Thursday, September 25, 2014

Culpeper County Court Records

Earlier today I was in Culpeper, Virginia for work, and found some spare time to visit the Culpeper Court house to look at their land records for information on my Read, Wheatley and Thornhill lines. I was very impressed with their holdings - the grantor and grantee indexes for deeds, wills and marriage records are all easy to find on the second floor of the court in the Circuit Court Clerk's office. The staff was nice and friendly too. I was disappointed that I was not allowed to use a digital camera or the camera on my phone due to Virginia's law banning cell phones and cameras from court houses (but all the lawyers seemed to have no trouble bringing in a cell phone...).

On the positive side, I found a large number of records referencing my Read, Wheatley and Thornhill ancestors. Unfortunately I was not prepared to make a large number of copies on this visit. The court charges .$50 per page for photocopies. I can see this may be expensive to get copies of these records, although perhaps the Clerk of Court will grant an exception to the photo rule if I write a letter explaining my purpose for historical research and offer to pay a reasonable amount for not using their photocopy paper.

I can already see it will also be worth visiting the nearby Fauquier County Court in Warrenton, Virginia to look for further information on the Wheatley family. There is a limit to what can be found online and in local libraries. The County courts are often the only place for original land deeds, wills, probate records, and of course, court filings.

The trip wasn't a total loss, I learned some lessons for my next visit to Culpeper, and I was able to get a copy of two important records on my 5th-great-grandfather Joseph Thornhill, father of my 4th-great-grandmother Elizabeth Thornhill Jones. Back in January 2012, I wrote about Elizabeth and her family's journey from Culpeper to Jefferson County, Tennessee. At the time, I thought the family had arrived in Jefferson County sometime between 1810 and 1819. Based on these records, I think the family left Culpeper in 1815.

Indenture of Joseph Thornhill to James Joyce

Joseph Thornhill's father, also named Joseph, died in February 1782, leaving several young children. The Culpeper Court had a record in Deed Book S on the indenture of Joseph Thornhill, son of Joseph and Elizabeth Thornhill to a taylor named James Joyce. I have transcribed this record below:

"This Indenture made this _ day of _ anno domini one thousand seven hundred and ninety six, between Hugh McKellup of Stevensburg in the Parish of St. Marks, Guardian and next Friend of Joseph Thornhill son of Joseph and Elizabeth Thornhill late of Culpeper decd, of one part, and James Joyce taylor of Town, Parish and County aforesaid of the other part. Witnesseth that the said Hugh McKellup, as Guardian and Friend to the said Joseph Thornhill a minor under the age of Twenty one years, doth by these presents bind the said Joseph Thornhill to the said James Joyce to learn the art and mastery of a taylor for and during the full and term of six years to commence from date of these presents and the said Hugh McKellup doth promise for and on behalf of said Joseph Thornhill that he the said Joseph shall well and truly demean himself toward his said master in all things lawful and right, and the said James Joyce on his part doth agree and bind himself his heirs Exors to furnish the said Joseph Thornhill good and wholesome food and payment, lodging and washing, and to send the said Joseph to school until he acquires a tolerable knowledge of arithmetic, writing ye, and in every instance teach him well, and further he binds and obliges himself, his heirs ye, to learn the said Joseph Thornhill the taylor business in all its different parts and branches as far as he the said James Joyce is capable of, and lastly, to exonerate and set at liberty the said Joseph when the afore mentioned six years is fully compleat and ended. In witness whereof the parties to these presents have hereunto set their hands and affixed their seals the day ye above written.

Signed and acknowledged} Hugh McKellup {ss} James Joyce {ss}

In presence of...}

At a court held for Culpeper County the 15th day of February 1796

This indenture of apprenticeship from Hugh McKellup guardian for Joseph Thornhill to James Joyce was acknowledged by the said Hugh and ordered to be recorded.

Teste, John Jameson, CP, Cur"

Given the date of this document, and Joseph Thornhill Senior's death in 1782, I think Joseph Junior was born sometime between 1775 and 1781.

It looks like Hugh McKellup was a trustee of the Stevensburg Academy, which was formed in 1799 and located in Jeffersonton (home of the Read family). McKellup was also a merchant.

Deed Book bb, page 490 contained another record relating to Joseph Thornhill from 1807. I will transcribe this deed in a subsequent post. There was also another record in the Wills for Culpeper county dated 1815, which appears to show Joseph Thornhill paying off the estate of Hugh McKellup as part of ending his indentured status. I need to go back and copy this record, along with several other wills. There was also a transcription of the contents for the estate of Bryant Thornhill, Joseph's grandfather, from 1779.

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