Skeletons in the Closet: 200 Years of Murders in Old Virginia. A Genealogical and Historical Resource Therese Fisher, A.G.
Eliza Heislop poisoned her husband with dog buttons. Lucy Stevens hacked her newborn infant into eight pieces. Handsome Dr. Robert Powell should have stayed away from the Kendall sisters.
Sensational aspects aside, these murders highlight a little known secret of genealogical detective work. While court and newspaper records were searched for murder victims or perpetrators, curiously, few of the victims or murderers appeared in any other records normally equated with genealogical research. The families involved in these cases often simply disappeared from the records, whether they were victims or accused; convicted or found not guilty.
The study of genealogy requires a study of the social and historical aspects of a time and place. Skeletons in the Closet examines all these influences in early Virginia, from the wealthy tidewater families who settled their disputes with duels, to the Civil War soldiers and free blacks who were more likely to meet death in a tavern brawl. This book even reaches into the 20th century, ending with a few unsolved cases.
Dozens of names of local citizens are revealed as witnesses and jurors. Included is a chronology of murders from 1689-1994, population tables, lists of justices and sheriffs, notes on weather conditions, maps and photos. 2001, 121 pp., maps, illus., full name index, paper $16.50