February 2021 - The Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center for Genealogy and Local History (RELIC)
Start your historical journey here. RELIC's email newsletter highlights upcoming free events and happenings. Genealogy and local Virginia history are our specialty as a service provided by the Prince William Public Libraries. You can always find more about us on
RELIC's webpage.
In response to staff hours being put towards vaccine call centers, PWPL will offer Contact-Free Curbside Pickup Service only beginning February 1. The physical buildings are not open to the public, but other services will remain available, even while many staff are working at the call centers. RELIC will continue to be available by phone or email. Read more.
The following virtual programs can be accessed on our website beginning on the dates shown. Previous RELIC programs can be viewed on RELIC's Programs webpage.


The Virginia Reserve Militia was the first line of defense for Prince William County in World War II. Old men and boys, "veteran sportsmen," were ready to respond in case of invasion. For the first time, their names have been compiled to recognize their service. Join us as historian J. Nathan McDonald discusses these men and their service.
The Center for Mason Legacies is a new interdisciplinary research group established by the George Mason University Libraries, and the GMU College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Their mission is to preserve and examine the legacy of George Mason IV (1725-1792), his ancestors and heirs, and the people he enslaved. Student researchers join faculty members in studying the past and present influences of our university's namesake though a combination of scholarly research, public history, teaching innovation, and community outreach. Center director Dr. George Oberle will talk about the initial Enslaved Children of George Mason project, as well as new digital research projects which document the Mason family and their connection to local history.

Tuesday, February 16, 7:00 p.m.
The Virginia Outdoor Foundation owns several thousand acres in the Bull Run Mountains, many of which encompass land grants dating back to the 18th century. Local historian, researcher, and archeologist Patrick O'Neill will be presenting on some new research findings on land held by many African American families in the Preserve. He will also have news about new land acquisitions, and other updates.

The RELIC department is fortunate to receive donations of original documents related to local history. Recently, we took possession of a 1799 survey of the town of Dumfries. RELIC Librarian Don Wilson will analyze the survey, but also use it as an example of how to use primary documents in research, and what new information acquisition of this document brings to light. 

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation owns and operates a 2,350 acre preserve that sits just 35 miles outside of our nation's capital. Before becoming a state-designated Natural Area Preserve and being managed as an open-air museum and living laboratory, this mountainous landholding was home to many marginalized peoples. Summers Cleary and Barinaale Dube will be sharing the work Virginia Outdoors Foundation is embarking upon to present an inclusive and equitable history of the Preserve's diversely peopled past, sharing efforts to cultivate diversity through the Preserve's fellowship program.


While you are collecting data for your family history, don't forget your family photographs. The photos your family has saved should be an important feature of your published record.
If you can identify all your grandparent's brothers and sisters, you may be able to identify the spouses and children of those uncles and aunts. It's doubly good if an elderly relative has already confirmed who all the people in the photo albums are so you won't have to guess.
Photos may have notes attached explaining what event was being celebrated, which gives you an opportunity to add that event to your family history. The album may have photos of the old family homestead as well.
If you have photos which you cannot recognize, perhaps over a century old, there may be a way to get more information out of them. If you know what branch of the family they came from, see if the number of children and their relative ages match what you know about the family. My uncle had a large family photo framed on his wall, but he had no idea who they were. A man and wife were shown outside their house with 13 children surrounding them. Knowing the family history there was only one group that could be: my great-grandmother Bettie Arendt, born 1871. Her younger brother Harry was youngest in the family, about three years younger. The rest of the children could be figured out by birthdates and size. The picture was taken around 1875, which the clothing they were wearing reinforced.
If you don't have a clue which family it might be, studying the clothing, hats, and hairstyles might at least give you an approximate date for the photo. After you have the date, perhaps you can guess based on special items in the photo. What are they doing? Is a building recognizable? Does the photo have the name of a photographer or city? All of these "clues" might help.
Whatever you do, don't discard photos you don't immediately understand. Eventually, you may discover that they are a valuable part of your family's heritage.
We can now make appointments for virtual visits with Don Wilson, "The Tree Doctor." We can set up an hour appointment to discuss and dive into your brick wall research problem through the magic of the internet. Call 703-792-8380 or email us at [email protected] to set up a time. Time to make that New Year's resolution!

[email protected] or 703-792-8150
Questions and comments are always welcome.
Prince William Public Libraries, 13083 Chinn Park Drive, Woodbridge, VA 22192