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Somerville family papers

Identifier: MSS 16201

Scope and Contents

The Somerville family papers (1821-2013) consists of correspondence, photographs, printed materials, and extensive genealogical files. The papers and research detailing the history of the Somerville family, mainly in America, range from its colonial background to contemporary times. The extensive genealogical research is comprised of notes and charts, along with correspondence, photographs, military records, personal notes, clippings, and printed materials. The collection also includes records detailing financial history of family assets, including wills, estates, and records of the sale of enslaved laborers and land. Scattered throughout the collection are photographs, negatives, and daguerreotypes of many Somerville family members, as well as some sheet music, and artifacts. Part of the collection also details the backgrounds of other families genealogically related to the Somervilles, such as the Stringfellow and Nottingham families.

The collection contains a Civil War memoir of Fletcher Harris Archer, Lieutenant Colonel in the Confederate Army and Mayor of Petersburg, Va. Also present are notes and documents about Archer's service during the Mexican-American War, possibly for a memoir that was never completed. The collection also includes letters of Atwell W. Somerville while a student and cadet at Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina. Other topics include, Atwell Somerville’s studies, athletic events, and church services and work. Of note is a letter of 1940 November 12 in which Somerville mentions he has had a recurrence of malaria. Of interest are letters of Atwell W. Somerville during his service in World War II as a member of the 90th bomber squadron (a.k.a. "The Jolly Rogers") in the South Pacific. There is also a ledger (1830s) from a store at Racoon Ford, near the Culpeper and Orange counties border.


Somerville, James. The Baronial House of Somerville: An Abridged and Condensed Narrative of the Principal Branches of the Ancient Family. Glasgow: Maclehose, Jackson and Co., 1920.

McGhan, Judith, comp. Genealogies of Virginia Families: from Tyler's Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine. Baltimore: Clearfield Company, 2007.

“Somerville, Atwell.” The Daily Progress, 27 Feb. 2014,


  • Creation: 1821 - 2013

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is stored offsite. Please allow three business days for delivery to the Small Reading Room.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection is open for research use.

Biographical Note

The Somerville family, according to documents in this collection, maintains theories on their family origins, attempting to trace family records back to the duchy of Normandy, France and Scottish nobility whose ancestors, Sir Walter de Somerville among them, arrived in Britain in 1066 with William the Conqueror. The Somerville family traces its origins in America to James Somerville (1742-?) who settled in Culpepper County, Virginia after emigrating from Glasgow, Scotland. James Somerville was an influential merchant and became the mayor of Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1787. Members of the Somerville family, as the collection reveals, were also linked to historical figures prominent in the confederate army, including Fletcher Harris Archer. Atwell Somerville (1921-2014), whose life is detailed by a significant portion of the collection, was a member of the 90th Bombardment Group, the “Jolly Rogers”, of the United States Air Force in World War II from 1942 to 1945. After obtaining a law degree from the University of Virginia after the war, he worked in the law firm of Nottingham and Somerville and participated in various civic and historical organizations in Orange County, Virginia. Atwell Somerville played a significant role in corresponding with family members, particularly Mary Lee Somerville of Culpeper, and genealogists, obtaining many family papers featured in this collection.


24 Cubic Feet (24 cubic foot boxes)

Language of Materials



Donated by Wilson Somerville, 12 August 2016.

Somerville family papers
J. Azizi and E. Wilkinson
13 September 2019
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Repository Details

Part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Repository

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22904-4110 United States