The following book review was written by Bobbi King:
Gloucester County Virginia Methodist Records
by Michael Pollock. Published by New Papyrus Publishing, Athens, GA. 2007. 501 pages.
This is a huge volume of work. Every page is packed with entries. In lieu of an index, Mr. Pollock has arranged all the names alphabetically.
There are six pages of introduction where he explains the material he’s explored and his method of creating the abstractions of the records.
Mr Pollock states that his collection contains a large number of births, deaths, and marriages for which there are no corresponding civil records. The original records were collected by layman Jefferson W. Stubbs, who served for fifty years as recording steward for the Gloucester Circuit of the Methodist Episcopal, South, Conference of Virginia, encompassing multiple churches within Gloucester and extending into adjoining counties. The records are housed in the Rare Books and Manuscripts division of Swem Library, College of William and Mary, a school founded by the Anglican, now Episcopal, Church in 1693. The contents of the book were taken from several different collections at Swem.
Val Greenwood, in his 3rd edition of The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, informs us that in New England, church records are of much more use to us than similar records found elsewhere in the United States. The Protestant Episcopal Church in colonial times had a very close connection with the civil government of Virginia, and you will find many items within the vestry records that would normally be found in state civil records, had they been kept in these early times.
These registers are specific to the Gloucester locality for an unusually long period of time. Commonly, Methodist ministers moved from congregation to congregation every two years unless parishioners made a formal request, thereby keeping the reverend for another two years. It was rare for a church to have the same cleric for more than four years. Most churches could not afford paid staff for record-keeping, leaving the task solely to the minister. Historic records could be lost or moved with the minister.
Gloucester is an early county, and counts among the many whose civil records have been lost (frequently known as burned-record counties). Mr. Pollock’s recordings begin at year 1815 but back-reference events that took place earlier. These records can serve as substitute for missing civil records, and would contain more information than would typically be found in the civil records of the same period.
There was no civil registration of deaths until 1853. Determination of a death date could be found in a probated will, by the date an administrator was appointed for an intestate person (typically women), or a lawsuit, in which an individual, either plaintiff or defendant, is dismissed because of the death of either person. Even beginning in 1853, most deaths were never reported because one had to pay a recording fee to the county clerk. But no penalty was assessed nor imposed when a resident failed to report a death or a birth.
Ironically, the slave records for this time and place for birth and deaths were very good. There were financial incentives for reporting these events. Reporting a birth established a date for when the labor of a slave became taxable, while reporting a death established a specific date when that same labor was no longer taxable.
Mr. Pollock has been a professional genealogist since 1974. He has authored The Mortons of Southside Virginia, a study of the ancestry of Dorothea Mary Leta Morton Albritton and other Mortons in Charlotte, Prince Edward and other counties; “Genealogy of Ronald Wilson Reagan” (Heritage Quest Magazine #34, May/June 1991); and York County, Virginia, Marriages, Vol. 1: Bonds and Ministers’ Returns, 1769-1853.
Mr. Pollock has certainly assembled an impressive collection of records for Gloucester County, Virginia.
Gloucester County Virginia Methodist Records is available from the publisher at http://www.genealogyresources.org/Gloucester.html