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Chancery Records

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Title  Rockingham (VA) Chancery Records
Collection Reference Code   Cha 
Inclusive Dates  1766-1950
Creator  Rockingham County Circuit Court; Rockingham County Chancery Court 
Extent   183 boxes; 22 bound books; 92 linear feet 
Bio/Historical Note   Chancery Records are records pertaining to chancery causes. Chancery causes are cases of equity. According to Black's Law Dictionary, they are "administered according to fairness as contrasted with the strictly formulated rules of common law." A judge, not a jury, determines the outcome of the case. They typically deal with cases relating to divisions of estates or land, disputes over wills, divorces, debt, and business disputes. Chancery causes were heard and judged in Chancery Court, which was established in 1831 replacing the Superior Court of Law. In 1851 the Circuit Court replaced Chancery Court, however, chancery causes continued to be heard on the local level. The chancery court's functions are distinct from those of common law courts, which can order money damages to be paid, and where jury trials are available. The division between chancery and equity courts is partly based on the old English legal system. However, the original reason for the division between courts, which was so that law courts could follow statutory rules and equity courts could rule on issues of fairness, has been mostly lost. Chancery courts still exist in a few U.S. states today (check with the individual court for an exact list of what types of cases it hears). In other states, chancery court functions have been merged into the regular law courts' activities.



Chancery records have been maintained by the Circuit Court continuously since their creation. Over the years many of these records lost original order, as they had once been bundled together and kept based on the term of the court. In 2019, graduate student Kayla Heslin came to the Circuit Court to help establish archival arrangement, and because of the sheer number of records, she determined it to be too laborious to reverse engineer their organization.
Scope and Content  The Chancery Records unit house various documents relating to the Chancery Court in Rockingham County from the 19th century to the mid 20th century. However, a majority of the records date between 1910 and 1930. A large portion of this collection consists of the individual cases brought before the judge, along with their supporting documentation. Causes are arranged chronologically, and alphabetically by plaintiff last name. In most cases, the individual documents can be found: a "true bill" (plaintiff's complaint), answers (defendant's response), decrees (court's decision), depositions, affidavits, correspondence, lists of heirs, deeds, wills, slave records, business records or vital statistics, among other items. In addition to Chancery causes, the Chancery records contain Chancery Rule Books, Chancery Court Dockets, and Chancery Order books. Rule Books contain the records of the session of Court where complainant(s) began the process to have a suit heard. The Court Docket offers a brief record of court proceedings, and the Order books served as a synopsis of all matters brought before the court when it was in session. Because of the wealth of information these documents provide, genealogists and researchers will find them to be of great use. 
Index Terms  Court dockets, Court Proceedings, Court Records
Processing Information Processed by Kayla Heslin and Megan Schoeman December 2019
Arrangement This unit is arranged into two series: Chancery Causes and Chancery Books. The Chancery Causes are arranged chronologically based on the year the case was filed, and alphabetically based on the last name of the plaintiff. If the plaintiff is a business or corporation, the first letter in the name of the business if used. Because the original order had been lost, the archivist felt this was the most logical and user-friendly way to arrange the records. Additionally, it should be made clear that a large portion of Chancery Causes for Rockingham county prior to 1900 are housed by the Library of Virginia and are accessible through their online index here: https://www.virginiamemory.com/collections/chancery/ 
Conditions Governing Access This work has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.
Language English

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