may seem commonplace to you, you can use it as a clue to save you hours of research time. Or to verify what the records seem to say.
Opal Rippeto did not have the family Bible; she did still live on the family land in Missouri. And she knew that her ancestor, William Rippeto, did come from Kentucky into Missouri long before she was born. This verified what the records showed: two separate and distinct William Rippeto men came to Kentucky from Virginia.
2. Profile your ancestors before you begin research in Virginia. Even though the word profile has taken on a negative connotation in today’s world, profile your ancestors. This profile includes occupation, religious background, ethnic origins, family naming patterns, dates and routes of migration, education. Then you can determine what specific jurisdictions and records are most likely to have information on your ancestors.
George Sanderson was a silk weaver in Derbyshire, England according to census records in America. The mill in which he was working closed down three years after his marriage. The parish churchbooks do not tell where he went for employment–and where his children were born. Instead of searching surrounding parishes in ever-widening circles, draw a straight line to the nearest silk mill where he could obtain work and discover him there.
3. Track down family records. Your family members need not be prominent to deposit their genealogy and family papers in local historical societies and public libraries. These private research collections often contain the only original records which survive.
The Library of Virginia in Richmond (formerly the Virginia State Library) holds 176 separate documents in pertaining to Zachariah Johnston of Augusta and Rockbridge counties. An additional 626 genealogy documents and 7 volumes of genealogy records are preserved in Duke University Library, Durham NC.
Finding these family records eliminates the need for lengthy searches in unindexed books. The Johnston genealogy papers include wills, deeds, guardianship appointments, church certificates and transfers, family Bible pages, correspondence with family members who migrated West, newspaper clippings, tax receipts, and military service medals.
Most prized among all these original records is the business account book of his grandfather–brought from Ireland in 1707 through Pennsylvania and finally, into Virginia. Extending the genealogy and identifying the origins of the family.
4. Take the time to search for “lost” sources. Study the historical background of the jurisdictions where your ancestors lived. Have you heard it said, “Southern ancestors are difficult to find if the census records are lost”? Genealogists and archivists, both, conclude that they were lost during the Civil War.
Actually, some sources were preserved by the Civil War. The Federal Government offered individual reimbursements, called reparations, to Southerners who remained loyal to the Union.
This meant: they did not serve in enemy militia units. Or pay taxes to enemy governments. Or sit on enemy juries. Or vote for enemies in local elections.
The Federal Government sent agents into Virginia and other Southern states to confiscate local tax and court documents for evidence. When your ancestors claimed loyalty to the Union, their claims were checked against the original records.
These genealogy research documents are now preserved in Federal archives where you can search them.
And you can trust my experience in Virginia genealogy–instead of learning the hard way. Try these. They work. Your favorite Virginia genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://www.arleneeakle.com
PS Stay tuned to discover how to claim your own, personal genealogy “economic stimulus” package! From Moi.
PPS Check out the new loads on http://www.binnsgenealogy.com as of January 2009. This is an active site and Greenbrier 1782-1816; Lunenburg 1809-1835; Warwick 1782-1843, 1844-1861; and Winchester 1787-1841 tax rolls have been added to cover the lost censuses for these counties.