Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     If you have been tracing your ancestors in the Old Dominion, you may be familiar with an author by the name of Robert K. Headley, Jr. In the past few years, he has compiled three books that provide a gold mine of genealogical data about residents of Virginia. Now he has done it again with the publication of NORTHERN NECK WILLS, INVENTORIES & OTHER RECORDS, 1800-1825.

     Headley focuses on the first twenty-five years of nineteenth-century records from the four lower Northern Neck counties of Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond, and Westmoreland. He gleaned all pertinent genealogical information from probate and estate documents, as well as from guardianship and chancery court records.

     After the introduction in which he discusses the records of the four counties, the author describes in an essay his methodology. He also gives samples of the various types of abstracts in the book and explains the probate process.

     Organized alphabetically by the name of the deceased, the abstracts supply the date the record was written or ordered, the date the document was probated or recorded, the source citation, and relevant genealogical information. As expected, details vary widely from entry to entry. Facts may range from names of relatives, heirs, and slaves to bequests, inventories of estates, and disputes over land. Sometimes Headley furnishes supplemental notes (for instance, the location of land or maiden name of the wife) that he extracted from other resources. Names of approximately 600 families and 20,000 individuals can be found in the material. Examples of recurring surnames are ARMES, BELFIELD, BLACKERBY, BRINNON, CHILTON, CHINN, CRALLE, CHOWNING, CURRELL, DAVENPORT, DEGGE/DEGGES, DEMERITT, DOBYNS, DOGGETT, DOWNING, HEADLEY, HUDNALL, JETT, LELAND, MCCARTY, MOZUNGO, MUSE, MYERS, NUTT, OLDHAM, REVERE, SYDNOR, TAPSCOTT, TOMLIN, TOWLES, TUNE, WARDROBE, WASHINGTON, WEBB, WILDY, YEATMAN, and YERBY.

     To aid researchers, the author supplies several helpful appendices. Their subjects pertain to major Virginia estate laws, roster of records Headley checked, surname variations, nicknames and variant given names, surnames of families closely associated with the four Northern Neck counties, frequent first names used by white families, common names of slaves, and manumission of slaves. Background knowledge about these topics enables genealogists to understand fully the significance of the data.

     Since few of the early nineteenth-century probate or estate records from the four counties under study have been published, the importance of Headley’s abstracts is obvious. In addition, he includes some wills and references to marriages that were omitted from previously published books by other authors. The meticulous research that went into NORTHERN NECK WILLS, INVENTORIES & OTHER RECORDS, 1800-1825 ensures its value as a first-rate genealogical resource.

     The 653-page work has soft covers and contains an introduction, eight appendices, a select bibliography with a list of abbreviations of sources and terms used in the publication, and a full name index. To the book's price of $59.00, buyers should add the cost for postage and handling charges. For U. S. postal mail, the cost is $5.50 for one book and $2.50 for each additional copy; for FedEx ground service, the cost is $7.50 for one copy and $2.50 for each additional book. The volume (item order 2656) may be purchased by check, money order, MasterCard, or Visa from Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 260, Baltimore, Maryland 21211-1953. For phone orders, call toll free 1-800-296-6687; fax 1-410-752-8492; website

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