The Amelia County, Virginia Order Books contain the written record of the County Court, which met monthly, and the Quarterly Court, which met four times a year. These Court records contain a wealth of information about the period that they cover. Most of these records have never been transcribed or abstracted previously, and they represent an untapped resource for historians and genealogists interested in early Amelia County inhabitants.
In 2002, the Amelia Historical Society acquired the microfilms of Amelia County Order Books 17-33, and loaned them to Reiley Kidd so that he could begin transcribing them. The Society has given us permission to post the transcriptions on-line, as they are completed.
To date, three Order Books have been transcribed and indexed, and are posted on this site for use.
How To Use These Transcriptions
Read this Introduction at least once, ideally BEFORE trying to use the transcription. (It’s tempting to jump right to the Index, I know!)
The page citations in the text refer to the page number in the original handwritten records. This is the page you’d refer to, should you want a photocopy of the actual record itself.
Use the Search tool provided to search for any surname, and be sure to search for all conceivable variant spellings, since the names have been transcribed exactly as they were written, regardless of what I thought was intended. I did not want to second-guess the county clerk, and alter what he had written.
What These Order Book Records Contain
These Court records contain a wealth of information about the period that they cover. The majority of cases heard before the Gentlemen Justices dealt with property disputes, and the resolution of debts and other obligations. Thus people with much property and wealth are mentioned frequently in these records, while those with little appear infrequently. However, the Order Books contain many other types of records. These include the recording of deeds (usually termed "indentures" in the Order Books), wills, commissions for the building of bridges or roads, the binding out of orphans, charges of bastardy (typically giving the name of the child and BOTH parents), and the granting of licenses to run a retail store or an "ordinary" (an inn), or to preach or practice law in the County. Transfers of land needed to be certified by the County Court, and thus are recorded in these records, even though the deed itself, with a complete description of the location and specifics of the property, was also recorded in the County Deed Book for that year.
Many of the entries name the witnesses to the records, or provide other clues that will help place the named individuals geographically within the county, and will suggest possible relationships among neighboring families. Some of the entries even provide familial relationships.
These records also give a glimpse into the economic life of the county. Among their other responsibilities, the Gentlemen Justices set the rates charged by the inns of the county, and also set the amount of the annual property tax. They allocated annual pensions to Rev. War soldiers living in the county. They stipulated the rate of reimbursement owed to witnesses, both per day and also for distance traveled. And they set the annual salaries of the Sheriff and other county employees, and reimbursed individuals for work on county projects, such as the construction of bridges, repair of the courthouse or jail, and for supplies required by the Court.
In this era, tobacco was a commonly used currency, and many debts were paid in tobacco rather than money. Tobacco payments were generally one of two kinds, “gross” (often abbreviated “Gro.”) and “net” (often “net inspected”). I believe but am not certain that “gross tobacco” refers to harvested, cured tobacco that has not been stripped of its stems, and “net tobacco” indicates cured tobacco that has been stemmed.
Court awards were made either in tobacco or English currency (Pounds sterling, shillings, and pence). English currency amounts have been abbreviated the way the Court Clerk occasionally did: so “two pounds thirteen shillings and seven pence” are abbreviated “£2.13.7”. The symbol for shillings is a “/”, and for pence it is “d.” So “14/5d” is 14 shillings and 5 pence.
A shilling is 1/20 of a pound; a penny (pence) is 1/12 of a shilling.
Court costs were often written in the left margin, next to the entry for each case. In most cases, the cost was between 70 and 170 lb. of tobacco. I did not record these with each case.
How These Transcriptions Were Created
These transcription were created using microfilm reel 44, Amelia County Order Books 17-20, from the Genealogical Society of Utah, which was obtained by the Amelia County Historical Society, and loaned to me for transcription.
Where words were not legible or obscured, I left them blank (e.g., ________). In some entries, the Court Clerk left one or more spaces empty, perhaps intending to add the words later, but failing to do so; in those situations, I denoted these as (blank).
Each new paragraph is a separate Cause from the prior paragraph.
Nearly all entries were transcribed as faithfully as possible, with little or no abridgment. When major abridgments were made, the text appears within parentheses.
This transcription includes the page number(s) in the Order Book for each entry, to facilitate locating specific entries in the original records. The Order Books are on file and available to the public in the Amelia County Clerk of Circuit Court office, which is located on Washington Street in Amelia, VA. Anyone wishing to view the original records is welcome to visit this office during regular business hours, Monday through Friday.
To speed the transcription, the following abbreviations were used:
- P = Plaintiff, Ps = plaintiffs
- D = Defendant, Ds = defendants
- vs. = against
When uncertain about a particular name, I compared the entry in question with the names listed in the Index, which begins each Order Book. Often this made recognition of the name possible; occasionally the name was actually written or spelled differently. When the latter happened, I’ve included the alternate spelling in the text of the entry.
Names of persons and places were also crosschecked in Historical Notes on Amelia County, Virginia, Kathleen H. Hadfield, editor (Amelia County Historical Committee, (1982) when I was unsure of certain letters in the name. For instance, some court clerks often did not cross the lower case “t”, most often when it was a double-“t”, making it problematic to distinguish “t” from “l”. “F” and “T” are quite similar in some clerks’ handwriting, as are “S” and “L”. And the letters “n,” “m,” “u,” and “i” can also be difficult to distinguish, particularly when any two of them are adjacent in a word.
Court clerks compounded the difficulty by spelling identical names several ways. In this era, spelling was typically phonetic, and an individual’s given name or surname could be (and often was) spelled more than one way. For instance, the surname Dupuy was also written Dupey, Dupeey and Dupee. When I encountered these variations, I transcribed them as they were written, rather than deciding, perhaps erroneously, that both names referred to the same person. When I was reasonably certain that the name was identical to another, similar name, I included the other name in parentheses within the entry. And in every case possible, within the index, I refer the reader to names I believe are used interchangeably, such as Holt and Hoalt, Cumpton and Compton, Dupuy and Dupeey, and many others.
Another source of confusion involves surnames that end in ‘s’. When referring to more than one individual with the same surname, the clerk would often (but not always) add a terminal ‘s’ to the surname. I transcribed the entries just as they were written, so entries for certain surnames, such as Mill/Mills and Will/Wills may or may not refer to the same family.
Finally, because of the particular difficulty in distinguishing between the cursive capital letters ‘S’ and ‘L’ in some of the Court Clerk’s handwriting, those researching surnames beginning with these two letters are advised to peruse the Index in the alternate letter, looking for possible errors in interpretation on my part.
I would like to thank Mrs. W.C. McConnaughey for her invaluable suggestions and encouragement during the transcription of Amelia County Order Book 17, the first one I transcribed. Her support made this initial venture much easier, and improved the final version substantially. Thanks are also due to Mr. Joseph Humphreys, 2002 President of the Amelia Historical Society, for initiating the acquisition of microfilms of Amelia County Order Books 17-33, and to Nora Barden, the society’s Treasurer at that time, for completing the process, so that other Order Books can be transcribed in the future.
The work here is entirely my own. I’ve done the best I can, but make no guarantee of perfection; I welcome others to examine individual records for themselves, where my transcription is in question. And I will welcome comments, suggestions, and corrections, so that future versions will be more accurate.