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Friday, November 1, 2013

The Art of Digitizing Old Virginia Wills

As everyone knows, The Colony of Virginia was established in 1607.  Fortunately for us researchers, most of the records survived.  Most of the problem of missing records lies around Jamestown.  The Bacon Rebellion of 1687 caused Jamestown to be burned to the ground before the colonial governor arrived with his troops.  Some of those items are probably found at Yorktown, but I have to tell you that reading York County probate records is virtually impossible.  Never mind the old hand-writing for that is very difficult to the research who does not know script styles, but the condition is deplorable.  In some instances, the Virginia Historical Society restored certain old wills.  Still, they are torn, missing pages, and out of sequence.
The digitation process is very slow.  This is because of the large parchment pages and over-sized court books which were used.  It generally takes 3 passes to film one page.  Yes, they all have to be filmed one page at a time. Despite the fact of the tedious work, Virginia Pioneers has published at least two will books of most counties so far.  I have to tell you that Virginia Wills and Administrations by Torrence is helpful in sorting out the names, however, those entries are sometimes wrong and people are missing in that index. That is undoubtably because it was virtually unreadable.  We attempted to preserve many of those entries.  It cost absolutely nothing to go and look at the various counties and see the names of the testators.  That is helpful to the researcher in establishing whether or not the ancestors resided in specific counties. Virginia Pioneers (click on aforementioned link to join website) does charge a small fee of $30 for three months to become a member. In today's economy, in some instances, this is cheaper than writing the county for a photocopy of a probate record.  To discover your ancestor names and if you are researching the 17th century, I do suggest that you utilize the index and the 17th century colonial script guideline here

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