West Virginia Government records cover a broad range of genealogy subject areas that can help you as part of your research, such as land ownership, courts, taxes, and naturalization’s. Given that West Virginia court records cover such a wide selection of topics, they could aid you in many different ways. As an example, they could aid you in finding ancestors’ residences, identify occupations, locate financial information, determine citizenship status, or shed light on relationships between individuals. The whole thing relies upon on the type of court records that the ancestors” names show up in. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia.
West Virginia Courthouse records change extensively from county to county in both level of quality and volume. You will find different kinds of court records that are most likely to possess information related for your genealogical research below.
West Virginia Court Records
West Virginia started out as part of Virginia. So, it should come as no surprise that the West Virginia court system worked in the same manner. Many court records can be found in Historical Records Survey Collection. Copies of that collection are housed at the FHL and West Virginia University Library. Files in the collection include: County Court Records, Execution Books, Fee Books, Rule Books, Birth, Marriage, and Death Registers, Deed Indexes, Land Taxes, Land Books, Personal Property Books, Justices Criminal Dockets
There may also be records of cattle brands, naturalizations, school commissioner reports, and emancipations. However, they may be buried within the records above, not clearly separated or defined. See Also Research In Court Records.
A large part of western Virginia was settled after 1744 by land speculators. Many of them formed larger land companies. Those companies were given 1,000 acres of land per family that they could get into the area. The colony’s secretary gave patents to individuals who bought the land surveys. Those patents were given out by the Virginia Land Office after 1779. Bounty-land warrants were given out for some land in western Virginia as well. They were given to soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War. However, many of those soldiers chose to sell their bounty-land warrants, rather than settling on the land themselves.
The Office of State Auditor, Capitol Bldg., West Wing 231, Charleston, WV 25305 holds original land sale documents, surveys, and grants for West Virginia. The Library of Virginia’s website also lists their related holdings.
In cases where the land was sold by the patent or grant recipient, county deed books were used to record those transactions. Grantor and grantee (seller and buyer) indexes are available for most of those deed books. Master indexes to all deed books are available in some counties, but not all of them. County clerks can provide copies of deeds, but they can also be viewed on microfilm at the FHL and the Archives and History Library in Charleston. The West Virginia Court Record Index, which lists county records that were filmed at the courthouse, can be found in the West Virginia and Regional History Collection. See Also Guide to U.S. Land Records Research
Index to Land Grants in West Virginia (1952, reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2003), lists the names of grantees by county.
Making a State: Formation of West Virginia
Virginia Northern Neck Land Grants, 4 vols. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987– 1993) – volume 2 contains abstracts of grants encompassing the area now comprising Hampshire and Berkeley counties in West Virginia.
West Virginia Probate Records
Circuit and county courts kept estate records when West Virginia was still part of Virginia. Some of those documents included appraisals, letters of administration, settlements, and guardianships. County courts heard probate cases in West Virginia. The county clerk office may have original will books on file for cases where the deceased person passed away in that county. Many estate records can also be found on microfilm at the FHL, Regional History Collection in Morgantown, and Archives and History Library in Charleston. Many will books from both West Virginia and Virginia have been published in full or abstracted forms. Large groups of those published records can be found in the locations just mentioned as well. See Also Guide to U.S. Probate Records Research
Some counties in Virginia, which later found themselves in West Virginia, began tax collection around 1624. Researchers should consult existing tax lists from that time period for helpful genealogical information.
Every county’s land tax records still exist today for the years of 1782 to 1936. Some counties have records that continue to as late as 1959. The Archives and History Library in Charleston is home to those records. However, copies of those records can be found in the county clerks’ files in most counties. Personal property tax records dating from 1782 to 1863 can be found at the Library of Virginia. The records stop in 1863 because West Virginia became a state at that time. See Also Guide to U.S. Tax Records Research
West Virginia contains 55 counties. Each county is the local level of government within its borders.
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 West 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. West Virginia State Government is located in Charleston.
State of West Virginia County & City Government Links