Keatts Family Wills of Pittsylvania County, Virginia: A Wish Granted

On my research trip to the Pittsylvania County Courthouse, I was saddened that I wasn't beginning to scratch the surface of their vast collection. While my time was well focused on the research questions I had at the time, I knew full well that there were hundreds of other records I would never have time to see. Included in these passed over records were many of the wills for my earliest connections to Pittsylvania County in the Keatts family. It pained me to pass over their surnames in the record books I knew were pertinent to me, in exchange for the records I'd planned to collect that day.

So the weekend that the probate collection launched, I was full of hope that the records would include some of these. And when I got my first Keatts hints to the collection, I celebrated...

However, it was premature. 

 Is there anything worse than an interrupted happy dance?
(The answer is no. No, there isn't.)

You see, the hint lead to an error page. And I sat there for a good five minutes, refreshing in disbelief. I felt lied to. Betrayed. Filled with first world rage. And as I tried to navigate to the collection directly from the Card Catalog, only to be greeted by "No results found" for every combination of search criteria, I finally gave up. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get any results for anyone in Pittsylvania County to appear. Something was wrong, broken, or both.

As the hints continued to accumulate for this ghost collection, and each of them led to the same error page, my frustration mounted. I contacted Ancestry directly to point out the issue, and they said they'd investigate. 

Meanwhile, I ignored every single hint and told the matching algorithm to stick them in its eye...

...among other things I won't repeat in polite company.

Here's the thing y'all. Just because we subscribe to record collections which are held by large corporations, it doesn't mean we shouldn't communicate with them. Providing user feedback is all the more important when the companies we deal with are large. I think sometimes we have the impression that this does no good because we don't feel like we're talking to a person. Instead, it feels like we're talking to a mechanical collective of voices with no thoughts of its own.

But corporations like are made up of people, including other genealogists. And they really do want to see us happy. Like a genie of sorts, they want to give us everything we wish for. And like magic, their money and influence give them the power to deliver many things we can't do for ourselves. And just like a genie, even their power has its limits.

But perhaps the ways in which (and other companies too) are most like genies, is that the only way to never get what you wish for is to never tell them what you want.

So I reached out. I told them what was wrong. I wanted Pittsylvania County, Virginia probates and wills. I wanted the error message to go away and let me get on with my happy dancing. Because there is absolutely nothing worse than taking back a happy dance. It should say right on the receipt  NO REFUNDS in big, ugly letters.

And I don't know whether they finally got the records, or the database working, or what. I don't care which of my wishes they granted. The point is, the records have arrived!

The Pittsylvania County, Virginia probate and will database is up, running, and open for business!

If you, like me, are looking for the Keatts family, allow me to get you started. And let me know in comments, because I want to know who you are!


Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983. Pittsylvania County, "Wills, 1800-1870" ( : accessed 2 January 2016), index entries for Keatts family members, Image #33, Pg. 27.

Curtis Keatts: My 6x Great Grandfather

Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983. Pittsylvania County, "Deeds and Will Book, Vol. 11, 1780-1820," ( : accessed 2 January 2016), entry for Curtis Keatts, Image #145, Pg. 268.

Charles Keatts: My 5x Great Grandfather

Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983. Pittsylvania County, "General Index to Wills, Vol. 1, 1767-1948," ( : accessed 2 January 2016), entry for Charles Keatts, Image #377-378, Pg. 185-186.

Randolph Keatts: My 4x Great Grandfather

Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983. Pittsylvania County, "General Index to Wills, Vol. 1, 1767-1948," ( : accessed 2 January 2016), entry for Randolph Keatts, Image #813, Pg. 480.