• David Joyce

Research Methodology: Using Deeds to Research Your Colonial Ancestors


When studying your ancestors from Colonial Virginia, you will eventually come across the challenge of tracking their travels across the colony. Due to the nature of moving to remote locations on the frontier, it is not uncommon for your ancestor to completely vanish from a county. Although this can be problematic for the modern researcher, there are ways to discover where they went next. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on Robert King of Albemarle County, Virginia to highlight one specific advantage that deeds can offer.


When Robert King appears as a witness in a land transaction on June 7, 1749 in Albemarle County, 1 he was still associated with this particular community. However, he soon vanishes from the area. At first, it is not clear why he disappeared or where he went, but after a search through the deeds of central and southside Virginia, the answer can be found. On November 20, 1753, “Charles Talbot of Lunenburg Co, and Drusillar, his wife” sells“Robert King of Albemarle Co..150 acres on both sides Straitstone Cr.” In Halifax County, Virginia. 2 It is not explained how Robert became associated with Charles Talbot, but what is certain is that he had purchased land in another county. By describing Robert as being of Albemarle County, it helps the researcher know where he came from originally.


This, however, is not the complete picture. Later on 14 September 1758, “MARY KING, widow of ROBT. KING of Halifax co” sells “290 acres [of land]” to John Cock in Albemarle County, Virginia. 3 When compared with each other, the documentation is showing that Robert King of Albemarle moved to Halifax County, Virginia, where he passed away circa 1758.


Similar to using wills, deeds that mention the location of an ancestor can be extremely helpful. Despite the daunting feeling one can get after hitting a genealogical brick wall, there is hope. By using this methodology, you may be able to still solve the mystery at hand.




Documentation and Suggested Readings:


1. Rev. Bailey Fulton Davis, The Deeds of Amherst, VA. (1761-1852) & Albemarle County, VA. (1748-1807), (Greenville, South Carolina : Southernhistoricalpress, 1979), 13.

2. Marian Dodson Chiarito, Halifax County, Virginia Deed Book 1 (1752-1759), (Athens, Georgia : Iberian Publishing Company, 1985), 7.

3. Rev. Bailey Fulton Davis, The Deeds of Amherst, VA. (1761-1852) & Albemarle County, VA. (1748-1807), (Greenville, South Carolina : Southernhistoricalpress, 1979, 35.


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