Newsletter Blog | Fredericksburg Regional Genealogical Society

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Fredericksburg Marriage License Project Update
Marriage licenses are now digitized back to 1857. We can almost see the end of this project, which will include marriages back to the mid-1700s! 

Fredericksburg Circuit Court Digitization Project
Fredericksburg marriages are now digitized through 1889. Fredericksburg is only the second municipality to request database access earlier than 1890. FRGS members are working on this project. The court received funds this winter to allow their land records to be digitized. And their archivist is busy digitizing other records. 

FRGS member Ray Maki gave his Making Sense of the Census to the Heartsfield Assisted Living residents and their families on 21 April. Lots of good questions and much interest. His next presentation is in June to the New Comers and Old Friends in Spotsylvania.

NERGC 2017 E-Zine 2 
For anyone with New England Ancestors this conference is a must. Next April 26-29, 2017 the conference will be held in Springfield, MA. To sign up for conference E-Zines, go to

DAR Librarian Elizabeth Ernest provided FRGS members with an extensive overview of the DAR’s holdings. The DAR is a non-profit volunteer women’s organization with over 180,000 members. The library holds extensive collections, categorized by subject: Print, Special Collections, and Digital Collections. Their GRS (Genealogical Research System) contains member applications and supporting documents. Much of this information is available online. Their GRC (Genealogical Records Committee) has over 20,000 volumes donated by state chapters. The DAR’s newest project is the Patiot Records Project, an ongoing volunteer effort to index names. Currently eight states have been completed. For much more information check their website at:  - M 2016

October Genealogy Conference - was held this morning at the CRRL. Over 100 people registered for this two track conference. We thank everyone who came and especially thank our wonderful speakers - Mary Ann Kelley, Shannon Combs-Bennett, Vic Dunn, Kim Campbell and Sharon Hodges. Thank you!

African American Research Tips

Last Wednesday evening our genealogical society had the honor to host Char McCargo Bah, owner-CEO of Finding Things for U, LLC. Ms. Bah educated those in attendance with her presentation: We Were Always in the Courthouse: What You Can Find on African American Court Records.

Char’s Hints:  You can’t research African American ancestors without tracing the white population. No one is an island; we are all part of a community. Don’t skip anything when researching genealogy. At some point you’ll come to a brick wall and you’ll need that piece of information you skipped over. If you’re using information that has been passed down, understand that additional records have become available since older genealogies were done.

Cite, cite, cite - If/when you publish, you’ll need  accurate citations - Char makes sure she has three sources to document each fact. Make life easier for yourself, cite as you research. Use cluster research or collateral lines.

Cohabitation records – African Americans that were married before the Civil War could go to the courthouse to have their marriage recorded. This applies to divorce as well, and this may be the first record of the couple’s children. In divorce cases they have to present their marriage license. One stop shopping!  The children are listed. Divorces are found in courthouse records with siblings and neighbors testifying. The only grounds were adultery and desertion. If adultery, there had to be numerous witnesses. The court would have lists of people from whom they took depositions. Know correct terms; know the county. Not all records are on line. You may have to go to the courthouse.

Dispute of property: Division of Slaves.  You have to understand African Americans were considered property, and when people were taken to court, it was because slaves were property that had to be divided equally.

Keep in mind - Some court cases lasted 30-40 years. Some court cases brought slaves back in to verify the owner and owner’s family to settle land disputes. 

Many African Americans went to DC to get married. DC was a popular honeymoon spot because of the availability of hotels that would allow blacks. Unfortunately, DC marriage licenses didn’t ask parents’ names.

Prior to 1865, the free people of color in Virginia were required to register every 2-3 years (Register of Free Blacks). Those lists are in local courthouses. They had to carry their free papers on them. This law was passed 1790, and took effect early 1800s. In Virginia when freed by their owner, an African American had one year to leave. They had to petition to stay and that had to be applied for and approved. Black Code Laws; some of these laws continued after Civil War into the Jim Crow period.

 Char’s website can be found at:

 Another Anomaly in Fredericksburg, VA Marriages

I love genealogy research because I am always learning something. Three years ago we volunteered to digitize Fredericksburg marriages so the wealth of information on those documents would be available for genealogists tracing their ancestors in this part of the country.  
    We learned as we went along that marriages taking place in this town were not just local folks, but for couples coming from the northern states and states to the west. This made sense since Quantico Military base is close by, but then we ran into the anomaly in 1939-1940 when we learned the northern states started to impose wait periods and required blood tests.
     Last week when we got to the 1916 and 1917 Fredericksburg marriages we ran into another anomaly. Working back, we came did 1917 first. In that year there were no marriages performed during the month of May. Since the names were filed alphabetically, and we were refilling them by month, it wasn’t like we missed a folder or that one has been misfiled. 
     We went to the archivist and explained the “empty” month. He jumped on the Internet and brought us information that explained the U.S. Selective Service Act was enacted May 17, 1917. Those married and providing sole income and with dependents under the age of 16 were classified as “exempted, but available for military service.” 
      We didn’t go back through the first months of that year to see how many men married divorced or widowed women with children, but that might have been an interesting statistic to find. Being married before the month of May 1917 was definitely an advantage when it came draft eligibility.
     Then in 1916 we ran into the same thing, this time there were no marriages in the month of June.  In a cursory search I learned the National Defense Act was enacted 3 June 1916, getting Americans prepared for entry into WW I. Why this affected marriages during that month, I can’t say, but it does make for an interesting day!

 Save those Images - Now!

It was recently brought to our attention that images on sites like are not guaranteed to be there forever. Three years ago we captured an image of a marriage certificate from Cook County, Illinois. Today that image is no longer available on that site. Why? Because FamilySearch contracted with Cook County for those images to be available for about two years only. Now an index of what is available appears on their site and anyone needing a certificate has to go to and pay $15.00!

How many times have we, as genealogists, get caught up in the search and think, I can get that later. We now know “later” may be too late.

Virginia Vital Records Available - The rest of the Story:

Dick Eastman’s announcement reads:

"Governor Terry McAuliffe recently announced the completion of a two-year, public-private collaboration between the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and that fully digitizes the state’s vital records. To date, more than 16 million records have been digitized and indexed. Scanned images of the original, public* documents are available online through Access to the indexed information on the records is available free of charge through VDH’s Division of Vital Records’ and the Library of Virginia’s websites. So far, birth and death records from 1912 to the present, marriage records from 1936 to the present and divorce records from 1918 to the present have been scanned and are available. Images are available and the records have also been indexed.” 

Read carefully.  When you access these records through the Virginia Department of Health or the Library of Virginia, you are immediately sent to Ancestry. Ancestry allows you to see the index, giving names and dates, but to see the scanned image, in which there is a wealth of information, you have to have an ancestry subscription.  Bummer!

Since we have an Ancestry subscription, we were able to access the scanned documents. They are clear, and it was very exciting to see marriage licenses we had processed for Fredericksburg Circuit Court now online!!

Fredericksburg marriage records digitization project continues. Marriage licenses from 1926 through present can be viewed at the Fredericksburg Circuit Court, Princess Anne Street, Fredericksburg. 

Researching Quaker Ancestors - Member Elizabeth Ernst presented information on researching Quaker ancestorsShe told us that Quakers dress normally, are mostly pacifists,Civil Rights Activists, mostly abolitionists, and educators. There are approximately 359,000 Quakers worldwide with 87,000 in the U.S.

George Fox (1624-1691) of Leicestershire, England was the founder, and he believed “There is that of God in Everyone.” One of his most 
important converts was William Penn. In 1681, the King of England gave Penn 45,000 square miles in the new world for a Quaker colony. That colony was to be called Pennsylvania. 

Quaker records were kept in the monthly meetings (not quarterly meetings). The monthly meeting records can contain information on births, marriage intentions, records of discipline, disownment, removal/transfer of membership, memorial minutes, and burial requests. There will be two sets of minutes – Men’s Meeting and Women’s Meeting. You might find non-Quakers in these records as they may have attended a marriage as a witness. 

William Wade Hinshaw (1867-1947) is Elizabeth’s hero. He collected and compiled Quaker meeting records into family groups and produced the Encyclopedia of American Quaker has fully digitized all volumes.  Other places to search for Quaker records are print collections in archives and university libraries, and online resources. - M

Lackawanna County, PA Marriage and other records.

This is the link to the Recorder of Deeds, if you select Public Records you get a drop down menu.

Creative Director at the In-Depth Genealogist - FRGS is pleaed to announce our member Shannon Combs-Bennett has recently joined the leadership team. Congratulations, Shannon. We are so proud. - m

Marriage Record Digitization Project - We came upon a curious blip in our project of digitizing marriages performed in Fredericksburg, VA.  Between 1995 where we started back to 1940 the highest number of marriages per year was 335 in 1942.  Until we hit 1940.  The number of marriage licenses taken out in 1940 was 1,599; 1939 even higher with 1,771.  We also noted the majority of licenses were given to out of state couples. Why? Possibly the war in Europe had some impact on couples.  After some research we also found that mandatory premarital blood tests were being passed in the northern states. Virginia’s “Premarital Examination Law” took effect in August 1940. So of the almost 1600 marriage licenses that year, all but 200 were taken out prior to August. New York State, for instance, passed their “Premarital Examination Law” in June 1939. As we work through that year we will see if there is a rush of New York couples coming to Virginia for their marriage licence. Why Fredericksburg? That’s easy - rail transportation from the major east coast cities right to the Fredericksburg station that is only a short four blocks to court.  It will take us a while to get 1939 done, and then going back the years look quite slim.  A real goldmine for genealogists.  - m

African American cemeteries was recently notified about a new release on in central Virginia.  It sounds like an interesting read for any genealogist. 

Lynn Rainville’s most recent book is Hidden History: African American Cemeteries in Central Virginia (University of Virginia Press) is now available. In addition to preserving African-American cemeteries for future generations, funerary traditions, gravestones, and cemetery landscapes illustrate past attitudes towards death and community. Because of the historical importance of mortuary landscapes, cemeteries provide a window into past family networks, gender relations, religious beliefs, and local neighborhoods. In this project we take an interdisciplinary approach, combing anthropological, archaeological, historical, oral historical, sociological, geological, and environmental techniques and theories. These combined perspectives are necessary to understand the cultural and environmental context of historic black cemeteries and uncover the rich cultural and religious traditions that produced these sacred sites.

Lynn Rainville received her PhD in Near Eastern Archaeology in 2001. After a decade of work in Turkey, she returned to an earlier research interest, historic cemeteries. She has taught anthropology and archaeology courses at the University of Michigan, Dartmouth College, University of Virginia, and Sweet Briar College. Her research interests range from slave cemeteries to war memorials, from segregated schools to historic architecture, from enslaved communities on antebellum plantations to rural neighborhoods, and from town poor farms to urban life in the 19th-century. Her work has been supported by numerous grants, from the National Science Foundation to the National Endowment for the Humanities, from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to the Wenner Gren Foundation, and from various private donors.  - M

Good news on Fredericksburg Marriage Licenses database. The 335 marriages of 1942 are now indexed. We have been told an arrangement has been made for the originals to be available at the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center instead of being archived.  As stated in the past, Virginia was and still is an easy place to get married. Consequently couples from all over the U.S. were married in Fredericksburg. 

On Wednesday 11 June 2014 meeting, Julie Nielsen Cabitto will explain Virginia Chancery Records.  Visit Julie on her Polish genealogy blog: or for Virginia history: -  The June meeting will be the last of the season. Join us back at Salem Church Branch Library on 10 September 2014.  

"Immigration to North America & Naturalization a presentation developed by Bryan L. Mulcahy, and permission to present was given by member Ray Maki. 

Mr. Mulcahy is a reference librarian with the Lee County Library System in Fort Myers, Florida. Mr. Maki was fortunate to be in Florida this winter and was present at Mr. Mulcahy's presentation to the Manatee County Genealogical Society. 

Intrigued with the information presented, Mr. Maki contacted Mr. Mulcahy asking if some of his research could be used in a presentation to FRGS. Mr. Mulcahy responded, "You are more than welcome to use any of my materials. I am honored that you feel they are worhty of such."  He then sent his PowerPoint presentation. 

Mr. Maki will be tweaking the presentation hoping to add little known information that would be helpful to those present.  - m

Fredericksburg Regional Genealogical Society member Shannon Combs-Bennett has her first publication, An In-Depth Guide to Richmond, Virginia available just in time for use by attendees of the National Genealogical Society's 2014 Family History Conference,Virginia: The First Frontier, being held in Richmond 7-10 May 2014!

A first in the series, this book was created as a genealogists travel guide for Richmond, Virginia.  She shares not only items that would have interest to genealogists but to the whole family.  The book includes: a Packing Checklist, Downtown Richmond City Safety Guide, Public Transportation, Shopping (ATM’s & Banks, Convenience Stores, Restaurants), Richmond Area Genealogy and other Attractions, and Genealogy and other Attractions that are short Day trips (within 2 hours drive) of Richmond.

The book is available for just $9.99 as a 8.5″ x 11″ black & white paperback through Createspace store (  It is also available as a PDF download for $4.99."

You can contact Shannon through her blog, office, twitter or Facebook. 

Trials and Tribulations Family HistoryOffice: 540-735-0858
Twitter @tntfamhist

At it's Wednesday, June 11, 2014 meeting, FRGS will host Julie Nielsen Cabitto who will explain Virginia Chancery Records and the goldmine of research information it holds. Visit Julie on her Polish genealogy blog: or for Virginia history: - M 

Chancery Records
According to the Black's Law Dictionary, Chancery is "Proceeding according to the forms of principles of equity."  Virginia is fortunate to have online through the Library of Virginia's website, chancery court records back to the 1700s.  Because chancery courts were deciding issues not necessarily to the letter of the law, but on equity and fairness, those court cases include estates, land disputes, divorce proceedings and business partnership issues.  These records can hold a goldmine of information - for those who have Virginia ancestors.  The Library of Virginia website is not the easiest to navigate. A hint is to use the Search Box (upper right on home page) for what kind of record you are looking for. This box provides guidance on how to use the site. If you want to go right to the Chancery Records database, go to  Put a name in the Surname Box. Then filter by county.  -M

Fredericksburg Marriage Records Index - Did you know that Fredericksburg (and Virginia) is a Gretna Green? Anyone can obtain a marriage license with adequate ID and the fee in hand. Couples from surrounding states, including New York and New England come to Fredericksburg to get married.  Marriage licenses taken out in Fredericksburg, VA have special importance because of its locality near Quantico military base. Many military personnel came to Fredericksburg for their marriage license.  As of the first of the year 2014, marriages from 1955 to present are available at the Fredericksburg Circuit Court. - M

Viginia Tax Records  - This has been an exciting year for the Fredericksburg Regional Genealogical Society. There was record attendance at the September meeting to hear what Barbara Vines Little had to say about how Tax Records can be a goldmine of genealogical information.  She warned to now use tax records as a census substitute, as you might miss important information.  Barbara explained that the head or poll tax was placed on free white males above the age of sixteen, though this age range could vary to age 21. 

Since Virginia has few vital records before 1850, it does have tax lists from 1782 that can be utilized for genealogical research. 

The tithable lists names not only white males, but lists slaves over the age of 12. 

Other information from the September meeting: The Second Spring Genealogy Series co-sponsored by FRGS and the Central Rappahannock Regional Library will be held on Saturday, March 22, 2014.  Specific program and speakers to be announced.

The National Genealogical Society national meeting will be in Richmond, VA May 7-10, 2014. Check the NGS website for further information.  - M

Virginiana Room

Wind down the spiral staircase to the lower level of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library on Caroline Street in Fredericksburg and you will find a room full of Virginia genealogical research material. You will also find knowledgable staff and volunteers to help you locate just what you are looking for.

Some items of interest are: Local newspapers on microfilm, some as early as 1788; Indexes for Fredericksburg newspapers through 1928; Obituary indexes from 1788 to present; Sanborn Insurance maps; cabinets filled with information on historic houses and the people who lived in them; military information, especially Civil War resources; cemetery records, and an extensive collection of books on local as well as Virginia history.  - M

Fredericksburg City Directories

With the exception of a few years, the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc. has Fredericksburg City Directories for the years 1965 through 1997. Lookups from Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness can be requested through the society's email  - M


On Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. at the Salem Church Branch Library, Shannon Combs-Bennett will present new information on DNA testing. Those who attended the FRGS spring genealogy series, Introductory Genealogy and Beyond, will know that Shannon presents this complex information in a manner that all can understand. - M

Stafford Civil War Park

A couple of men with a dream, determination, stickto-itivness and who gathered lots of community support built the Stafford Civil War Park that opened in April 2013. 

Our history club toured the park today and we encourage anyone interested in Civil War history to make this park a priority. - M

Cemetery Tour

In October each year the Rappannock Colonial Heritage Society sponsors a tour of local cemeteries. Participants have the opportunity to "meet" and learn about the lives of some of the founding members of Fredericksburg, VA.  We attended this year's  tour and I was surprised to learn that many early residents were of Scottish descent. If you are interested in local colonial history, do contact this group. - M Presentation

FRGS member Ray Maki shared information on the updated Family Search website.  He explained that once on the site, a search can immediately begin by clicking on, "Search." But, he strongly advised that genealogists first go to the left and click on "Sign In."  By creating an account, researchers have access to more information, can begin their family tree in the cloud (which will be around forever as opposed to computer programs, CDs, DVDs, etc.).  FamilySearch does not share/sell your email address, nor do they send account holders any emails. 

Mr. Maki explained each of the headers under the Search tab - Records, Genealogies, Catalog, Books and Wiki.  He presented interesting examples of each function, including adding citations and photos to an ancestor's Person Page. - M

2013 Maki Designs