01 May 2009

Got Virginia roots?

The challenge these days is balancing work and home assignments with time allotted to genealogical research. Some of us are retired, but have experienced shrinking retirement funds or live on fixed incomes. As younger family historians join our ranks, their genealogy research is often affected by both limited funds and limited time for research trips.

Our parents and grandparents consolidated trips and cut out extras as they endured gas rationing during the great depression beginning in 1929. Taking such care is the lot of many genealogy researchers, with the highly fluctuating cost of gasoline during the past year, and the related rise in the price of food and other necessities shipped to neighborhood grocery stores.

In this day and age, online presentation of genealogical materials becomes more than an archival convenience, protecting delicate manuscripts from overuse by anxious researchers. Ready access to online digital versions of original documents serve to save researchers' pocketbooks from unnecessary travel expenses.

A short article by noted genealogist Emily A. Croom on page 16 in the January 2009 issue of Internet Genealogy points us to the Library of Virginia Online. Although those of us with Virginia roots would give our eye teeth to visit the Library in person, Emily reports success when searching the LVA's digital archives:
"The Richmond obituary index revealed a death notice of my ancestor Eliza Coleman, who lived and died in a rural county west of Richmond, but whose obituary was published in 1848 in the city newspaper. I ordered a copy from the LVA. Since Eliza died before 1852, when Virginia began registering births and deaths, this obituary has been the only source of her death date."

Ol' Myrt here decided to visit the LVA website, and discovered:

Chancery Records Index - "Each of Virginia's circuit courts created chancery records that contain considerable historical and genealogical information. Because the records rely so heavily on testimony from witnesses, they offer a unique glimpse into the lives of Virginians from the early 18th century through the First World War. The original court papers are flat-filed, indexed, and conserved using a set of standards developed by the LVA. Since the tri-folded records are often in poor condition, special attention is paid to preparing them for digital reformatting. This laborious process is undertaken so that the best quality images can be captured in one effort. The valuable original records are then retired to secure storage.
The reformatted images—whether digital scans or microfilm—can be viewed at the Library of Virginia, at the circuit court clerk's office, or, in the case of digital images, from any internet connected computer. [...] There are over 175,000 cases indexed in the database and a total of 2,375,233 images of chancery causes available online."

Thanks, Emily, for making the case for online presentation of resources for those of us with ancestors who lived in Virginia. Yes, I realize not everything is on the Internet, but it's important to obtain all we can from online resources before looking to already tightened purse strings to fund a research trip back east.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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