Yancey Family Genealogical Research
- - Research at the County Level - -
Significant County Records of a Genealogical Interest:
As one begins to collect family genealogical data in the pursuit of their family roots here in the United States - one quickly learns that a significant number of the sources of a genealogical interest are maintained and accessed at the COUNTY level. Examples of such county records include will (probate) records, marriage & divorce records, court records, deed records, guardianship records and more . This county administration of such record has changed very little over time - all the way from the American colonial times until current years. Other records of genealogical interest can be found at the State or National level - such as military records, census records or immigration records. Still further records may be maintained at a very localized area within a smaller area than a county - such as the baptism or burial records of a church parish. It should also be noted that official birth and death certificates - which many people think of when collecting genealogical data - did not come into common use in most states until the beginning of the 20th century as there became more of a need for people to be able to prove their identity. To many it becomes a surprise to know that before the period of the turn of the 19th/20th century - birth/death certificates didn't even exist.
In the Yancey Family Genealogical Database you will note that in most cases the city of any given event has been left off and simply the county and state are recorded. There are various reasons for this - among them simply the fact that it is one less piece of information to have to keep track of - that in so many cases for genealogical purposes really doesn't make a significant difference - since so few records are maintained by "cities or towns" but rather at the county level. Also it makes it much easier in data analysis to group those Yanceys that lived in the same county together - and note possible or documented connections.
Early County Formation:
Much Yancey research has been focused on that period and location of the Thirteen American Colonies - specifically the colonies of Virginia, North & South Carolina. One must understand the dynamics of county formation in these early years. These colonies were new American settlements - and the bulk of the population was on the coastal line at the beginning and settlers continued over time to move westward into sparsely populated areas. With time these areas were delineated off into their own counties. Understanding time and place in relation to county formation is critical in understanding genealogical data. Of note for example is the fact that Yanceys were in King William and New Kent County Virginia in the very early 1700's and later in Hanover and Louisa Counties - when one realizes that in actuality these successive counties were simply carved out of the larger pre-existing counties - one begins to understand that in many cases the families recorded on such county records didn't really move at all - the COUNTIES did.
A great dynamic county formation map can be found at: http://www.myvirginiagenealogy.com/va_maps.htm ( click on a successive set of years to see the dynamics.)
Also of note when analyzing county records - is realizing the geographic inter-relationship between two different counties. As an example of interest to the Yancey Family is that significant Yancey records are found in both Mecklenburg County Virginia as well as Granville County, North Carolina. When one realize that these two counties face each other one on each side of the state line - one understands why.
"Burned Record" Counties:
Another fact that people soon encounter to their dismay - is that various counties in Virginia have had significant record loss due to such things as fire and damage as the result of, for example, the Civil War conflict. Such counties are often referred to by genealogical researchers as "Burned Record Counties"
A thorough analysis of burned record counties can be found at: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/WHATWEHAVE/local/va22_burnedco.htm
This above site will explain exactly what type of records have been lost in each county and for what time period. This should not be assumed to mean that all records for any families who lived in these counties for the period in question have been lost into a "black hole". BUT a significant portion of the records of the type maintained by the county has been lost and supplemental records of a different type need to be located to compensate as is possible (such as church records, bible records, business records etc).
Burned Record Counties of significance to the Yancey Family (counties among those listed as "burned record counties" where Yanceys resided in these early years) include Buckingham, Caroline, Hanover, King William, New Kent and Rockingham counties in Virginia.
For example the fact that we have no documented probate record for either Charles Yancey (I) or Charles Yancey (II) is most probably due to them having died in Hanover County and simply that the will was lost when records were lost or destroyed. Also the fact that no will can be found for Major Charles Yancey of Buckingham County, Virginia - one of the most affluent members of the Yancey family - is not because he didn't have one - but because the county records were burned by fire in 1869.
"Burned Record" Counties and the lack of 17th Century Yancey records:
Many Yancey researchers - make the claim that the supposed answer to why we know so little about the very earliest Yanceys of the 1600's has to do with these "burned records" of Virginia counties. Sounds credible at first - but when you really do an analysis of it - you realize such a theory doesn't really hold water. For one, most of the counties classified as "burned counties" are actually counties formed AFTER about 1730. Also even with the record loss - there are STILL a significant portion of extant records that help us document families of the 1600's. One indispensable source of information for the 1600's in Virginia are the land records abstracted by the work of Nell M. Nugent: One who browses through this source comes to understand how many records are extant that can be used to document families of the 1600's in Virginia - among the names in this source one Hugh Nanney for instance who is recorded on land record of 1687.
One family closely connected to the early Yanceys - is the Crawford family who came about 1642 to Virginia. Though it is most certain many records of the era have been lost - it is clear that many records are extant - as an example of what has been found by those researching this family.
There are also numerous other records that can be used to document many families of the 1600's. By no means have we been left without records to help us document many families of the 1600's. The fact that, after nearly a century of Yancey research, not a single record of the 1600's even mentions the name of YANCEY - seems to most researchers to be an indication the Yanceys only came to America in the very last of the 1600's with the first extant documentation for them being in King William county Virginia in 1704.
County Histories of the late 1800's and erarly 1900's:
One interesting phenomenom is that of the publications of a multitude of "County Histories" during the late 1800's and early 1900's throughout the United States. These can be an are excellent source to get a good general understanding of the families of an area, the general history. and the events of a given period. However caution should be used in referencing these books to extract specific details of genealogical data. Such county histories are often well known for having a plethora of inaccurate specific details about given individuals. One has to praise many of these compilers for their often monumental pioneer work in compiling historical records of the county - but at the same time - forgive them for the almost always failure for clear documentation and source referencing - and for the many errors made in an era with no computers, no copiers, no typewriters, no Internet or email, and all so often information based on word of mouth and conflicting sources. The extensive manual work involved in typesetting a book also brought numerous errors into a publication never intended by its author. Many County Histories of significance to the Yancey family are listed at this site.