The Library of Virginia has a Chancery Records Index project well under way whereby historical chancery records are being digitized and made available online. These records, which relied heavily on witness testimony, offer unique access into the lives of persons living in Virginia from the early 1700s through the 1920s. 36 Virginia counties and cities have their chancery cases in this project at the Library of Virginia resulting in over 191,000 cases indexed in the database and over 4 million images of chancery causes available online.
Chancery causes could not be readily decided by existing laws, so judges’ decisions were based on fair and equitable settlements of the cases based on evidence presented. These cases involved matters such as land disputes, divorces, dissolutions of business partnerships and division of property in wills, including slaves.
The Chancery Court Index is searchable by surname or date. While the images are clearly visible, some handwriting might be hard to decipher. The site provides a good “FAQ” page along with helpful search tips. A list of counties and cities whose records are available online may be found on the site or here. For those counties that are not yet online, records may still be found the old fashioned way by slogging through manual county or city records. This project though is ongoing and hopefully more counties and cities will have their records online soon.