I realized quickly that I’d have to “think outside the box” to learn about my ancestors. I LOVE to interview people, and listen to stories about "the older days" when life seemed a little slower and simpler. I study USGS maps, plats, read chanceries, look for long forgotten cemeteries and try to help preserve memories people share with me. This blog is ad free, so it's easier to focus on sharing stories. Feel free to sign the guestbook, or join the FaceBook group. Even if we aren't related by DNA, I'd still love to hear about your research efforts and family stories. I am interested in posting (to this blog) stories relevant to the Mecklenburg-Brunswick families.

26 May 2015

Library of Virginia, how I view chanceries

I cannot say how much I love to visit the Library of Virginia! LVA is the Virginia State Archives. Most of the research I do is right there on the second floor, in this picture, on the left. On the other side of the bookshelves is the microfilm readers were you can view and save images to a thumb drive. Also in the corner farthest from the steps, is where I go to the reading room to view old chanceries. Some counties are digitized and even online at LVA's site. Mecklenburg and Brunswick, you still need to view the original cases. When I first started going to LVA I loved going up the big staircase. Now I can't do stairs, so I take the elevator. This building is very handicap accessible. It's also really nice that there's a parking garage below the library, free for patrons. You get your ticket validated in the library at the information desk.

I could not find hardly anything for my family in Mecklenburg, Virginia, until I started looking at chanceries which had copies of wills, plats etc. Those copies are often the only surviving documents now. I used to copy the chancery pages and pay 75 cents a copy, which went towards other projects and technology updates. I have several legal binders holding those cases. I signed a photo release, stating my reason for photographing. Now I photograph the whole chancery case and view it more at home. If I have friends wanting to see the case too, I put the file in my Google Drive and share the folder with them. It's pretty neat to see it in color, from pictures. It shows the different colors of ink, types of paper, seals (which I do close up pictures of), etc. You have to turn flash off to take pictures. I shoot in RAW format. My camera takes a RAW image and JPEG at the same time. The lighting is pretty good in the room, from the high ceiling and table lamps. Also, by taking pictures, I have a digitized copy, I can zoom in etc.

In Virginia, older divorce cases, which were circuit court, are now kept with chancery records. If one died without a will, the estate was settled in chancery case. If a plat is referenced, or the estate being divided and sold, a plat is often included. If the will was not being fulfilled, it was brought to chancery, with a copy of the will included. This happened a lot just after the civil war, because the estates lost all their money if run by slave income or backed by Confederate dollars. Those in charge of the estate who were being sued, often answer the chancery "complaint" by telling the court the heirs are correct, but heirs haven't been paid because there wasn't any money left. One of my favorite parts about chanceries is that relationships are explained and women are often referred to with their maiden name stated.

Below is an example from a chancery. It's a stamp, and on the inside is a seal imprint. I talked to the archivist about this and was told this is similar to, but not a postage stamp. It showed payment for copying the will and that it was official. In this case I viewed, Martha Gregg, who married Thomas Bracey had a brother named Samuel. When Samuel Gregg, the youngest, turned 21, they could all inherit their estate from their father William Gregg. This chancery case is listed as: Mecklenburg, VA chancery 1873:009-Bracey vs Bracey
Here's a link to LVA's chancery index page: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/

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