• David Joyce

The Rev. William Douglas' Influence on Modern Virginia Genealogy

Updated: Jan 6


In our modern era of genealogical research, we now have the benefit of knowing about those figures that have made an important impact on society. Most people know about Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and other famous figures, through their surviving journals, but there is a group of ministers, politicians, and settlers who have also made an impact. In this article, we will discuss the work and enduring influence of the Rev. William Douglas.


When the Reverend became minister in St. James Northam Parish in Goochland County, Virginia “on the 12th of October, 1750,”1 he could not have foreseen how important he would become. Today, he is considered a pioneer in record keeping for Goochland County, but at the time, he was just being called to serve. It is now 270 years later and these writings are now an important part of genealogical research in Virginia. Published under the title “The Douglas Register Being a Detailed Record of Births, marriages, and Deaths together with other interesting notes, as Kept by the Rev. William Douglas, from 1750 to 1797”, the information contained within can be extremely helpful.


In his own hand, the Reverend wrote, “I came to Goochland Decr. 12 1750, & preached for the first time in Dover Church, dec : 16th Sunday following; & have officiate as Minister since that time. But being no Register in the Parish Since I came till now, is the cause why it has not been kept till this time.”2 As a consequence, he became the first person to record the business of the church, which today is still considered helpful. Besides documenting the usual information of vestrymen, tithes, etc, for the Parish, he went a step further. Recording a long list of marriages, birth, baptisms, deaths, funerals, and “personal family entries,”3, he also published a list of African American marriages and births.


However, this work also contains a list of the French Huguenot immigrants that came to Manakin Town, Virginia, in King William Parish, where he also served. Although not written by William himself, he served in Manakin Town and had an equally important impact on King William Parish. As a result, the King William Parish records are included in this book.

The importance of this life and works continues to help genealogists today. Whether you are looking into the French Huguenots of Manakin Town, or the early colonists in Goochland County, without the Rev. William Douglas’ dedication to preserving history, it would be more difficult.



Documentation and Suggested Readings:


1. William Mcfarlane Jones, The Douglas Register Being a Detailed Record of Births, marriages, and Deaths together with other interesting notes, as Kept by the Rev. William Douglas, from 1750 to 1797 (Baltimore, Maryland : Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1966), 3.

2. Jones, The Douglas Register Being a Detailed Record of Births, marriages, and Deaths together with other interesting notes, as Kept by the Rev. William Douglas, from 1750 to 1797, 8.

3. Jones, The Douglas Register Being a Detailed Record of Births, marriages, and Deaths together with other interesting notes, as Kept by the Rev. William Douglas, from 1750 to 1797, 1.

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