Visit to Courthouse
    by Jane Trask


Today we went to downtown Charlottesville to visit the Albemarle County Courthouse with the hope of finding some documents that would tell us more about the Birdwood property and the people who once lived at the site, including enslaved people. We were particularly focused on finding the will of Birdwood’s first owner, William Garth, because we thought that it might have an accompanying document that listed an inventory of his possessions, including Birdwood and what other supporting buildings may have stood at the site.

When we arrived at the courthouse, we discovered that records for the 1800s have not been digitized and had to spend some time figuring out where to start with the courthouse’s large collection. We found a guide to the collection, prepared by Sam Towler, that helped direct us to the most useful types of documents, and through this found an index to deeds that listed all the mentions of WIlliam Garth in deed books. We followed this to a plat from 1878 that shows the boundaries of the property and had some simple sketches of the buildings on site. We were hoping to find some context for why the plat was made or why it was contained in this book, but were unable to find anything concrete. We suspect that it may have been made in preparation of the sale of the property to Samuel Buck around 1878.

We also located William Garth’s will and an estate auction record, but these documents did not contain the property inventory that we had hoped they would. Therefore, we did not gain any more knowledge of what buildings originally stood at the site, but we did learn much more about the Garth family and how the property might have changed hands through the 1860s and 70s.