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Back in 2010 when I was processing the Nelson County chancery suits, I found a remarkable genealogical chart of the prominent Carter family. From that discovery, I wrote my first Out of the Box blog—A Tree Grows In…Chancery! Now, I am here to testify that not only does lightning strike twice, but in the same place as well. Mary Dean Carter, an archival assistant at the Library of Virginia since 2007, was thrilled about my first revelation related to her father’s lineage.

While helping process the Halifax County chancery in 2014, it was my second discovery though that really hit home for Mary Dean. In the beginning of the project Mary Dean had a simple request, let me know if you come across any suits with these last names: Long, Woodall, Land, Burton, Hudson, or VanHook. These surnames belong to her known relatives residing in Halifax County. In a rather lengthy chancery suit from 1869, Heirs of Jesse (Jessee) Ballow v. Exr of Jesse (Jessee) Ballow, etc.1869-021, I uncovered relatives on her mother’s side of the family.

With the discovery of another well-preserved genealogical chart, Mary Dean determined that her third great grandfather, Hyram Hudson, was a direct descendant of Jesse Ballow’s sister, Anne. A color coded key is provided for reading the chart. Jesse Ballow died in Cumberland County and was declared of unsound mind. The cause contends that his will was obtained by fraudulent means on the part of the named executors. One of the plaintiffs in the suit, Hudson, was a resident of North Carolina at the time and “was never served with any notice or summons in said case.” He and the other plaintiffs were “entitled to their distributive share in Jesse’s large state of both real and personal property.” These heirs were challenging the validity of Ballow’s will.

According to the commissioner’s findings listed on the back of the chart, Hyram Hudson was entitled to 1/3 of 1/21 part—that is to say 1/63 part—of the estate of Jesse Ballow. As the docket indicates, the cause transpired over a twenty-two year period and was never resolved. The last order was filed in 1860. Due to an extensive period of inactivity, the cause was stricken from the docket in 1869. Hyram Hudson passed away in 1867 in Halifax County without ever receiving any portion of his uncle’s estate. Other documents found in the cause contain additional genealogical information, such as an extensive list of defendants and where they resided (mainly in Halifax, Buckingham and Cumberland counties but also outside the state) and an account of the sale of Ballow’s slaves.

Helping someone find a tangible part of their family’s history is always gratifying. Helping process the Library of Virginia’s wonderful collections is truly a unique way for me to stay connected to the Commonwealth’s history and heritage. This historical connection has also played a vital role in my own life as a native daughter. I figure if I stick around long enough, I will eventually uncover the piece of the puzzle that connects my father’s family to Mary Dean’s family. Don’t think for a minute that I am not working on it!

The Halifax County chancery causes, 1753-1913, are now available online from the Chancery Records Index. The processing, indexing, and digital reformatting of the Halifax County chancery suits was made possible through the innovative Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP), a cooperative program between the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Court Clerks Association (VCCA), which seeks to preserve the historic records found in Virginia’s circuit courts.


Callie Lou Freed was born at Fort Belvoir, Virginia in Fairfax County.  She spent her childhood in Stafford County.  She has worked at the Library of Virginia for the past 22 years.  First, she was an Information Services Assistant based in the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office in Alexandria, Virginia.  For the past 16 years, she has been a Local Records Archivist in the Library’s Circuit Court Records Preservation Program.

Callie Freed

Local Records Archivist


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