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Genealogical Research

An overview of resources available at Swem Library for Genealogists along with ideas for other places to conduct research in the area.

About Virginia Counties and Cities

For those not from Virginia, the organization and government of the counties and cities might seem strange.  Virginia has 95 counties and 38 independent cities that are governed separately from the counties.  So, in Virginia, it is possible to live in a city that is not part of any county.  Williamsburg is one of those cities.  It borders both James City and York Counties, but it is not part of either of them (despite sharing government faculties and a school district with James City County).  County boundaries have also changed over the years, and cities were incorporated at different times.  Knowing the history of a county is important when trying to locate records. 

See the below books for help:

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

James City County and Williamsburg Records

Swem Library has some records related to James City County and Williamsburg City in both the general collection and in Special Collections.  Please consult the SCRC page of this guide for how to locate these records, along with a list of them. Available in the general collection and microforms are:

The library also has several Williamsburg directories both in the Rare Books Collection in Special Collections and more recent ones in the general collection upstairs.  Search the catalog by subject for “Williamsburg (Va.) Telephone directories” and “Williamsburg (Va.) directories” to find these telephone and other directories.  The earliest Williamsburg directory was published in 1898 and was called A Directory and Handbook of the City of Williamsburg and the County of James City, Virginia. It is available in Special Collections (F234 .W7 A18 1898).