Researchers’ Helpful Hints at the Library of Virginia

A very unofficial guide to researching your family history at the LVA. I’ve tried to include items that you may not find on the LVA website.

  1. Parking- there’s an underground parking garage beneath LVA. It’s free when you get your parking stub validated at the front desk. The library fronts West Broad Street, occupies the entire block between 8th and 9th streets and backs up directly to Marshall St. Depending on what part of town you’re entering the city from, you may use either one way streets – 8th or 9th streets. 8th Street moves South. If you’re using 8th, cross Marshall St in the left-hand lane. The parking deck will be immediately on the left after Marshall. But, 9th Street moves North. Travelling north on 9th Street, cross Broad Street in the left lane. Right before Marshall St, the entrance to the lot in on the left. There is one clearly marked elevator that will take you to the main entrance hallway.
  2. Sustenance. Research areas on the 2nd floor do not allow food or drink. There is a small cafe with sandwiches, salads, soups, drinks, coffee, etc, on the first floor. Expect to pay $8 or so for a panini with a side and a soda. There is a sub shop a half block East on Broad St. And several other restaurants within a few block’s walk. Here’s the kicker, none of these places are open on Saturdays. Only M-F for downtown work lunches. I would suggest bring a bag lunch on Saturday especially if weather is inclement.
  3. Technology. Flash drives – don’t leave home without them (they also sell them at the circulation desk!). Not only will you need them for microfilm readers, but the book scanner uses them as well. On a side note, get your file naming conventions in order. There’s nothing like opening a file at home that’s titled 4521853.pdf, and trying to remember what county, book #, page # the deed came from for part 3 of the GPS. Rename the file immediately after saving it. All scanned items are saved in .pdf form. There are power strips for laptops and chargers at most work stations, so bring your cords.
  4. Get a library card at the circulation desk. The 2nd floor manuscript room requires it to access anything. You’ll need a driver’s license.
  5. The LVA website is invaluable in order to prepare before your visit. Search their catalog and their chancery records. Become familiar with what’s available in your county/area/time of interest before you visit. It’s easy to waste time at LVA or get sidetracked by all that’s available. Staying focused on your task is essential to time management.
  6. The Genealogy and Local History Section is a first stop. Arranged by State of Virginia, County, City and former state areas (like West Virginia), a searcher does himself a favor by checking these sections first. Abstracts, especially, are invaluable search aides to peruse before heading to the microfilm readers for copies of the originals. There are also county histories, and back issues of genealogical journals and much more that can assist in your search.
  7. Microfilm readers. Unless you’re an expert, get the staff to give you a quick reader tutorial. These folks are unfailing patient and very helpful with the less tech-minded among us. Even if you are techy, like me, they can teach you something.
  8. Manuscript Room: working with original documents has it’s own guidelines. Most important are the use of only loose leaf paper and pencil. Photographs and scans are only used after given special permission. There are lockers available to keep personal belonging secure, but you may not even be allowed to keep your purse nearby depending on what you’re requesting.
  9. Ask for help. I’ve never been disappointed when I ask. Staff is always helpful and knowledgeable. Many can help interpret old cursive handwriting or translate colonial legalese. LVA staff is top notch.
  10. Familiarize yourself with the National Genealogical Society’s “Guidelines for Using Record’s Repositories and Libraries.”

The Library of Virginia is a jewel and researching their always pays dividends.


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