Monday, August 29, 2022

Colonial Parish and Vestry Records - VA and Carolinas


Virginia and the Carolina Colonial Map

Parish & Vestry Research Tips
Researchers must be cleaver when researching in colonial Virginia and the Carolinas. Recently the a3Genealogy research team was asked “Where do we start to unearth early Virginia settlers? 

We’ve touched on this topic many times, but to recap be sure to review Researching Colonial Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina: Why Can’t I Find MyRecords. Here we talked about timelines and county formations; but we didn’t share Parish Research tips and hints. I must say Parish Research is vital to your success!

Starting with our project formation map, which we individualize for our clients based on their ancestral settlers, we scour one county at a time.  In the example above we located our Nichols in Halifax in abt 1752 using wills, probates and land deeds.  So, to find the ancestors of this subject, we turn next to Lunenburg County, VA. Sure, these ancestors could have migrated from some other location, but we needed a starting point; and Lunenburg County, VA proved to be a good one that led us back to 1654, New Kent County, VA.

Parish Record Research
Parish / Church Records trump census records for our research team!  We are always “nose-first” in parish and church records.

Begin with The Virginia Parish Maps. This resource alphabetized by counties can be viewed online at Virginia parish maps ( Your biggest clue may not be from the parishes outlined inside the County, but may also be from the quick-glance at the names of surrounding counties,  Be sure to take note of them.

Luckily, has a great selection of parish and vestry books. Vestry book or road maintenance books may be your only notice of early ancestors.Works may also be found with a simple Google Books, Jstor and WorldCat, as well as State Libraries and Historical Societies.

Know that White parishioner records began as early as 1631; African American, as well as Native Americans’ vital statistics were maintained beginning abt. 1672.  
All male persons of the age of sixteen years or upwards, and also negro, mulatto, and indian women of like age ("except tributary Indians to this government," were "tithable" or chargeable for county and parish levies. But the Court or Vestry "for reasons in charity," could excuse indigent persons from payment, and this was frequently done.
Colonial Vestry Book
Lynhnhaven parish, Princess Anne County, VA, 1723 - 1786

The key to this research is to determine the extent of the original parish, timelines, and names of the parish's subdivisions. Below you can see how Cumberland Parish, 1746 was divided up to form many parishes by 1778.

Cumberland Parish, Landon C. Bell

Along with Colonial Parish Records, we also suggest scouring the Anglican Church and Government Records in England. 

Other Resources
The Library of Virginia holds a wealth of documents and material on Colonial Virginia (and a few other colonial settlements.  Be sure to visit their Archival Resources: A Guide to the Colonial Papers, 1630-1778 Colonial Papers 36138 (

Be Historically Correct

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate Accessible Answers

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Oh My! Mississippi Records Are Hiding Ancestors

Image: Library of Congress

Where Are the Wills and Probate Proceedings?
Rarely is it that the obstacle to accessing ancestor's court records is "figuring out" the filing logic of the court recorder. Sure, we often have issues finding the correct collections, or court holdings, but once the records are in hand, we have indices, dates, page numbers from abstracts, or even loose papers that can be perused in order to lead us to our ancestors. Yet, a recent Hinds County research project in Jackson and Raymond Mississippi County Clerks’ Office 1800 court records initially led us down dead-ends. We had in hand the produced 1852 Will which named children, and the desired fate and distribution of slaves. However, the 1875 associated probate obviously made the 1852 slave filled Will mute. Plus, our Moseley acquired additional land up after the writing of his 1852 will. 

Neither Raymond nor Jackson District Court Clerks were successful in locating the probate supporting papers.  The a3Genealogy question was where were the court recording that support the index?  

Probate Proceedings, beginning 8 Mar 1875

What the Probate might tell us?
Supporting documents were needed to uncover Inventories, Appraisals, Receipts needed to assess business dealings and associates. Plus Guardianship records were needed to analyze kinship and familiar relationships as well as land ownership or land bequeathed to children and family. Probates are filled with hints of community associates through witnesses, testimonies and affidavits. Yes, there are abstracts, but they are incomplete and often misleading.  This comprehensive research required access to original records, or at minimum copies of the full records. 

Tips and Hints to Uncovering Court Records

Step 1: Learn the court systems for the era and place of your ancestor. This may require engaging court recorders.  Mississippi utilizes Chancery Courts. Hinds County has two relevant Chancery District Courts: Raymond, MS -District 2 (the historically older) and Jackson MS - District 1, a significantly larger archival collection. 

"Mississippi, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1780-1982," 1902;

Know that there are selected court record images on They too are vital, but lack the full details of the Chancery Court proceedings.

Step 2: Understand the Index to Estates? I'm sure, not unique to Mississippi, but the Index to Estates, initially appeared senseless. 

The a3Genealogy team turned to  digitized records for Hinds County, MS: Index to Estates, Mississippi Probate Records, 1781 - 1930 for Hinds County, Chancery records. Undertaking a page by page search, eighty images in, we found our subject #131.  (See above Index image).

What type of numbering system was this?  Number 71 was followed by 112, followed by 131, followed by #141 on image 80. Although the numbering system appears random, the dates are sequential. 
Forgive us for thinking the #131 was either a page reference or sequential case reference.  Clearly this was neither a sequential numbering system by cases, or page numbers.  

It was discovered that #131 was the key to finding our Moseley subject and the research needed within the Chancery Records. Yes, the person's case file is given a number, and the researcher must for the occurrences of that case number. The key is to 1) find the first occurrence of your subject which will require a page by page search since these earlier pages are not number; and 2) follow their personal case file number by jumping to the next date proffered by the the index.

Step 3: Create an At-A-Glance Timeline. This research is not for the weak at heart. There's no easy way as page numbers are nonexistent and these books are not arranged alphabetically by last name (or otherwise).  By using the index (above with dates) we suggest researchers create an At-A-Glance timeline.  Who wants to decipher or repeatedly reference these scribbles? 

The index for #131 was lengthy, but a timeline will save hours wasted. Here is a sample of ours (nothing fancy) using the dated information provided by the index:

  •   8 May 1875    Will filed and ordered probated 
  •  28 May 1875  Pet. Filed with will 
  •  29 May 1875   Pet for letters filed 
  •  31 May 1875   Letters Granted , [&] warrant of appraisement same day
  •  4 and 8 Nov 1875    Order to sell per. property made 4 and 8 Nov 1875
  • 2 Feb 1876    Order to sell personal property 
  • 4 Oct 1876     Motion for Guardian Ad Litem & Conservator Filed 

Step 4: Follow your subject using the case number and the dates in you case number.

Remember, at this point you are just looking for your case number. For us, that number was #131. This was a case that continued until the early 1900's. So, not surprising when the 3rd Administrator was identified in 1879 on image #489 of 676 in 1878.  

March, 1878, Image 489

Family names, kinships, spouses and maiden names were given as expected.  Of course deaths were noted, and changes in the administrators were provided with details (deceased, ill, etc).  But, for this case one learns a lot about pre-Civil war and the Reconstruction Era of Hinds County, MS. 

Basically, we learned more than we bargained for and the client was slack jawed with surprise and wonder.  As we have client's permission, we will share more of the case in an upcoming blog post. 

For more about researching in Mississippi be sure to review Researching in Mississippi: Mississippi Gulf Coast.

[1] "Mississippi Probate Records, 1781-1930," William O. Moseley, Hinds Estate index 1872-1884, May 1875, Image 80;  FamilySearch, viewed 9 Jul 2021 (click link). 

Kathleen Brandt

Be Historically Correct
Accurate Accessible Answers