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In the pages of the lawbooks

Every so often, The Legal Genealogist comes across someone who looks at the sheer volume of statutory law that may have some genealogical value and is aghast.

Names“There can’t really,” the person may whimper, “be anything in there of any possible use to me.”


Yeah, there really is.

Or at least there might be.

And oh… you don’t want to miss it if there is.

Just as a test, I opened up volume 10 of Hening’s Virginia Statutes at Large.1 Virginia, of course, because I’m speaking there this Saturday — tomorrow! November 8th! — at the Genealogical Research Institute of Virginia Fall Conference at Clover Hill High School in Midlothian.2

I just wanted to see who was included, specifically by name, starting at some random point in the book. I began at page 192, which happened to fall in the laws of October 1779, and read forward only 27 pages to the end of the October term of the legislature.

And here’s what I found:

John Alexander and his infant son were mentioned as having the rights to certain lots of land, and the town of Alexandria was allowed to annex the lots.3

John Anderson and Mead Anderson were given the rights to work a lead mine in unappropriated land without paying tax on the estimated value of the lead.4

William Campbell and Walter Crockett were singled out by name as having been involved in defeating a conspiracy in Washington County and given a legal pass — an indemnification and exoneration — for whatever they did in putting down the conspiracy.5

• An act for establishing several new ferries included one from the land of Edward West in Stafford County to Simon Miller in Culpeper and one from the land of Gavin Lawson of Stafford to Fielding Lewis in Spotsylvania. Also referenced were Richard Gallaway, James Bowie the younger, Francis Conway, Abraham Shepherd of Berkeley County, and Thomas Swearingen of Maryland.6

• An act for the relief of Christopher Godwin, explaining that Godwin had leased land in Nansemond County to a Loyalist, John Hamilton, and because of the lease might lose money because of Hamilton’s forfeiture of his rights to the patriot government. The title to the land was re-vested in Godwin.7

• Landowners in Caroline and King and Queen Counties were identified by name in drawing the line between the existing Parish of Drysdale and a new Parish of Saint Asaph. They included John Page, Christopher Smith, Anthony Seale, Frederick Phillips, Edmund Pendleton the elder, and Edmund Jones. And the commissioners of the glebe of the new parish were Pendleton, William Lyne, Anthony Thornton, junior, Thomas Coleman, Mungo Roy and James Upshaw.8

• An act for the manumission of certain Slaves confirmed the freedom of John Hope also known as Barber Caesar, slave of Susanna Riddle of York; William Beck, slave of Thomas Walker the younger of Albemarle, and Pegg, slave of Lewis Dunn of Sussex.9

That’s what’s waiting in the statutes.

In fewer than 30 pages of one statute book.


  1. William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the first session of the Legislature in the year 1619, vol. 10 (Richmond : 1822).
  2. Walk-ins welcome. Just sayin’ …
  3. Hening, The Statutes at Large, 10: 192-193.
  4. Ibid., 10: 193-194.
  5. Ibid., 10: 195.
  6. Ibid., 10: 196-197.
  7. Ibid., 10: 207.
  8. Ibid., 10: 209-210.
  9. Ibid., 10: 211.
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