The Virginia Heritage Project

Several years ago, Linda Brinkerhoff and I made a genealogy research trip to Virginia.  We took along the pedigrees for 10 clients, even though our principal objective was the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

I had read in a library chronicle that the U of VA had more than 12 million books on its shelves and almost that many manuscripts in its special collections.  Among the manuscripts were the working papers of the Carnegie Institute survey of American colonial documents in the libraries and archives of Europe.

We went there to read those papers and to spin the microfilmed pages made of the documents they found–including the original version of the 1622 census.

Like bears at a picnic we were!  Entering the library at 7:00 am with our breakfast and lunch in bags.  Exiting the library at midnight, ravenous with physical hunger.  And sated by the wonderful name lists and old maps we had captured in photocopies.  Pages and pages of genealogy data!

But, we had to go there and spend the time and the due diligence to find out what that huge research library held and then make copies of those items that applied to our genealogy research.

Now, the Virginia Heritage website, a consolidated database of finding aids and guides to manuscripts, lays out the historical records and materials you need to document both Virginia history and your ancestors, from 1607 on.

Twenty-three–count them, 23 university and college libraries, historical and genealogical archives and libraries, and the Library of Virginia participate.  You can access the information by locality, subject, time period, personal names–just decide what kind of information you want.

When this on-going project is completed, it is estimated that 25,000 finding aids to over 30 million manuscripts and 16 million archives will be available to scholars and researchers.  African-American materials include 15,000 pages describing some 500 collections scattered across the state of Virginia.

In the beginning…all was Virginia!

In a project this vast, copyright becomes a question.  So the project is available under these rules–

  1. The database is available to the public for use in research, teaching, and private study.  Prints and downloads may be made without prior permission, with proper credit for all copies.
  2. Guides and associated images and examples carry copyright held by the participating library or archive.  These cannot be re-published or used for commercial purposes without prior written permission.

Even if the image is the long lost will of your 4th-great grandfather, you cannot reproduce it for the attendees at your family reunion without prior written permission.  And you cannot claim ownership of images that detail the lives and times of your family members and ancestors.

Even if your website is used and quoted by other genealogists for the use of students earning professional credentials, you cannot upload the images to your own website without prior written permission.

The technical maintenance of Virginia Heritage comes from the University of Virginia.  Check this site out.  And return to it again and again–seeking those family papers your family did not inherit.  Those volumes of church minutes the minister reported to you were lost before 1900.  Those letters written from Donegal Ireland to Augusta County or Botetourt County where your family finally settled.  Your favorite Virginia genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  I did not get to Virginia my last research trip–so I am planning to go in January 2010.  Let me know if you want your ancestors added to my research list.

PPS  Read my Research Tips posted most days on Facebook.  I invite you to become a friend and ckeck-in often.

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