ONLINE RESEARCH TOOLS
CARD CATALOG: The best place to start is our online card catalog! Searchable by title, author, and keyword/name, the card catalog lists most of the books and research materials in our Genealogy & History Library (more than 8700 items) and links to some outside sources. However, it may not provide comprehensive results of everything we have about a surname, so we welcome you to visit in person or contact us about the many additional indexes and finding aids we have in our physical location. See information below for more about our holdings, fees, and research policies.
NOTE: We are aware that some ISPs will block access or indicate a security issue with the catalog and Estates Database, which is still hosted on our old website. The site is safe, but thank you for your patience as we work on this. We will be glad to search our catalog internally for you if you email us your inquiry.
LANCASTER COUNTY ESTATE RECORDS 1835-1865 DATABASE: Searchable, abstracted data from 1343 estate documents such as inventories, accounts, sales, and wills from the period 1835-1865 in Lancaster County, including information about 520 decedents, 1755 beneficiaries, 318 spouses, 3019 slaves, and many other relevant individuals. This tool offers a wealth of material for African-American research as well as research on white slave-owning and non slave-owning families. This project was made possible in part by a matching grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.
AFRICAN AMERICAN RESEARCH AND GENEALOGY: Suggested Online Resources (PDF Document)
Our History & Genealogy Library contains nearly 9,000 published records, books, manuscripts, periodicals, and microfilm holdings about Lancaster County, the Northern Neck region, the Tidewater area, and many other locales in Virginia and nearby states. The collection includes:
- Virginia vital records, census records, county histories, church and cemetery records, bible records
- Virginia family histories including a large section on Ball, Carter, and Lee
- Microfilm of Lancaster County Court House records dating from 1651, with associated print and electronic indexes and abstracts
- Surname Card Index File keyed to most of our holdings
- Online searchable Card Catalog listing most of our holdings
- Family Files with miscellaneous papers, genealogy charts, and materials shared by other researchers
- Vertical Files (loose papers and clippings) on numerous local topics and places
- Microfilm of Virginia Citizen newspaper published 1891-1913 in Irvington, Va.
- Indexed local obituary collection for years 2000-present
- Out-of-State Section with genealogy reference books on places Virginians often migrated to/from, including Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, and other regions.
- General non-fiction collection on local, Virginia, and U.S. history and related subjects such as politics, government, religion, architecture, archaeology, art, industry, material culture, etc.
LIBRARY FEES & POLICIES
ON-SITE LIBRARY USE: Open by Advance Appointment Only. (Available dates/times depend on staff availability – contact us to request a reservation. We recommend at least 2 weeks advance notice.)
We encourage patrons to visit the library in person to conduct their own research and take full advantage of our holdings and in-house indexes and finding aids. Books and reference materials are in closed stacks (to be retrieved by staff) and may only be used inside our library.
- Library Use Fee: There is a $5 daily fee to use the library (waived for LVHS members).
Photocopies and print-outs from computers or microfilm are 25 cents per page. Photocopying will be handled by our staff. All materials are subject to possible copyright restrictions and limitations.
- Electronic Reproductions/Camera Fee: An additional $10 fee per day will charged for patrons to use their own cameras or handheld scanners to make electronic copies. LVHS may prohibit actions that are disruptive to others or harmful to the collections.
- Online Access: We offer a patron computer workstation with LVHS network access to our card catalog, Ancestry.com, Newspapers.com, Fold3.com, FamilySearch.org, and other relevant research sites. Public wifi is not available. Patrons are welcome to use personal laptops, tablets, and phones with their own data/hotspots.
- Flash drives: Patrons may use their own USB flash drives/memory sticks to save downloaded materials from computers or microfilm at no fee.
- Microfilm Equipment: We have one microfilm reader/scanner/printer. Use is subject to the availability of qualified staff to assist you, so we strongly recommend advance reservations. Patrons may bring outside microfilm/microfiche.
- PAYMENT: We prefer cash or checks in the library.
DISTANCE RESEARCH (REQUESTS BY EMAIL, MAIL, PHONE)
- When calling, e-mailing, or writing our library, please provide as much specific information as possible regarding your inquiry, such as full names, dates, geographic locations, types of records you are seeking, and what sources you have already consulted. Our volunteer staff will reply, usually within 2 weeks, to let you know if we can answer your question or what resources and services we can offer, and what fees may apply for copies or additional research.
- Copies by Mail/Email:
- The fee to copy and mail materials is 25 cents per page plus a $5 administrative/postage fee per package. Some materials may be available as electronic scans sent by email, but the same fees apply and each scanned page counts as one copy. Additional fees may be charged for unusually large copy jobs requiring extra time or postage. All materials are subject to possible copyright restrictions and limitations.
- Hourly Research Fees:
- We can sometimes do quick look-ups of specific items/references at no charge, but patrons should expect that many inquiries will require wider and deeper searching within our library holdings at an hourly fee. The fee is $20 per hour ($15 LVHS members), with a 2 hour minimum, plus copy/postage fees as described above. We will provide you with an estimate of the research time required and can begin work with advance payment for at least 2 hours. Payment is non-refundable and we do not guarantee that we will find what you have requested. At the end of the paid research time, we will report our progress and results, bill for copies, and suggest if further research is recommended.
- Our library staff are experienced and enthusiastic volunteers, but please remember that we are not professional genealogists and we do not offer research at other libraries or courthouses outside of Lancaster. If you need services beyond what LVHS staff can provide, these websites offer useful lists of independent researchers for hire: Virginia Genealogical Society and Association of Professional Genealogists.
- Courthouse Document Copies:
- We can retrieve copies of original historical records from the Lancaster Clerk of Circuit Court for a fee of $25 ($20 LVHS members) per courthouse visit with a maximum of 4 records per visit, plus copy fees of 50 cents per page (copy price mandated by Virginia state code). Postage is included in the stated LVHS fee. The Clerk’s Office does not allow photography or scanning. You will need to provide the specific book and page(s) of the court records you want. Otherwise you will need to pay additional hourly fees for LVHS to search for this information. You may also contact the Clerk of Circuit Court to inquire about their direct services.
- Fees must be paid in advance by credit card online or phone, or by mailed check. We will provide specific payment amounts and instructions when we confirm your request for services. Please do not send unsolicited funds and do not email your credit card or bank information.