The Library of Virginia has been digitizing some of their most valuable records: Finding Aids to Documents. If you want to break your losing streak, a good finding aid, with an every-word index to the contents of the aid itself, is your best genealogy friend.
What is a finding aid?
Large collections of documents, including family papers and files, need a detailed guide or inventory of each piece of paper. Scholars and graduate students painstakingly comb a collection. Examining each document–all and every page–and describe the item in precise detail. Who is it about? Where does it take place? What dates are covered? What event is it connected to?
The pages on which this data are entered, whether handwritten on a pre-printed form or typed online using a template, become the finding aid. Every library and archive with manuscript collections has finding aids to those documents.
Along comes the Library of Virginia with its commitment to preserving the raw materials for the history of Virginia. And its corps of typists. And VOILA! Online access to searchable indexes–the lifeline to “hidden” ancestors.
The Virginia Colonial Records Project
The Virginia Historical Society, the University of Virginia, and the Library of Virginia (then called the Virginia State Library) commissioned Virginia scholars to search foreign archives for records documented Virginia’s people and their history. Between 1955 and 1985, these agents visited over 100 libraries and archives in the British Isles seeking Virginia documents:
- Survey Reports, 14,704 of them, were prepared. These reports describe Virginia-related records in detail.
- Microfilm copies of the documents, 963 reels, were processed. These microfilms are on deposit at the three sponsoring libraries. They can be borrowed through interlibrary loan. For example, The original Muster of the Inhabitants, 1624-25 (Virginia Census) includes a copy of the List of the Living and Dead, 1623/24, sent back to England as part of an administrative report to the Crown and its ministers, is on reel 72.
- Online Searchable Index, 500,000 personal-names, ship-names, repository-names, and document titles. http://www.lva.virginia.gov
- Online Database linking index entries to digitized images of the Survey Reports. http://www.lva1.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/
Once you have the entries you want, you can click the links to the Survey Reports. Index entry for 1624/25 Census of Virginia:
|1||Public Record Office Class C. O. 1/3.||1624||Online material|
Please note: to secure copies of documents in the Survey Reports or permission to reproduce the documents in your family history contact the repository where the documents originate. The repository is shown in each index entry–in this case, the Public Record Office–and there is a Repository List on the Library of Virginia site.
I also searched for John Thruston and got 5 hits:
|1||Principal Probate Registry Class: Will-Register Books 322 DUCAREL.||Online material|
|2||Public Record Office Class H.C.A. 32/414.||Online material|
|3||Lambeth Palace Library Class Fulham Palace Papers, Vol. 34.||Online material|
|4||Lambeth Palace Class American Ecclesiastical Affairs.||Online material|
|5||Principal Probate Registry Class Will-Register Books 102 EXTON.||Online material|
It’s that easy!
If you have colonial Virginia ancestors–check this data base out. And break your losing streak? Your favorite Virginia genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://www.arleneeakle.com
PS Be sure to tune in to my new Kentucky blog–launch posted 19 June 2009.
My favorite VA finding aid is the Virginia Heritage Project. I covers the manuscript and archives collections of some major repositories in VA. Sure wish we had had it back when we did that trip to SW VA years ago and got lost on Skull Gap.
You can get to the Virginia Heritage Project from the same Library of VA link you listed above: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/