Guides to Virginia Manuscript Records–the Real Value of Finding Aids

Charles A. Bodie has compiled a series of guides to manuscript collections for Virginia  counties and areas.  I, for one, hope he has plans to continue his series.  Knowing where to look is half the battle in tracing a hard-to-find ancestor.  Titles currently available:

  1. A Guide to Gloucester County Virginia Historical Manuscripts, 1651-1865.  1976.  Supplement to Records of Colonial Gloucester County Virginia, Polly Cary Mason.  Virginia State Library, Archives Division.
  2. Rockbridge County, Virginia Manuscripts:  A Guide to Collections in the United States.  1998.  Rockbridge Historical Society, PO Box 514, Lexington VA 24450.  Includes manuscripts at the Library of Congress.
  3. Alleghany Highland, Virginia Maunscripts:  A Guide to Collections in the United States.  2000.  Gateway Press for Bath County Historical Society.  Includes Alleghany, Bath, and Highland Virginia counties.
  4. Roanoke And New River Valleys, Virginia Manuscripts:  A Guide to Collections in the United States. 2003.  History Museum and Historical Society of Western Virginia, PO Box 1904, Roanoke VA 24008.  Includes Botetourt, Craig, Roanoke, Montgomery, Floyd counties.

These guides identify old letters, journals and diaries, deeds and land surveys, pension applications, city directories for small communities, artisans’ records, ledgers and account books of small business firms.  And each guide is carefully indexed.

Genealogies and genealogical materials, pedigree charts, family photographs are included.  Many manuscript guides omit them, with a short statement that they “do not fall into the subject matter of the guide.”

Bodie recognizes that the history of a community, a business firm, or a family is incomplete without the genealogy.  An enlightened compiler!

A great challenge to the genealogist is knowing that a family Bible exists and where the original can be found.  Many families have long since parted with the precious papers and volumes that were, at one time, found among the family muniments.  And the more significant the family or the business, the greater the chance that the papers and volumes will become scattered among several archives–some in other states or even countries.

You may not have a clue that the Preston Papers in Gloucester County apply to the same Preston family you are researching in Kentucky.  Unless someone draws your attention to that missing portion of the records that went to another family branch.   Since I do research in all of these areas of Virginia–I am overjoyed to discover these finding aids.

Thruston/Thurston, Zachariah Johnston, William and John Preston and their descendants, Landon Carter, the son of “King” Carter, William Rippetoe (on two different lines), and I could go on and on and on–these families and their members are included in all four of the guides listed above.

If you have research in any of these counties, seek a copy of these guides and check your families in them.  Or I will be happy to assist you in the copies at the Family History Library.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS Older finding aids and guides, although out of date, can be just as valuable–Virginia has suffered much record loss, spanning over 400 years!  Discovering records that were supposed to be lost from a seventeenth century fire, deposited in 1950 in a local archive brings the miracle of surviving genealogy information to you.  Don’t overlook early guides.

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