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LTG 05: 5 Tips for Searching The Library of Virginia’s Chancery Records

If you have ancestors from the State of Virginia you will want to take some time to research the Library of Virginia’s Chancery Records. They are full of court documents that may (or may not) include your ancestors.

Listen to this episode of the Let’s Talk Genealogy Podcast HERE and on Apple Podcast HERE!.

5 Tips for Searching The Library of Virginia’s Chancery Records - Let’s Talk Genealogy Podcast

I have been searching the Chancery Records for my ancestors for years! Through the years I’ve found divorces, slave records, land disputes, and so much more.

To help you in your research I’ve put together this list of 5 TIPS FOR SEARCHING THE LIBRARY OF VIRGINIA’S CHANCERY RECORDS. I hope you find them helpful...


  1. Have a county map nearby. Many counties within Virginia merged and changed through the years. You will want to have a county map for the years you are researching close by you. This will help you determine the county to search.
  2. Become familiar with your ancestor’s siblings. An important part of searching the records is surnames. Many times I have found my direct ancestors listed in court documents of their siblings and even their parent’s siblings. Knowing your ancestors siblings will help you in your search.
  3. Enter your family surname in multiple search fields. I’ve found more documents and court records by entering my family surname in multiple fields on the website. I do a search with the family surname as the plaintiff, then the defendant, and, lastly, on the bottom of the screen under “Surname 1.” I find this to be helpful when trying to locate records for my ancestors.
  4. Search surrounding counties. I’ve found it helpful to search surrounding counties for my ancestors. My ancestors traveled through different counties and often stirred up some trouble in those counties! Don’t stop at the county you know your ancestors were living. Broaden your search and see what you find.
  5. Use the tilde (~) symbol when researching Slave Names. This is a new search tip I discovered. You can add the tilde symbol to the end of a surname (for example, “Buster~”) to assist you in locating slaves with the name/surname.
  6. BONUS TIP: Use wildcards in your searches. You can use wildcards (*) in your search on the website. How does this work? You can shorten a surname to yield more results. For example, my Gillenwater surname is sometimes written as “Gillenwaters” and if I do a search for “Gillenwater*” I will have results for both.


I hope these tips help you in your search for your ancestors! Let me know in the comments (or on social media) if you found them helpful, learned something new, or have tips to share with others!


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