Category: Virginia State Archives

News from the Friends of the Virginia State Archives

Fall Slatten Lecture 2021

21st Annual Slatten Lecture Featuring Victor (Vic) Dunn, Certified Genealogist

Saturday, November 6, 2021

On November 6, Vic Dunn, Board-Certified Genealogist who specializes in Virginia and West Virginia research, is this year’s speaker at the 21st Annual Slatten Lecture. It will be held in person at the Library of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia, registration beginning at 8:30.  He will be drawing on his extensive research experience as he presents four presentations including

  • Newspaper Research – More than Deaths and Marriages 
  • Out of State, Out of Mind? Finding the Answers in Virginia’s Neighbor’s Records
  • Magic in Manuscripts and Business Records
  • Land Platting and DeedMapper

Make plans to join us. Reconnect with old friends and make new ones. To view or print the brochure, click the link below.

Slatten Lecture Brochure 2021 – Vic Dunn to speak

For more information contact Anne Taylor Brown at annetaylorb@aol.com or email Slatten Lecture2021@gmail.com.

For your safety and that of others at the program, please bring and wear a face mask.


Update on Visiting the Library of Virginia – Longer Hours Coming July 6!

It’s time to plan your visit soon. The library is currently open Tuesday–Friday, 10:00 AM– 4:00 PM but after July 6 it will extend the hours from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Tuesday-Friday. Appointments are no longer needed to use the second floor reading rooms. However, you will still need to make an appointment to see Special Collections including maps, rare books, photographs, etc. Please call Special Collections at 804692.3703.

Face coverings are no longer required for those who are fully vaccinated. Physical distancing of six feet is still required in all public spaces and hand sanitizer is still available for the public.

For additional information about what to expect on your visit, please see their COVID-19 Update: Guidelines for Researchers, which will be updated regularly. And watch the “Reopening Guidelines for Visitors” video at lva.virginia.gov/about/visit.asp.

Staff members are still available to respond to your questions and research inquiries by email or phone. For Library Reference assistance, call 804.692.3777 or email refdesk@lva.virginia.gov. For Archives Reference assistance, call 804.692.3888 or email archdesk@lva.virginia.gov.

Now that you know the procedure, schedule a date and time and come back! 

2021 News

Honoring F. Claiborne “Jay” Johnston

After serving as a member of the board of the Library of Virginia and the Friends of the Archives for twenty-five years Jay Johnston has stepped down. He served on the board of the Friends for almost two decades, the last ten years of vice president. He came to the Friends after serving on the Library Board of Virginia, being appointed by Governor George Allen in 1996. He was reappointed to the Library board by Governor Mark Warner and served as the chairman in 2001-2002. 

Jay made good use of the archival collection, for over the years he published volumes on the Pinder, Ellett, and Satterfield families. He also published a biographical sketch of Louis Hue Girardin; a study of the Angier family of North Carolina; a selection of records of early colonists of the Bahamas; and a narrative history of First Presbyterian of Richmond, 1812-2012. Articles related to his research on other families have been published in the Magazine of Virginia Genealogy an he has place twenty-eight boxes of his research in the archival collection of the Library. 

In appreciation of his years of service to the Friends and the Library and his interest in Virginia history, the Friends of the VIrginia Archives has made a donation to the Library’s Adopt Virginia’s History Program for the repair, conservation, and restoration of material, 1772-1800, among the Edmund Pendleton Papers in the Archives. Included are letters to William Cabell, Jr., Robert Carter Nicholas, Governor James Monroe, and two unknown recipients. In this way, the Friends hope to show the friendship, regard and lasting respect held for him. 

Library Joins other State Archives to Improve Transcription Platform

Thanks to a generous $5,000 donation from the Friends of the the Virginia State Archives, the Library of Virginia is one of seven state archives supporting the advancement of transcription technologies on the platform FromThePage.

The Library of Virginia launched its first crowdsourcing platform, Making History: Transcribe, in August 2014, and since then over 110,000 pages have been transcribed. People of all ages and backgrounds have fired up their home computers at all hours of the day or night or attended virtual or in-person “Transcribe-a-thon” group events and devoted their time to making Virginia’s history more accessible.

While Making History: Transcribe supports plain-text transcription of “unstructured” documents such as letters, diaries, and many court records, FromThePage offers institutions like the Library of Virginia the ability to transcribe or index “structured” documents such as government forms. In 2018, after much trial and error, the Library launched its first FromThePage project, the World War I History Commission Questionnaires. It allows users to transcribe information about Virginia soldiers without having to re-enter text from the questionnaire forms over and over again. The Library was pleased to share code enhancements with FromThePage to facilitate this type of transcription.

The current goals for FromThePage include improving upon these steps. Along with the financial contribution, the Library will serve on the steering committee with colleagues from Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, and North Carolina to work with FromThePage on enhancements. Structured documents vary greatly and sometimes include plain text as well as repetitive “fill-in-the-blank” questions, and setting up transcription projects requires considerable analysis and trial and error. A new interface, including spreadsheet-style transcription to support multi-record pages such as those found in ledgers, state censuses, voter registrations, and naturalization records; a “reviewer role” to ensure effective transcription; and increased flexibility to support the vagaries of government forms, will vastly improve the experience of our volunteer transcribers and make their work more effective and efficient.

Friends Help All Manuscripts to Archival Collection

There are approximately 126 million items in the archival collection at the Library of Virginia. The vast majority of those records come as archival records created by agencies of the state government. Another large segment includes records from Virginia’s county courts, sent because of secure storage provided by the Library. Unlike some state archives, the Library collects other types of archival material to supplement official records of state government. The Library has recognized the need to do this from its earlies says as a way to fill gaps in Virginia’s history because of the many losses caused by fires and war. This includes the Business Records Collection, the Church Records Collection, the Bible Records Collection, the Map Collection, and the Personal Papers Collection. 

Records are often donated to the Library because of working relationships developed over time with record creators. For example, starting in the mid-1930s, the archival staff solicited the donation of records of vital statistics from family Bible records as a way to substitute for the lack of birth and death records prior to 1853 and from 1896 to 1912. The same is true for the collection of genealogical notes and charts that may represent the results of decades of family research. The solicitation of records continues today when staff members speak to organizations and groups about research at the Library and its resources.

Less common but equally important, the staff regularly reviews auction catalogues for documents for the collection for purchase, and local book and manuscript dealers often contact the Library if they have items that they think may match the Library’s collection needs. Catalogs from Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Swann’s auction houses arrive frequently by mail or Internet. Heritage Auctions is the largest collectables auctioneer and third-largest auction house in the world. A Heritage catalog earlier this year included several Virginia items. Archivist Trenton Hiser was asked to review the catalog and identified eleven items that would make valuable additions to the Personal Papers Collection. The Friends of the Archives agreed to provide $6,000 to acquire as many of the items as possible for the collection. The Library was able to acquire six items through the auction. Four items were letters concerning events during the Civil War. One item was an undated hand-drawn map of Alleghany County by noted cartographer Jedediah Hotchkiss. A three-page letter written in 1807 by James Monroe was the most valuable addition to the collection.

The letter from Monroe acquired was written from Alexandria in January 1807 to his longtime friend John Francis Mercer of Stafford County. Monroe had recently returned to Virginia after four years of service as minister to Great Britain and France where he had assisted Thomas Jefferson with the Louisiana Purchase. Well-liked by many after his term as governor, Monroe was being encouraged to run for president in the election of 1808.

Monroe tells Mercer that he is returning to Richmond where “I shall take a house & hold my principal residence” and resume “my status at the bar.” Monroe continues “I shall be in my proper place…. Which I voluntarily resumed after a long course of public (sic) service. If I am taken from it, it will be by the act of my country & by it only. In the mean time I shall be independent, enjoying the rights of a free citizen & the repose which my mind requires & will cherish.”

Monroe enjoyed little repose during the following years. He served out the term of Governor William Smith who was killed in the Richmond Theatre fire, was appointed Secretary of State by President James Madison, and during the later stages of the War of 1812, also served as Madison’s Secretary of War. He became President of 1817.

2020 News

FamilySearch.org Now Available at the Library

The Library of Virginia is now a FamilySearch affiliate library which enables users access to their millions of records otherwise only available at LDS Church family history centers. Access is gained when using the Library’s computers or wifi.

Ancestry and Fold3 Databases

Fold3 and Ancestry are also “in Library Use Only” databases. However, free remote access to select Ancestry.com materials from the LVA collections is available to Virginia residents via Ancestry for Virginians.

“Straight to the Source” 28th Annual Program, March 20, 2020 and the annual Stratton lecture cancelled.

Both lecture series were cancelled for 2020. Virtual conferences will be planned for 2021. The Lectures scheduled for 2021 will likely all be virtual. Please stay tuned for more on the progress of these events. 

Virginia’s Vitals Records

Ancestry.com has almost finished scanning Virginia’s vital records, 1863-1912. The process should be completed in January as 99% of them are currently scanned. They will then be indexed and ready to use by the end of the summer.

2019 News

Fall Slatten Lecture Featuring Professional Genealogist and Lecturer Michael Strauss

Saturday, September 21, 2019

On September 21, Michael Strauss presented an informative and entertaining program to more than 50 attendees. His topics for this lecture included researching colonial war ancestors, ancestors during the Reconstruction era, World War I ancestors, and researching newspapers.

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Long time supporter, Virginia Refo, looking over military jacket.

About Michael Strauss: He has been an avid genealogist for more than 35 years. He holds a BA in History and is a US Coast Guard veteran, as well as a licensed private investigator and qualified expert witness on estate matters for Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia. Michael is an approved genealogist with the United States Army, locating DNA qualified persons MIA from Korea, Vietnam, and World War II.


An Improved Search Experience at the Library of Virginia coming in June: New Online Catalog System & Registration Process

On June 5, 2019, the Library of Virginia began using a new online catalog and collection discovery system meant to improve the user experience, including:

  • A more modern, intuitive, and user-friendly design, similar to other library catalogs and major online platforms;
  • Search results ranked by relevance and the ability to refine your search as you would on Amazon or other shopping sites;
  • Stronger security for account holder information; and
  • Coming soon: Search integration with the Library’s digital collections and databases.

The new system does require some changes to the registration and library card processes. All accounts must be renewed starting June 5, 2019. Please see the FAQ section below for details. Thanks for your patience while the resources are being brought into the new system and adjustments are made.

For more information, please visit the Library of Virginia Contact Us page (www.lva.virginia.gov/about/contact) and select a department or staff member to reach by email.

Frequently Asked Questions

For processes/changes from June 5, 2019, or later:

I just renewed my library card, but now my account has expired! What gives?

In order to increase security for Library card account holders’ personal information, we are changing the way we identify our patrons in the system. Accordingly, all accounts must be renewed after the changeover to the new catalog—but not before the June 5 date. The new system will require your email address as your primary identifier. You will then enter a new password of your choosing. This will allow us to communicate with you directly through email regarding your account.

What if I don’t have an email address?

Get one! Our staff would be happy to help you set up a Gmail account or another free email service. If you don’t have (or don’t want) an email address, you will need to visit the Library in person. The Circulation staff will assign a barcode as your identifier in the system.

Can I update my information and renew online?

Virginia residents can renew online. When you first access your account in the new system, you will be sent to a renewal page. In addition to your email address and new password, you’ll be asked to provide your driver’s license number in order to validate your resident status. (The Library will use your driver’s license number only for validation and will not store it in the system.)

I’m not a Virginia resident. Can I renew my card?

Unfortunately, online renewal is not available to non-Virginia residents. As a courtesy, non-Virginia residents who have recently received a card at the Library may send an email request that includes their full name and library card barcode number to refdesk@lva.virginia.gov. Within two to three business days, we will extend your card to expire on June 4, 2020. Otherwise, you can renew in-person at your next visit.

If I have a Library of Virginia library card, do I need to get a new one?

No. Once you renew, your existing library card should function as previously.

How long will my account stay current (before needing renewal)?

Your account is good for one year before you will need to renew.

What about my physical card?

Don’t throw away your card! Even if your account has expired, we can link your new account to your card. We should also be able to recover any unspent money you’ve added to it for copies and place it in your new account.

I still have questions! Whom can I contact?

Please visit our Contact Us page (www.lva.virginia.gov/about/contact) and select a department or staff member to reach by email.


Straight to the Source Celebrates 30 Years! 

On March 29, STTS hosted its annual lecture to almost 70 attendees, as well as celebrated its 30th anniversary with “Archive Cupcakes.” Topics were presented by the professional Library staff about the collections at the Library of Virginia.

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The first lecture of the morning was presented by Greg Crawford, Local Records Program Manager. His lecture focused on how to use local court records to learn about Virginia history, and in the process learning about our ancestors.

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Next was Cara Griggs, Reference Archivist, who showed us how to use post-emancipation records to reconstruct families.

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The Library of Virginia houses an amazing collection of photographs. Dana Puga, Prints and Photographs Collection Specialist,  presented “Families in Silver: Michael Miley’s Rockbridge County Photographs.” Michael Miley, born in Rockingham County, Virginia, worked as a commercial photographer after the American Civil War. His work consisted of portraiture and landscapes of the Rockbridge County area.

Great Aunt LucyJohn Deal, Historian, Public Services and Outreach, presented an overview of the new Virginia History Trails App, which virtually enhances your on-the-ground travel experience by providing you with a customized experience based on your location and personal interest.

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Some of the attendees enjoying the day.

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