Please welcome guest blogger Judy Kellar Fox, CGSM.

Wearing her trademark hat, Barbara Vines Little speaks Virginia, and she knows early records.  She knows them well enough to be wary of ignoring the clues they offer.  She promised, ”I’m going to tell you what that document has to tell you if you take the time to read it.”

Taking the time to read a document begins with the words, with transcribing them accurately.  It involves learning handwriting, letter forms, and legal and archaic terminology.  Understanding the words is the other part, knowing the meanings of those legal and archaic terms.

Barbara singled out several useful resources (some citations abbreviated):

“An Introduction to Paleography,” (

Smith, Kenneth L.  Estate Inventories: How to Use Them.  Morgantown, Penn., Masthof Press, 2000.

Hening, William Waller. The Virginia Justice.  Richmond: Shepherd & Pollard, 1825.

Parham, Jr., Sidney F.  A Virginia Title Examiner’s Manual.  Charlottesville, Va.: The Michie Co., 1973.

She closed with the example of Mary Rose.  Through a series of documents, read carefully and with understanding of the law of the time, Mary emerges as a woman with numerous children and not two husbands, but six.  Mary’s identification demonstrates Barbara’s assertion that “It’s not the words; it’s what the words tell you.”  Mary had a lot to tell, and Barbara showed us how it was possible to read it all.

This session has been recorded. During the conference you can buy it from the JAMB-INC booth in the main conference hall. After the conference, it will be available online at This is session W151 under the heading 2013 NGS Conference/Las Vegas, NV.

Judy reports, “Blogging is a recent activity for me, inspired by a need to share family mementos and photos with members of the younger generation, to reach them with a medium they use.  That’s Ancestors from the Attic (  I’ve also been experimenting with a blog as serialized research report: Pinpointing Dennis Buggy’s Irish Origins (  It allows me to demonstrate and explain good practices with each post.”