Tuesday, 25 February 2014

My Favorite Virginia Genealogy Resource

The first successful English settlement in the new continent called America began in 1607 at what is now the Commonwealth of Virginia on a spit of land at the mouth of the James River. Everyone is likely aware that settlement was known as Jamestown. By the 1630s English settlements dominated the eastern portion of the Virginia Peninsula, though Indians still attacked intermittently.  Middle Plantation was established in 1638 halfway between the James and York rivers on high ground. By 1699 Middle Plantation was renamed Williamsburg in honor of the English king, William III, and replaced Jamestown as capital of the colony. The College of William and Mary began holding its first classes in temporary quarters at Williamsburg in 1694.

Print of the Bodleian Plate, depicting the colonial architecture of Williamsburg, Virginia. 
The plate, discovered in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, was critical to the reconstruction of Williamsburg 
in the early-mid 20th century. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The College of William and Mary includes the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. The institute publishes a wonderful resource for history buffs and genealogists entitled William and Mary Quarterly, which began publication in 1892. Chronologically it ranges from the first Old World-New World contacts to about 1820. The focus is North America and includes articles about all disciplines.

Why should family historians and genealogists care about the William and Mary Quarterly? Here’s one page from the table of contents of the July 1904, issue:

Index page from a William and Mary Quarterly

We should care because it’s loaded with 122 years of useful information. The trick is finding exactly the information you need. That’s when the Earl Gregg Swem Library’s Special Collections Database becomes very helpful. Some of the content is digitized, but not all. When something I am looking for has not yet been made available in an online format, I Google the issue specifics. I’ve found the issues I need on Ancestry.com’s Card Catalog, eBay, Google Play, available for sale at used bookstores through Amazon or ABE Books or I look it up on WorldCat and find the nearest library with a copy. I hope I’ve been able to help you discover a new source to use when tracing your Virginia ancestors.

I'll be attending the Fairfax Genealogical Society's Annual Spring Conference on 28-29 March 2014. I hope to see some of you there.

I'm using #WWGenealogy when tweeting about this collaboration project on Twitter (@TweetTRnT).


  1. The Bodleian Plate is gorgeous! Looks like you've got a treasure of a college.

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  3. I visited Williamsburg some time ago and was fascinated by its history. Thank you for introducing me to the Virginian resource.

  4. I only wish I knew enough about my Virginia ancestors to research them there! One day...


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