• David Joyce

How to Research the Burned Counties of Colonial Virginia


When conducting genealogical research in Colonial Virginia you will eventually come up against what are called burned counties. This term applies to those counties that have lost vast amount of records due to war and other disasters. For this article, we will learn about one method that can be used for Buckingham County, Gloucester County, Hanover County, James City County, and Stafford County. Despite the loss of documentation from these areas, there is still some hope.


Although the Civil War has had a negative impact for genealogists in Virginia, resulting in larger amounts of deeds, wills, and other records being destroyed, official land grants and several tithables lists survived. In the Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants (Volume Four: 1732-1741) published by the Virginia Genealogical Society, there are 254 pages of settlers who have been documented as grantees. On page 27, for example, John Henry, father of the famous Patrick Henry, is granted 1,200 acres of land on January 1733:

JOHN HENRY of Hanover Co. Gent., 1,200 acs. NL in Sd Co. on both sides of Fork Cr., crossing a br.of RoundAbout Cr., adj Mrs. Sarah Syme; 28 Jan 1733/1734, p. 151.” 1


Two years later on July 1, 1735, he is again documented: “JOHN HENRY of Hanover Co., Gent., 1,250 acs. In sd Co.; on both sides of the Main Fork of James Riv., on the North Fork of James Riv., on the South Fork of sd North Fork, across Buck Mountain Cr.; 1 Jul 1735, p. 5.”


For the counties of Buckingham, Gloucestor, James City, and Stafford, and even Hanover, a few of the tithable lists still exist. In the Virginia Tithables From Burned Record Counties by Isobel B. Woodson and Robert F. Woodson, the following is recorded for another settler, David Anderson:



Name County Year Tithables Acres

ANDERSON, David Hanover 1763 150

ANDERSON, David Stafford 1763 330

ANDERSON, David Buckingham 1773 1

ANDERSON, David, Exrs. Stafford 1773 1 330


Whether you have recently come across the concept of burned counties or you have struggled with them for years, by looking for your ancestors in these documents, you may still find a glimmer of hope.


Documentation and Suggested Readings:


1. Denis Hudgins, Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants (Volume Four: 1732-1741) (Richmond, Virginia : Virginia Genealogical Society, 1994), 27.

2. Denis Hudgins, Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants (Volume Four: 1732-1741) (Richmond, Virginia : Virginia Genealogical Society, 1994), 77.

Isobel B. Woodson and Robert F. Woodson, Virginia Tithables From Burned Record Counties (Greensville, South Carolina : Southern Historical Press, Inc., 1970), 3

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