Local Routes to Nearby Roots

Johann Homann [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Map of Colonial Virginia, Johann Homann [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.

My American roots reside firmly in Virginia. I find this funny, seeing as I now live in the state and had always wanted to live on the East Coast near D.C.  Odd how life’s natural choreography can sometimes bring you home.

Not all of my family hails from the Old Dominion State.  I have a good share from North Carolina, a line from New England, and a couple from Maryland and South Carolina.  They all merge in Kentucky and Indiana, which makes sense considering the migration patterns of the time.  But if you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know that.  What is truly remarkable is the story of a family line that that settled in the place I now live: Virginia.

So far in my research I have nearly a dozen family lines that land here from across the pond, many of which settled within a few hours’ drive of my current home.  Granted, I live in the middle of the state. Depending on traffic, everything is just a few hours away.  It takes an hour to reach the D.C.-Maryland border, two hours to West Virginia, four to North Carolina and three to the coast.  Most of the family homestead areas are within a three-hour radius of where I live, and I’m just aching to go visit.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that I could drive 15 miles from my home to the county court house and see documents relating to my family.  Even better, I went to the local branch of the county library— five miles from my house—and found the same ancestors in county history books.  I sat on the floor of the library, and in just 20 minutes identified several passages that held information about my ancestor.  One patron looked bewildered, but being a stay-at-home mom, I feel more comfortable on the floor than in a chair.

Before going to the library I knew very little about Samuel Givens and his wife Sarah Cathey.  They were both born in Antrim, Ireland and came to Pennsylvania in 1735, and then onto Orange County, Virginia in 1739.  The part of Orange County they lived in is now Augusta County, which was officially incorporated in1745.  With them came all but their youngest child. He was born here in Virginia, a few weeks after his father’s death in 1740.  They were John, Samuel, James, Martha, Elizabeth, William, Margret and Sarah.  It is through his youngest, Sarah, that I am descended.

I never thought I would be able to go to a local library and find family information unless I moved back to Indiana.  Over the summer I went to a couple of different libraries while on vacation, and found several books with places, names and dates, but there is nothing like going to your own local library and finding info on your ancestors.  It was such a thrill.  Next on my list is the Orange County Historical Society, which has a library in the Town of Orange, our county seat, with indexes of courthouse records and much more.

I’m ready to begin planning these road trips to surrounding counties for further research, but most will have to wait until a school break.  I would love to figure out where their land was located, but with the metes and bounds descriptions it may be difficult.  Even if I can’t locate them precisely, I can at least take my trusty camera and document the area for the rest of my family.


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Shannon Bennett of Locust Grove, Va.


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6 thoughts on “Local Routes to Nearby Roots

  1. Sounds amazing and very blissful. I am moving to New Orleans – my childhood home and where and 20th century relatives live(d). Can’t wait to search the local courts and libraries as well :)

  2. Have you checked out the Rappahanock Regional Library in downtown Fredericksburg? There’s a small but interesting genealogy section in the downstairs area, not limited to Fredericksburg-only material. And F’burg isn’t all that far from Locust Grove.

  3. So happy that you are able to walk in the area your ancestors lived. I am fortunate to live in the same area (15 minute drive) my mothers family settled in once arriving in America from Slovakia. My dads family settled in Central PA before moving to this same area. I feel fortunate to be able to still see the home my mother was born in and where my great grandparents lived. So much family history here as my mothers grandparents were founding fathers of the local SLovak Church. I hope you have many happy discovery days and learn more about your family.

  4. I can definitely relate. I didn’t grow up in Pennsylvania. I moved to Lancaster County after getting married. However, through my research I discovered that several lines of my earliest ancestors came to Lancaster from the old country before the Revolutionary War. They moved westward over several generations, but they lived within 20 minutes of my home now. I remember the thrill of going to the historical society to research my husband’s family (he is from here) and finding files on my own! Enjoy not only the convenience of research but being able to walk in their footsteps.

  5. Cherie: Yes I have been. The reading room there was one of the first places my local friends said I HAD to check out. I need to get back there to follow up on some leads in the near future, just have to find the time!

    It is exciting to see that so many of you have had similar experiences. Nice to know that I am not the only one to have this experience!

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