The treasure that is RELIC
People from Prince William County, Virginia, are awfully lucky.
And that’s true despite the fact that Prince William County suffered what can be categorized as catastrophic record losses during the Civil War: “Many pre–Civil War records were lost, destroyed, or stolen by Union troops in 1863 during the Civil War. Sixteen deed books and five will books are missing.”1
Because Prince William County has something that nobody else has.
Prince William County, Virginia, has RELIC.
RELIC is an acronym. It stands for the Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center (RELIC), a special collection devoted to genealogy and local history with a focus on Virginia and Prince William County, that’s located at the Bull Run Regional Library in Manassas.
And RELIC is simply one of the best local collections you’ll ever have the pleasure to find.
The Legal Genealogist had the great good fortune of being the speaker at the Ninth Annual RELIC After Dark special event this past weekend — and it was a wonderful experience: great people and great questions focusing on genealogy, court records and the law.
But that isn’t the first time I’ve experienced the marvel that is RELIC. Last year, in response to a reader question, I turned to RELIC for help in finding information about the reader’s second great grandfather who had been a sheriff of Prince William County in the early 1900s.2
And even before then I’d had good cause to be deeply grateful to RELIC. You see, I have a niece and nephew whose last name is St. Clair. And a good number of the Virginia St. Clairs trace their ancestry back to a man who settled in Prince William County in the 1700s. His name was Alexander Sinclair, and a key piece of the proof of that ancestry was his 1748 will.
A will that had been lost, it was thought, in those turbulent Civil War years.
A will nobody thought would ever see the light of day.
A will that was found, along with the will of Alexander’s son Robert Sinclair, tucked away in a much later Chancery Court record.
Found and published, in large measure, by the researchers of RELIC.3
RELIC was founded in 1971 as the Virginiana Room at the Central Community Library in Manassas and transferred to the Bull Run Regional Library when it opened in 1994. It’s named after Ruth Emmons Lloyd (1892-1971), a Prince William County civic leader whose work was instrumental in getting the Prince William Public Library System up and running.
Its holdings are truly stunning, and not at all limited to Prince William County — ranging from published and manuscript materials, indexes and research guides, photographs, maps, microforms, and computer (CD-ROM) databases. It’s really a hub for Virginia research, with resources including:
• Abstracts of local records from around the state
• African Virginians Prior to 1865 (research guide)
• All Virginia census schedules 1790-1930 (microfilm and online)
• City directories (microfilm and microfiche)
• County and town histories (books and online)
• Freedman’s Bureau records (microfilm)
• Historical magazines (some available online)
• Land grants (Northern Neck grants on microfilm. Virginia land grants also available online)
• Military rolls from the Revolution and Civil War (microfilm)
• Newspapers on microfilm, plus abstracts and indexes
• Statewide indexes to births, marriages, and deaths (microfilm)
• Topographic and historical maps
It has local historical newspapers on microfilm, a wide-ranging digital library including cemetery listing, post office records, tax lists from both Prince William and Stafford Counties, and so much more.
Its educational programs are among the best around. Tomorrow night, Tuesday, September 24th, at 7 p.m., RELIC offers Genealogy 101, an introduction to the techniques and resources available for tracing your family’s history. On Thursday, October 10th at 11 a.m., the program is Researching Your Virginia Ancestors. On Tuesday, October 22nd, at 7 p.m., it’s Genealogy 201: Beyond the Basics. On Thursday, November 14th, at 11 a.m., it’s Headstone Records for U.S. Military Veterans, 1879-1985.
And then there’s the staff. Dedicated. Enthusiastic. Knowledgeable. They’ve authored research guides, publish newsletters and notes about what’s new, provide training … and they hold the hands of researchers as well as anyone I’ve ever found. And they’re there, every day and every hour that the library is open.
You can meet the staff and learn more about RELIC and the vast array of offerings there in this YouTube video:
RELIC. One of the joys of Virginia genealogy.
- “Lost Records Localities: Counties and Cities with Missing Records,” Library of Virginia, Research Notes No. 30 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov : accessed 22 Sep 2013). ↩
- Judy G. Russell, “A Prince of a sheriff,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 13 Dec 2012 (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 22 Sep 2013). ↩
- “Found! Two Lost Prince William County Wills: Alexander Sinclair (1748) and Robert Sinclair Sr. (1758),” Prince William Reliquary, 6: (Jan 2007) 1. ↩