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Virginia Genealogical Society

http://www.loudoun.gov/Default.aspx?tabid=1062

Entries in Court Order Books of any county record action on matters brought before the judges. Loose papers are the original documents that were presented in court for documentation. Reading the court order books of a county or working in the loose papers can be a time consuming and tedious process, yet it is there that the issues of everyday life are found which help to put flesh on an ancestor’s bones. Often, loose papers contain information that is difficult to find elsewhere. For example, business licenses would be recorded in the Court Order Books but the actual license with a possible signature of an ancestor would be found in loose papers.

At face value, the website for Loudoun County’s Clerk of the Court Archives holds a wealth of information for researchers who may have had an ancestor live in the county. Gary Clemens, Clerk of the Circuit Court and John Fishback, the Historic Records Manager have created and posted indexes for many of the records found among the loose papers of the court. From these index entries, copies of individual records can be ordered. For anyone with Loudoun County ancestors the value to that researcher is obvious, this website was chosen, however, for its educational value to any Virginia researcher. What is important to a non Loudoun County researcher is that the records indexed on this site could be found in other Virginia county court records.

Virtual Jamestown (www.virtualjamestown.org/)may not be the first website that comes to mind when searching for an indentured servant as an ancestor, but it serves a good complement to Nathan Murphy’s site. On this site are transcribed examples of indentured servant contracts, a copy of a letter home to England from an indentured servants, examples of runaway ads, as well as many of the laws enacted in Virginia are pertaining to indentured servitude.

While each of those are valuable providing research perspective, court records from Tidewater counties such as Accomack, York, Essex and Richmond and interestingly enough from Augusta County recount cases involving indentured servants both as plaintiffs and defendants. York County records are available on the main section, while the other county records are found in the Geography of Slavery section. The court records document the geographic spread of indentured servitude throughout Virginia well into the 18th century.

Virtual Jamestown also has 4 databases of individuals sent to the New World from the ports of Bristol, Middlesex and London, covering 1654-1759. There may overlap with the databases on Nathan Murphy’s site. However, a check of both databases would insure a thorough search.

Newspapers are a wonderful tool in any thorough genealogical research. Virginia researchers have a great resource for the colonial period found in the digital collections at Colonial Williamsburg. The Virginia Gazette was published from 1736 -1780 in Williamsburg. These newspapers cover all of Virginia, as well as Scotland, England, etc. The digital images are not transcriptions but the actual newspapers. While not all issues are extant, the ones that are available for viewing create a window into Virginians’ world during that time frame.

It is possible to ‘Browse by date’ or to ‘Search the Virginia Gazette Index’. The Search option is alphabetical and includes topics, (such as occupations, ship names, Runaway slaves etc.), as well as Surnames that appeared in the Gazette within the 44 years of publication that this website covers. When searching for a particular person, highlight the range of topics where the surname would be found. From the list that is found one needs only to scroll through the list to find the first name of an individual. Each entry includes not only the date of the newspaper but which column on the page that entry will be found, making it easier for the researcher. It is also possible to print any entry of interest. The Virginia Gazette found at the Colonial Williamsburg site is a valuable resource tool for any Virginia researcher. http://research.history.org/DigitalLibrary/BrowseVG.cfm

Nathan Murphy’s “Origins of Colonial Chesapeake Indentured Servants: American and English Sources”

http://pricegen.com/immigrantservants/origins.htm

Nathan Muprhy’s “Origins of Colonial Chesapeake Indentured Servants: American and English Sources” is a must for anyone whose ancestor may have migrated to Virginia in the 17th Century. Mr. Murphy explores all the record types that can be investigated to insure a thorough search for an ancestor who may have begun his life in Virginia as an indentured servant. He does not stop there, however; British sources for those who started as servants are also enumerated and explored. Indentured servitude is often difficult to verify, but, Mr. Murphy’s website provides the tools and resources to accomplish that. He also delineates some of the pitfalls in the records. So often a site is visited and never revisited, but, the amount of information on this site definitely requires more than one reading to totally comprehend all that is offered here and it definitely warrants a bookmark as a study guide. The endnotes and bibliography are a course study in themselves.

Of particular interest to the Virginia researcher is the Immigrants Servants database (http://www.immigrantservants.com/) , an ongoing project which has over 23,000 entries of those who came to America from Europe. This is not a Virginia specific database; however, the database is searchable by surname and the results note which individuals came to Virginia as indentured servants. A wise researcher would also check the entries for surrounding colonies for the first entry of an ancestor who may have started life in the New World as a servant in Maryland and, after the indenture was completed, may have migrated to Virginia. Browsing of the database is also possible by first letter of last names.

Both sections of this site should aid research into a 17th century Virginia ancestor who may have begun his life in Virginia as a servant. Furthermore, it takes the search one step further in providing methodology and resources in pursuing that ancestor in Great Britain.

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