Hanover County, Virginia Record Loss
In 1916, Morgan P. Robinson, the Virginia State Archivist, had this to say about "the destruction of most of the records of Hanover, which occurred on April 3, 1865:
- Richmond, Va.,
Dec. 24th, 1915
"Mr. Morgan P. Robinson,
State Library Bldg.,
Your letter of December 23rd, Just received, I note that you ask me to give my recollection or knowledge of the destruction
of our Court records during the War between the States, Responding to your inquiry, I have to say that I was raised in Hanover County, about eight miles east of Hanover C. H., but was rarely at Hanover C. H. until after the close of the war. The lower part of Hanover, reaching within a few miles of Hanover C. H, was occupied by the armies of McClellan and Grant, and was the subject of frequent cavalry raids, which took in Hanover C. H., and the Clerk of the County Court of Hanover County as a precaution against the destruction of the records of that Court removed them to Richmond and
they were deposited in the Court Bldg., which then stood on the Capitol Square Just in front of the Franklin Street entrance
from the east, Just about where the fountain now stands, which building was destroyed, and so far as I know no papers of value were taken or [saved, in conse]quence all of the records of the County Court of Hanover County were burned. The records of the Circuit Court (which Court then had its own clerk in the same building with the County Court Clerk) were allowed to remain in the Clerk's Office at Hanover C. H. and though that section was several times ralded and the Clerk's Office opened, and some few papers probably lost, I do not think any of the record books were destroyed, and, so far as I know, no papers of value were taken or destroyed. Among the records thus preserved two old books bound in raw hide dated about 1730, remained in the office and were not hurt. I do not know if this answers fully your inquiry, but if you desire any further information and I can obtain lt for you will be very glad to answer any inquiry you may make.
Yours very truly,
GEO. P. HAW."
(Source: Cocke, William Ronald. Hanover County Chancery Wills and Notes. A Compendium of Genealogical, Biographical and Historical Material as Contained in Cases of the Chancery Suits of Hanover County, Virginia. Columbia, Va.: W.R. Cocke, 1940. Available at FHL; digital version at FamilySearch Books Online . Reviewed by John M. Jennings in The William and Mary Quarterly, Second Series, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Oct., 1940):575-576. Available at FHL; digital version at JSTOR ($). Reviewed by R.A. Stewart in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 48, No. 3 (Jul., 1940):284. Available at FHL; digital version at JSTOR ($).)
In 1950, Leon M. Bazile had this to say about the destruction of Hanover County's original will books and where copies that have survived may be found: "During the War of Secession the records of Hanover County were taken to Richmond for safekeeping and stored in the building owned by Thomas Randolph Price on Main Street. When the city was burned in April 1865, the Hanover records, including the Deed and Will Books, were destroyed. Many families had procured certified copies of the wills affecting them; copies of such wills were also obtained for exhibits in suits, the papers of which are still in existence. Through such sources many wills which were believed to have been wholly lost are now coming to light," see: Leon M. Bazile, "The Wills of the Reverend Patrick Henry [dated and proved in 1777] and Walter Coles [dated and proved in 1815] of Hanover County, Virginia," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 58, No. 1 (Jan., 1950):120-130. Available at FHL; digital version at JSTOR ($). [Source: certified copies of original wills.]
For suggestions about research in places that suffered historic record losses, see:
- Burned Counties Research in the FamilySearch Research Wiki.
- Arlene Eakle, When the Records are Gone in the Tennessee Genealogy Blog.
- Michael John Neill, Burned Counties in Family History Circle.