Historical Facts of Virginia Counties

Virginia County records vary widely from county to county both in quality and quantity. Some are already very carefully maintained while others have been much abused and uncared for. Some Virginia records have merely disappeared. For genealogists undertaking research in Virginia there’s no valuable replace for an on-site research of county courthouse records. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia

Virginia divided into 95 counties. Each county serves as the local level of government within its borders. There are several counties and cities which have the same name, but are separate politically. Virginia State Government is located in Richmond.

Each county serves as the local level of government within its borders. Virginia is divided into 95 counties and 39 independent cities, which are considered county-equivalents for census purposes.

Remember as you conduct your genealogy records research in the County and/or City, that when a new county was formed or incorporated, the records stayed in the parent and were not moved. Also many county and city records are still with the locality and not at the Library of Virginia.

Virginia Counties

Most Virginia county records from before 1900 can be found on microfilm at the FHL and the Library of Virginia. However, the sizes of both collections and the dates covered within those collections are different. The Library of Virginia’s website lists its holdings. The city and county courthouses also hold many original records.

Wars, fires and other problems have come up throughout Virginia’s history, which has caused many of the state’s records to be lost. The majority of those records were lost during the destruction of courthouses and other buildings throughout the Civil War. In 1865 Richmond burned, destroying many records. Jamestown was also destroyed 3 different times. However, despite all of that, there are still many excellent genealogical resources to be found in the state. However, researchers must remember that the Virginia county boundary lines have changed many times throughout the years. Researchers must be mindful of that, as well as of migration patterns, in order to find the appropriate records.

There are several cities in Virginia that are independent from the counties that surround them. No other states have independent cities. Researchers should act as though those independent cities are counties for researcher purposes. The Library of Virginia’s website lists 16 sets of independent city records. City status in Virginia is determined by populations, which means that 25 Virginia towns did not become incorporated until 1904 and beyond. Several counties in Virginia have actually become part of its independent cities and therefore no longer exist as counties. In some instances, those county and city records are still kept separately.

The links in the table below link to county and city government offices and is limited to government-maintained websites. If you know of a Virginia county that has an official government web site but is not linked, or if the link is in error, please contact us so we may edit our database.

County Date
Formed
Parent County County Seat
Accomack 1661 Northampton Accomac
Albemarle October 16, 1744 Goochland, Louisa Charlottesville
Alleghany January 05, 1822 Bath, Botetourt, Monroe Covington
Amelia September 30, 1734 Brunswick, Prince George Amelia Court House
Amherst April 07, 1761 Albemarle Amherst
Appomattox February 08, 1845 Buckingham, Campbell, Charlotte, Prince Edward Appomattox
Arlington 1920 renamed from Alexandria Arlington
Augusta December 15, 1738 Orange Staunton
Bath December 14, 1790 Augusta, Botetourt, Greenbrier Warm Springs
Bedford December 13, 1753 Albemarle, Lunenburg Bedford
Bland March 30, 1861 Giles, Tazewell, Wythe Bland
Botetourt November 28, 1769 Augusta, Rockbridge Fincastle
Brunswick December 17, 1720 Prince Geore, Surry, isle of Wight Lawrenceville
Buchanan February 16, 1858 Russell, Tazewell Grundy
Buckingham April 07, 1758 Albermarle, Appomattox Buckingham
Campbell December 15, 1781 Bedford Rustburg
Caroline March 15, 1727 Essex, King and Queen, King William Bowling Green
Carroll January 17, 1842 Grayson, Patrick Hillsville
Charles City 1634 Colonial lands Charles City
Charlotte November 27, 1764 Lunenburg Charlotte Court House
Chesterfield May 1, 1749 Henrico Chesterfield
Clarke March 08, 1836 Frederick Berryville
Craig March 21, 1851 Alleghany, Botetourt, Giles, Montgomery, Monroe, Roanoke New Castle
Culpeper March 23, 1748 Orange Culpeper
Cumberland March 23, 1748 Goochland, Buckingham Cumberland
Dickenson February 27, 1880 Buchanan, Russell, Wise Clintwood
Dinwiddie March 09, 1752 Prince George Dinwiddie
Essex April 26, 1694 old Rappahannock Tappahannock
Fairfax May 24, 1742 Prince William, Loudoun Fairfax
Fauquier April 05, 1758 Prince William Warrenton
Floyd January 15, 1831 Montgomery, Franklin Floyd
Fluvanna June 03, 1777 Albemarle Palmyra
Franklin November 29, 1785 Bedford, Henry, Patrick Rocky Mount
Frederick December 15, 1738 Orange, Augusta Winchester
Giles January 16, 1806 Montgomery, Monroe, Mercer, Tazewell, Craig, Wythe Pearisburg
Gloucester 1651 York Gloucester
Goochland March 06, 1727 Henrico Goochland
Grayson November 07, 1792 Patrick, Wythe Independence
Greene January 24, 1838 Orange Stanardsville
Greensville November 28, 1780 Brunswick, Sussex Emporia
Halifax April 17, 1752 Lunenburg Halifax
Hanover November 20, 1720 New Kent Hanover
Henrico 1634 Colonial lands Richmond
Henry October 23, 1776 Patrick, Pittsylvania Martinsville
Highland March 19, 1847 Bath, Pendleton Monterey
Isle of Wight 1634 Warrosquoyoake Isle of Wight
James City 1634 Colonial lands Williamsburg
King George November 24, 1720 New Kent King George
King William September 12, 1701 King and Queen King William
King & Queen May 12, 1691 Richmond, Westmoreland King & Queen Court House
Lancaster 1651 York, Northumberland Lancaster
Lee October 25, 1792 Russell, Scott Jonesville
Loudoun May 17, 1757 Fairfax Leesburg
Louisa June 02, 1742 Hanover Louisa
Lunenburg April 01, 1746 Brunswick Lunenburg
Madison December 05, 1792 Culpeper Madison
Mathews December 16, 1790 Gloucester Mathews
Mecklenburg November 27, 1764 Lunenburg Boydton
Middlesex 1669 Lancaster Saluda
Montgomery December 07, 1776 Fincastle, Botetourt, Pulaski Christiansburg
Nelson December 23, 1807 Amherst Lovingston
New Kent 1654 York, James City New Kent
Northampton 1634 Colonial lands Eastville
Northumberland 1648 York Heathsville
Nottoway December 23, 1788 Amelia Nottoway
Orange September 20, 1734 Spotsylvania Orange
Page March 30, 1831 Rockingham, Shenandoah Luray
Patrick November 26, 1790 Henry Stuart
Pittsylvania December 15, 1766 Halifax Chatham
Powhatan June 03, 1777 Cumberland, Chesterfield Powhatan
Prince Edward November 17, 1753 Amelia Farmville
Prince George August 25, 1702 Charles City Prince George
Prince William June 17, 1730 King George, Stafford Manassas
Pulaski March 30, 1839 Montgomery, Wythe Pulaski
Rappahannock February 18, 1833 Culpepper Washington
Richmond April 26, 1692 old Rappahannock Warsaw
Roanoke March 30, 1838 Botetourt, Montgomery Salem
Rockbridge January 12, 1778 Augusta, Botetourt Lexington
Rockingham January 12, 1778 Augusta Harrisonburg
Russell January 06, 1786 Washington Lebanon
Scott November 24, 1814 Lee, Russell, Washington Gate City
Shenandoah January 12, 1778 renamed from Dunmore Woodstock
Smyth February 23, 1832 Washington, Wythe Marion
Southampton April 20, 1749 Isle of Wight, Nansemond Courtland
Spotsylvania December 17, 1720 Essex, King and Queen, King William Spotsylvania
Stafford 1664 Westmoreland Stafford
Surry 1652 James City Surry
Sussex November 28, 1753 Surry Sussex
Tazewell December 20, 1799 Russell, Wythe Tazewell
Warren March 09, 1836 Frederick, Shenandoah Front Royal
Washington December 07, 1776 Fincastle, Montgomery Abingdon
Westmoreland July 1653 Numberland, King George Montross
Wise February 16, 1856 Lee, Russell, Scott Wise
Wythe December 01, 1789 Montgomery, Grayson Wytheville
York 1634 Colonial lands Yorktown

Virginia Independent City Repositories and Records

Virginia is the only state with independent cities. Independent cities are politically and administratively separate from the county or counties in which they are geographically located. Independent cities operate their own court system. As of 1987, there were forty-one independent cities in Virginia; since population determines city status, more than half were incorporated after 1904. Many Virginia counties have been absorbed by independent cities. There are currently 39 independent cities in the Commonwealth.

Independent
City
Government
Year

Established
Year
Incorporated
(Town)
Year
Incorporated
(Independent City)
County / Cities
Formed from
Alexandria City, VA Government 1749 1779 1852 / 1870 Alexandria County
Bedford City, VA Government
(aka Liberty)
1782 1839 1969 Bedford County
Bristol City, VA Government
(aka Goodson)
1850 1856 1890 Washington County
Buena Vista City, VA Government - 1890 1892 Rockbridge County
Charlottesville City, VA Government 1762 1801 1888 Albemarle County
Chesapeake City, VA Government - - 1963 Norfolk County and the former city of South Norfolk
Colonial Heights City, VA Government 1910 1926 1948 Chesterfield County
Covington City, VA Government 1818 1833 1953 Alleghany County
Danville City, VA Government 1793 1830 1890 Pittsylvania County
Emporia City, VA 1887 1892 1967 Greensville County
Fairfax City, VA Government
(aka Providence)
1805 1874 1961 Fairfax County
Falls Church City, VA Government 1850 1875 1948 Fairfax County
Franklin City, VA Government 1830s 1876 1961 Southampton County
Fredericksburg City, VA Government 1728 1782 1879 Spotsylvania County
Galax City, VA Government
( aka Bonaparte)
- 1906 1954 Grayson County and Carroll County
Hampton City, VA Government 1680 1849, 1852 & 1887 1908 Elizabeth City County
Harrisonburg City, VA Government 1780 1849 1916 Rockingham County
Hopewell City, VA Government
(aka City Point)
1613 - 1916 Prince George County
Lexington City, VA Government 1778 1874 1965 Rockbridge County
Lynchburg City, VA Government 1786 1805 1852 Campbell County
Manassas City, VA Government 1852 1874 1975 Prince William County
Manassas Park City, VA Government 1955 1957 1975 Prince William County
Martinsville City, VA Government 1791 1873 1928 Henry County
Newport News City, VA Government 1880 - 1896 Warwick County
Norfolk City, VA Government 1680 1736 1845 Norfolk County
Norton City, VA Government
(aka Prince’s Flats)
- 1894 1954 Wise County
Petersburg City, VA Government 1748 1784 1850 Dinwiddie, Prince George, and Chesterfield counties
Poquoson City, VA Government 1885 1952 1976 York County
Portsmouth City, VA Government 1752 1836 1858 Norfolk County
Radford City, VA Government
(aka Lovely Mount, English Ferry, Ingles’s Ferry, Central Depot, and Central City)
1885 1887 1892 Montgomery County
Richmond City, VA Government 1742 1782 1842 Henrico and Chesterfield Counties
Roanoke City, VA Government
(aka Big Lick)
1852 1874 1884 Roanoke County
Salem City, VA Government 1806 1836 1968 Roanoke County
South Boston City, VA Government 1796 1884 1960 Halifax County
Staunton City, VA Government 1761 1801 1871 Augusta County
Suffolk City, VA Government 1742 1808 1910 Nansemond County
Virginia Beach City, VA Government - 1906 1952 Princess Anne County
Waynesboro City, VA Government 1801 1834 1948 Augusta County
Williamsburg City, VA Government
(aka Middle Plantation)
1633 / 1699 1722 1884 James City and York Counties
Winchester City, VA Government
(aka Opequon)
1752 1779 1874 Frederick County

Click on the Virginia County government links below to visit their official county government web sites. If you know of a Virginia county that has an official government web site but is not linked, or if the link is in error, please send us an email so we may edit our database.


Interactive Map of Virginia Counties Formation

(Virginia maps made with the use AniMap Plus 3.0 & with the Permission of the Goldbug Company)

Virginia Extinct Counties

Virginia has counties that no longer are in existence. They were recognized by the state, provincial, or territorial government. A lot of these counties were created and disbanded within the Nineteenth century; county borders have modified very little since Nineteen hundred in the great majority of states. These counties really should be looked at when you are performing family history and genealogy research. Pay attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was abolished or combined with some other county.

  • Accawmack County was established in 1634 as a Original Shire. It was renamed to Northampton County in 1642
  • Charles River County was established in 1634 as an Original Shire. It was renamed to York County in 1642
  • Dunmore County was established in 1772 from Frederick County. It was renamed to Shenandoah County in 1778
  • Elizabeth River Shire was established in 1634 as an Original Shire. It was renamed to Elizabeth City County about 1636. In merged into the Independent City of Hampton in 1952.
  • Fincastle County was established in 1772 from Botetourt County. It ceased to exist in 1776 when it was divided to form Montgomery County, Washington County, and Kentucky County (now the state of Kentucky). Some Fincastle County genealogy records may be found in the Montgomery County.
  • Kentucky County was established in 1777 from Fincastle County. It was abolished when it formed the State of Kentucky in 1780.
  • Lower Norfolk County was established in 1637 from New Norfolk County. It was abolished in 1691. Records can be found in the City of Chesapeake
  • Nansemond County was established in 1642 from Upper Norfolk County. It was Incorporated as the City of Nansemond in 1972 and merged with the City of Suffolk in 1974.
  • New Norfolk County was established in 1636 from Elizabeth City County. It was abolished in 1637 and divided into Lower Norfolk and Upper Norfolk Counties.
  • Norfolk County was established in 1691 from Lower Norfolk County. It merged into the Independent City of Chesapeake in 1963.
  • Princess Anne County was established in from Lower Norfolk County. It merged into the Independent City of Virginia Beach in 1963.
  • Old Rappahannock County was established in 1656 from Lancaster County. It ceased to exist in 1692 when divided to form Essex County and Richmond County. Records located in Essex County.
  • Upper Norfolk County was established in 1637 from New Norfolk County. It was renamed to Nansemond County in 1646.
  • Warrosquyoake County was established in 1634 as an Original Shire. It was renamed to Isle of Wight County in 1637.
  • Warwick River County was established in 1634 as an Original Shire. It was renamed to Warwick County in 1643.
  • Warwick County was established in 1643 from Warwick River County. It was abolished in 1952 when it became Indepentent City of Warwick. In 1958 the City of Warwick merged into the Indepentent City of Newport News.
  • Yohogania County was established in 1776 from West Augusta territory. The County was ceded to Pennsylvania in 1785.

Virginia Counties with Burned Courthouses

The destruction to Virginia courthouses drastically has a effect on family historians in almost every way. Not only are these types of historic buildings torn from all of our lifetimes, so are the archives they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, and others. Once destroyed they are lost forever. Although they happen to have been placed on mircofilm, computers and film burn up too. The most tragic aspect of this is the reason why nearly all of our courthouses are destroyed from arsonist. Although, not all records were lost. Numerous Virginia counties have dealt with a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.

The Civil War caused devastating damage to multiple cities and their records. “Burned Record Counties” records can be difficult to find or replace using other resources. However, the Burned Record Counties Database at the Library of Virginia can be quite helpful to researchers. The manuscript room at the Library of Virginia holds the Burned Records County Collection. The following counties have lost a large amount of records over the years: Appomattox, Buchanan, Buckingham, Dinwiddie, Elizabeth City, Gloucester, Hanover, Henrico, James City, King and Queen, Nansemond, New Kent, Prince George, Warwick

Researchers interested in information on those counties may need to have added patience and spend more time looking into various different resource avenues.

  • Albemarle Co., Courthouse: created in 1744, all order books except the first and all loose papers were destroyed in Tarleton’s raid on Charlottesville in 1781.
  • Appomattox Co., Courthouse: created in 1845, county court records were destroyed by fire in 1892.
  • Bland Co., Courthouse: created in 1861, all but a few record books and some chancery papers were destroyed by fire in 1888.
  • Brunswick Co., Courthouse: created in 1732, the first pages of a number of early record books damaged by time.
  • Buchanan Co., Courthouse: created in 1858, county court records were destroyed by fire in 1885; records created after that date suffered extreme damage in a flood in 1977. A few re-recorded deeds exist.
  • Buckingham Co., Courthouse: created in 1761, county court records were destroyed by fire in 1869. One plat book survived and some wills and deeds were later recorded.
  • Caroline Co., Courthouse: created in 1728, most records prior to 1836 were destroyed during the Civil War. Some deeds and wills are recorded in extant Chancery Papers, and a considerable number of order books and loose papers survive.
  • Charles City Co., Courthouse: created in 1634 as an original shire, records have been destroyed at various times. The most damage occurred during the Civil War when the records were strewn through woods in a rainstorm. Many fragments of records exist, so many, in fact, that there is something for almost every year.
  • Chesterfield Co., Courthouse: created in 1749, lost one marriage register and some loose court papers during the Civil War.
  • Clarke Co., Courthouse: created in 1836, had pages cut from several record books during the Civil War.
  • Craig Co., Courthouse: created in 1851, lost the first deed book and most of the loose papers during the Civil War.
  • Dinwiddie Co., Courthouse: created in 1752, county court records prior to 1833 were destroyed in 1865. One plat book, one order book, and one judgment book survive.
  • Elizabeth City Co., Courthouse: created in 1634 as an original shire, records were damaged and/or destroyed during the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and the Civil War. A few early deeds, wills, orders, and guardian’s accounts survive.
  • Fairfax Co., Courthouse: created in 1742, original wills and deeds as well as many other loose papers were destroyed during the Civil War; deed books for twenty-six of the fifty-six years between 1763 and 1819 are missing.
  • Gloucester Co., Courthouse: created in 1651, all county court records were destroyed by an 1820 fire, and most of the records created after that date were destroyed in Richmond on 3 April 1865. Six minute books from the nineteenth century and two surveyor’s record books survive.
  • Greene Co., Courthouse: created in 1838, lost the first deed book during the Civil War when it was removed from the courthouse; no records were lost, but some suffered extreme water damage in efforts to put out a fire in the 1970s.
  • Hanover Co., Courthouse: created in 1721, most county court records were destroyed by fire in Richmond on 3 April 1865. A few isolated record books that were not sent to Richmond and various scraps of loose papers survive.
  • Henrico Co., Courthouse: created in 1634 as an original shire, all county court records prior to 1655 and almost all prior to 1677 are missing; additionally, many isolated records were destroyed during the Revolutionary War, and almost all Circuit Court records were destroyed by fire in Richmond on 3 April 1865.
  • James City Co., Courthouse: created in 1634 as an original shire, all county court records were lost in 1865.
  • King and Queen Co., Courthouse: created in 1691, county court records were lost in fires in 1828 and 1865. One plat book and three mid-nineteenth century Superior Court record books survive.
  • King George Co., Courthouse: created in 1721, had one will book, an early marriage register, and an order book “carried away during the Civil War.” A few years ago the will book was deposited in the Virginia Historical Society.
  • King William Co., Courthouse: created in 1702, all county court records prior to 1885 (except for seventeen will books) were destroyed in a fire in that year.
  • Lee Co., Courthouse: created in 1793, lost the oldest marriage register in an 1863 fire.
  • Louisa Co., Courthouse: created in 1742, lost one order book in Richmond in 1865.
  • Mathews Co., Courthouse: created in 1791, all county court records were burned in Richmond on 3 April 1865. At least two bond books, one plat book, and a number of fee books survive.
  • Northumberland Co., Courthouse: created in 1645, suffered some loss in a fire in the clerk’s office on 25 October 1710.
  • Nottoway Co., Courthouse: created in 1789, many county court records were destroyed or heavily mutilated in 1865.
  • Nansemond Co., Courthouse: created in 1652, county court records were destroyed in three separate fires, the earliest of which consumed the house of the court clerk in April 1734 (where the records were kept at that time), and the last on 7 February 1866. A few fee books have been found in the records of Sussex County. All records transferred to City of Suffolk include: Marr fr. 1866, Land fr. 1734, Probate fr. 1866 and Court Records fr. 1774.
  • New Kent Co., Courthouse: created in 1654, county court records were destroyed when John Posey burned the courthouse on 15 July 1787, and records created after that date were lost to fire in 1865.
  • Prince William Co., Courthouse: created in 1731, many county court records have been lost, destroyed, or stolen at various times. Scattered years of deeds, wills, and orders, as well as various bond books and a plat book, survive.
  • Prince George Co., Courthouse: created in 1703, most county court records were burned during the Civil War. A few record books survived and, proving that there is always hope, the volume in which deeds and wills were recorded between 1710 and 1713 was found within the last decade.
  • Richmond Co., Courthouse: created in 1692, has some record books damaged and mutilated due to unknown causes; additionally, the will books prior to 1699 were missing as early as 1793, and order books for the period 1794-1816 are also missing.
  • Rockingham Co., Courthouse: created in 1778, many pre-Civil War records were lost during the Valley Campaign of 1864. In an effort to safeguard the records, they were loaded onto a wagon that was subsequently set afire by Union troops. Records that were saved include: administrators, executors, and guardians bonds.
  • Russell Co., Courthouse: created in 1786, the first marriage register and all loose files were lost in a fire in the clerk’s office in 1872.
  • Stafford Co., Courthouse: created in 1664, many pre-Civil War county court records were lost to vandalism during the war. Scattered years of deeds, wills, and orders have survived as has an old General Index.
  • Surry Co., Courthouse: created in 1652, has lost deeds for 1835-1838 and order books for 1718-1741 and various other early record books are fragmentary. Court house fires in 1906 and 1922 did not result in loss of records which were then housed in a separate clerk’s office.
  • Warwick Co., Courthouse: created in 1643, county court records were destroyed at several times with most destruction occurring during the Civil War. A seventeenth century livestock registry, one order book, and one minute book from the eighteenth century survive.
  • Washington Co., Courthouse: created in 1777, lost a minute book for the period 1787-1819 and many loose papers in a fire in the clerk’s office on 15 December 1864.
  • Westmoreland Co., Courthouse: created in 1653, lost an order book for the period 1764-1776 to theft, and many loose papers were damaged during both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.