The SCRC is located on the first floor of Swem Library and houses the university archives, rare books, manuscripts and other materials that require special care and storage. Their holdings include numerous primary source materials such as family papers, correspondence, diaries, ledgers, scrapbooks, legal documents, photographs, and more. They also have secondary sources such as genealogy collections, newspapers, and research notes. Though the SCRC’s collections focus largely on Williamsburg and Virginia, they also contain primary and secondary sources from many other locations. Patrons are welcome to register online before arriving. The SCRC hours not only vary from Swem Library’s hours but also change throughout the year. You are encouraged to check their schedule before you plan your visit.
When searching for genealogy-related subjects in the SCRC, we recommend that you search for family surnames and collateral lines (all spelling variations) and the area (city, county, state, etc.) where your ancestor lived. If you fail to find your ancestor or family mentioned in our databases, then the next step is to perform on-site research using ledgers, family papers, or other material from the same geographical area. This step can be time-consuming, but rewarding; for example, a shoemaker’s account book could contain mention of your ancestor having purchased a pair of shoes, providing information about the location, dates of life, and activities of your relative.
Ancestors with William & Mary connections can often be located in the faculty/alumni files; student diaries and scrapbooks; yearbooks, newspapers, and other university publications; photograph files, and other collections. Knowing the years during which your ancestor was associated with the College is a great help in narrowing down the sources to check.
Below you will find a brief list and links to selected collections held by the SCRC
The SCRC has records related to James City County and Williamsburg City. A good place to start is the James City County Series in the Virginia Counties Collection, 1600-2000 and Series 32: Williamsburg in the Virginia Cities Collection, 1663-1980.
The following records are also available:
There are also several Williamsburg directories both in the SCRC. 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. It is entitled A Directory and Handbook of the City of Williamsburg and the County of James City, Virginia, and it is available in Special Collections. (F234 .W7 A18 1898).
The Williamsburg Historic Records Association (WHRA) is an organization dedicated to collecting and preserving records of post-colonial Williamsburg, James City County, and York County. All of its material is donated to the Special Collections Research Center in Swem Library. Search the Special Collections Database for “Williamsburg Historic Records Association” to see what they have donated.
Special Collections also has two oral history collections documenting 20th century Williamsburg and James City County. The first is the Williamsburg Documentary Project conducted by the American Studies Program at William & Mary. Records are available in Special Collections, but many of the interviews have been posted online (circa 2008-2014). The second project is the James City County Oral History Collection, 1983-1986. Transcripts are available in Special Collections. (MS 00241).
The papers of George Washington Southall (Mss 39.1 So8) include notes and documents regarding lawsuits and civil proceedings, 1831-1851, in which Southall (a Williamsburg lawyer) was involved. Many of the cases contain information from the "burned" counties which lost their records during the Civil War.
Listed below are several other useful collections for genealogists. Consult the Special Collections Database for more information.
The Special Collections Research Center has records such as account books, ledgers, and daybooks which can be helpful to genealogists. They can reveal information about people's everyday lives and provide proof that someone was in a particular place at a particular time. Consult the Special Collections Database to see further descriptions of many of these collections.
Consult the Special Collections Database to see further descriptions of many of these collections.