• David Joyce

Research Methodology: Understanding the Formation of Virginia Counties


In modern genealogy there are several research techniques one can use concerning Colonial Virginia. From advanced methods such as comparing y-DNA results with the traditional record to basic strategies such as searching for the will of the said ancestor, there are a variety of paths to take. However, there is one all-important method one must employ if one is to effectively study records from this time period. To better understand how to search for your colonial ancestors, it is necessary to learn about the county boundaries that have occurred. For the purpose of this article, I will use Louisa County, Virginia as an example.


In 1748 Louisa County was part of the frontier and had become home to religious dissenters and affluent planters. Like its neighboring county, Hanover County, it had become an important part of the economy of central Virginia. But how did this region come into being? And why is it important? By answering these questions, one can better understand how to search for your colonial Virginia ancestors.


When Louisa County was formed in 1742 from Hanover County, central Virginia was rapidly changing, and so was how ancestors were recorded. With the division of Hanover County into two separate counties, pioneers that had once lived in western Hanover County now lived in Louisa County. As a consequence, descendants of Virginia planters researching ancestors from Louisa County have to consider if they also have roots from Hanover County.


This is only an example, however, and does not include the formation of the other counties, but by being aware of this subject, one can effectively conduct research in Virginia. By referencing the County Formation Map, it is possible to see this history and to improve your research skills.

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