About the Virginia Colonial Records Project
The Virginia Colonial Records Project was established in the 1950s by the Virginia Historical Society, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the University of Virginia Library, and Library of Virginia to reconstitute the archive of Virginia's colonial history--a documentary record decimated by war and fire during the Old Dominion's first three centuries.
Between 1955 and 1985, project agents visited more than one hundred libraries and archives in Great Britain, Ireland, and France to survey their collections for Virginia-related documents. Agents reported their findings about pertinent records on Survey Reports from which the project ordered microfilm of many original documents. The project has generated 14,704 of these Survey Reports (which vary in length from one to more than one hundred pages) and acquired 963 reels of microfilmed documents.
The Electronic Index contains more than five-hundred thousand (500,000) personal- name and ship-name entries. The index also can be searched by repository name, document title, and Survey Report number. Keyword and combination (Boolean) searches are available, too.
The database also links the digitized images of the Survey Reports to the electronic index, thus creating a complete and readily accessible finding aid to the documentary riches of the Virginia Colonial Records Project.
Copies of the project microfilm and the Survey Reports are available for research by the public at the four participating institutions. During the 1970s, the project directors stopped ordering microfilm of all surveyed records; as a result, today the project has microfilm of only about two-thirds of the records identified on its Survey Reports.
This microfilm is available for use by researchers through interlibrary loan from the Government Information Resources Periodicals & Microforms section of the University of Virginia Alderman Library (Charlottesville, Virginia 22903) and the Library of Virginia (Richmond, Virginia 23219-1905). Please contact your local library in order to borrow microfilm via interlibrary loan. LVA Interlibrary Loan Home Page
The call number for the Library of Virginia's microfilm is Film 1607. Please ask for assistance in ordering the microfilm from the closed stacks. When borrowing from the Library of Virginia, please ask for this film number and the specific reel number you need (noted on the catalog record).
The Virginia Colonial Records Project did not obtain reproduction rights for the documents from the foreign repositories. Thus, the Library of Virginia CANNOT provide copies of documents described in the Survey Reports. Address requests for copies of documents to the repository holding the original record.
The indexes and inventories in most published guides to the foreign manuscript collections examined by VCRP agents may serve as a finding aid for the Virginia Colonial Records Project. The following published resources that an imaginative researcher might employ in this fashion are far from an exhaustive list:
- W. Noel Sainsbury, J. Fortescue, et al., eds., Calendar of State
Papers, Colonial Series, America and West Indies, 1574-1737, 43
vols. to date (London, 1860- ).
- Charles McLean Andrews, ed., "List of Commissions, Instructions, and
Additional Instructions Issued to the Royal Governors and Others in
America," Annual Report of the American Historical Association for
the Year 1911, vol. 1 (Washington, D.C., 1913): 393-528.
- Charles McLean Andrews, ed., Guide to the Materials for American
History, to 1783, in the Public Record Office of Great Britain, 2
vols. (Washington, D.C., 1912-1914).
- Charles McLean Andrews, ed., "List of Reports and Representations of
the Plantation Councils, 1660-1674, the Lords of Trade, 1675-1696, and
the Board of Trade, 1696-1782, in the Public Record Office," Annual
Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1913,
vol. 1 (Washington, D.C., 1915): 319-406.
- Charles McLean Andrews, ed., "List of the Journals and Acts of the
Councils and Assemblies of the Thirteen Original Colonies, and the
Floridas, in America, Preserved in the Public Record Office," Annual
Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1908,
vol. 1 (Washington, D.C., 1909): 399-509.
- Charles McLean Andrews and Frances G. Davenport, eds., Guide to
the Manuscript Materials for the History of the United States to 1783,
in the British Museum, in Minor London Archives, and in the Libraries of
Oxford and Cambridge (Washington, D.C., 1908).
- Herbert Clifford, Francis Bell, David W. Parker, et al., eds.,
Guide to British West Indian Archive Materials, in London and in the
Islands, for the History of the United States (Washington, D.C.,
- Bernard R. Crick and Miriam Alman, eds., A Guide to Manuscripts
Relating to America in Great Britain and Ireland (London, 1961).
- J. Franklin Jameson, ed., "Guide to the Items Relating to American
History in the Reports of the English Historical Manuscripts Commission
and Their Appendixes," Annual Report of the American Historical
Association for the Year 1898 (Washington, D.C., 1899): 611-708.
- John T. Kneebone and Jon Kukla, eds., assisted by Daphne Gentry and
Donald W. Gunter, A Key to Survey Reports and Microfilm of the
Virginia Colonial Records Project, 2 vols. (Richmond, Va., 1990).
- Robert Lester, comp., and Randolph Boehm, ed., A Guide to British
Public Record Office, Colonial Office, Class 5 Files: Part 5: The
American Revolution, 1772-1784 (Frederick, Md., 1984).
- John Davenport Neville, comp., Bacon's Rebellion: Abstracts of
Materials in the Colonial Records Project (Jamestown, Va., ).
- John W. Raimo, ed., A Guide to Manuscripts Relating to America in
Great Britain and Ireland: A Revision of the "Guide" Edited in 1961 by
B. R. Crick and Miriam Alman (Westport, Conn., 1979).
- George Henkle Reese, comp., The Cornwallis Papers: Abstracts of
Americana (Charlottesville, Va., 1970).
- Reports of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (London, 1870- ). [Many subsequent reports have been published separately.]
In 1985 administrative responsibility for the project was assigned to the Publications Division of the Library of Virginia with responsibility to create and publish finding aids to the Survey Reports and to the reels of microfilmed documents. The two-volume Key to Survey Reports and Microfilm of the Virginia Colonial Records Project (1990) links the original documents as identified in their home repositories with the Survey Reports on which they were described and with the microfilm on which they were reproduced, thus enabling researchers more efficiently to identify and locate relevant materials for their scholarship.
The following published volume related to the project is sold by the Library of Virginia:
- English Wills: Probate Records in England and Wales With a Brief Note on Scottish and Irish Wills, A Special Report of the Virginia Colonial Records Project, by Peter Walne (2d. ed., 1981).
Three others, The Cornwallis Papers: Abstracts of Americana, compiled by George H. Reese (Charlottesville, 1970), The British Public Record Office: History, Description, Record Groups, Finding Aids, and Materials for American History, With Special Reference to Virginia (1960, 1974, 1984), and Bacon's Rebellion: Abstracts of Materials in the Colonial Records Project, compiled by John Davenport Neville (1976), are out of print but may be consulted at the participating institutions and in many research libraries throughout the country or borrowed through interlibrary loan programs at local libraries.