University of Mary Washington
Department of Historic Preservation

Name Index to the Surviving Minute and Order Books of Courts held in Fredericksburg 1782 to 1905

The City of Fredericksburg has over its long history served as the seat of court activity for judicial activity within the jurisdiction of the Corporation, as well as the home of appellate courts, circuit courts, and general courts. Each of these judicial bodies recorded their activities in summary ways, with minute books that give the explanations of what activities were undertaken while the court was in session, and the order books which were lists of the decisions rendered by the Court(s). These were not the only judicial offices in Fredericksburg. There existed Justices of the Peace who oversaw the violations of local laws. Chief among these was the Mayoral Court, in which the Mayor of the Town of Fredericksburg presided. Mayoral court order books survive for the years 1821-1835, but they are not indexed here. The index to the Mayoral Court Order Books can be found at the Fredericksburg Circuit Court's Historic Court Records web site.

The creation of this searchable name index (currently unavailable) was the product of the Great Depression programs to give people work, stimulating the economy without compromising the recovery of private businesses. According to a Free-Lance Star article of 23 September 1938, the Works Progress Administration supplied $4,677 and the City of Fredericksburg supplied $303 to hire a researcher, Mrs. R. H. Deaderick and a typist Mrs. Bernice Lewis, to index historic court records. No mention is made of the indvidual(s) overseeing the project. The researcher would read the hand-written books, making cards of names of prominence, noting the volume, date, and subject matter. The pages are typed with seven areas of information: Parties (Plaintiff, Defendant) Court, Book (date range of volume) Page number, Kind of action, Remarks. The typist then alphabetized the listing and typed them onto specially printed pages. It is known that the WPA projects were terminated very quickly after the entry of the United States into World War II. There are over 8,000 pages of names, but, for example the names under the letter T go only to "Te", far short of what is present in the two volumes. There was only one copy of the index created in the 1930s. The pages were numbered when the books were microfilmed in 1973.

The volumes were transcribed by Gary Stanton with two goals: first to give researchers an access to records that were otherwise ignored or unknown; second, to allow the index to be searched either on the name of the plaintiff or the defendant. Barry McGhee, Circuit Court Archivist, had years before realized that the index was incomplete and his wife, Patricia McGhee, has worked with him to create lists of names present in these court books, but not in the index. The greatest under-representation was the names of African-Americans, particularly those enslaved, as they approached the court for redress, or legal rights, or were represented as chattel in matters of property by their owners.

This index gives volume and page numbers refering to volumes housed in the Circuit Court Archives of Fredericksburg, Virginia. To use these volumes one must visit the Circuit Court Archives in Fredericksburg. A minority of these volumes have microfilm copies available for interlibrary loan from the Virginia State Library. This on-line index is an aid to research, not a substitute for research. This index is not a certified copy and is provided solely for historians and geneological researchers. Errors of transcription or reading of the microfilm are solely the fault of Gary Stanton, I take complete responsibility for them.

Last modified: 17 November 2013