ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, VIRGINIA
Parent County: Orange County
Child Counties: Page County (1831) in Virginia. Pendleton County (1788) in West Virginia.
Rockingham County was named for Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham. He served twice as British Prime Minister and supported independence for the Colonies.
CITIES & TOWNS
Harrisonburg is the county seat of Rockingham County and an independent city. The city was established on land that was donated by Thomas Harrison in 1779. Harrisonburg is the home of James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University.
Bridgewater is a town located on North River and was originally named Dinkletown after John Dinkle who built a sawmill and grist mill on the river around 1810. The area around the town was originally settled in the 1740’s by Scotch-Irish and was known as McGill’s Ford. Before being named Bridgewater in 1835, the town was also known as Bridgeport, because it was a port for flat-bottom boats. Bridgewater is the home of Bridgewater College founded in 1880 and is associated with the Church of the Brethren.
The present day building is the fifth to serve as the courthouse for the City of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Records of genealogical interest are located in the Deed Room on the first floor. Records include birth (1862-1894, 1912-1917), death (1870-1894, 1912-1917), marriage (from 1778), wills (from 1778), land records (from 1864) military rolls and many other court records dating back to the 1780’s. A list of available records can be found on the Real Estate Division’s Genealogy page.
NOTE: During the Civil War many records were lost to fire, land records in particular. However there was an attempt to reconstruct these lost records using references from other court sources. An index to these burnt deeds is available that provides only dates and the names of individuals involved.
The Massanutten Regional Library has been collecting genealogical and local history information in 1948. The collection contains books, maps, newspapers and photographs covering Rockingham County and the Shenandoah Valley. As part of their newspaper collection, MRL holds microfilm of the following local newspapers: Daily News-Record from 1913 and the Rockingham Register from 1822 to 1904 (incomplete). The library’s “Genealogy & Local History” web page contains links to finding aids detailing MRL’s collection.
COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES
The Special Collections at the Alexander Mack Library contains a wide variety of materials related to the Rockingham County and Shenandoah Valley region. A major part of the collection consists of records relating to the Church of the Brethren. The collection also contains the John W. Wayland papers and related materials. An appointment is required to visit the Special Collections.
The collection of the Menno Simons Historical Library contains materials related to Anabaptist and Mennonite communities as well as other Shenandoah Valley resources. The library’s web page contains an inventory of the vertical files. There is also a University Archives that can accessed through request at the Menno Simons Historical Library. The Historical Library is located on the top floor of the Hartzler Library building.
Call before visiting to confirm hours. In order to retrieve items from the University Archives, a request should be made a week in advance.
James Madison University
Carrier Library: Special Collections
Address: 880 Madison Drive, Second Floor, Harrisonburg, VA 22807
JMU’s Special Collections hold many items of genealogical interest including manuscripts, rare books and maps that tell the history of the surrounding Central Shenandoah Valley, local businesses and the University. When planning a visit, be sure to check the library’s hours as they vary at different times of the year and also review the university map and parking instructions. A visitor parking pass needs to be obtained for parking on campus. Information on visitor parking passes can be located on the Parking Services web page.
The HRHS is a membership organization whose mission is to collect, preserve and share the rich history and cultural diversity of the Shenandoah Valley region. The organization accomplishes this through their museum and research library.
The Valley Heritage Museum has both permanent and special exhibits. The permanent exhibits consist of a history of the Shenandoah Valley and a Civil War Gallery which provides a look at how the Civil War impacted the Valley. A highlight of the Civil War Gallery is the electric map which illuminates Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign of 1862.
The Reasearch Library consists of over 2,200 books, many of which are family histories. The library also maintains surname files, obituary files, church, land and vital records. Through the work of many volunteers, a database was created containing about 500,000 records of names, places, newspapers to help locate the source within the HRHS collection. The database is available to search online.
Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center
Address: 1921 Heritage Center Way, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
The Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center has exhibits and events which highlight the faith and history of the Mennonites and Brethren in the Shenandoah Valley. There are daily tours and demonstrations. The Center also maintains the Breneman-Turner Mill which was built along Linville Creek about 1800 by Abraham Breneman.
Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center
Home of the first mayor of Harrisonburg, Isaac Hardesty, and today serves as a regional visitor and information center.
Address: 212 S. Main Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
The events below occur annually with the approximate dates shown. Visit each website for further details.
Rockingham County Fair
Dayton Days Autumn Celebration
First Saturday in October
Miller, Gordon, W. Rockingham: An Annotated Bibliography of a Virginia County. Harrisonburg, Virginia: Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, 1989. (The link is for a web version of the book hosted by JMU).
Click images to enlarge.
County map image edited from US Census (http://www2.census.gov/geo/maps/general_ref/cousub_outline/cen2k_pgsz/va_cosub.pdf)
State map image from Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=573621)