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To trace your family history you must begin with yourself. Carefully record the important facts of your own life and what you know of your parents and grandparents. Compile a genealogical chart showing the names of your immediate ancestors with their birth, marriage and death dates and the places where each event occurred. Consult other members of your family and collect the information they have gathered. You may find that some family member has saved family papers, newspaper clippings, obituaries, family Bibles or other treasures. Such records can provide additional information to enlarge the oral history you have collected and may also document some of your genealogy. Record your genealogical data with care. Always list the source of even the smallest bit of information. Where did you find each name, date, or claim? Once you have begun to collect family data you should attempt to learn if others have also compiled information on your family. Is there a published family genealogy? The General Library Branch of the Virginia State Library has a large collection of such published family histories. The next step in your research is to go to the local courthouse, to the state archives, or perhaps to the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. You must search for original records to document the history you have heard from relatives or the claims you have found in published genealogies. Genealogical research is neither fast nor easy. It will require much study and thought but will provide you with an excellent hobby and a fascinating pastime.





The first U. S. census was taken in 1790 and a census has been taken every ten years since. However, the censuses for Virginia for 1790, 1800, part of 1810, and 1890 have not survived. Those for 1810-1880, 1900 and 1910, are available on microfilm in the Archives Branch, Virginia State Library. From 1850, they list names of all individuals in the household on the day the census was taken. Age, sex, race and various other types of information appear in various years. BIRTH & DEATH RECORDS. Virginia recorded births and deaths from 1853 through 1896 and 1912 to the present. All are in the Division of Vital Records, P. O. Box 1000, Richmond, Va. 23208. However, microfilm copies of the 1853-1896 registers are available in the Archives Branch.




Deeds, wills, court records, marriages and other types of documents recorded at the local level of government will be found in the individual court houses of Virginia's counties and independent cities. The Archives Branch has microfilm copies of pre-1865 records.




Both land and personal property tax records for all Virginia      counties from 1782 through 2000 are available in the Archives Branch.




The Archives Branch has military service records and/or pension records for Virginia soldiers who served during the colonial wars, the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. (Complements of the Virginia State Library.)




The following information is considered the basic or primary information that genealogists seek: A. Full name, if available, of everybody. B. Birth and death dates. (Day, month and year) C. Place of birth and death. (Post office, county and state) D. Places of burial (Name of Cemetery. location, county, state) E. Places lived. (Post office, county and state) F. Name of spouse/s. (If wife, maiden surname) G. Date and place of marriage. H. Occupations, (Farmer, lawyer, doctor, factory worker, public official, etc.) I. Name of parents, including maiden surname of mother J. Full names of all siblings, their dates of birth and death, dates of marriage and names of spouses. K. Church affiliation. L. Military records.






A. Pictures B. Appearance, height, weight, color of eyes, etc. C. Hobbies, talents, likes, dislikes. D. Illnesses, physical disabilities, if any. E. Accomplishments. F. Interesting stories about them. G. Did they get along with their mother-in-law, etc?




1. The first Federal Census was taken in 1790, and one has been taken each ten years since that time. 2. The 1890 Census of Virginia and several other states were lost during the War of 1812.      3. An attempt has been made to gather the information contained in this census from other records.     4. For a number of years, the census was enumerated by United States Marshals. Since 1880, other citizens were hired to take the census, usually someone living in the district to be taken.     5. Some enumerators were more conscientious than others. Some were as accurate as they could be; others were not so accurate.    6. The handwriting of some was much better than that of others.    7. Ages and/or birth dates are often inaccurate. It was often difficult for the enumerator to get the correct dates.    8. Generally, census records are the best source available for finding the names of children of parents as far back as 1850. 9. Prior to 1850, the censuses only listed the head of the household. Neither the name of the spouse nor the names of any children were listed. 10. Many census records have been privately published, and are available in libraries, and individuals may purchase most. 11. All census records from 1790 to 1910 may be purchased on microfilm from the National Archives Trust Fund Board, Washington, D.C. 20408. 12. Catalogues for ordering these microfilms may be obtained free by writing Technical Services Branch (GNPS), National Archives, Washington, D.C. 20408.       13. Unless the cost has increased recently, the cost is $20 per roll. Depending upon the population of the county, most rolls contain several counties.         14. Some privately published censuses are: Index of the entire State of Virginia from 1810 to 1840 Index to the entire State of North Carolina from 1810 to 1840 Henry County Census of 1850; one copy only, in The Basset Historical Center. Patrick County Census of 1850, by June Baldwin Bork. Patrick County Census of 1860, by Rhonda Roberson. Franklin County Census of 1850, By Marvin U. Neighbors. Carroll County Census of 1850, Annotated, by John Perry Alderman Virginia Taxpayers, 1782 - 1787, Index. This takes place of census. North Carolina Heads of Families, 1790. Henry County Census, 1820 Henry County Census, 1830 Stokes and Rockingham Counties, North Carolina, Census of 1820. 1850 and 1860 Censuses of Surry County, North Carolina. All of above censuses are in the Bassett Historical Center, Bassett, VA.      16. The larger libraries have these and additional censuses.   17. For those interested in local censuses in distant states, contact local libraries in those states. 1790-1840




1. From 1790 to 1840, only the head of the household was named in the census. This was the father, if living. If the father was deceased, the mother was the head of the household. Unmarried women living heading a household were listed. 2. Others living in the household counted by age categories, usually divided as to male and female, in some censuses, slaves were listed in the same way. In the early censuses, the number of horses owed was listed.   3. No information was listed to indicate the relationship of those in the household to the head. There is no way to tell whether those listed in the age brackets which might indicate that they are children really are children or grandchildren or nephews and nieces, etc. 1850-1910




Starting in 1850, all members of the family were listed by name, with age, sex, state of birth of each, chief vocation of males over the age of 16 years, assessed valuation of real estate and personal property of the head of the household. The relationship of those listed to the head of the household was not given. In all censuses since 1840, the families are numbered chronologically, starting with the first family taken by the enumerator as number one, the second number two, and continuing through that enumerator's listing. Since enumerators usually (not always) went from house to house, this often helps with determining relationships. The names of slaves were not listed in the censuses prior to 1870. Starting in 1870, all blacks were listed for the first time, and they were designated as black or mulatto. The 1870 Census listed the name, age, race, state of birth, value of real estate and personal property owned, occupation of each person over the age of ten years, and whether each person over the age of ten years could read or write. The 1880 Census listed the same information as the 1870 Census, but for the first time, the relationship of each person to the head of the household was given: wife, son, daughter, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunt, servant, boarder, etc. If a child was under the age of one year, the month of birth was given. Most of the 1890 Censuses were burned in a fire. A few were saved, and some have been done from other sources. In a few cases, copies were made locally before the censuses were sent to Washington. Floyd County Virginia is an example. The 1900 Census listed the name of each member of the household with month and year of birth, age as of June 1, 1900, relationship of every member to the head of the household, marital status of each member, if married, the number of years married: number of children born to each mother, number living when the census was taken, state of birth of each person, and state of birth of both parents of each person: whether or not children were attending school: occupation of each person. The 1910 Census listed the names, ages, number of times married, number of years married the last time, relationship of each person to the head of the household, state of birth of each person, and state of birth of the parents of each person: number of children born to each mother, and the number living. Males who had served in either the United States or Confederate States Armies or Navies were indicated. The early censuses listed feeble-minded persons as idiots.





Henry County........….Collinsville Franklin County.....…Rocky Mount Pittsylvania County…Chatham Patrick County......….Stuart Floyd County........….Floyd Carroll County......….Hillsville Grayson County..…   Independence Halifax County.... ….Halifax Charlotte County ... ..Charlotte Courthouse Virginia differs from all other states in the Union in that the cities are completely independent from the counties, and have separate Clerk's offices. Martinsville, and Roanoke have their own offices. 1. In Virginia, most records of interest to genealogists are in the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court, who is also the County Clerk. 2. In North Carolina and some other states, most of the genealogical records are in the office of the Registrar of Deeds. 3. In Ohio and some other states, some records are in the office of the Probate Judge.      4. West Virginia and Kentucky records are similar to Virginia.   5. Nearly all records in Clerk's Offices are open to inspection and can be copied by anybody. 6. To copy or have records copied using a copier, there is a charge in all offices. The charges vary greatly. 7. Offices vary considerably in their willingness to help researchers, and in their response. They also differ in their responses to letters mailed requesting information. Most of them are too busy to do much research. 8. In writing to Clerk's Offices for information, it is customary to send a SASE (self addressed stamped envelope).




1. Deeds, and all records pertaining to land transfers including survey maps. 2. Marriage records from (1776) the beginning of the county or city to the present. 3. Wills and estate settlements from the beginning of the county to the present. 4. Birth records from 1853 to 1896. (Some are incomplete.) 5. Death records starting in 1853. (Incomplete in all counties). 6. Court order books. 7. Military records-offices vary greatly in what they have. 8. Tax lists.




1. Patrick County from 1791; Henry from 1776; Pittsylvania from 1767, Halifax from 1752; Lunenburg from 1746; Franklin from 1786; Floyd from 1834. 2. Deeds are filed in large books, which are numbered consecutively. Grantor and grantee; all are indexed. The deeds in the books are copies. The originals are stored in other boxes, not readily accessible to the public. 4. Most offices are now in the process of having the deeds microfilmed. 5. Deeds are very useful to genealogists in order to determine where the people lived, when they lived there, and when they left. 6. Sometimes fathers gave land to children and the names are listed in the deeds; sometimes the transfer of land at the death of the father or mother listed the name of children, thus proving parenthood. 7. The amount of land owned helps to determine something of the financial status of ancestors. 8. Deeds can be traced to determine who now owns the land. (Not easy).




Rockingham...........Wentworth Stokes County........Danbury Surry County..........Dobson Caswell County.....Yanceyvilie Guilford County....Greensboro Forsyth County.....Winston-Salem Mitchell County....Bakersville




1. All deeds and estate settlement records are in the office of the Register of Deeds; all are indexed. 3. North Carolina wills are very similar to Virginia wills. DEEDS IN NORTH CAROLINA 1. Deeds start in Rockingham County in 1785; in Stokes in 1789; in Surry in 1770; in Mitchell County in 1861. Rockingham was foamed from Guilford; Stokes from Surry; Surry from Rowan; Mitchell from Burke, Caldwell, McDowell, Wautauga and Yancy.      2. Deeds are in the office of the Register of Deeds. 3. All deeds everywhere are similar in structure and in usefulness to   genealogists.     4. All offices in all states have surveyor's maps of land, but not of all land.     5. The handwriting of old deeds is sometimes hard to read.




1. No records kept prior to 1913. 2. Al1 birth records since 1913 are in the office of Register of Deeds. The actual birth certificates are in bound volumes by dates, and are indexed, and are available for inspection and copying by anybody.




1. No death records were kept in North Carolina until 1913. 2. Since 1912, the actual death certificates are in the office of the Register of Deeds. They are in bound volumes just like the birth certificates and are indexed. 3. These certificates give the name of the child, name of father, maiden name of the mother date of birth, place of birth, race, sex, number of children born to parents previously, number of children living, name of doctor or midwife marital status of parents address of parents.




1. Marriage records are in the office of Register of Deeds. 2. Before 1869, the records are in the State Archives in Raleigh. 3. About 1935, these records were copied from the State Archives in typewritten form, and most Register of Deeds offices have a copy for their county. 4. Since 1869, the marriage bonds have been stored in the Register of Deeds offices, and the basic information (part of it) has been copied into registers, which are indexed. For some reason, the names of the parents are not copied into the registers.




1. All Virginia Counties have the marriage records from the beginning of the County to the present, supposedly. Some clerks in the past were careless, and did not record all of the marriages. Some have been lost in fires and some were destroyed during the Civil War.      2. The State Library also has these records. 3. The original marriage bond or license was stored in boxes. The basic information is recorded in Marriage Registers, large books.            4. In most counties, these are indexed for both bride and groom.      5. Before 1853, the names of the bride and groom, the date the license was issued, the date the minister returned the license to the clerk's office, the name of the minister, the name of the sureties, and witnesses were usually listed. Most of the time, the parents' names were not listed.      6. After 1853, the parents' names were listed with the ages of the bride and groom, the date of the marriage, birthplace of both bride and groom, and whether they were previously married, widowed or divorced. 7. More information was gradually added such as the maiden name of the mother of both the bride and groom, and the state of birth of both parents. 8. Some clerks were careless in the recording, and only listed the initials of the bride and groom, and sometimes omitted other information. It helps to check with the original bond. 9. In most offices, it is necessary to have a member of the office staff to get the original bond for you. 10. Some problems: Sometimes the handwriting is very difficult to decipher correctly. Ages of the bride and groom are often incorrect. The record does not tell where the marriage was performed. Marriage records for the residents of the city of Martinsville from 1941 to the present are located in the Municipal Building on Church Street.




1. Marriage Bond of Patrick County, By Lelah. C. Adams (1791-1850. 2. Henry County Marriage Bonds, 1776 - 1850, By Dodd 3, Marriage Bonds of Franklin County, Virginia, 1786 - 1850, By Marshall Wingfield. 4. Marriages of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, 1767-1830. (1806-1875, three books). These are in most of the local libraries.




1. No birth records were kept in Virginia prior to 1853. 2. From 1853 to 1896, the records are in the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court. Some offices do not have all of them. All are supposed to be in the Virginia State Library in Richmond on microfilm. 3. No records of births were kept in Virginia from 1897 to 1912. 4. There are some "Delayed" birth certificates in the Bureau of Vital Statistics of the Virginia State Health Department for the years, 1897 – 1912, some going back into the 180O’s. These show the sources of the information given to prove the date of birth. These are bound and indexed just like the regular certificates. 5. Individual birth certificates of those born since 1912, and delayed birth certificates for some born before that time, can be obtained from the Bureau of Vital Statistics for a fee. Forms for obtaining these may be obtained from the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court. 6. The birth records from 1853 - 1896 in the local Clerks' offices are listed in large ledgers, and in most offices, are indexed. They list the name of the child date of birth, place of birth, and names of parents, information is not always accurate and the handwriting is sometimes hard to read.




1. No death records were kept in Virginia prior to 1853 and none were kept between 1897 1912. 2. From 1853 to 1896, the death records were supposed to have been kept in the office of the county clerk, and a copy sent to the State Archives. Most county clerks kept copies in the office until after the Civil War. For some reason, most of the clerks after the War, sent a copy to Richmond, but did not keep one in the office. Therefore, these records are not complete in the clerks' offices. 3. They are all on microfilm in the State Library in Richmond, where anyone may copy them using a pencil. They are not indexed. The microfilm rolls are by counties. 4. These individual death records vary in the information given. They usually give the name of the deceased, date of death, age at death, place of death, cause of death, and name of father, if known and place of birth of deceased, if known. The name and relationship of person reporting the death is usually given. 5. Since 1912, all death records are kept in the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Richmond. Death certificates of an individual may be obtained by completing a form obtained from the county clerk, and payment of a fee.




1. All wills in Virginia are in large ledgers in the office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court, all are indexed. 2. Only a few people had wills in the early days.             3. Wills were written during the lifetime of the person, and were probated and    recorded after the death, they sometimes contain interesting comments of    interest to genealogist. 4. Wills help to establish the approximate time of death, and usually list the living children, and often indicate the death of some children, and the names of grandchildren. 5. Even if there was no will (died in testate), there are   usually a record of the settlement of the estate, which may contain the names of wives, children, etc. The inventories of the estates, records of auction sales, and records of the administrators, sometimes give helpful and interesting information.




1. When counties in the State of Virginia were organized, they were ruled by a County Court. Before 1776, the members were appointed, or approved, by the Royal Governor. 2. After 1776, they were appointed by the Governor of Virginia, and were chosen from the more prosperous landowners, and were usually called "Gentlemen".   3. There were usually eight or ten members of the Court, and they met monthly, or sometimes, more often. 4. This county court was not only the court that tried criminal and civil cases, but it did the job that the present Board of Supervisors, or city councils now do. They ruled the county. They appointed the county officers, Clerk, sheriff, approved deeds, wills, gave permits for people to operate mills, inns, set the price that could be charged for lodging, price for liquor, registered hog ear marks, took care of orphan children, appointed jurors, had roads built gave bounties for wolves heads, etc.   5. The clerk kept written records of the acts of the court, which are filed in the offices of the county clerks. They contain interesting and useful information for genealogists. Most are hard to read because of the quality of the handwriting.




Abstracts of Order Book "O", Patrick County, Virginia, June 1791 - August 1800, By Lelah C. Adams. Complete Index And Abstract of The Henry County, Virginia Order Book #1 And #2, 1777-1782, By Charles P. Blunt, III.




A list of those who were assessed taxes, with the amount of the tax was made each year in all counties. These lists are still available in most clerks' offices. The condition of these lists varies in different offices. Ask about them, none are indexed.    By tracing a person until he/she disappears from the tax list, it can be determined when he/she died or moved away. Also, the year a person appears on the list sometimes indicates the approximate date he came into the county.




1778 -1780 Tax Lists of Henry County, Virginia, By Lelah C. Adams. This list serves as a census of Henry County, for those years.




All clerks' offices have some military records. They vary from county to county. 1. Draft lists of World War I, and World War II, are in most offices. 2. Miscellaneous records on the Civil War are in most offices. 3. Pension application records are in some offices; most are in the Sate Archives. 4. Lists of soldiers in the American Revolution are printed in Pedigo's History of Patrick and Henry Counties.




1. Devise a system of recording and storing basic information with an indexing system that will enable you to easily find the information on each name when it is needed. 2. Devise a system of documentation so that you can always show where the information came from. 3. Start recording what you know. You know about you and your family, and perhaps, you grandparents, your aunts and uncles and their families. 4. Ask those relatives who are living for information they may have. 5. Record all traditions that have come down in the family, but consider them as traditions, which may have some basis of fact, but may not be true. 6. Look for family Bibles. If they are old, they may contain valuable information such as birth dates, marriage dates, death dates, etc. 7. Search for tombstone inscriptions for dates and any other information they may contain. 8. Try to determine places where your migrating ancestors or relatives lived. 9. Visit courthouses in the counties or cities where they lived and search the following records: A. Deeds and records of land transfers. B. Marriage Records C. Birth Records D. Death Records E. Wills and Estate Settlements F. Order Books, or other court records G. Tax Lists. H. Military Records 10. Libraries contain many and varied sources of information. Some types of information will be found in nearly all libraries, but for information about a particular area, it is usually better to visit a library in the area about which you wish information. 11. County Histories often contain information about the old families of that area. This is secondary information, and is often inaccurate. 12. Newspapers are great sources of information. Obituaries, marriage reports, birth reports, court news, and just news reports contain much valuable information. Many libraries have old newspapers on microfilm. 13. State libraries and archives have much information about their states. 14. Genealogical societies are often very helpful. Most of them have publications on a regular basis, which are distributed to members. Most of these run advertising asking for information about individuals or families. Usually, this is free or at very little cost to members. It is often helpful to join a genealogical society, which is located in the area where you wish information. 15. There are a number of genealogical publications published by private for-profit organizations, which are very helpful. Probably the leading one on a national scale is THE GENEALOGICAL HELPER, published by the Everton Publishing Co. Logan, Utah. 16. Many church records are helpful. They often keep records of baptisms, christening, deaths, membership transfers, etc 17.  Mortician records. Funeral homes Usually keep records of all their burials.   They may list names, birth dates, death dates, and names of siblings, children, parents, cause of death, place of death, place of burial. These are not legal public records, but most funeral homes will let you see their records. 18. Military records of those who have served in all of our wars are available in miscellaneous and assorted places. The best source of information in Virginia is the State Archives in Richmond; but there are published records in libraries, and there are primary records in the Circuit Clerk's offices. 19. Since 1822, ships transporting emigrants to the United States have been required to keep a list of those they transported. Many of these have been published and are in libraries. Some ships long before 1822 did keep lists. Many of these have been published.     20. Local genealogists exists in almost all counties, and many of them are happy to help free; but you should always send a self addressed stamped envelope when writing to these people, and ask specific questions. Of course, there are also professional genealogists who charge for their work.         21. No one has ever completed a genealogy. You have to stop your research if you which to publish anything.     22. The Latter Day Saint's Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, has the largest collection of genealogical material in the world. Much of their information is available through their branch libraries and other sources. 23. The Everton Publishers catalogue lists several helpful publications. Most of these and others are in the larger libraries. 24. It always adds much to the interest of any type of family history if we know more about our ancestors than just the basic genealogical facts of names, dates etc. We like to know something of what they looked like, what they did, the kind of persons they were, etc. 25. Always look for old pictures. There are many in possession of descendants. Some are stored in boxes or in dresser drawers that have not seen the light of day for years. 26. Old letters give a great insight into the lives of our ancestors. Many of them are stored away in forgotten places. Many old letters from Civil War soldiers are valuable, all are interesting.




1. Your birth: when, where, parents, surrounding circumstances and conditions. 2. Your childhood: health, diseases, accidents, playmates, trips, associations with your brothers and sisters, unusual happenings, visitors in your home, visits to grandparents, relatives you remember, religion in your home, financial condition of parents. 3. Your brothers and sisters: names, date of birth, place of birth, accomplishments, names of spouses, date and place of marriage, their children. 4. Your school days: schools attended, teachers, courses studied, special activities, associates, achievements, socials, report cards, humorous situations, who or what influenced you to take certain courses or do things you might not otherwise have done. 5. Your activities before, after and between school sessions: vacations, jobs, attendance at church, other church functions, scouting, sports, tasks at home, fun and funny situations. 6. Your courtship and marriage: meeting your spouse, special dates, how the question was popped, marriage plans, the wedding, parties and receptions, gifts, honeymoon, meeting your in-laws, what influenced you most in your choice of spouse. 7. Settling down to married life: your new home, starting housekeeping, bride's biscuits, spats and adjustments, a growing love, making ends meet, joys and sorrows, your mother-in-law, other in-laws. 8. Your vocation: training for your job, promotions, companies you worked for, salaries, associates, achievements, and your own business. 9. Your children: names, dates and places of birth, health of mother before and after, how father fared, characteristics, habits, smart sayings and doings, growing up, accomplishments, schooling, marriage, vocations, sicknesses, accidents, operations. 10. Your civic and political activities: positions held, services rendered, clubs, fraternities and lodges you have joined. 11. Your church activities: as a young person, through adolescence, churches attended, church positions, church associates, church certificates, answers to prayers, necessity and power of love. 12. Your avocations: sports, home hobbies, dramatic and musical activities, reading habits, genealogy, travels, favorite songs, movies, books, writers, poems, etc. 13. Special celebrations or holidays you remember: Easter, Christmas, national and local holidays, vacations. 14. Your ancestors: your impressions of those you knew personally: a general sketch of those you did not know; father, mother, grandparents, great grand¬parents, other relatives. 15. Hints on writing your life story: tell your story plainly and with directness: write truthfully of uplifting, refined and honorable occurrences and experi¬ences. Humor helps to make for easier reading. If you can give the whys or your decisions and changes in activities it may help others. Illustrate with as many pictures as possible. Make several copies, or better still, photocopy or print and give one to each of your children and grandchildren. Place copies in local and national libraries and/or historical societies. 16. Your encouragement and counsel to your descendants: carrying on family traditions and activities; their obligations to their country, church and family; your suggestions to your progeny and others on honesty, humility, diligence, perseverance, thrift, loyalty, kindness, reverence, the Bible and other religious and edifying books; service to fellowmen; your belief regarding God, etc. Never underestimate the effect you may have on unborn generations in helping them through the trials and tribulations of life by the written words of advice you leave your children, grandchildren, etc. If you would like them to live upright, honest lives, give them the benefit of your experiences. They will also appreciate your life story as a precious treasure, and bless you all their days for it. .

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