Locating land records with racially restrictive covenants is labor-intensive, requiring knowledge of the historical record keeping practices of each jurisdiction as well as the record-keeping systems that enable us to access these documents. Each jurisdiction within NoVa is unique in terms of its community’s resources and archival accessibility. In all of the jurisdictions that we have mapped, we manually searched land records, using either electronic databases or bound volumes located in the local courthouses. We did not conduct computer-assisted searches because we did not have access to all digitized land records. Note: All documents and data used to identify and map the covenants are publicly accessible records.

Public Land Record Offices

Alexandria Circuit Court Clerk’s Office

520 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

Printed indexes from 1783 to October 1993. Records in printed books and on microfilm are available. Note: Use of cell phones or laptops are prohibited in the Courthouse; however, you can make xerox copies on site.

Arlington Circuit Court, Land Records Division

1425 N. Courthouse Road, Suite 6200, Arlington, VA 22201

All land records are accessible at public kiosks in the Land Records Office. Note: Use of cell phones or laptops are prohibited in the Courthouse, however you can make xerox copies on site.

Fairfax County Circuit Court Historic Records Center

4000 Chain Bridge Road, Suite 1600, Fairfax, VA 22030

Both Fairfax and Falls Church land records are housed in Fairfax County. Land records documents have been converted from microfilm and books into digital images that can be accessed at public computer terminals in the Research Room or remotely via a subscription to the Court Public Access Network (CPAN – see below).

Digitized Public
Land Records

Different electronic databases are used in three of four jurisdictions. In all cases, the search capability is limited.

In Alexandria, digitization is currently in process of older deed books. The  land records after October 1993 are maintained in an automated Supreme Court of Virginia Records Indexing System (also known as SRA) and are available in Clerk’s Office or via an online records system by subscription. 

Arlington’s electronic land record database, ROAM, offers access to land record documents from 1869 to the present. Full access to the database is available in kiosks at the Arlington County Courthouse. Remote access to land record images, including those prior to 1951, requires a paid subscription. This database is searchable by a number of fields such as subdivision, date, grantor, grantee, or real estate property code (RPC).

Falls Church and Fairfax County’s electronic land record database, CPAN, offers access to land records dating back to 1742. Full access is available at the courthouse or by a paid subscription. This database is only searchable by deed book and page.

Local Library Collections

Most of the local libraries house historical collections that offer insights on residential development. 

Alexandria maintains a city Archives & Records Center and Special Collections at the Kate Waller Barrett Public Library. These repositories maintain collections on the housing department, planning commission, city council minutes, permits, maps, and historical photographs.

Arlington County’s Center for Local History at the Central Library houses among many other materials oral histories, civic association records, as well as a series of Franklin Survey maps (1935, 1938, 1942, 1945).

The Falls Church History Room at the Mary Riley Styles Public Library has ephemera files on subdivisions and prominent residents, many of whom became real estate speculators and developers. They also maintain photographs, oral histories, and maps.

The Virginia Room at the Fairfax County Public Library in the City of Fairfax provides a wealth of material on the county’s subdivisions, prominent developers, and community collections, which focus on specific neighborhoods and towns. They also have photographs, oral histories, and maps.

Other Archival Records

In addition to the official county land records, there are a number of collections that can assist in locating racial restrictions for each jurisdiction. One regional collection that contains relevant information regarding land records is the Davis-Ruffner Title Company files. This multi-site archival collection covers the 1920s through the 1980s, providing insight into the day-to-day operation of NoVA’s real estate market. Files include correspondence, photographs, invoices, maps, and other relevant documents. This collection is fully processed in Fairfax and Arlington Counties but remains unprocessed in the City of Alexandria.

Tax Records

Tax records can help when locating parcels. For example, the  Arlington Property Search is an online resource granting access to parcel level information, including the legal description for properties. Archive cards often list prior land records that are associated with a particular parcel.

National Archives

Census Records: Census data from 1790 to 1950 has been digitized and is searchable online.

Records of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Record Group 31: 1930–1970

Newspapers

Library of Virginia: The Virginia Chronicle

Library of Congress: Chronicling America

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