Happy Anniversary

An 165 year old wedding gift leads to a whole new chapter in my research.


One hundred and sixty-five years ago today, one of my sixteen pairs of (soon-to-be) 3x great-grandparents married in northern Virginia. Okay, big deal, right? If every genealogist went back and wrote about all their ancestors’ wedding anniversaries, there wouldn’t be time for much else. What makes this one special, in my opinion, is a certain wedding gift which has survived despite the horrors of war and the ravages of time.


Rev. O. A. Kinsolving performed the wedding ceremony for Henry Grafton “Hal” Dulany and Mary Eliza “Ida” Powell on 06 Jun 1855, probably in Middleburg, Loudoun County, Virginia. There are only a couple of sources which documented this fact at the time and are still extant.[1] One of these sources is the Dulany family bible. An inscription is still visible on one of the first blank pages. It reads:


Henry and Ida Dulany

from their friends

Wm B and C P Cochran

June 6th 1855[2]


This simple inscription is evidence for the bible being a wedding gift. Dr. William Bailey Cochran and Catherine Powell Cochran were more than just casual friends, at least in my estimation. To receive such a wonderful, and probably expensive gift such as a family bible must have meant that the young couple meant something to the Cochrans. In addition, Catherine Powell Cochran and Mary Eliza Powell Dulany were first cousins. Mary’s father and Catherine’s mother were brother and sister. According to the 1850 U.S. Federal Census, the Cochran family only lived a few doors down from the Powells in Middleburg, Loudoun County, Virginia.[3]


As with most family bibles, there are birth, marriage, and death dates of the family written in the blank pages. In the middle of the bible, there are pages marked “Family Record” at the top. I can say that my birth is one of the last entries in the bible (my sister didn’t make it in!). However, what shocked me when I first saw this bible last year was not my name, but two words at the top of two of the “Family Record” pages: “Oakley servants.”[4]


Beneath the headings on these pages are two columns of the names and birth years of 79 enslaved persons. The Dulanys owned “Oakley,” a plantation outside of Upperville, Fauquier County, Virginia. I believe this record of enslaved people was written in 1860 or shortly thereafter, based partly on the last birth date entered. Based on the handwriting and what I know about the plantation management during this time period, I believe Ida Powell Dulany wrote all of the names and dates into the bible herself. It is possible this was done, at least in part, because of the 1860 Slave Schedules.[5]


What makes this list even more genealogically valuable, is that a good number of the people are listed in family groups. For example, Ida Dulany (the assumed compiler) would list a mother and her birth year, then write “her children” and list them below with their birth years. Rarely would a father be listed, however. I don’t know if this was a choice on Ida’s part or Ida just didn’t know who the fathers were in most cases (or didn’t care).


This bible has survived despite being in Henry and Ida’s house during the Civil War. On more than one occasion, Union soldiers searched through the house for food and anything of value. Many items were taken from the house, but not the bible. Ida wrote a journal throughout most of the war. Only a small part of the original journal still exists today, but the bible remains.[6] The bible has been passed down by multiple generations. Perhaps because few knew of its existence is one reason why it has survived for so long.


I hope to write much more about the bible, but especially about the enslaved people of Oakley in the future. I would like to reach out to a few different people and organizations in Virginia to get their advice and possibly assistance before I proceed much further with this project.


Please leave a comment if you are interested in this topic or if you think you might have an ancestor in the area. You can also reach me on Twitter @2ManyAncestors.



[1] Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is not possible to obtain images of the original marriage registers from Virginia. They do exist, however. This index will have to do in the meantime: Aurelia M. Jewell, compiler, Loudoun County, Virginia Marriage Records, 1751-1880 (Arlington, Virginia: n.p., 1959), 172; consulted as “Marriage records of Loudoun County, Virginia, 1751-1880,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSM7-5H69?cat=301731 : accessed 6 June 2020), image 759 of 1102.

[2] Dulany Family Bible Records, 1855-1985. The Holy Bible. Privately held by the Dulany family, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Virginia, 2019.

[3] 1850 U.S. census, Loudoun County, Virginia, population schedule, [“not stated” listed as jurisdiction], p. 445 (pen), p. 223 (stamped), dwelling 858, family 858, Eliza Parncee [Mary Eliza Powell]; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Jun 2020), image 132 of 362. 1850 U.S. census, Loudoun County, Virginia, population schedule, [“not stated” listed as jurisdiction], dwelling 868, family 668 [sic?], Wm Cochran; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Jun 2020), image 133 of 362.

[4] Ida refers to enslaved people as “servants” in all her writings. It was very common in the South, and somewhat in the North when slavery was prevalent, for people to refer to slaves as servants.

[5] 1860 U.S. census, Fauquier County, Virginia, slave schedule, Northeastern Revenue District and District 9, p. 12 (copy), Henry G Dulany, owner or manager; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Jun 2020), image 6 and 7 of 10. By my count, the Dulanys owned 69 human beings according to this record. This does not account for any slaves which were hired out to others in the area.

[6] Mary L. Mackall, Stevan F. Meserve, and Anne Mackall Sasscer, editors, In the Shadow of the Enemy: The Civil War Journal of Ida Powell Dulany (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2010), 174. The one remaining piece of Ida’s original journal is on loan at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond. Many of Oakley’s slaves, and some from the surrounding plantations, are mentioned in her journal.

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