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Virginia Untold: The African American Narrative

Project overview and search strategies for accessing pre-1867 records of enslaved and free Black Virginians

Search Tips

How to Choose Search Terms

Many records in Virginia Untold have been transcribed and are full-text searchable, while others are indexed by name, date, locality (city or county), and record type.

  • Names include those of enslaved and free Black people as well as those of enslavers. Because enslaved people were considered property, they were often referred to without last names. Where enslaved people are recorded with a last name, the last name may belong to an enslaver; however, this varied by individual and region.
  • Spelling variations in names were common. For guidance, see Spelling Variations for Names Found in Virginia Untold.
  • Search terms may also include occupations (blacksmith, bricklayer, seamstress, waterman, mate); historical terms for skin color ("mulatto", "yellow"); terms related to an individual's physical characteristics or personal history (pregnant, child, deaf, smallpox, runaway, jail/gaol, "lunatic"); or names of towns, plantations, or ships.

Basic Search

Begin your search in Virginia Untold by typing a name, location (county or city), or keyword into the main search bar.

screenshot of virginia untold search page with red arrow at search bar


Limit your search by applying filters.

screenshot of virginia untold search page with red box around filters


The Coverage filter limits search results by county or city. Note that a maximum of 25 locations will appear in the filter menu. If you do not see the location you are looking for, add the location to your search terms. For more information on Virginia localities, see the various guides listed under "County and City Research" on our Libguides homepage.

screenshot of virginia untold search page with localities filterscreenshot of virginia untold search page


You can also filter search results using the Record Type filter.

Screenshot of Virginia Untold search page with Record Type filter


Advanced Search

Select "Advanced Search" for more search options. On this page you can create more detailed searches, combining keywords, names, localities, and record types and restricting results by date.

screenshot of virginia untold advanced search page with red arrow showing drop down


Viewing Records

Selecting the title text or the image icon on the catalog record will take you to a page with more information about the item. Select "Available at: Rosetta Repository" to access the original image and transcription.

screenshot of virginia untold metadata page red arrow pointing to digital access