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Researching Virginians in the Williamsburg Area

A Bibliography of Materials from the Rockefeller Library

The City of Williamsburg, established as Virginia's capitol in 1699 and incorporated in 1722, lies squarely on the boundary line between two counties, James City County and York County. Because many court records were destroyed during the Civil War, the amount of information on individuals who lived in this area depends largely on which county they resided in and when. Successful research will probably need to cover both counties.

Before 1722 Williamsburg city records were not kept separately from the counties, and legal issues were recorded in an individual's county of residence. A Hustings Court was set up when Williamsburg was incorporated, but the records of that court were burned during the Civil War.

James City County was one of the eight original counties created in 1634, and originally extended both north and south of the James River. Boundary changes since then include the formation of Surry County from James City County in 1652, the transfer of part of James City County to Charles City County in 1720, and a land swap with New Kent County in 1766. James City County has a history of significant record loss; all county court records were destroyed by fire in 1865.

Also one of Virginia's eight original counties, York County was originally named Charles River County in 1634. It was renamed York County in 1642/43. New counties formed out of York were Gloucester in 1651 and New Kent in 1654. York County's court records are intact from 1634, and are especially important to local research since all adjacent counties are "burned counties" with nearly complete court record loss.

Therefore, with only the exceptions noted below, the early records of the City of Williamsburg are either well preserved (if on the York side of the boundary) or missing (if on the James City side). Research on James City County families is hindered by the loss of court records, but this may be compensated for by using the few remaining James City resources (such as land patents, church records, or tax lists), supplemented by the York County records. Research on York County families is easier; however, any surviving records from other counties should be used to form a more comprehensive picture.

Resources with information pertinent to James City and/or York County are listed below. They are grouped by record type.

James City and York Counties (Combined)

Land Records

  • Historical Research Reports for Colonial Williamsburg properties. [These unpublished reports are descriptions of land ownership and usage for properties now owned by Colonial Williamsburg and located in the "Historic Area." Less information is known about James City County sites than those in York County.]
  • Nugent, Nell. Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, 1623–1800. Richmond, VA: Dietz Press, 1934–. Ref. F 225.N842 1934. [Patents record the ownership of "new" (previously unowned) land. Once the ownership was recorded, land transfers were recorded in the deeds. Patents cover land in both counties, while deeds only exist for York County. Sometimes patents recording first land ownership give enough details to locate early settlers in a specific geographic area. An online version of Virginia Land Office Patents is available from the Library of Virginia.]

Tax Records

  • Smith, Annie L.W. Quit Rents of Virginia: Copy of the Rent Rolls … for the Year 1704. Richmond, VA: Expert Letter Writing Co.: 1957. Ref. F 225.S63 1957. [A single surviving colony-wide list of landowners obligated to pay a land tax to the king. Gives number of acres taxed and identifies county.]

Church and Cemetery Records

  • Chappelear, Nancy. Bruton and Middleton Parishes, James City County, Va. Parish Register 1662–1797. Washington, D.C.: Chappelear & Baird, 1966. Ref. F 232.J15 C5. [Middleton Parish, formed in 1658 from earlier parishes lying in both James City and York counties, combined with Marston Parish of York County in 1674 to form Bruton Parish. This register includes baptisms from 1739–1797 from Bruton Parish and deaths from 1662–1751, beginning when the area was known as Marston, later Middleton, and extending into the time it was known as Bruton.]
  • Godson, Susan H., ed. A Guide to the Memorials of Bruton Parish Church with Maps. Williamsburg, VA: Bruton Parish Church, 2004. Ref. F 234.W7 G85 2006.
  • Goodwin, W.A.R. Record of Bruton Parish Church. Williamsburg, Virginia. Richmond, VA: Dietz Press, 1941. Ref. F 234.W7 G53. [Includes extracts from the vestry book, 1674–1769, made during the 19th century before the original book was destroyed in a fire, as well as lists of baptisms and deaths from the surviving register.]
  • Hinshaw, William Wade. Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1936–50. E 184.F89 H5 v.6. [Volume 6 is Virginia records; the chapter on Henrico Monthly Meeting covers the geographic area that included both James City and York counties.]
  • Vogt, John, ed. Bruton Parish Virginia Register, 1662–1797. Athens, GA: New Papyrus Publishing, 2004. Ref. F 232.J15 R44 2004.

Families and Individuals

  • Search for a family or individual name in the library‚Äôs online catalog.
  • McCartney, Martha. Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, 1607–1635: A Biographical Dictionary. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007. Ref. 225 .M33 2007. [Comprehensive dictionary documented to primary sources. Includes history of 78 European settlements before 1635.]
  • McCartney, Martha. Jamestown People to 1800: Landowners, Public Officials, Minorities, and Native Leaders. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2012. Ref. F 234 .J3 M3336 2012. [Includes description of surviving court records from all 17th-century counties.]
  • Hotten, John Camden. Original Lists of Persons of Quality. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1968. Ref. E 187.5 .H7945 1968. [Includes the "List of the Living and the Dead" taken in 1623/4.]
  • Dorman, John Frederick. Adventurers of Purse and Person, Virginia, 1607–1624/5. 4th ed., Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2004. Ref. F 225 .A7 2004. [Traces the first six generations of descendants of 132 individuals who appeared in the 1625 "Muster of Inhabitants," taken of the survivors of the 1622 Indian massacre. Includes date of arrival and ship's name for many settlers.]
  • Davis, Virginia Lee Hutcheson. Jamestowne Ancestors, 1606–2007. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2006. Ref. 234 .J3 D27 2006.
  • Abercrombie, Janice L. Virginia Revolutionary Publick Claims. Athens, GA: Iberian Publications, 1992. Ref. F 225.A23 1992. [Reimbursement claims against the state of Virginia for non-military patriotic service performed during the Revolutionary War. Divided by county.]
  • Ward, Roger G. 1815 Directory of Virginia Landowners (and Gazetteer). Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1997–. Ref. F 225.W368 1997 v. 3. [Gives distance and direction from the courthouse for each landowner.]
  • "Williamsburg Area Residents File." [Extracts from primary and secondary source documents are continually collected for people who lived in the Williamsburg area primarily in the 18th century. Contact the Library for assistance.]

Census Records and Census Substitutes

Tax lists are frequently recognized as a useful substitute for missing federal census records. Generally, when this substitution has been published, the attempt has been made to find the tax list closest to the date of the missing census. See also the section "Tax Records."

  • United States. Bureau of the Census. Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790 …. Spartanburg, SC: Reprint Co., 1961. Ref. F 225.U54 1961. [City of Williamsburg residents from a 1782 tax list.]
  • Fothergill, Augusta B. Virginia Tax Payers, 1782–1787…. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986. Ref. F 225.F6 1986. [Includes 1782 personal property tax list for James City County, and 1784 list for York County.]
  • Schreiner-Yantis, Netti. 1787 Census of Virginia. Springfield, VA: Genealogical Books in Print, 1987. Ref. F 225.Y36 1987. [Based on tax lists for James City for 1787, City of Williamsburg for 1786 and 1788, and York for 1786 and 1788.]
  • Felldin, Jeanne R. Index to the 1820 Census of Virginia. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, 1976. Ref. F 225.F4. [James City County, York County, and City of Williamsburg all listed separately.]

Other Government Records:

  • Hening, William Waller. Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, From … 1619. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Va., 1969. VA Ref. KFV 2425.2 1809b. [Indexed in Earl Gregg Swem's Virginia Historical Index, VA Ref. F 221.S93. Some early laws mention individuals or families. For example, the breaking of entailed estates lists names and relationships to the land owner.]
  • McIlwaine, H.R., ed. Journals of the House of Burgesses, 1619–1776. Richmond, VA: The Colonial Press, 1905–1915. Ref. J 87.V65. [Minutes of the colonial legislature.]
  • McIlwaine, H.R., ed. Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia. Richmond, VA: Virginia State Library, 1979. Ref. KFV 2418.2 1622b. [Most General Court records burned in 1865. Those remaining cover the years 1622–1632 and 1670–1683.]
  • Lost Records Localities Digital Collection. [The Library of Virginia offers images for a wide variety of court records found as part of chancery and other locality records-processing projects.]

"Virginia Colonial Records Project" (VCRP)

The VCRP, located in Special Collections, is a microfilm series of early records obtained from institutions and record offices in Great Britain and Western Europe. The abstracted survey reports of these records are searchable through the digital images at Virginia Memory Collections by Topic, under "Historic Virginia Government."


Reproduction maps of the area are located in the Special Collections reading room. Please ask for reference assistance in locating them. Written permission may be required from the institutions which own the originals in order to make copies from this collection. Early 20th-century Sanborn Fire Insurance maps of the City of Williamsburg from the originals at the Library of Congress are available on microfilm, M-2030.


Virginia Gazette, 1736–1780. Williamsburg, VA. [This newspaper is indexed by name and topic. Bound original issues from 1930–1977 are held in the Reference section of the Library.]

School Records

Provisional List of Alumni, Grammar School Students, Members of the Faculty, and Members of the Board of Visitors of the College of William & Mary in Virginia, from 1693 to 1888. Richmond, VA: Division of Purchase and Printing, 1941. Ref. LD 6051.W51 P76.

James City County (Only)

Land Records

  • Duvall, Lindsay O. Virginia Colonial Abstracts—Series 2. Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1978–79. F 225.D88 1978 v.4. [Miscellaneous land records and abstracts of land patents taken from manuscripts at the Library of Congress and from land patent books at the Library of Virginia archives.]
  • Foley, Louise. Early Virginia Families Along the James River. Baltimore, MD: Geneological Publications, 1979–. F 225.F596 1979 v.3. [This is a reprint of land patents taken from Nugent's volumes, separated by county. Volume 3 covers James City County.]

Court Records

  • Crozier, William A. Williamsburg Wills. Baltimore, MD: Southern Book Co., 1954. Ref. F 230.C77 1954. [Surviving wills from the Chancery Court in Williamsburg.]
  • Hopkins, William Lindsay. Some Wills from the Burned Counties of Virginia …. Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1995. Ref. F 225.H6697 1995. [Wills found in neighboring county court records or located in public manuscript collections. Many previously published.]

Tax Records

  • Woodson, Robert F. Virginia Tithables from Burned Record Counties. Richmond, VA: I.B.Woodson, 1970. Ref. F 225.W66. [Tithable lists for 1768 and 1769.]
  • Blackmon, Jean E. James City County, Va. Land Tax Records, 1782–1813. Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1991. Ref. F 232.J15 B53 1991. [Taken from original manuscripts at the Library of Virginia.]
  • James City County Land Tax Records, 1783–1861 (microfilm). [Taken from the originals at the James City County Clerk's Office. M-1–56, 57.]
  • James City County Personal Property Tax Lists, 1782–1861 (microfilm). [Taken from the originals at the James City County Clerk's Office. M-1–53, 54, 55.]

Church and Cemetery Records

  • Chamberlayne, C.G. Vestry Book of Blisland Parish … 1721–1786. Richmond, VA: Virginia State Library, 1979. F 232.B55 B5 1979. [Covers the western part of James City County and part of eastern New Kent County.]
  • Chamberlayne, C.G. Vestry Book and Register of St. Peter's Parish … 1684–1786. Richmond, VA: Virginia State Library, 1973. F 232.N3 S14 1973. [This parish is now in New Kent County, but originally included a part of western James City County.]
  • Boelt, Frederick, et al., comp. James City County, Virginia Cemeteries: Family, Historical, Indian, Military & Slave. Yorktown, VA: John Henry Printing, Inc., 2011. Ref. F 232 .J15 J354 2011.
  • Boelt, F.W., (2013). James City County, Virginia Church Graveyards. Newport News, VA: Sponsored by: Tidewater Genealogical Society. Ref. F232 .J15 J354 2013.

Families and Individuals

  • McClure, James P. Littletown Plantation, 1700–1745. Thesis (M.A.), College of William & Mary, 1977. F 229.M23. [Discusses the Bray family.]

Marriage Records

  • Virginia Genealogical Society. Some Marriages in the Burned Record Counties of Virginia. Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1982. Ref. F 225.V85 1982.

Census Records and Census Substitutes

  • "James City County, Virginia 1800 Tax List." The Virginia Genealogist, Vol. 33, no. 3, July 1989, pp. 186–189.
  • Schreiner-Yantis, Netti. Supplement to the 1810 Census of Virginia: Tax Lists of the Counties for Which the Census is Missing. Springfield, VA: Schreiner-Yantis, 1971. Ref. F 230.Y35. [Includes James City County.]

Archaeological Site Reports and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Research Reports

Many CWF research reports are available online.

  • Goodwin, Mary R.M. "Kingsmill" Plantation, James City County, Virginia. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation research report, 1958. F 232.J15 G66 1958.
  • Noel-Hume, Ivor. Excavations at Tutter's Neck in James City County, Virginia, 1960–1961. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1966. F 232.J15 N63 1966.
  • Stephenson, Mary A. Record of the Bray Family 1658–ca. 1800. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation research report, 1963. CS 71.B72 1963.


  • Heritage and Historic Sites: An Inventory and Description of Historic Sites in James City County. James City Co, Va: Comprehensive Planning Team, 1975. Ref. F 232 .J15 H47 1975. [Gives a brief description and location of a number of historic sites, including those on the National Register of Historic Places and on the Virginia Landmarks Register, as well as those less well known.]
  • James City County in Perspective: Papers Presented at a Series of Public Forums Celebrating the 350th Anniversary of James City County. Williamsburg, VA: James City County, 1984. F232.J15 J35 1984a.
  • Bradshaw, Nancy S. Tales from James City County, Virginia Oral Histories. James City County: James City County Historical Commission, 1993. F 232.J15 T35 1993.
  • McCartney, Martha W. James City County: Keystone of the Commonwealth. Virginia Beach: Donning Co. Publications, 1997. Ref. F 232.J15 M38 1997. [Comprehensive history from earliest settlement to the present.]
  • Maccubbin, Robert P., ed. Williamsburg, Virginia: A City Before the State, 1699–1999. Williamsburg, VA: City of Williamsburg, 2000. Ref. F 234.W7 W768 2000.

York County (Only)

Land Records

  • Brewer, Mary Marshall. York County, Virginia, Land Records,1694–1713. Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2006. Ref. F 232 .Y6 B744 2006.
    • York County, Virginia, Land Records, 1713–1729. Ref. F 232 .Y6 B7445 2006.
    • York County, Virginia, Land Records,1729–1763. Ref. F 232 .Y6 B73 2005.
    • York County, Virginia, Land Records, 1763–1777. Ref. F 232 .Y6 B745 2007.

Court Records

  • "York County Records Project." [Microfilm of all existing deeds, court orders, and wills is available in Special Collections. There is also a microfilmed card index to these records, alphabetical by individual name. M-1797, 1–152.]
  • Fleet, Beverley. Virginia Colonial Abstracts. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988. F 225.F58 1988. [Vol. 3 includes York County records from 1633–1657.]
  • Duvall, Lindsay O. Virginia Colonial Abstracts—Series 2. Easley, SC 1978–79. F 225.D88 1978. [Vol. 5. Abstracts the years 1657–1659.]
  • Weisiger, Benjamin B. York County, Virginia, Records, 1659–1662. Richmond, VA: Weisiger, 1989. F 232.Y6 W42 1989
    • York County, Virginia Records, 1665–1672. F 232.Y6 W45 1987.
    • York County, Virginia Records, 1672–1676. F 232.Y6 W454 1991.
  • Dorman, John Frederick. York County, Virginia, Deeds, Orders, Wills, Etc. Washington, D.C.: Dorman, 1974–75. KFV 2916.Y67 A7. [Several volumes abstract the years 1687–1697.]
  • Brewer, Mary Marshall. York County, Virginia, Wills, Inventories and Court Orders. Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2005–. Ref. F 232 .Y6 B734. [Abstracts, 1702–1706 and 1732–1759.]
  • Wright, F. Edward. York County, Virginia, Wills, Inventories and Accounts, 1760–1783. Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2005. Ref. F 232 .Y6 W74 2005.
  • York County, Virginia, Deeds, Orders & Wills. Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2005. Ref. F 232 .Y6 Y67 2005. [Abstracts 1698–1702 and 1706–1725.]

Church And Cemetery Records

  • Bell, Landon C. Charles Parish, York County, Virginia, History and Registers. Richmond, VA: Virginia State Library, 1932. F 232 Y6 B3. [This register covers births, 1648–1789, and deaths, 1665–1787.]

Families and Individuals

  • DeMarco, Christopher. Colonial Families of York County, Virginia. 3 Vols. Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2006. Ref. F 232.Y6 D45 2006.
  • Seaman, Catherine H.C. The Lees of 17th Century York County, Virginia. Sweet Briar, Virginia: Sweet Briar College Printing Press, 1985. CS 71 L48 1985.
  • Wright, F. Edward. York County, Virginia: Marriage References and Family Relationships 1636–1800. Lewes, Del.: Colonial Roots, 2012. Ref. F 232 .Y6 W75.

Marriage Records

  • Pollock, Michael E. York County, Virginia Marriages. Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1994. Ref. F 232.Y6 P65 1994. Covers the years 1769–1853.
  • Wright, F. Edward. York County, Virginia: Marriage References and Family Relationships, 1636–1800. Lewes, Del.: Colonial Roots, 2012. Ref. F 232.Y6 W75 2012.

Census Records and Census Substitutes

  • Bentley, Elizabeth P. Index to the 1810 Census of Virginia. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1980. Ref. F 225.B45 1980. [Includes York County in alphabetical listing by head of household.]

Archaeological Site Reports and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Research Reports

Many Colonial Williamsburg Foundation research reports are available online.

  • Thomas, Charles K. and Muraca, David F. Archaeological Testing at Kiskiack. [Henry Lee House Fund, Inc.], 1986. F 232.Y6 T56 1986. [Discusses the Henry Lee family of York County.]
  • Samford, Patricia. The Bates Site: Investigation of a Quaker Merchant. Williamsburg, VA: Department of Archaeological Research, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1990. F 232.Y6 S25 1990.
  • Metz, John et al. "Upon the Palisado" and Other Stories of Place from Bruton Heights. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1998. F 234.W7 M48 1998. [Discusses the John Page archaeological site from prehistoric activity through 200 years of colonial occupation.]

Updated 12/2015.