The Virginia Museum of History & Culture (VMHC) is pleased to have you use our family history materials such as published abstracts of official records, compiled genealogies, Bible records, research notes, etc. It should be noted, however, that the principal center for genealogical research in Virginia is the Library of Virginia, located in Richmond at 800 East Broad Street.
Genealogical resources located at the Library of Virginia include:
- County records (including wills, deeds, and marriage bonds)
- Military service records
- Church records
- Land Office records (patents and grants)
- Tax records
- Census records
- Genealogical notes and charts
Nevertheless, the VMHC does have numerous materials helpful to genealogists:
- Photographs and portraits of individuals
- Photographs and portraits of groups
- Recommended Online Resources
Additional resources include:
- Census records
- Land records
- Ship passenger lists and immigration lists
- Military records
- Marriage and obituary records
- County court records
- Bible records
- Genealogical notes and charts
- Family papers
- Bible records
- Birth and death records
- African American genealogy
It should be noted that most of our collections have not been digitized and thus are not available for viewing online.
Please note that we have closed stacks. This means that researchers must fill out call slips in order to request and examine materials from the library collections. Learn more about our library procedures.
Listed below are some of the resources we have to offer at the VHS to help you with your genealogical research.
The VMHC has a subscription to the genealogical database, Ancestry.com. Thanks to the National Society Daughters of Colonial Wars, visitors to the VMHC Research Library will now have the opportunity to use Ancestry.com.
Virginia Historical Index (Swem's Index)
Index to several publications in the VMHC, including:
- Tyler's Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine, 1919–1929
- Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, v. 1–38, 1893–1930
- William and Mary Quarterly, series I and II, 1892–1930
The VMHC has indexes to all Virginia census records from 1810 through 1920. The census records are on microfilm.
The 1790, 1800, and 1890 records were destroyed by fire; however, there is a list of taxpayers for 1787 (Ref. HA 683 C81 v. 1–3). Other substitute census records include:
- Early Virginia (Ref. HA 682 E3)
- Virginia in 1740: A Reconstructed Census (Ref. HA 683 T11 1740).
The only Virginia census of the seventeenth century was taken in 1624/25. It is published in Adventures of Purse and Person Virginia 1607–1624/5 (Ref. F229 J4 1987) and names 1,218 persons who were living in Virginia at that time; it also lists four generations of descendants of those settlers.
The records of the Virginia Land Office, which oversaw land transactions in the colonial era, are located at the Library of Virginia, which has now made many of those records available online. A description of the records may be found on the Library of Virginia's website.
During most of the seventeenth century and until approximately 1715, the "headright" system was the common method of obtaining land in Virginia. Each individual who paid the transportation costs of an emigrant received fifty acres of land. The term "headright" refers both to the imported person and the claim. Headright lists constitute almost the only record of early emigration to Virginia. (NOTE: The patent was not necessarily issued the year the immigrant arrived.)
The headright system was not used in the Northern Neck (the area lying between the Potomac and the Rappahannock rivers). Beginning in 1690, land grants in the Northern Neck were issued by agents and maintained separately. The abstracts of land grants from 1690 to 1692 are published in the supplement to Cavaliers and Pioneers. Some important published sources based on these records, and available in the reading room of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, are:
- Nugent, Nell Marion. Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, 1623–1782. 8 vols and supplement (vols. 4–8 published by the Virginia Genealogical Society, Dennis Hudgins ed.) (Ref. F225 N841)
- Gray, Gertrude. Virginia Northern Neck Grants, 1692–1862. 4 vols. (Ref. F225 N841 G79)
Ship passenger lists and immigration lists
Before 1820, the arrival of immigrants was not documented. Very few authentic records of passenger arrivals in Virginia exist. The list of headrights mentioned above constitutes a record of immigrants, but it does not give the date or place of origin or arrival or the name of the ship. Not all headrights were immigrants, and some arrived long before the patentee entered the claim for the land.
- Coldham, Peter. The Complete Book of Emigrants (4 vols.) (Ref. E 187.5 C7). These four volumes covering 1607–1776 contain virtually every reference to English emigrants of the colonial period that can be found in England. They identify only 100,000 emigrants, a small fraction of the total number.
- Coldham, Peter. The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614–1775 (Ref. E 187.5 C6 1988). Lists names of approximately 50,000 Englishmen who were sentenced by legal process to be transported to the American colonies between 1614 and 1775.
- Coldham, Peter. More Emigrants in Bondage, 1614–1775 (Ref. E 187.5 C61 2002). Lists 9,000 additions and amendments to the earlier work, compiling names of Englishmen sentenced to be transported to the American colonies.
The VMHC has a variety of materials related to military history, but it doesn't have copies of the service records of individuals, often called "compiled service records." The National Archives holds extant compiled service records for all wars in which the United States has fought. The Library of Virginia has microfilm copies of the compiled service records for Virginians in Confederate forces during the Civil War. The following published materials, available in the VMHC reading room, include registers of Virginians who served in various wars.
- Bockstruck, Lloyd D. Virginia's Colonial Soldiers. Baltimore, 1988. (Ref. E197 B67)
- Abercrombie, Janice. Virginia Publick Claims. (The Virginia Revolutionary War Public Service Claims Court Booklets) (Ref. E255 A48). These booklets, arranged by name of county, contain names of Virginians who requested compensation for supplies and services furnished to the army chiefly during the years 1779–81. Not everyone who supplied articles to the armies is listed in the surviving records, and not everyone who supplied articles to the armies did so willingly. Also see Index to the Virginia Revolutionary Public Claims County Booklets (Ref. E255 A49 1992).
- Brumbaugh, Gaius M. Revolutionary War Records. Vol. 1, Virginia. Washington, D.C., 1936 (Ref. E263 V8 B8).
- Burgess, Louis A. Virginia Soldiers of 1776. Richmond, 1927–29. (3 vols.). Contains information on bounty land. (Ref. E263 V8 B9).
- Dorman, John F. Virginia Revolutionary Pension Applications, Abstracted (51 volumes to date covering A–Har). (Ref. E206 D85). Index vols. 1–51. 4 vols. (E206 D85 Index).
- Eckenrode, H. J., ed. Virginia Soldiers of the American Revolution (and supplement). Richmond, 1989 (Ref. E263 V8 E232 1989 v. 1–2).
- Gwathmey, John H. Historical Register of Virginians in the Revolution. Richmond, 1938 (Ref. E263 V8 G9).
- Hopkins, William L. Virginia Revolutionary War Land Grant Claims, 1783–1859 (Rejected). Richmond 1988 (Ref. E263.8 V8 H77).
- McAllister, J. T. Virginia Militia in the Revolutionary War. Bowie, Md., 1989. Almost no records have survived for those men who served in the county militia units. This book contains names of officers of some county militia units and some Virginia militia pensioners. (Ref. E263 V8 M1 1989).
- National Geographic Society. Index of Revolutionary War Pension Applications in the National Archives. Washington, D.C., 1976 (Ref. CS42 N44 no. 40).
- Pierce, A. T. Selected Final Pension Payment Vouchers, 1818–1864. Virginia. Athens, Ga., 1996 (Ref. E255 P61 1996).
- Sanchez-Saavedra, E. M. A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations in the American Revolution, 1774–1787. Richmond, 1978. Lists regiments and companies and a brief history of each unit. Deals with the Virginia Continental Infantry and Militia, Virginia State Line, Va. Militia, etc.; not a register. (Ref. E263 V8 S25).
- Wardell, Patrick G. Virginia/West Virginia Genealogical Data from Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Records (6 vols.) Bowie, Md., Heritage books, 1988–98 (Ref E263 V8 W21). Genealogical data extracted from Revolutionary War pension records at the National Archives.
War of 1812
- Butler, Stuart Lee. A Guide to Virginia Militia Units in the War of 1812. Athens, Ga., 2011. Contains information about units; not a roster. (Ref. E359.3 V8 B971 2011).
- Butler, Stuart Lee. Virginia Soldiers in the United States Army, 1800–1815. Athens, Ga., 1986 (Ref. E359.5 V8 B97).
- Muster Rolls of the Virginia Militia in the War of 1812 . . . Richmond, 1852 (Ref.E359.5 V8 V82).
- Pay Rolls of Militia Entitled to Land Bounty Under the Act of Congress of September 28, 1850. Richmond, 1851 (Ref. E359.5 V8 V8).
- Wardell, Patrick G. War of 1812: Virginia Bounty Land and Pension Applicants. Bowie, Md., 1987 (Ref. E359.5 V8 W21).
- Johnson, William Page. Off to War, the Virginia Volunteers in the War with Mexico, or Fuera de Guerra, la Virginia Volentarios en la Guerra con Mexico. Westminster, Md., 2002 (Ref. E409.5 V8 J71 2002).
- White, Virgil D. Index to Mexican War Pension Files. Waynesboro, Tenn., 1989 (Ref E409.4 W589 1989).
- Service records are at the National Archives.
- A card index of Virginia Mexican War soldiers is at the Library of Virginia.