Anyone doing research in eastern Virginia’s historical records is certain to encounter Powhatan Indian place names. However, it is often difficult to relate these names to the modern landscape. Within this volume numerous variations of historic Indian place names are gathered under their most common spelling or modern equivalent. The information included in the thoroughly annotated volume was drawn from land patents, local and regional government records, public and private archives, and several collections of historical maps. This enables researchers to see how Indian place names changed over time and relate them to their equivalents in the modern landscape. Armed with this knowledge, investigators are more likely to succeed in locating the genealogical or historical records and artifacts they seek.
The authors have assembled the Powhatan place names under a main heading, which consists of their modern equivalent or most common spelling. Beneath that main heading are variations in the place name’s spelling, listed in chronological order. This allows researchers to see how names changed over time. Consider this example for Assateague, in the Tidewater:
Inlet: Accomack County; the waterway between Assateague Island and Wallops Island; formerly called Mattapany Inlet.
Assateeg (PB 7:269) (1683)
Assateteage (PB 7:537) (1683)
Assateag (PB 8:235) (1692)
Readers are encouraged to make abundant use of the index, as it provides ready access to the main headings under which individual place names are clustered.
Collectively, the authors have brought to this volume more than eighty years of experience in working with primary sources. Dr. Helen C. Rountree, Professor Emerita of Anthropology at Old Dominion University, who began compiling information on Virginia Indian place names in the 1970s, initiated this study. Among her works are Pocahontas’s People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia, and John Smith’s Chesapeake Voyages, 1607-1609, which provides numerous insights into the native way of life and native habitat. Historian and co-author Martha W. McCartney is the author of highly regarded books on America’s first colony, Jamestown. She specializes in 17th-century Virginia history and ethnohistory and is the recipient of the prestigious Daughters of the American Revolution’s National History Award.