Virginia Untold project collects archived records of Black communities

This Library of Virginia project has been ongoing since 2020, led by Lydia Neuroth.

Library of Virginia Archives

It takes days and weeks to go through and digitize historic records from 200+ years ago.

Photo via @libraryofva

Virginia Untold: The African American Narrative project has just released several updates on its ongoing work digitizing historical records from before 1865.

Created with the help of a National Historic Publications and Records Commissions grant, Virginia Untold works with records from 19 localities across the Commonwealth, including Richmond.

One of the largest milestones for Library researchers involved extracting material from 250+ boxes in the Richmond City Husting Court records involving free Black and enslaved people.

According to Project Manager Lydia Neuroth, most of the documents in these boxes were “Commonwealth Causes” — civil suits filed by the state government. Other papers included certificates of freedom, coroners inquisitions, and some jail records. The library hopes to create a display of some of these findings in 2023.

Another aspect of the project are the “Free Negro Registers.” Neuroth said these crowd-sourced transcription efforts across the country are becoming the key way to index and track the free Black community records in local archives.

Interested in indexing? Sign up for a free account where volunteers can investigate specific genealogies or localities.

Plus, the website for the Virginia Untold will soon be active thanks to its Digital Initatives team. Once up, users will be able to search a Digital Collections page to find records online.

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