Monday, March 23, 2015


Courthouse Cabell-County-Courthouse SAMSUNG            Courthouse Lawrence Co Oh
Left to right – Cabell County, West Virginia, Cheshire County, New Hampshire and Lawrence County, Ohio

I was fortunate to be able to attend a seminar this past Saturday that featured Judy Russell as the speaker.  The seminar was put on by the North San Diego County Genealogical Society, of which I am a member.

Who is Judy Russell?  Most of you probably know she is the Legal Genealogist.  She has a blog where she keeps us up to date and completely informed about various laws involving our genealogy research.  I have followed her blog for a while now and we’ve become Facebook friends.  However, I had never had the honor of hearing her speak.  What I did know from other genealogy friends, was that I would not be disappointed. 

That is an understatement.  Judy is not only knowledgeable about many areas of the law, but she’s also an excellent genealogist and a really good speaker.  And, she’s funny too.
There were four session to the seminar which went from 9:30 to 3:30.  Here are the titles of those sessions:

  • What to know before you go
  • What to bring
  • What to look for when you get there
  • When the clerk asks “May I help you?”
  • Tips for courthouse research
  • Checklist for courthouse research
  • Introduction
  • Some basic concepts
  • Kinds of cases in equity
  • Reasons why genealogists should love chancery cases
  • What is a bond?
  • A discussion of the kinds of bonds: marriage, bastardy, bail, adminstrators, guardianship, appeal, peace and official
  • Why do we care about bonds?
  • The law of dower
  • Records of widows
  • The law as to orphaned children
  • Records of orphans
I was spellbound during these sessions.  I have been to courthouses in several states during my various genealogy road trips.  However, I now know that I missed a large amount of the possible records available for my ancestors.  Yes, I’d heard of bonds, and even seen a couple of records.
What I didn’t know was
- That there are so many different types
-  That they can contain copious amounts of information
-  That they can connect one family member to another
- And that I should look for them every time I enter a courthouse

Since most of these records can only be obtained at the actual courthouse, it will be a while until I can revisit some of the places I’ve been.  However, there was a website that Judy told us about that has many scanned chancery court records.  It is the Virginia Memory-Library of Virginia website.  Here is a direct link to the Chancery court page  

VA memory

I began looking on this Virginia page yesterday and found a 96 page court record involving my 6th great grandfather, Andrew HAMILTON and other family members. On page 4 was a mention of his daughter Alice Hamilton who married my DAR patriot, Andrew BOWEN.  This was my first good piece of evidence as to Alice’s father, other than circumstantial evidence.

Here I have circled references to family members on this page. 
 (Click on the image to enlarge it)
HAMILTON_Andrew names Alice BOWEN as his daught in Chancery cas

The images from the Virginia Memory site can only be saved one page at a time.  As a result it will take me several days to save all 96 pages of this document.  It’s much easier to read them on a monitor or on the iPad when you can enlarge the print.  I’m actually very pleased with how readable the document is.

To quote Judy Russell “Is this a record that you would like to have?”  My answer is a resounding “YES!”

Now I cannot wait to go to other courthouses and find bond records of all kinds.  Those courthouses shown at the beginning of this post are all places I’ve been.  I’ve been inside two of the three courthouses and never looked for bonds.  Don’t make that same mistake.

Have you looked at these types of court records before?  Or, is this your first time hearing how valuable they can be?

Happy hunting,
Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2015   Diane Gould Hall


  1. The Chancery Records on the Virginia Memory-Library of Virginia website have helped me open several doors in my brick walls. One of them I wrote about last year.
    Not many people seem to know about these. Good of you to get the word out. ~ Cathy

    1. Cathy - I am going to go and read your entry right now. I'm currently half way through that 96 page document. There are many other documents on that site that are probably my family too. The information shared by Judy will make me a much better genealogist and I'm so grateful to have the information.
      Thanks for stopping by.

    2. Thanks for going to my blog and reading my entry about proving the parentage and siblings for my Sally Crisp.
      The images of the chancery records are a bit slow to load and I've found that the "Open in full view" option is a bit faster. Downloading the images is tedious but makes it so much easier to zoom in on. If you figure out a way to merge the entire package into one pdf for even quicker access and viewing I would love to read a blogpost about that! ~ Cathy

    3. Isn't that the truth Cathy. Saving those pages one at a time is painstaking. However, I am hoping that with my Adobe Writer program I will be able to get all the pages into one PDF document. I'll be sure and let you know.
      Happy hunting.

  2. Diane, I recently saw Judy Russell at the Bergen Co. Gen. Society in New Jersey. I enjoyed and benefited from her presentations too. I love the chancery records at the Library of VA. My McFall family was a bunch of scrapers and I've happily downloaded the cases.

    1. Barbara,
      I will attend any of Judy's seminars whenever I get the chance, for sure. I could even hear the same subject again, as I'm sure there is much I missed. Oh to be able to return to those east coast and Midwest courthouses I've been in. Maybe some day. But knowledge is our friend and this piece of it will make me a better researcher. Have fun with those scrappy ancestors.
      Thanks for stopping by.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.