And for an even earlier and more overarching view, consider that for the 200+ years preceding the Civil War destruction, literacy was not a priority in the American South. In the founding days of the Virginia colony, it was actually discouraged as something that would act as an unwanted "leveling" influence on the stratified society. Early Virginia (and the other Southern states modeled themselves after Virginia) was set up as an aristocratic society, with large estates for aristocratic planters and wholesale import of indentured servants to work for these planters. While Puritan New England, in contrast, took explicit action to limit aristocratic privilege, Anglican Virginia extolled it and supported it through taxation and legislation. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony enacted laws requiring every small town of a certain size (originally 50 households) to provide and support a public school, because it was held that every Christian should be able to read the bible; while Virginia's Anglican oligarchy acted explicitly to limit education to the (white) upper classes who could afford private education. In this sense, today's Southern genealogist incurs the "sins of the fathers" who paid little or no attention to records other than those of property. I recommend the excellent thumbnail sketch of the Cavalier culture, including its educational mores, to be found in "Albion's Roots," by David Hackett Fischer of Brandeis University, a leading colonial historian.