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York County Project

An index card for Christopher Abbott.
A sample entry. Records in the index are organized by surname and then by date.
An index card for Old Judy.
The index includes a slave first name and surname file, such as this entry for Old Judy.

Eighteenth century York County encompassed the northern half of the city of Williamsburg, Yorktown, and the surrounding areas. Many of the city's inhabitants were involved in York County court cases or filed their wills and inventories in York County. The York County court records are of especial value because the records of James City County and the City of Williamsburg were burned during the Civil War.

The York County Project is an index and abstract of the York County court records from 1633-1815 created by the Colonial Williamsburg Research Dept. in the 1970s and 1980s. Records in the index are organized in several ways: by surname of free persons and then by date; by surname of slaveowners; by first name of enslaved individuals; or chronologically by court record book and record type. Records include deeds, wills, inventories, and court orders (civil suits and criminal cases). Some non-court records such as the Bruton Parish Register were also indexed into the project.

The project includes a computer-generated plat map of York County that locates families on the land with which they are historically associated. These identifications originated with the 1704 quit-rent rolls (listing names and number of acres involved) collected for the Crown and sent to England.

Access to the Project Records

Access to the York County Project index and the plat map are available by appointment only with Corporate Archives. Please email or call 757-565-8510 to make an appointment.

Access to keyword searchable transcriptions of York County Estate Inventories is available online. Learn more.

Current & Past Uses of the Project

The project has augmented the interpretation of Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Area. Colonial Williamsburg staff continue to plumb the rich body of material accumulated by the project for details of everyday 18th-century life, including slavery, family, religion, consumerism, taming the land, westward expansion, and the American Revolution.

Researchers using the index have contributed to scholarship on urbanization and colonial social development, as the following sampling of theses, dissertations, published books, and monographs based in whole or in part on data from the project demonstrates:

Agbe-Davies, Anna. Tobacco, Pipes, and Race in Colonial Virginia: Little Tubes of Mighty Power. Walnut Creek, California: Left Coast Press, 2015.

Bond, Edward L. Damned Souls in a Tobacco Colony: Religion in Seventeenth-Century Virginia. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2000.

Brown, Kathleen M. Good Wives , Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

Greenman, John S. "The Rise of Benjamin Waller, 1716-1786." M.A. Thesis, College of William and Mary, 1994.

Hellier, Cathleene B. "Private Land Development in Williamsburg, 1699-1748: Building a Community." M.A. Thesis, College of William and Mary, 1990.

Hellier, Cathleene B. and Kevin P. Kelly. "A Population Profile of Williamsburg in 1748." Williamsburg, Va.: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1987.

Kelly, Kevin P. "A Portrait of York County Middling Planters and Their Slaves, 1760-75." The Colonial Williamsburg Interpreter 24 (Summer 2003): 2-5.

_____________. "The White Loyalists of Williamsburg." The Colonial Williamsburg Interpreter 17 (Summer 1996): 1-15.

Kesler, Leslie M. "'For thus his neglect': Grand Jury Presentments for Failure to Attend Church, York County, Virginia, 1750-1775." M.A. Thesis, College of William and Mary, 1992.

Nienow, Jeremy L. "Class Negotiation and Accoutrement Use: Piston Ownership in York County, Virginia, 1634-1729." M.A. Thesis, College of William and Mary, 2001.

Powers, Emma L. "Landlords, Tenants, and Rental Property in Williamsburg and Yorktown, Virginia, 1730-1780." M.A. Thesis, College of William and Mary, 1990.

Rawson, David A. "'Guardians Of Their Own Liberty': A Contextual History of Print Culture in Virginia Society, 1750 to 1820." Ph.D. Dissertation, College of William and Mary, 1998.

Richter, Caroline J. "A Community and Its Neighborhoods: Charles Parish, York County, 1730-1740." Ph.D. Dissertation, College of William and Mary, 1992.

_____________. "In Pursuit of Urban Property: Lotholders in Colonial Yorktown and Williamsburg." M.A. Thesis, College of William and Mary, 1989.

Rowe, Linda H. "Peopling the Power Structure: Urban Oriented Officeholders in York County, Virginia, 1699-1780." M.A. Thesis, College of William and Mary, 1989.