Campaign for a New, Expanded Genealogy & History Library

Goal: $700,000
Current Funds: $625,000


Mary Ball Washington Museum & Library, Inc., now operating as Lancaster Virginia Historical Society, was founded in 1958 to provide a museum, library, and community organization dedicated to discovering, collecting, preserving, understanding, interpreting, and sharing the history and genealogy of Lancaster County, Virginia and its surrounding regions. The library was originally located in the old jail and twice moved into larger spaces in the courthouse village. It is currently located in a leased, former real estate office across the street from Lancaster House, which houses the museum.


Lancaster County has unbroken records since its formation in 1651 and has long been an attraction for academic and family researchers, particularly those interested in colonial and revolutionary Virginia. The library has an extensive collection of materials related to those early periods, while its complete historical and genealogical holdings span the 17th to 20th centuries and have been ever-growing in scope and volume since the library’s founding. The focus on Lancaster County is augmented by materials on other counties in the original Northern Neck Proprietary and areas where Virginia families typically migrated. The collection currently includes more than 9,000 books, manuscripts, periodicals, microfilms, published court records, unpublished research notes, loose paper files, electronic resources, census reports, church and cemetery records, county histories, and vital records of births, marriages, and deaths.  An online card catalog, searchable by surname, keyword, title, and author, is publicly accessible on the library’s website.

Over the last 65 years, the library’s dedicated staff and volunteers have assembled an outstanding body of information on the people, places, and stories of the lower Northern Neck of Virginia and created unique indexes and finding aids for the collection.  For example, the “Surname Index Card File” is a pre-computer labor of love with hundreds of thousands of hand-written entries cross-referenced with the library shelves. Hundreds of “Family Files” containing genealogy charts and notes shared by other researchers are constantly being expanded.  Recent projects have also contributed to new resources for understanding African-American genealogy.

The library is truly a treasure of historic knowledge for Virginia. However, the existing facilities have become crowded and outdated, ceasing to be hospitable for visitors and volunteers alike.


In 2017, the Museum and Library became aware of the opportunity to purchase a building immediately adjacent to its existing campus, favorably located on the same side of the street. It is part of the Lancaster Court House Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Virginia Landmarks Register. The renovation of this 1930-40s building, formerly the Chilton house residence, as the new Genealogy and History Library will provide a modern, attractive, and highly workable space for all users.

A noted local architect, Randall Kipp, was hired to develop plans for the building. In August 2023, Dilday Builders Inc. was hired as the general contractor and the main construction was substantially complete as of April 2024. What remains to be funded and accomplished are furnishings and fixtures such as tables, chairs, desks, filing cabinets, and computer equipment; exterior landscaping and paving; and moving the collections. The opening of the new library is expected later in 2024.

The new facility will double the size of the library, including space for the continued growth of the collections as new sources of data are located and additional research is performed by library volunteers. No other institution provides comparable local materials or services.


Lancaster Virginia Historical Society has the special responsibility of keeping and sharing nearly four centuries of Lancaster County’s history and memories. The library’s rich holdings relate to many of our nation’s founding families and also to everyday men and women of all backgrounds who shaped the fabric of our communities. 

The new library facility will be freely available to all local residents and visitors, and will offer each family the opportunity to discover their roots, learn about their community heritage, and understand how the past influences their society today. The expanded space and improved infrastructure will provide many benefits, including enabling the library to:

  • Enhance and expand programs, services, and operations.
  • Serve a greater number of people and wider audiences.
  • Augment the collections with relevant new materials and maintain holdings that rival many larger academic institutions.
  • Foster independent and collaborative research, original scholarship, and publication projects.
  • Meet 21st-century internet and technology needs, including a dedicated media lab for oral histories and microfilm digitization.
  • Host small training workshops and educational programs, which currently must be held off-site.
  • Strengthen school partnerships and engage students in research projects that meet new SOL performance assessments and build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. 
  • Assist the County Clerk of Court Office, which maintains the original court record books, by answering inquiries referred by the clerk and helping researchers plan their courthouse visits. 
  • Enrich the cultural assets of the Court House Historic District and support additional heritage tourism to the County.


Your generous gift for the LVHS Genealogy and History Library will be greatly appreciated and will make an impact today and for generations to come. The Capital Campaign Committee welcomes the opportunity to speak with you about your tax-deductible financial donation, in-kind contribution, securities gift, multi-year pledge, or estate bequest. For further information, please contact us.


LVHS Library Capital Campaign Fact Sheet (PDF, print-friendly version of info on this webpage)
Donation/Pledge Form for LVHS Library Capital Campaign (PDF)


Nettie Lokey Wiley and Charles L. Wiley Foundation
Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation
Mason & Lula Cole Charitable Trust
Ben D. Conley Charitable & Educational Foundation
River Counties Community Foundation-Community Impact Grant
Tidewater Foundation
Williams Family and Williams Donor-Advised Fund, Vanguard Charitable Foundation
Godwin Family Donor-Advised Fund, U.S. Charitable Gift Trust
James Family Donor-Advised Fund, River Counties Community Foundation
Catherine B. Chilton Estate
Ammon G. Dunton, Jr.
Henley Family in honor of Elizabeth E. C. Peirce
Conner & Tadlock Family in honor of Lorena D. Conner and Mary L. Tadlock
Atlantic Union Bank
Chesapeake Bank
Virginia Commonwealth Bank
Davenport & Co LLC
Northern Neck Insurance Co
Gilman Heating & Cooling

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation
ExxonMobil Foundation-Employer Matching Gifts Program