Beth Mitchell was born Mary Elizabeth Anderson on March 31, 1930, the daughter of William L. and Ina Redman Anderson. She married Myles B. Mitchell with whom there were three children:
- Janet Mitchell
- Linda Mitchell, married Joseph Lalande
- Nancy Mitchell, married Gregg Amicon
The following author profile was written for a planned, but not issued, second edition of her book Beginning at a white oak: Patents and Northern Neck grants of Fairfax County, Virginia.
Elizabeth “Beth” Anderson Mitchell and her husband, Myles, moved to Virginia in 1970. She was born in Oklahoma, daughter of a school principal, and attended Oklahoma A&M University. She majored in education and loved art, but was never a professional teacher. She also enjoyed putting jigsaw puzzles together. Her interest in Fairfax County land grants became piqued when she began exploring her husband’s Turley family genealogy shortly after moving to the county. To her surprise and frustration she discovered there was no map showing all of the original land patents and grants (a distinction she defines in the text) for the county—so she set out to correct that. Five years later she completed her research and Fairfax County’s Office of Comprehensive Planning published her work (1977). Mitchell was quick to point out that none of this would have been possible if not for the long-term efforts of other researchers from whose work she drew (she lists them in her introduction). What Mitchell did was to synthesize all of the available records to make accessible to researchers and the public for the first time the large picture of the earliest land acquisitions in Fairfax County—a unique work. She took her title from a phrase that appears in hundreds of early deeds defining property boundaries: “Beginning at a white Oak . . .”1
Mitchell was self-taught in genealogy, land research and mapping, in the era before personal computers and online information access became widely available. She worked independently, with other researchers and with county staff as an unpaid volunteer. She authored and collaborated on manuscripts that are widely consulted and cited by every serious researcher of the county’s early history, including:
- Beginning at a white oak: Patents and Northern Neck grants of Fairfax County, Virginia—Available online at https://archive.org/details/BeginningAtAWhiteOak.
- Fairfax County, Virginia in 1760: An interpretive historical map—The map (without companion book) is available online at https://www.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=cca6b4a3ef644dbfa89e16b6feb515fe.
- Fairfax County in 1860: Property Owners—Prepared in a joint project with Edith Moore Sprouse and companion to Sprouse’s Fairfax County in 1860: A Collective Biography. The map is available online at https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/history-commission/1860-fairfax-county-maps. Mitchell’s detailed notes are available at the Historical Records Room of the Fairfax County Circuit Court.
- Fairfax County Road Orders 1749-1800—Available online at http://www.virginiadot.org/vtrc/main/online_reports/pdf/03-r19.pdf.
- Abstracts of Claims for Civil War Losses, Fairfax County
Beth Mitchell died on February 1, 2009 in Pennsylvania.2
- Thanks to Paula Elsey for providing this profile, which was written by Jack L. Hiller, Springfield, Virginia, February 2, 2005. Hiller was a retired educator and longtime member of the Fairfax County History Commission. He died in February 2016. ↩
- “Mary Beth Mitchell,” The Freelance Star (https://www.fredericksburg.com/obituaries/mary-beth-mitchell/article_13235e3c-f652-5c8c-99d9-392b466fd267.html), February 4, 2009. ↩