Below is a list of some of the major archival locations for materials on life in Albemarle County during the Jim Crow era. After some basic information on each archive is a description of the major source materials available. Most descriptions are accompanied by an exemplary image of the source being discussed. Unless otherwise noted, sources cited are available for at least the first thirty years of the twentieth century. This guide is intended to facilitate further research by helping students of the period know what they might expect to find. But the sources described are not exhaustive of the materials in each archive. Part of the excitement of historical research lies in turning up the unanticipated, and researchers are encouraged to find materials not discussed here.
A word of explanation is in order with regard to sources in the city and county courthouses in Charlottesville. Charlottesville incorporated as an independent city in 1888. After that date, local records relevant to locations within city boundaries lie in the city courthouse (with the exceptions of documents of county-wide agencies, such as the Board of Supervisors). The city of Charlottesville, for example, holds will, deed, and land books separate from those of Albemarle County after 1888. Similarly, most courtroom activities for the city after 1888 occurred in the city's separate corporation court, for which there are separate order books, charter books, and so on. Always remember that city boundaries were not always what they are today. Charlottesville annexed land from the county four times after its original incorporation--in 1916, 1939, 1963, and 1968. Be sure that if you are looking for materials relevant to a particular location, you know where that location lay in the period being researched. To ensure comprehensiveness in ambiguous instances, it is strongly suggested that researchers look at materials in both courthouses.
Records sometimes, but not always, record the race of the individuals involved. Marriage records and land books, for example, do, but wills and deeds do not. For research that seeks to find information specifically about whites or blacks, or looking to make comparisons, it helps to be able to cross-reference names found in the legal records with city directories, censuses, or other materials listing names by race.
Courthouse documents (including those now housed at the Library of Virginia) record actions of a legal nature, and accordingly are frequently biased toward questions of property--who owes what to whom, who leaves what to whom, who buys what from whom, who stole what from whom. Reading these sources in alternative ways to their original intentions can be critical to answering questions about non-property related issues and to illuminating a larger picture of local communities.