Featured Virginia History Sites

(Click on the title to read the full-length History Web Review from the Journal of American History)

Virtual Jamestown
A work in progress, Virtual Jamestown is a good place to begin exploring the history of Jamestown. This site includes 63 letters and first-hand accounts, available in original-spelling or modern-spelling versions, 100 public records, from census data to laws, 30 maps and images, and a sample of documents on labor contracts. The site will add court records, including deeds, wills, and court order books. There are a number of excellent K-12 teaching tools and classroom activities, including “Jobs in Jamestown” that teaches students to use census data to research occupations of colonial settlers, “Jamestown Newsletter,” that helps students research questions about life in the colony, and “Planning an Escape,” in which students study runaway slave advertisements and investigate the range of factors a slave had to consider before escaping. The reference section includes a timeline extending from 1502 to the present, narratives by prominent historians, including Bernard Bailyn, links to 15 related sites, and a bibliography of 20 primary and secondary sources.
Colonial Williamsburg
Intended to promote tourism to Colonial Williamsburg, this website is also rich in educational resources. Visitors may Experience the Life by selecting one of 12 categories, ranging from animals to food to the African-American Experience, and will find information and resources about each topic. For example, visitors can learn about colonial clothing for men, women, and children. There is a paper doll game where players must assemble the various layers of colonial clothing in the proper order. Selecting the link See the Places allows users to virtually visit 27 buildings, including the prison (Public Gaol) or the Capitol, and eight colonial sites, including Market Square and Duke of Gloucester Street. Meet the People allows visitors to learn about prominent Williamsburg natives, such as the Randolph family, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry or meet more diverse groups, like African Americans or colonial children. The Teacher Resource section allows educators to virtually tour Colonial Williamsburg or learn about the science of mapping colonial America. It also provides 18 lesson plans for exploring such topics as the colonial reaction to the Stamp Act or the murder trial of Abigail Briggs.
Probing the Past: Online Probate Records 1740-1810—Coming Soon
What was daily life like in the 18th century? For slaves? For slaveowners? What objects did people use everyday for work, eating, or play? Presenting 325 probate inventories, this website provides a unique window into daily life in Virginia and Maryland between 1740 and 1810. In this time period, county courts appointed appraisers, local men, to visit an estate after its owner died, list what was there, and estimate its value. These listings, called probate records or inventories, can be analyzed to illuminate a family’s routines, rituals, and social relations, as well as a region’s economy and connection to larger markets. These inventories are a sample from the region at this time, picked to be representative of the furnishings in George Mason's Gunston Hall. They are all digitized, transcribed, and searchable. For a general overview, the inventories can be browsed by decade and county—including York, Norfolk, Richmond, and Fairfax counties in Virginia. For more detailed information on the role of material culture in early Virginia life, the site's Interpreting section presents interviews with two scholars who use probate records to discuss topics such as slavery and slave life, credit and debt, and women and property ownership. Three detailed lesson plans, written by Virginia teachers, are also available, providing suggestions for incorporating these rich sources into classroom learning.

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© 2006 Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media