Historic Records


Overview

Fairfax Circuit Court Historic Records is located in the Fairfax County Historic Courthouse at 4000 Chain Bridge Road on the first floor in Suite 1600. We have records dating from the formation of Fairfax County in 1742 through the early 1900s. We are open from 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (closed for lunch 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.) Monday through Friday. If you plan to bring a cell phone or any photographic equipment with you on your visit to Historic Records, please contact us at 703-246-4168 or historicalrecords@fairfaxcounty.gov. See the Courthouse Parking and Transportation page for parking information and a map.

Historic Fairfax Courthouse Tours Flyer
Starting October 31, 2014 - Every Friday at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
Meet in front of the Historic Courthouse (under the covered walkway)
For more information, please call 703-246-4168

Found In The Archives

Monthly issues of Found in the Archives will highlight interesting and unique documents in the custody of the Fairfax Circuit Court Historic Records Center.

Archival Holdings

  • Marriage information from 1742 to the mid 1800s.
  • Marriage Licenses from 1860s up through 1957. After 1957, see Marriage License Information.
  • Birth and Death information from 1700s and 1800s.
  • Birth and Death Certificates for the years 1912-1917 only. For all other years before and after those dates please check with the Virginia Department of Health.
  • Deed Books from 1742 through 1944. After 1944 see Land Records Information.
  • Will Books from 1742 through 1948. After 1948, see Probate Information.
  • Court Minute Books from 1749 through 1903.
  • Early Court files. Chancery up to 1942 and Law up to 1931. After those dates see Civil Records.
  • Pension records, Southern Claims, and other assorted Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War records.
  • Tax Records for both Real Estate and Personal Property from 1853 through 1954.
  • Election Records from the 1800s and early 1900s.


Research Aids

Historic Records staff has created finding aids to help locate records within particular record groups.  A small number of these finding aids are available online. Historic Records also maintains a small library of research material relating to Fairfax County and Virginia in our office. 


Special Holdings

Historic Records has many original 18th century and 19th century wills, deeds, maps and other official documents concerning Fairfax County, its citizens and notables available for viewing.

  • Fairfax Circuit Court was the court of record where George Washington and Martha Washington's wills were probated. These wills are not on permanent display for preservation and conservation reasons and are, at times, loaned out to Mount Vernon and other historical institutions. Except for specially announced displays, they are available for viewing at the Circuit Court by appointment only.

  • On display in Historic Records is an original land grant ( transcriptPDF icon) from Lord Fairfax (signed by William Fairfax, his agent and cousin) to John Colvill in the year 1739 for land that now encompasses Great Falls Park and Wolf Trap Farm Park.

  • At the time the Pohick Church was built, it was an Anglican custom for landed gentry to purchase private box pews to provide private space at public worship. This custom also helped to defray the cost of the new church's construction. Historic Records is custodian of two original deeds for church pews in the Pohick Church dated 1774, signed by George Washington, George Mason and other Fairfax County notables who were members of the vestry of the Truro Parish. One deedPDF icon (transcriptPDF icon) is between the Church Vestry and Martin Cockburn while the other deedPDF icon ( transcriptPDF icon ) is a transfer of a pew from Thomas Withers Coffer to William Triplett.

  • On May 23, 1861 a vote was held in all Fairfax County precincts to decide if the citizens would join the rest of Virginia in seceding from the Union. The Ordinance of Secession shows how the voters cast their ballots. Separated by precinct it helps not only to identify the residents of the county in 1861, but shows the way different areas of the county felt about seceding.

  • When James Buchanan was Secretary of State he signed a statement attesting to the fact that a Mr. S. Dunn was a Justice of the Peace in Washington, D.C. in 1848. The statement was admitted into the court records for the case of John King versus Henry Fairfax's Administrators. This document includes Buchanan's signature and the seal of the Secretary of State. James Buchanan was the 15th President of the United States serving from 1857 until 1861.

  • John Singleton Mosby commanded a troop of forces during the Civil War known for staging raids and harassing Union troops in Northern Virginia. His skill at evading capture made him a hero to the Confederate side, earning him the nickname "The Grey Ghost." After the War, Mosby went back to his law practice in Warrenton, Virginia. This letter was sent to William Fitzhugh, requesting a suit be filed in Fairfax County Court for repayment of a debt.

  • In 1848 Henry Clay, Senator from Kentucky, wrote a letter to the clerk of the Court, F.W. Richardson responding to a letter written to him. Although Richardson's letter no longer exists, Senator Clay's reply demonstrates his capacity to convey his thoughts on any matter. The letter speaks highly of his respect for George Washington and regret that "his moderation, his virtue and his wisdom do not now preside in one public council".

  • In the winter of 1861 Confederate forces at the Fairfax Court House decided to move to a position further west for the winter. Union troops moved in to fill the vacuum and the Fairfax Courthouse and surrounding city were occupied for the duration of the Civil War. This rule bookPDF icon, sitting in the Courthouse when Union troops moved in, served as a diversion for Union soldiers to draw, practice their penmanship or write about their wishes for the outcome of the war. These are just a few of the pages from this book, and the 'graffiti' on them can also be found in other buildings in Fairfax City.

  • Although better known for his role in drafting the Virginia Bill of Rights, from 1765 until he resigned in 1788, George Mason served as a justice in Fairfax County. Mason presided over a variety of matters, the records of which are available in the court minute books. Mason wrote this decisionPDF icon ( transcriptPDF icon) concerning a boundary dispute between Peter Smith and James Jennings.

  • On June 1, 1789, the United States Congress passed a law that required officials to take an oath affirming their support the Constitution of the United States. Section 3 of this law made clear that officials holding executive or judicial positions at the state level would also be required to take this same oath. At the time this law was passed, George Mason served as a magistrate, or Justice of the Peace, in Fairfax County. A Virginia delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, George Mason was one of only three participants who refused to sign the new Constitution of the United States based on, among other reasons, the absence of a Bill of Rights. His refusal was documented in his " Objections to This Constitution of Government " which was printed in the Virginia Journal on November 22, 1787. In the Fairfax County Court Order Book which recorded all activity at the court from 1788 – 1792, an entry was made on August 16, 1789 indicating George Mason provided his resignationPDF icon. This resignation came one day before the Fairfax County Justices of the Peace swore their oaths to the Constitution.

  • Bryan Fairfax lived at Belvoir, close to George Washington's Mt. Vernon. The son of William Fairfax, Bryan served as a justice for Fairfax County at the same time as Washington. He also was an ordained Episcopal Minister and served as the chaplain of the Fairfax Parish for a time. This leasePDF icon ( transcriptPDF icon) between Bryan Fairfax and Perrygreen Mackness is a good example of the land records available at the Circuit Court.

  • The original will written by William FairfaxPDF icon (transcriptPDF icon) is located in Historic Records. William Fairfax was a prominent member of the elite in Fairfax County, and a close friend to George Washington even though he was forty-one years older. Fairfax's will shows the common way land was bequeathed in colonial period and provides a clear genealogy of the Fairfax family at Belvoir.


Records Prior to 1742

For records prior to 1742 for areas that are now located within Fairfax County see:

  • Prince William County for the years 1731 up to 1741
  • Stafford County for the years 1664 up to 1730
  • Westmoreland County for the years 1653 up to 1663
  • Northumberland County for the years 1645 - 1652


Counties/Cities Formed From Fairfax

The following areas were once part of Fairfax County. For records prior to their formation please check the above list. There have been many boundary changes and annexations in the years following their formation. Please verify the exact boundary locations with the counties in question.

  • Loudoun County was formed in 1757.
  • The area that now encompasses Alexandria City and Arlington County was annexed during the creation of District of Columbia in 1791 and remained part of D.C. until 1847. At that time it was returned to Virginia as the independent county of Alexandria. Later it was split into Alexandria City and Arlington County.
  • The City of Falls Church was incorporated in 1848, however, their court and land records were kept by Fairfax Circuit Court until the end of 1987. Records after that date can be found in Arlington County.
  • The City of Fairfax was incorporated in 1961. Their court and land records are kept by Fairfax Circuit Court.

DD-214/Military Discharge Records

Per Virginia Code § 17.1-265, the Clerk of the Circuit Court of the county or city wherein a person discharged from the armed forces of the United States resides shall record, upon presentation, free of charge, the original or a properly authenticated copy of either the discharge certificate or the report of separation from active duty (Department of Defense Document DD-214), or both. Historic Records maintains these records. Please contact us by phone at 703-246-4168 or email at historicalrecords@fairfaxcounty.gov for more information.

Research

Basic inquires may be made over the phone at 703-246-4168, by email at historicalrecords@fairfaxcounty.gov, or by mail at Fairfax Circuit Court, Attention: Historic Records, 4000 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 1600, Fairfax, VA 22030. More extensive research must be done in person or, if you live out of the area, by hiring a private researcher.


Copies

Copies can be made of most of our documents for a fee of 50¢ per page, payable in advance. If you are unsure of the number of pages of your document please check with the Historic Records staff. Personal checks are not accepted. Please send a money order or certified check made payable to "Clerk of the Circuit Court" and a large self-addressed, stamped envelope for the return of your copies.



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