Essex County, Virginia Order Books 11-12, 1738 to 1741/2 and Executions


This work presents a verbatim transcript of Essex County, Virginia Order Books 11 and 12, that run from court terms 19 September 1738 to 17 March 1741/2.

The order book contains the usual variety of items that occur during the daily business of the county court. Entries include: adjudgements for age of negroes, slaves or servants; appointment of officials (including constable, sheriff, road overseer, or vestryman, etc.); appointments of estate administrators; apprenticeships; exemptions from levy; guardians (may be chosen by ward at age fourteen); ordinary licenses; periodic orders or county expenses for buildings, roads, repairs, salaries, etc.; presentment by churchwardens of drunkards, those not frequenting their parish church as the law required, swearing, or even women claimed to have produced a bastard child; probate of wills; status of court cases (civil and criminal); tithables; and more. In addition, one will find claims for taking up fifty acres of land, or “importation rights,” which indicates the likelihood of a foreign birth for the claimant — at lease outside of Virginia. There is much activity about suits for debt, as the absence of banks left the court as the arena for settlement of many financial disputes.

Order book entries often provide detail not found in any other record. Oftentimes the age of a person can be estimated based on what the law allowed them to do. With little exception, one would be an adult to sue, receive power of attorney, buy and sell land, witness documents, or administer an estate, etc. Copies of ordinary licenses granted are generally found in deed books, but the order book entry may provide additional details. Keep in mind that the name of the ordinary (or tavern) didn’t necessarily track to the name of the person granted the license.

Of additional interest is that the entries here frequently refer to Chancery court cases, but only seven cases files survive previous to 1772. An index to full-names, places and subjects adds to the value of this work.

Wesley E. Pippenger

2023, 8½x11, paper, index, 282 pp

ISBN: 9780788429019