Charlottesville, Virginia ca 2003:
I sifted through Order Books, Law Orders, Chancery Orders and Will books at the Albemarle Courthouse to confirm some of the information I had prior to my trip. I also had to follow-up on a contact I made with "Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness." This individual happen to be in the Albemarle Historical Society when I dashed in to ask questions. She didn't believe that I was the person on the other end of her replies nor did believe my eyes and that she was talking to me. It was great to meet her.
The Albemarle Historical Society has a set-up vertical file of surnames; and they did have Goins/Goings/Gowens in filing cabinets. I sat down and ran through the various news clippings and I had to laugh--to myself-- because I was nervous as I came across an article on someone," an African American who shared my first and surname, built and built a house in Charlottesville circa 1845.
At the time of the article--September 2002--, they were trying to save the house but I didn't have time to catch the air leaving my lungs to think about visiting the address to see if it was still standing. There were at least three articles on the subject; and I haven't determined if he is related. Yes, I made sure that I have copies. That would have opened a few more doors of inquiry which I didn't have time to walk through. It was an angle and it sold a historical map of Albemarle; I also bought it because I was looking for the area named in tax & property records. I must confess that I made a side trips to the University of Virginia and Monticello.
The visit to Monticello came from the story of Sally Hemings and an interest I had after seeing "Scientific American Frontiers." This particular episode "Unearthing Secret America" dealt with the seemingly high interest about the lives of slaves at Monticello. I wanted to see if the tour guide mentioned Sally Hemings and her children. They did. I wonder if my great great great grandfather Michael, who was the same age or one year older (perhaps younger) than Madison Hemings, ever crossed paths in Albemarle County? In a 1833 Census commissioned by a "select committee" in the Virginia legislature for the purpose of a census of all black and free people of color which was extraordinary because Virginia like most other states had been keeping records and track of colored people. I believe this census fell under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. The names were collected in order to deport black American people to Liberia. I don't know if this caused the black and free people color to move out of the State of Virginia but my great great great grandparents left. I listened and asked fair and nice questions. Theses questions just crossed my mind as I remember reading a couple of books on the subject matter just to prepare myself.
I would highly recommend the State Library of Virginia. It is state of the art while it (from seeing it with a very limited view) keeps its records in good order of an era when Order Books were extremely common. I must also say that I supplemented my visit (prior to it) with books about the sometimes hush-hushed history of Albemarle and Henrico Counties.
D.C. and Northern Virginia
Since I was in the neighborhood, I went to National Archives in Washington. It is the repository of the American history which keeps me up late nights. If I had one bad experience on this trip, it was trying to get in and get to information. They would not let me bring in a notebook which had photographs in them. It wasn't that I was denied but I had to leave my notebook outside; it was just like going through airport security. The feds are serious; well, they did just put a revitalized version of the Declaration of Independence out for public viewing. There are a few documents in Virginia which call into question the very essence of that document in Washington. They sit on the other side of the wall that houses documents like pension records. I guess they want(ed) to be extra careful.