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R obert Vernon Central Virginia History Researchers email: [email protected] [email protected] County of Albemarle, Virginia Property Mapping Project This work was begun about 1940 and finished in 1943.

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Robert Vernon

Central Virginia History Researchers


email: [email protected]


County of Albemarle, Virginia Property Mapping Project

  • This work was begun about 1940 and finished in 1943.
  • It produced the first cadastral, or map of property ownership, for Albemarle Co.
  • In 2004 there were no records in the Real Estate Office to reveal who had done the work or why
  • According to local surveyors, the work was done by members of the Sims family, who were surveyors in Albemarle from late 1800s to the 1950s or ‘60s
  • After extensive field and record research they inked property lines on 1937 Dept. of Agriculture aerial photos (recording race)
  • They also filed plats, transcripts of deeds and wills, lists of neighbors, and notes from interviews as supporting documentation
  • Perhaps as many as 10,000 records!

Aerial Photo Collection

  • Steve Thompson and I photographed both sides of 239 aerial photos in Nov 2004
  • 106 images, about half of Albemarle Co., are currently available online to researchers
  • This work was done in 2005 with software purchased through a grant from UVA’s Carter G. Woodson Institute
  • I want to acknowledge the support of Reginald Butler and Scot French
  • Permission to place Real Estate Office images and documents online was given by Bruce Woodzell, then Assessor, and Andy Herrick, a lawyer for Albemarle Co.
  • images must be georegistered, an intensive and time-consuming process that warps images and defines spatial context
  • rear of images list property owners and are online and linked to each aerial photo

Zoom to Petersburg Community

  • Shows a number of small parcels on the south side of road under five acres.
  • Includes a school lot that dates to 1903.

Rear of Petersburg Aerial Photo

  • Lists land owners from image side
  • Note African Americans are listed with “(col)” after name

Rear of Petersburg Aerial Photo

  • Note that most of the small lots reference an “Insert”
  • With the destruction of the history files, documentation for owners of these parcels no longer exists.

History Files in Interactive CVHR Map

Land Ownership by Race – 1942

Petersburg Community

Mouseover highlights

owner – Amanda White


History Files in Interactive CVHR Map

- clicking on selected parcel with blue identity button selected

- opens Identify Tab and shows a link to the history file for this property

- click on HF link to open history file


History Files in Interactive CVHR Map

Flashpaper format, can scroll & zoom image


Description of property:

- when acquired with deed reference

- acreage


Notes from interview:

Amanda White is dead was known as Belle

her dau Dora Belle White is teaching school

son – Will White Jr. is janitor St Anne School


History Files in Interactive CVHR Map


Description of property:

- purchased from J.W. Goss in 1887

chain of title

Notes from Land Tax Book:

- Amanda White appears for the first time in 1925

- Dora Belle White dropped in 1925


History Files in Interactive CVHR Map

Plat with metes and bounds


History Files in Interactive CVHR Map

Notes from interview:

Also 1A belongs to her brothers James & Edgar Douglas

One is dead and the other disappeared

Adjacent land owners listed

Notes from interview:

Walter Ragland lives on the 1A given to Alice Hawkins by his mother, Elizabeth Grady. Information from Mrs. Roans


Conclusion: Significant Record Loss

  • In Rivanna Dist., 56 of 1965 parcels on the aerial photos (or about 3%) reference ‘insert’ instead of owner. No source now exists to positively identify the owners of these tracts.
  • ‘Inserts’ are small parcels, so this loss of data will make it difficult to reconstruct the residents of rural communities.
  • A quick survey of 115 posted history files showed that about 85% had plats.
  • Some plats show old cemeteries; 3 or 4 cemeteries were identified on plats in near the Bypass route close to the Hydraulic Mills area
  • Files contained family information from interviews that does not exist elsewhere
  • Surveys were done before rapid development that followed WW II by local surveyors who were intimately familiar with county land and residents

Conclusion: Significant Record Loss

  • based on a count of taxed parcels in the 1942 Land Book, over 9,100 history files were created during the Albemarle Mapping Project
  • 677 pages from 115 history files are posted on the interactive map, nearly 6 pages per parcel
  • from this it is estimated that over 53,000 pages of historical documentation were on file and were destroyed
  • in 1937/38 Henrico Co. paid $24,360 to map 264 sq. miles, about $325K in 2013$
  • Albemarle Co is 726 sq. miles
  • The value of the papers destroyed is probably on the order of $500,000, or more

Conclusion: Significant Record Loss

  • The history files provided spatial context in terms of who were neighbors and temporal context through listing chain of title.
  • Reconstructing these relationships for the entire county through courthouse documentation means that comprehensive community studies that were feasible are now impossible.