What is New Virginia?

Each book you search requires of you a bit of study–so you know what the author(s) intended, what they looked for, what they included, and what they omitted from their work.  So add to the 1) Footnotes and 2)Bibliography, the Authors’ 3)Preface and 4)Introduction (even if these parts are written by someone else)–5)Acknowledgements or Credits.  Who assisted, consulted, edited, reviewed, added to or subtracted from–and why.

Warren F. Hofstra.  The Planting of New Virginia:  Settlement and Landscape in the Shenandoah Valley.  Baltimore:  John Hopkins University Press, 2004.  pp. 410+

This book caught my eye as I was walking down the book aisle at the Family History Library yesterday.  What was New Virginia?  As opposed to Old Virginia?

Here’s the premise:  The Shenandoah Valley along the western frontier of Virginia was different.  And it was acknowledged by contemporaries as a new approach to settlement–New kind of settlers.  New settlement patterns.  And from today’s perspective specific view from the air as you fly over.

  1.  New settlers:  Non-English–religious dissenters, non-conformists, and Anabaptists with fewer direct ties to the British Crown or no ties at all.  Germans, Scots, Scots-Irish, Irish, Swiss, Holland Dutch, and some Scandinavians (Danish and Swedes predominated).  White yeoman families seeking personal power to order their own destiny.
  2. New settlement patterns:  corporate places–towns and fortified residences, private property–farms divided and subdivided by metes and bounds surveys, endorsed by colonial and state governments in patents and grants, and secured by deeds and conveyances in local courthouses.  Roads connected these farms to each other and to local mills and market towns.  Rivers and streams connected to new ports and harbors sending goods and products abroad.  Often by-passing established routes.
  3. The Shenandoah backcountry thus became forecountry–as this settlement pattern was exported to the western  frontier.  Free, entrepreneurial enterprise thrived.

Illustrated with contemporary maps as well as newly drawn maps to show on the ground these differences.  The homes and mills were directly on the roads leading to town and market.  A single pattern of public space unknown on the eastern seacoast was created.

I invite you to explore this thought-provoking perspective as it impacts the records and sources that document your Virginia ancestry.  Virginia counties have suffered much record loss–and this volume draws attention to numerous sources that are still available and waiting for you to search them.

And watch this blog for more details and example records supporting Hofstra’s thesis.  Your favorite Virginia genealogist, Arlene Eakle    http://arleneeakle.com

PS  Some of my best times occur when I stumble upon a book that make me think.  And offers new source material for tracing Virginia ancestors.  Virginia genealogy research can be a real challenge.  Stay tuned!


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