A Guide to the James City County/Williamsburg (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1799-1933 James City County/Williamsburg (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1799-1933 James City County/Williamsburg (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1799-001-1933-024

A Guide to the James City County/Williamsburg (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1799-1933

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Chancery Records Index: James City County/Williamsburg (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1799-001-1933-024


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Processed by: Field processeors and Library of Virginia staff

The Library of Virginia
Chancery Records Index
James City County/Williamsburg (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1799-001-1933-024
James City County/Williamsburg (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1799-1933
Physical Characteristics
Digital images.
James City County/Williamsburg (Va.) Circuit Court.
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

Patrons are to use digital images of James City County/Williamsburg Chancery Causes found on the Chancery Records Index available electronically at the website of the Library of Virginia.

Preferred Citation

James City County/Williamsburg (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1799-1933. (Cite style of suit and chancery index no.). Local government records collection, James City County/Williamsburg Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

Acquisition Information

Digital images were generated by Crowley Micrographics through the Library of Virginia's Circuit Court Records Preservation Program.

Historical Information

Chancery Causes are cases of equity. According to Black's Law Dictionary they are "administered according to fairness as contrasted with the strictly formulated rules of common law." A judge, not a jury, determines the outcome of the case.

Beginning in 1770, the courts of James City County and Williamsburg shared a common courthouse.

James City County was named for King James I. It was one of the eight shires, or counties, enumerated in 1634. Subsequent additions from the Williamsburg section of York County were made in 1769, 1852, and 1880.

Williamsburg, in James City and York Counties, was established by the General Assembly as Middle Plantation in 1633. After the capitol at Jamestown burned in 1698, the assembly decided to move the capital of the colony to Middle Plantation, which was renamed Williamsburg in 1699 in honor of William III. Williamsburg was established in 1699 and declared a "city Incorporate" in 1722, although its actual status was that of a borough. It served as the capital of Virginia from 1699 until 1780. Williamsburg was incorporated as a city in 1884.

James City County was recognized in 1634 as an original shire. Williamsburg was founded in 1699 and declared a “city Incorporate” by a royal charter in 1722, although its actual status was that of a borough. Beginning in 1770, the courts of James City County and Williamsburg shared a common courthouse. During the Civil War, the records of both localities were transferred to Richmond for safekeeping, but were destroyed by fire there on April 3, 1865. The records of the superior court of chancery for the Williamsburg district were destroyed by a courthouse fire in April 1911.

Scope and Content

James City County/Williamsburg (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1799-1933, are indexed into the The Chancery Records Index . Cases are identified by style of suit consisting of plaintiff and defendant names. Surnames of others involved in a suit, including secondary plaintiffs and defendants, witnesses, deponents and affiants, and family members with surnames different from the plaintiff or defendant are indexed. Chancery causes often involved the following: divisions of estates or land, disputes over wills, divorces, debt, and business disputes. Predominant documents found in chancery causes include bills (plaintiff's complaint), answers (defendant's response), decrees (court's decision), depositions, affidavits, correspondence, lists of heirs, deeds, wills, slave records, business records or vital statistics, among other items. Plats, if present, are noted, as are wills from localities with an incomplete record of wills or localities other than the one being indexed.


Organized by case, of which each is assigned a unique index number comprised of the latest year found in case and a sequentially increasing 3-digit number assigned by the processor as cases for that year are found. Arranged chronologically.

Related Material

Additional James City County/Williamsburg Court Records can be found on microfilm at The Library of Virginia. Consult "A Guide to Virginia County and City Records on Microfilm."

See the Chancery Records Index to search for chancery suits of additional Virginia localities.

See the Lost Records Localities Digital Collection available at Virginia Memory.

For more information and a listing of lost records localities see Lost Records research note .

Index Terms

    Corporate Names:

  • James City County/Williamsburg (Va.) Circuit Court.
  • Subjects:

  • African Americans--History.
  • Business enterprises--Virginia--James City County.
  • Business enterprises--Virginia--Williamsburg.
  • Debt--Virginia--James City County.
  • Debt--Virginia--Williamsburg.
  • Divorce suits--Virginia--James City County.
  • Divorce suits--Virginia--Williamsburg.
  • Equity--Virginia--James City County.
  • Equity--Virginia--Williamsburg.
  • Estates (Law)--Virginia--James City County.
  • Estates (Law)--Virginia--Williamsburg.
  • Land subdivision--Virginia--James City County.
  • Land subdivision--Virginia--Williamsburg.
  • Geographical Names:

  • James City County (Va.)--Genealogy.
  • James City County (Va.)--History.
  • Williamsburg (Va.)--Genealogy.
  • Williamsburg (Va.)--History.
  • Genre and Form Terms:

  • Chancery causes--Virginia--James City County.
  • Chancery causes--Virginia--Williamsburg.
  • Deeds--Virginia--James City County.
  • Deeds--Virginia--Williamsburg.
  • Judicial records--Virginia--James City County.
  • Judicial records--Virginia--Williamsburg.
  • Land records--Virginia--James City County.
  • Land records--Virginia--Williamsburg.
  • Local government records--Virginia--James City County.
  • Local government records--Virginia--Williamsburg.
  • Plats--Virginia--James City County.
  • Plats--Virginia--Williamsburg.
  • Wills--Virginia--James City County.
  • Wills--Virginia--Williamsburg.

Significant Places Associated With the Collection

  • James City County (Va.)--Genealogy.
  • James City County (Va.)--History.
  • Williamsburg (Va.)--Genealogy.
  • Williamsburg (Va.)--History.

Selected Suits of Interest

1873-005: Maria Griffin, etc. vs. Exr. of Helen Anderson, etc.:

The suit involves the real and personal property of Robert Anderson, a wealthy businessman, politician, and property holder. He married Helen Macauley Southall, a second marriage for her, and they have no biological children. Anderson amassed a considerable estate of property, slaves, and other holdings through his various enterprises. Anderson's estate contained lots in Yorktown, houses in Williamsburg, valuable farmland along the river, and even Cornwallis's cave. After the death of his son, George, he had a falling out with the remainder of his family. As a consequence, he left Williamsburg for Yorktown. His will recorded in 1857 is filed in the suit. In it, Anderson laid out his numerous remonstrances against his family. It not only chastised his family, but also spelled out the emancipation of his slaves, some given more consideration than others. Maria Griffin, one of his slaves is given $300, furnishings, and the use of a home for her lifetime. The will further dictates that the remainder of his considerable properties be sold after a period of renting and the proceeds divided among Maria's four children- Catherine Hardee, Robert Gilbert, Nancy Camp, and Hannah Tyler, all of whom, he acknowledges are "of his family" and who were similarly set free. Documentation of slave births and paternity are found in the suit. The will also had a couple of codicils, the most telling of which was from October 20, 1858 indicating that Maria Griffin's recently born child was to also to be set free. The female child's name was Seventy Seven. Robert Anderson was born in 1781. The will was contested by Anderson's family when he died in 1859. The proving of the will went through no fewer than six juries without being accepted into the record. During the Civil War, Maria Griffin and her children fled to Philadelphia. During the war, many papers were destroyed and in the absence of the Griffin family, the estate continued to be occupied my Helen Anderson. Creditors initiated a suit against Robert Anderson's estate in Williamsburg in 1860. An 1868 decree in favor of the Dismal Swamp Land Company called for sale of all property to settle a judgment against Anderson. Griffin and her children secured a lawyer and challenged the administration of the estate. The Griffin's case wound its way through the courts. The James City County suit was dismissed by Griffin's lawyer in 1873 because it had gone to higher state and federal courts. The case was heard in the U.S. Circuit Court. See also Chancery Cause 1886-011.

1875-005: Edmond Parsons vs. Monimia Minson:

Parsons is a former slave. Parsons, while a slave, was granted permission in 1837 by his owner in Williamsburg to marry a free woman in Norfolk named Margaret Moss also known as Peggy Moss. Parsons was allowed by his owner to live with his wife and earn money of his own to improve his home and property. Moss inherited 500 dollars from her former owner's will, which the couple used to buy a home and lot. Peggy Moss died in 1865. A woman, named Monimia Minson, claiming to be Moss's half-sister challenges Parson's right to the property alleging that Parson and Moss were never really married. Parsons cites the 1866 cohabitation law that established that slaves cohabitating before the end of slavery should be considered husband and wife in the eyes of the law. Minson dies during the course of the suit and while the commissioner was attempting to ascertain the cost of Parson's improvements to the home.

1888-006: Mutual Assurance Society Against Fire On Buildings of the State of Virginia vs. Presidents and Masters of the College of William and Mary:

William and Mary insured 3 of its buildings with Mutual Assurance Society in 1860 and 1869 (the oldest and most noteworthy structures). The college neglected to pay the bill for the insurance of the President's House, the Wren Building, and Brafferton, as well as the college hotel. Mutual Assurance Society brought suit to enforce a judgment against the school. Although not completely clear, it appears that the judge decided in favor of the insurance company and ordered the college to pay up. Sketches of the buildings filed as exhibits.

1886-011: Exr. of Elizabeth Macauley vs. The President and Managers of the Dismal Swamp Land Co., etc.:

The suit began in 1797 and was hear by the Virginia Supreme Court for the third time in 1902, thus claiming the jurisprudence longevity title.

1905-014: Mary E. Warren vs. Henry B. Warren:

The suit references slaves. Contains information about the Warren family going back to 1812.