Lancaster County (Virginia) Fiduciary Records 1657-1872 Online

From the Virginia Memory web site:

“The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce the addition of the Lancaster County Fiduciary Records, 1657-1872, to Virginia Untold. This collection contains the earliest records added to Virginia Untold, and the largest number of names added from a single locality so far—over 20,000. Fiduciary records primarily consist of estate administrator settlements, estate inventories, dower allotments, estate divisions, estate sales, and guardian accounts that record a detailed list of all personal property owned by individuals, including enslaved people.

“These records demonstrate the rapid growth of slavery in Virginia from the “20. and odd Negroes” who arrived in Jamestown in 1619. Two estate inventories recorded in 1670 named a combined total of 60 enslaved people. As the records progress into the 18th and 19th centuries, the number of enslaved people owned by individuals exploded. In some cases, a single person could own hundreds of enslaved people, and their residences were not confined to Lancaster County. For example, the estate inventory of Rawleigh W. Downman recorded in 1781, lists nearly 150 enslaved people who lived on estates he owned in Lancaster, Richmond, Stafford, and Fauquier counties.

“Many of these fiduciary records document additional information about enslaved people, beyond a name and assigned monetary value. The authors often included comments about individual enslaved people which, though limited to a couple of words or short phrases, shed light on the hardships that they experienced. Some comments related to the sale of enslaved people, an ever-present fear for enslaved families. The guardian’s account of Elizabeth Mitchell, recorded in 1836, identified an enslaved mother and her children who were sold in August 1835 ‘to go to the Western Country.’ They were sold because the mother’s ‘husband’ had been sold by a different owner ‘to go to the West.’ All the names of the family were recorded except one, who the recorder identified as an ‘infant in the arms.’”

You can read more and view some of the records at:


I read these posts from you all the time and really enjoy them. Today for some reason (perhaps because I have just been reading articles about iPhone and Tesla hacks) it dawned on me – this is the historical equivalent of modern data breaches, where all of our personal info is taken from some server and made public! Of course these people are no longer living, but the analogy is there and is interesting to contemplate.


Elizabeth A Ullman August 31, 2019 at 2:32 am

One observation to make about Mike’s comment: All the documents being published were actually, as they are today, public record. I do take your point, however, and jealously guard my own private records as best I can.


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