Westmoreland County

A New Cache of Old Records

A New Cache of Old Records

When I began began doing genealogical research many years ago, like all beginners I focused on marriage records, birth and death records--when they were available, and wills. Then came deeds and other land records, and through using them I discovered the world of "courts of chancery" and "chancery records."

Not all Virginia courts judged cases the same way, you see. Some courts decided cases based on written laws that either specifically allowed or specifically prohibited various actions in certain circumstances. There was in these courts no latitude for judicial interpretation; there were no "grey areas."

Other courts, however, dealt with issues of equity or fairness in a much more flexible way--Chancery Courts. These courts decided cases which codified law could not readily accomodate, and these cases were usually land disputes, divisions of estates, divorce petitions, and business partnership disputes.

Chancery Court files are filled with subpoenas, depositions of witnesses, affidavits and other items of enormous interest to genealogists!

The Library of Virginia in Richmond has been diligently digitizing and indexing old chancery records, covering cases from the early eighteenth century through World War I. The database now includes hundreds of thousands of items. Several jurisdictions of interest to us are already completed! You may now find and view online the scanned chancery records for Westmoreland County, 1753-1913; Caroline County, 1787-1849; and Culpeper County, 1829-1913. Others will be made available in due course.

Accommodating Revolutions: Virginia’s Northern Neck in an Era of Transformations, 1760-1810

By Albert H. Tillson, Jr.

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The Northern Neck runs from Falmouth in Stafford County all the way down to Windmill Point in Lancaster County, bounded by the Rappahannock River to the south and the Potomac River to the north.  Now it’s a sleepy section of Virginia but it was once called the Athens of the New World.

What a foreign world it seems to us today—the antebellum Northern Neck--where wealthy white plantation owners bought and sold slaves with ease along with the services of bound whites for years at a time. How could such a system that relied on keeping people in their places and maintaining the established order bring forth some of the greatest leaders of the Revolutionary period? History is complicated, and Accommodating Revolutions digs into court documents and newspaper accounts to flesh out what was going on with those who served the gentry as the winds of political and religious upheaval shook Virginia.
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Postcards Coming In!

Postcards voicing support for fully funding the 2010-2011 library budget request are coming in from Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania, Westmoreland, and beyond!
See what some of our supporters have to say about the importance of the library in their lives:

Virginia's Northern Neck: A Pictorial History

By John C. Wilson

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Virginia's Northern Neck: A Pictorial History is filled with photos and illustrations that, along with informative text, give an lively dimension to the region's past, from early settlements to steamboat days to 20th-century lives well-lived.

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The Oyster Wars of the Chesapeake Bay

By John R. Wennersten

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In the decades following the Civil War, Chesapeake Bay became the scene of a life and death struggle to harvest the oyster, one of the most valuable commodi­ties on the Atlantic coast. In this book, noted historian and author John Wennersten tells the stories of wa­termen, law enforcement officers, government officials, Bay scientists, immi­grants, and oyster shuckers involved in the oyster trade.
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Reluctant Genius: Alexander Graham Bell and the Passion for Invention

By Charlotte Gray

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Inventor of the telephone and teacher of the hearing impaired, Bell kept his summer home at Colonial Beach in Westmoreland County, now a bed & breakfast inn.
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The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter, the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves

By Andrew Levy

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Robert Carter III was born into the highest circles of Virginia's Colonial aristocracy, neighbor and kin to the Washingtons and Lees and a friend and peer to Thomas Jefferson and George Mason. But in 1791, Carter severed his ties with this elite at the stroke of a pen. Having gradually grown to feel that what he possessed was not truly his, clashing repeatedly with his neighbors, his friends, government officials, and, most poignantly, his own family, he set free nearly five hundred slaves in the largest single act of liberation in the history of American slavery before the Emancipation Proclamation.
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The Lees of Virginia, Seven Generations of an American Family

By Paul C. Nagel

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"There are few American families that feature such a collection of characters, both heroic and ignoble, who have made such a mark on history as the Lees. In The Lees of Virginia, Paul Nagel chronicles seven generations of Lees, covering over two hundred years of accolades and scandals. We meet Thomas Lee, who dreamed of America as a continental empire, and his son, Arthur Lee, who created a political storm with his accusations against Benjamin Franklin. Arthur's cousin was Light-Horse Harry Lee, a controversial cavalry officer in the Revolutionary War, whose wild real estate speculation led to imprisonment for debt and finally self-exile in the Caribbean. One of Harry's sons, Henry Lee, further disgraced the family by seducing his sister-in-law and frittering away Stratford, the Lees' ancestral home. It was a third son, Robert E. Lee, who would become the family's redeeming figure, a brilliant tactician still revered for his lofty character and military success. In these and numerous other portraits, Nagel discloses how, from 1640 to 1870, a family spirit united the Lees, making them a force in Virginian and American affairs."
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Speaking of the Northern Neck of Virginia & Life in Its Long-Untrodden Ways During Three and a Half Centuries

By C. Jackson Simmons

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This is a compilation of speeches by a noted Northern Neck historian, augmented by many illustrations. The subjects include the Northern Neck's early settlement, speech patterns of the gentry and others, the "villaines" Moll Flanders and Henry Esmond, crime & punishments generally, a colonial church,
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