This is an exceptionally thorough work, for it contains genealogical abstracts from more than 7,000 issues of eighty newspapers printed in Virginia in the 18th century! In addition, where there were gaps in the Virginia papers, newspapers from nearby states were scanned for Virginia material. In selecting items to abstract, Dr. Headley looked especially for those that gave at least two pieces of genealogical data: age and place of residence, for example, date of death and names of executors, or name of spouse and place of residence.
The data provided came from marriage notices, death notices, estate sales and settlements, advertisements for runaways–usually servants, apprentices, slaves, or deserters–and court cases. Information furnished in the abstracts varies from item to item, of course. Marriage notices, death notices, and estate settlements usually provide details on next of kin, occupation, and place of residence, while notices for runaways tend to be the juiciest of all. They can provide minute descriptions down to the manner of wearing the hair, tattoos, personality, and clothing; and they sometimes give place of birth, age, date imported, name of ship on which imported, occupation, and suspected destination.
But the chief thing is that this work draws together all genealogical data in 18th-century Virginia newspapers–in itself a stupendous achievement. Thanks to Dr. Headley’s labors, we now have abstracts of approximately 10,000 items of a genealogical nature found in 18th-century Virginia papers, and an index to an additional 10,000 persons mentioned in the notices. If you’ve hit a dead-end in your Virginia research, this may be the way out.