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Virginia Genealogical Society

MEMBERS ONLY RESOURCE:

The Virginia Business Records Index can be accessed under the Members Only section of the VGS website.

The goal of the Virginia Business Records and Manuscripts Index is to build a comprehensive listing of the known surviving Virginia business records dating from the colonial period through about 1865. While databases such as the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC)[1] and inventories online at Virginia Heritage (http://vaheritage.org/) are available for researchers, none are geared toward genealogists. The goal of the index is to catalog the records in a format useful for researchers that will allow them to determine what is available for a given location and time period. Nothing frustrates researchers more than spending hours studying a manuscript only to later find it was transcribed and indexed years ago in The Virginia Genealogist or the Magazine of Virginia Genealogy! Therefore, the database will identify known extracts, indexes or inventories.

Early Virginians operated in a barter economy with neighbors exchanging goods and services among themselves and with local merchants. In this cash-scarce environment, tobacco planters bought items using their current and future tobacco yields as credits to offset their purchases of fabric, sugar, rum and other household necessities and luxuries. This resulted in an elaborate system of bookkeeping including daybooks, journals, and ledgers used to tract transactions among individuals. Often overlooked by researchers, a number of these records survive as early as the first half of the eighteenth century and include locations in or near a number of eastern Virginia burned counties.

Records indexed for this project include merchant journals, ledgers, daybooks, and memorandums, along with account books and documents kept by individual farmers, plantation managers, physicians and attorneys. These sources contain a great deal of information about the average man such as residence, migration, and family relationships. They frequently provide evidence of both inter- and intra-household relationships.

Following are a few examples:

  • The Fredericks Hall account book for Hanover and York Counties contains a 1736 listing of Mr. George Davis’ entries with cash paid per son Wm Davis per order.[2]
  • Mathew Mullins’ entry for the period 1740-1741 in the Fredericks Hall merchant ledgers lists him as “Danl Maunpains son in law.”[3]
  • In 1750 at the Yorktown store of Francis Jerdone, the account of Mr. John Edwards Senior in Warwick [County] indicates his son Edward purchased one man’s best hunting saddle on his father’s account.[4]
  • A 1750 notation in Francis Jerdone’s journal for King and Queen County indicates shoes and other items were purchased on John Wyatt’s account per his son Richard. [5]
  • Patrick Henry’s account book lists client John Cock of Hanover with a 1761 charge for a suit brought against “yr [your] brother Bradley”[6]
  • The account book for Dr. Robert Walker of Dinwiddie County lists John Mitchell’s entries for 1794 through1797 which mention Mrs. Mitchell, son Abraham, an unnamed son and daughter and other entries for children.[7] The entries for 1797 through 1806 list John Mitchell’s estate and mention daughter Liddy and son Isaac.[8]

While most accounts in business records do not contain direct evidence of relationships, other items may provide genealogically significant clues. For example, a young man’s purchase of a bonnet or a pair of women’s shoes may supply indirect evidence that he has married. Individuals sharing the same surname who purchase items on the same date, or charge or payoff one another’s accounts are likely closely related. Researchers should also pay close attention to those acting as securitors for an individual since this typically indicates that a young man is establishing credit and his securitor is likely a close relation.

VGS members are strongly encouraged to submit manuscript items that are not included in the index and to also send corrections and additions to current items. This information should be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you have a number of items to submit, please request a template to input the data. Users should check the index frequently for additions and possible enhanced features such as a clickable county map.

Bibliography:

Bell, Mary McCampbell, Clifford Dwyer and William Abbott Henderson. “Finding Manuscript Collections: NUCMC, NIDS, and RLIN.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly. Vol. 77, no. 3 (September 1989). 208-218.

Bell, Mary McCampbell. “Finding Original Materials by Using the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly. Vol. 94, No. 2 (June 2006). 133-142.

Cooper, Jean L. A Genealogical Index to the Guides of the Microfilm Edition of Records of the Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution Through the Civil War. Charlottesville, Va.: the author, 2003.

Edwards, Conley L., III, Gwendolyn D. Clark and Jennifer D. McDaid. A Guide to Business Records in the Virginia State Library and Archives, Revised Edition. Richmond, Va.: Virginia State Library and Archives, 1994.

Slatten, Richard and James Bagby, “Accounts from the Store of Thomas Partridge & Co., Hanover County, Virginia, 1734-1756,” Magazine of Virginia Genealogy, v. 22, 14-18. Available to VGS members at the website - http://www.vgs.org/. Select “Virtual VIGR” from the top right hand corner, then “Beyond the Basics,” then “The Role of the General Store in Colonial Virginia.”

University of Nottingham. “Business Accounting,” in “Manuscripts and Special Collections.” University of Nottingham. http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/index.aspx : accessed April 2014. Select “Research Guidance,” then “Accounting,” then “Business Accounting.” Note this is an English university, however, most of the early merchants were British and their general accounting methods are still used in the U.S. today

Victor S. Dunn, CG


[1] Items indexed beginning in 1986 are online at Library of Congress, NUCMC: National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, (http://www.loc.gov/coll/nucmc/index.html : accessed April 2014). For pre-1986 references see Index to Subjects and Corporate Names in the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, 1959–1984, 3 vols. (Alexandria, Va.: Chadwyck-Healey, 1994), and Index to Personal Names in the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, 1959–1984, 2 vols. (Alexandria, Va.: Chadwyck-Healey, ca 1988). Note 1985 is not covered by these volumes nor is it online at the Library of Congress website. Also see National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, 29 Vols. (Various publishers, 1959-1993). An online version is also available at limited libraries through ArchivesUSA

[2]Fredericks Hall Plantation Books Subseries 1.1, 1734-1736: 79; miscellaneous microfilm 1615; Library of Virginia, Richmond (LVA).

[3]Fredericks Hall Subseries 2.2. Merchant Ledger, 1740-1740:120; misc. microfilm 1620; LVA. During this time period a son-in-law may have been a daughter’s husband or a stepson.

[4] Jerdone Family Journals, Louisa, New Kent and York Counties, 1749-1873: unpaged 1750 entries; accessions 21655 and 21656; LVA.

[5]Francis Jerdone Ledger, King and Queen County, VA 1748-1750:38; microfilm reel call number F232 .K4 J47 2000; Swem Library, William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Va.

[6] Patrick Henry Hanover County, Ledger,1758-1763; Business Records Collection, accession 20472: LVA.

[7] Dr. Robert Walker of Dinwiddie County, Account Book, 1794-1830:165; at the Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, part of Records of Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War. Series M. Part 5

[8] Ibid, 288.

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