This is a collection of articles that I’ve written over the years to help others better understand and interpret old records. We can often infer valuable information from context and language that might not be obvious from the record itself. Many of these articles are specific to colonial Virginia but are generally applicable to other southern colonies as well, and some will be useful in researching the 19th century south as well.
Some General Information of a Legal Nature
- Introduction: Common Law, Equity, & Statutes – a brief summary of the law of our ancestors
- Legal Age – the age at which children could legally perform various actions
- Orphans & Guardians – the responsibilities and selection of guardians
- Women’s Rights – how to tell if a woman was single or married by the legal actions she performed.
- Colonial Legal Terminology – some terms found in old records, many of which differ from their modern meanings.
- A Short History of Deeds – methods of land transfer used in the Colonies.
Wills, Probate, Succession, and Inheritance
- Dower & Curtesy – A wife’s or husband’s interest in a deceased spouse’s land
- Wills, Intestates & Probate
- Succession & Primogeniture – Laws of succession and inheritance
- Entail – An often-ignored practice in the southern colonies
- Adoption & Inheritance – Inheritance by orphans and illegitimate children
- Understanding Headrights – More than you really wanted to know
- An Analysis of Surry County Headrights 1673-1692 – Including lag time between importation and patents [pdf]
- An Analysis of Lower Norfolk County Headrights 1637-1652
Taxes & Tithables
Names & Naming Practices
- Senior & Junior, Esquire & Gentleman, and Name Suffixes in General
- Comments on Naming Patterns of Children – in the 17th and 18th century southern colonies
- The Use of Middle Names – how and when your ancestors acquired middle names