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Professional Genealogist Receives Top Award!

Sandy, Utah — The Board for Certification of Genealogists Education Fund, a Massachusetts charitable trust, is pleased to announce that James W. Petty, cgrs , ag , has been awarded the 2005 Donald Mosher Award for Virginia research.

Petty, a professional genealogist with a 35 year career in professional genealogy, is based in Salt Lake City , Utah . He is president of HEIRLINES Family History & Genealogy, Inc., and co-founder of Heritage Genealogy College . He holds the Certified Genealogical Record Specialist sm credential from BCG and the Accredited Genealogist CM credential from the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen). He also has college degrees in Genealogy and History. Among his research interests are 17 th century Virginia subjects.

The Mosher Award is a $500 grant to help fund research on colonial Virginia families. Topics may be a family genealogy, a study of immigrant origins, or publication of previously unpublished colonial Virginia records.

Petty’s project involves extracting all records of head rights in the extant county court minutes in early Virginia . He will then compare the resulting lists with those already published in Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants by Nell Marion Nugent, a standard published reference for Virginia research that includes over 80,000 headright certificates issued between 1623 and 1776. Headrights were land grants issued by the colonial government to Virginians based on the number of individuals brought to the colony.

In his preliminary work, Petty has found that in almost every county, more than 80 percent of the entries differ from comparable entries in the land patents as published in Cavaliers and Pioneers , and in some cases the differences are significant. He has also found that the minute books show records from an earlier date than the certificates and as many as 50 percent of the minute book entries do not appear in the grants. The work will help descendants of the early settlers establish a date of arrival in Virginia . Already in progress, it has a target completion date of June, 2006.

Merrill Mosher, cg , of Coos Bay , Oregon established the Donald Mosher Memorial Award in 2001 in memory of her husband of thirty-two years. The competitive award is given to a researcher submitting a Virginia family genealogy, research paper on a Virginia immigrant, or an outline and plan for making previously unpublished Virginia records available. The Board for Certification of Genealogists Education Fund, a charitable trust which supports genealogical education, administers the award.

Beth A. Stahr, cgrs , president of the Board for Certification of Genealogists® and trustee of the BCG Education Fund, joined Mrs. Mosher in presenting the award during the BCG luncheon on 3 June 2005 at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Nashville , Tennessee . More information on BCG and the BCG Education Fund is available at

As part of his application for the grant, Petty explained that his work to date revealed that headright lists attached to land grants were the last record in the chain of records, and the earlier records—including the county certificates he is studying—may have preceded the land grant by three to thirty years. The number of county entries missing on the colony records means that historical estimates of colonial population based on Nugent’s lists might be doubled. Petty has also determined that lists on the land patents were often compilations of many different headright certificates, meaning it is likely that none of the people on any given patent list even knew each other, much less came to America on the same ship.

The consequence of this study are so drastic as to completely change how headright records in colonial Virginia should be viewed by researchers,  Petty continued. Many of the hopes of researchers based on the misconceptions of the past will be dashed. But learning correct principles about these colonial Virginia records will allow us to discover new viewpoints about these early sources, and open new possibilities about finding ancestors and their origins.

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