CHRIST CHURCH PARISH REGISTER OF MIDDLESEX COUNTY, VIRGINIA, 1651-1821: AN INTEPRETIVE RECONSTRUCTION
by Craig M. Kilby. 2014, ix, 256 pages.
FROM THE iNTRODUCTION:
First and foremost, it is important to understand what this book is and what it is not. The goal of this book is to bring order out of chaos. It does not replace the published transcript of the Christ Church Parish records. It does, however, rearrange the maddeningly scattered material in the published transcript alphabetically by surname, and then chronologically by each surname. Hence the word “reconstruction” in the title. Doing this was much easier said than done. Hence the word “interpretive” in the title.
Whenever possible, a standard spelling for each surname had be established. In some cases this was not difficult (e.g., Daniel for Danniell, Kidd for Kid). In other cases this process was more subjective. And in yet other cases several different spellings for more common names were retained (e.g. Davies and Davis, Sanders and Saunders) unless the evidence was conclusive for one spelling which was more predominant than another for the same family. In most cases, I have presented the name as given in the original in italics in the comment section for each event.
The 1988 reprint of the 1897 original added three important changes. First, it was discovered that the original index had omitted some 1200 names. Second, it added an index to the approximately 4000 slave entries that had been left out of the original index entirely. This book includes all slaves under the surname of the master. These records should not be ignored, for there might be found the only reference to a master’s death that might exist, and important clues as to his widow and heirs can often be gleaned.
Most importantly, however, the authors (the Blue Ridge Committee of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America) undertook the painstaking task of comparing the 1897 version to the original manuscript itself. Changes were not made to the original copy, but were included in an Errata section. Some of these corrections are real game changers, and unfortunately very few readers of the revised version bother to check it. They should. This book incorporates all the relevant changes to spellings of surnames. In the right hand column is found the page number of the revised register. If it also includes pages numbers 314-318, then there is information to be found in the Errata. Even if I did not incorporate the change, the reader should consult it to make his or her own determination.
Some examples of this are on page 20 where Lanson is really Lawson, and page 145, where Lawson is in fact Dawson. Or on page 11, where Edward Thacker is really Edwin Thacker. And so on.
Dates were yet another problem. The entries in this book are in segments of time, jumping wildly from one to another. Within each segment of time, the entries can only be remotely called chronological. Confounding this was the old Julian calendar where the new year began on March 25th. Then again, there are cases of the clerk “double dating” months that did not require it, such as “December 1723/24.”
The normal method of treating dates between January 1 and March 24, if not “double dated” is to add a year to the year in question. This did not always make sense in context of the surrounding data. In other cases, the year was missing altogether, though in context it should be within one or two years of the surrounding entries. Then there are whole pages of entries with no year at all, where the last year given may have been, say, 1751 and the next given year is 1713. In such cases, there was no way to make even an educated guess and such entries are not included in this book.
The bottom line dates is this: if an educated guess was made on a date, it should be within one year of accuracy. If no such determination could be made, the entry was omitted. (It doesn’t do much good to know that James and Mary Smith had a son John Smith born on July 19th if the year is unknown.)
Last, but not least, in many cases both a date of birth and baptism, or death and burial, were given in one entry. In such cases, I have usually only given the date of birth or death. As a rule of thumb, baptism was about a month after birth, and burial within a day or two.
The reader will note that for every entry, the page number of the published transcript is given. The reader should by all means consult it and make his or her own determination.
YEARS SPANNED: 1651-1821
Both titles of the original transcript, first published in 1897, and the revised transcript published in 1988 bear the years “from 1653 to 1812.” This title has since become engrained as official “fact.” This is most curious, because both the first and last entries (by date) are so unusual that it is hard to imagine how the Colonial Dames could have missed them:
(p. 41) The Age of Mr. Richard Perrott & Sarah his wife.
Richard Perrot the son of Mr. Richard Perrott, dec’d was born the 24th of February 1650 [1651 new style] being the first man child that was got and born in Rappahannock River of English parents.
(p. 161) James Steptoe and Jane Syphax were married on the 29th day of May 1819, and had a child on the 23rd day of March 1821 (mulatto child something like his father.)
Speaking of time, it should be noted that this register is my no means a complete record of the births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials. There are large gaps of time. What is surprising is that so many records (mostly marriages) were recorded after the Revolutionary War when the Church of England was disestablished and went into a steep decline. (See “Ministers” under Miscellaneous notes section at the end of this book.) In that vein, we are fortunate that this parish record, unlike so many others, survives at all. (It is in fact only one of sixteen surviving parish registers, and covers the longest continuous span of time of any of them.)
Moreover, Christ Church Parish was not officially established until 1666, and many of the earlier entries were either copied from older parish records or put down to paper later in time. (Again, see the “Miscellaneous Notes” for more on the history of Christ Church Parish.)
With this book, I hope to have brought at some semblance of order out of chaos. Despite my best efforts, I fully realize that with over 10,700 entries, I have made mistakes and no doubt omitted several events. I will greatly appreciate your feedback, corrections and additions.