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Court Records History

Pre-1914 court papers located in the Circuit Court for the City of Fredericksburg, Virginia, are being processed for archival storage. As part of this on-going project, a database containing the names of primary parties (plaintiffs, defendants, deponents, petitioners, etc) has been created. Also included in the database are names and places contained in remarkable contents of records containing documents of historical or genealogical significance. 

All words have been entered in the database spelled as they were found in the original documents (typos excepted). Consequently, several variations of a word may be found.

Court Papers

Court papers in the Circuit Court for the City of Fredericksburg are from the following courts:

Hustings / Corporation Court for the Town / City of Fredericksburg (1782-1941) 
District Court for the Spotsylvania District (1789-1808)
Superior Court of Law for Spotsylvania County (1808-1831)
Superior Court of Chancery for the Spotsylvania District (1814-1831) 
Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery for Spotsylvania County (1831-1851)
Circuit Court for Spotsylvania County (1852-1889) 
Circuit Court for the City of Fredericksburg (1889-current) 

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Courts in the Commonwealth of Virginia

Hustings / Corporation Court

The Hustings Court, also known as the Corporation Court in jurisdictions incorporated as independent cities, was the town/city equivalent of the County Court. It was presided over by Justices under the Mayor of the town/city and heard civil and criminal matters. Civil actions on appeal and criminal matters resulting in conviction were sent to the next higher court (Hustings Court to District Court / Superior Court and Corporation Court to Circuit Court) for further action.

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District Court

District Courts, created in order to relieve the General Court of the congestion of common law cases, were established in eighteen Virginia localities and the district of Kentucky in 1789. Each district was comprised of several counties and court was held twice a year in each district. General Court judges presided over the District Courts. The court for the District of Spotsylvania included the Town of Fredericksburg, and the counties of Spotsylvania, Caroline, King George, Stafford, Orange, and Culpeper. District Courts were abolished in 1808, being replaced by Superior Courts of Law.

Citation :
THE VIRGINIA STATE COURT SYSTEM, 1776-
by 
Thomas Jefferson Headlee, Jr.
Virginia State Library
1969

towl.gifNotes:
Madison County was also part of the District for Spotsylvania as evidenced by the court records.
The records for the Spotsylvania District Court are located in Fredericksburg because the District Court sat in the Fredericksburg courthouse, not in the Spotsylvania County courthouse. Consequently, this Court is often referred to as the Fredericksburg District Court.
Among the records in Fredericksburg are a number of cases which were instituted in the General Court and moved later to the newly created District Court.

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Superior Court of Law

Superior Courts of Law were created in 1808, superceding the District Courts and maintaining the same district structure for criminal and civil cases. The courts, established in each county, met twice a year, presided over by a General Court judge riding a circuit from county to county. Consequently, these courts are often referred to as "Circuit Courts", "Circuit Courts of Law" or "Circuit Superior Courts".

Citation :
THE VIRGINIA STATE COURT SYSTEM, 1776-
by 
Thomas Jefferson Headlee, Jr.
Virginia State Library
1969

towl.gifNote:
The records for Spotsylvania Superior Court of Law are located in Fredericksburg because the court sat in the Fredericksburg courthouse, not in the Spotsylvania County courthouse. Consequently, this Court is often referred to as the Fredericksburg Superior Court of Law.

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Superior Court of Chancery

Superior Courts of Chancery were created in 1802 in order to expedite the hearing of chancery cases, which had previously been heard in the High Court of Chancery. Superior Courts were established in three districts and are sometimes referred to as "District Courts of Chancery". The number of Superior Court districts was increased to six in 1812, to eight in 1813/1814 and to nine late in 1814. The Spotsylvania District for the Superior Court of Chancery, established in 1814, included Caroline, Culpeper, Fauquier, Fairfax, Lancaster, Northumberland, Madison, King George, Orange, Prince William, Richmond, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Essex and Westmoreland Counties and the Town of Fredericksburg.

Citation :
THE VIRGINIA STATE COURT SYSTEM, 1776-
by 
Thomas Jefferson Headlee, Jr.
Virginia State Library
1969

towl.gifNote:
The records for Spotsylvania Superior Court of Chancery are located in Fredericksburg because the court sat in the Fredericksburg courthouse, not in the Spotsylvania County courthouse. Consequently, this Court is often referred to as the Fredericksburg Superior Court of Chancery.

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Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery

Circuit Superior Courts of Law and Chancery were created in 1831, superceding the Superior Courts of Law and the Superior Courts of Chancery. The courts, held in each county twice a year and presided over by a General Court judge riding a circuit from county to county, were abolished in 1852 when the Virginia Constitution of 1851 became effective.

Citation :
THE VIRGINIA STATE COURT SYSTEM, 1776-
by 
Thomas Jefferson Headlee, Jr.
Virginia State Library
1969

towl.gifNote:
The records for Spotsylvania Superior Court of Law and Chancery are located in Fredericksburg because the court sat in the Fredericksburg courthouse, not in the Spotsylvania County courthouse. Consequently, this Court is often referred to as the Fredericksburg Superior Court of Law and Chancery. The Court Order Book for the period shows the last reference to Law and Chancery appearing in the May 1850 court term.

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Circuit Court

Circuit Courts, established in 1852, were held twice a year in each county and were presided over by a judge riding a circuit from county to county.

Citation :
THE VIRGINIA STATE COURT SYSTEM, 1776-
by 
Thomas Jefferson Headlee, Jr.
Virginia State Library
1969

towl.gifNotes:
The records for Spotsylvania Circuit Court through 1889 are located in Fredericksburg because the court sat in the Fredericksburg courthouse, not in the Spotsylvania County courthouse, until Fredericksburg was incorporated as an independent city at which time this court was convened at the Spotsylvania County courthouse and the Fredericksburg Circuit Court was established in the City of Fredericksburg. The Court Order Book for the period shows the first reference to Circuit Court appearing in 16 August 1850 proceedings.

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Disclaimer: Data provided by Historic Court Records is not official and is provided by the Historic Court Records site for genealogical and historical research purposes only. All data contained herein should be verified by obtaining a copy of the original record.

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Last modified: April 13, 2010
URL: http://www.historiccourtrecords.org/courthistory.stm