History & Facts of West Virginia Counties

West Virginia County records differ vastly from county to county in either quality as well as quantity. Some have already been carefully preserved while some have been significantly misused and mistreated. Some West Virginia records have simply vanished. For genealogists undertaking research in West Virginia there's no valuable replace for an on-site search of county courthouse records.

West Virginia is divided into 55  counties. Each county serves as the local level of government within its borders.

West Virginia Counties

Hampshire County, West Virginia was formed in 1754. Many other counties were formed from that time until 1860, including Webster County, which was the last in that group. However, the counties of Grant, Mineral, Mingo, Lincoln, and Summers were formed after 1860. County courthouses hold records created by the clerks since the counties were formed. Records from the 1800s and 1900s can also be found at the FHL, West Virginia University Library (West Virginia Regional History Collection) in Morgantown and the Archives and History Library in Charleston.

The circuit court clerk's office, located at the county seat, holds records on divorces and other court proceedings. The clerk's office at the county seat holds land records, as well as vital records. Most counties will charge small fees for researching and copying records. Inquiries can be made by mail, in most cases.

County Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Barbour March 3, 1843 Harrison, Lewis and Randolph counties Philippi
Berkeley February 10, 1772 Frederick County (VA) Martinsburg
Boone March 11, 1847 Cabell, Kanawha, and Logan counties Madison
Braxton January 15, 1836 Kanawha, Lewis, and Nicholas counties Sutton
Brooke November 30, 1796 Ohio County Wellsburg
Cabell January 2, 1809 Kanawha County Huntington
Calhoun March 5, 1856 Gilmer County Grantsville
Clay March 29, 1858 Braxton and Nicholas elk counties Clay
Doddridge February 4, 1845 Harrison, Lewis, Ritchie, and Taylor counties West Union
Fayette February 28, 1831 Kanawha, Greenbrier and Logan counties Fayetteville
Gilmer February 3, 1845 Kanawha and Lewis counties Glenville
Grant February 14, 1866 Hardy County Petersburg
Greenbrier October 20, 1777 Montgomery and Botetourt counties (VA) Lewisburg
Hampshire December 13, 1753 Frederick County (VA) Romney
Hancock January 15, 1848 Brooke County New Cumberland
Hardy December 10, 1785 Hampshire County Moorefield
Harrison May 3, 1784 Monongalia County Clarksburg
Jackson March 1, 1831 Kanawha, Mason, and Wood counties Ripley
Jefferson January 8, 1801 Berkeley County Charles Town
Kanawha November 14, 1788 Greenbrier County, Montgomery County (VA) Charleston
Lewis December 18, 1816 Harrison County Weston
Lincoln February 23, 1867 Boone, Cabell, Kanawha and Logan counties Hamlin
Logan January 12, 1824 Cabell and Kanawha counties, Giles and Tazewell counties (VA) Logan
Marion January 14, 1842 Harrison and Monongalia counties Fairmont
Marshall March 12, 1835 Ohio County Moundsville
Mason January 2, 1804 Kanawha County Point Pleasant
McDowell February 28, 1858 Tazewell County (VA) Welch
Mercer March 17, 1837 Giles and Tazewell counties (VA) Princeton
Mineral February 1, 1866 Hampshire County Keyser
Mingo January 30, 1895 Logan County Williamson
Monongalia October 7, 1776 Augusta County (VA) Morgantown
Monroe January 14, 1799 Greenbrier County Union
Morgan February 9, 1820 Berkeley and Hampshire counties Berkeley Springs
Nicholas January 30, 1818 Greenbrier and Kanawaha counties Summersville
Ohio October 7, 1776 Augusta County (VA) Wheeling
Pendleton December 4, 1787 Augusta County (VA) Franklin
Pleasants March 29, 1851 Ritchie, Tyler, and Wood counties Saint Marys
Pocahontas December 21, 1821 Bath County (VA), Pendleton and Randolph counties Marlinton
Preston January 19, 1818 Monongalia County Kingwood
Putnam March 11, 1848 Cabell, Kanawha, and Mason counties Winfield
Raleigh January 23, 1850 Fayette County Beckley
Randolph October 16, 1787 Harrison County Elkins
Ritchie February 18, 1843 Harrison, Lewis, and Wood counties Harrisville
Roane March 11, 1856 Gilmer, Jackson, Kanawha and Wirt counties Spencer
Summers February 27, 1871 Greenbrier County Hinton
Taylor January 19, 1844 Barbour, Harrison, Marion, and Preston counties Grafton
Tucker March 7, 1856 Randolph County Parsons
Tyler December 16, 1814 Ohio County Middlebourne
Upshur January 18, 1842 Barbour and Lewis counties Buckhannon
Wayne January 18, 1842 Cabell County Wayne
Webster January 10, 1860 Braxton, Nicholas, and Randolph counties Webster Springs
Wetzel January 10, 1846 Tyler County New Martinsville
Wirt January 19, 1848 Jackson and Wirt counties Elizabeth
Wood December 21, 1798 Harrison County Parkersburg
Wyoming January 26, 1850 Logan County Pineville

West Virginia Counties with Burned Courthouses

The destruction to West Virginia courthouses drastically has a effect on genealogists in each and every way. Not only are these historic structures ripped from each of our lifetimes, so are the files they stored: marriage, wills, probate, land records, as well as others. Once destroyed they're destroyed permanently. Despite the fact that they happen to have been placed on mircofilm, computers and film burn up too. The most sad aspect of this is the reason why nearly all of our courthouses are destroyed as a result of arsonist. Though, not all the records were destroyed. A number of West Virginia counties have endured a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.

  • Barbour County: Records Missing for Deaths: 1904.
  • Berkeley County: Records Missing for Deeds: 1797-98, 1809-11, 1816-17, 1827- 30, 1837-38, 1853-55, 1861-64; Wills: 1832-36, 1849-52, 1854-60; Marriages: 1852-64.
  • Boone County: Records Missing for Deeds: Book C; Wills: Book A
  • Braxton County: Courthouse fire in 1861, but many records still exist from 1836 on.
  • Cabell County: Some records have been damaged by flood water and are not very legible. Transcripts of many of these records are available as an aid in deciphering them.
  • Calhoun County: Records Missing for Births: 1868-77.
  • Clay County: Records Missing for Births: 1897-98; Deaths: 1897-98.Hampshire County: [Hampshire County undoubtedly suffered the worst loss of records of all the western Virginia counties during the Civil War. The Library of Virginia microfilm for Hampshire helps fill in the gaps with Births 1853-59, Marriages 1854-60, and Deaths 1853-59.]
    Births: Before 1865; Deaths: Before 1866; Marriages: 1829-64; Wills: Books 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21. (There is a roll of microfilm with loose wills dating between 1830 and 1859.)
  • Fayette County: There are undocumented gaps in several sets of records throughout 1800's, and particularly between roughly 1890 and 1915.
  • Jefferson County: Fire in 1803, but records still exit from 1801 on. After the county's records were filmed by the Church of the Latter Day Saints, Jefferson County staff numbered the volumes, pages and lines for their Vital Statistics registers and compiled an index using those numbers. The LDS group returned and filmed the new indexes, but did not refilm the registers in which the changes had been made. Consequently, although we have the indexes on microfilm, matching an index entry up to the correct page in a register can be very difficult.
  • Kanawha County: Marriages for 1844-49 are not missing. The ledger is mislabeled. These years are recorded in correct chronological sequence in the ledger.
  • Lewis County: Fire in 1886 destroyed courthouse, but records were saved.
  • Lincoln County: The Lincoln County Courthouse burned in 1909, destroying almost all records. Some land and land tax records dating from 1867 were not in the building at the time and are available in Lincoln County, but have not been microfilmed. Some effort was made to recreate records, and many Delayed Birth certificates were recorded. Because Lincoln County was formed by a West Virginia legislative act in 1866, well after the beginning of the Civil War, there were no records preserved in Virginia as there were for counties formed earlier; Births: Before 1909; Deaths: Before 1909; Marriages: Before 1895.
  • Logan County: Fire sometime during Civil War. Not all records lost. Many Logan County records were destroyed during the Civil War, and records were not kept for several years following the war. The Library of Virginia records on microfilm help fill in the years 1853-60; Births: Before 1872; Deaths: Before 1872; Marriages: Before 1872; Wills: Before 1873; Deeds: Before 1835.
  • Mingo County: No fire, but flooded in 1977, heavily damaging records. Mingo was not created until 1895, so Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) was not interested in filming Mingo's records during the 1960's-70's when they filmed other counties because LDS was concentrating on pre-1900 records at the time. By the time Mingo records were scheduled for filming, privacy laws had been enacted which prevented copying many records. Births for 1900-24, Deaths for 1894-1925, Marriages for 1895-1926 and Wills for 1895-1926 were filmed.
  • Monongalia County: Monongalia is one of the oldest counties, formed in 1776, but had a fire in 1796. Not all records were destroyed; Marriages: Before 1796; Wills: Before 1819; Deeds: Before 1789, but index survives from 1776.
  • Morgan County: Morgan County lost records in a courthouse fire in 1844, and again during the Civil War. Some attempts were made to recreate records; Births: Before 1865; Deaths: Before 1865.
  • Pendleton County: Fire in 1924, but no records lost.
  • Pocahontas County: Deaths: 1901-04.
  • Preston County: lost records in a courthouse fire in 1869. Lost all Deaths, Marriages, Wills and Deeds before 1869. The Library of Virginia records on microfilm provide some birth, death and marriage records for 1853-60; Births: Before 1869; Deaths: Before 1869; Marriages: Before 1869; Wills: Before 1869; Deeds: Before 1869.
  • Randolph County: Randolph County had a courthouse fire in 1897, but the birth, death, marriage, wills, deeds, etc., were in a vault and saved. Other records were lost.
  • Roane County: Both the courthouse built in 1856 and its replacement built in 1887 burned. Could not determine dates of fires. Not all records were destroyed. Many survived.
  • Tucker County: Deaths: 1862-63, 1867, 1875-76, 1879, 1883.
  • Wayne County: Fire in 1921, but no records lost.
  • Webster County: In 1860 Webster County was the last county created under Virginia before West Virginia achieved statehood. The Civil War disrupted organization of the new county, with neither Virginia nor West Virginia taking control of Webster's government. As a result, some records were not kept, courts did not meet, etc. Also, in 1888, a courthouse fire destroyed the records that had been kept; Births: Before 1888; Deaths: Before 1888; Marriages: Before 1888; Wills: Before 1888; Deeds: Before 1877.
  • Wirt County: Fire in 1910, but apparently not all records lost, as many records prior to 1910 still exist. Although Wirt County was formed in 1848, many of its records on microfilm do not begin until much later, or have significant gaps. The Library of Virginia records on microfilm fill in some of the gaps for some birth, death and marriage records for 1854-60; Births: Before 1870; Deaths: Before 1870, 1875; Marriages: Before 1854.
  • Wetzel County: Births: 1863-64, 1871-72, 1876; Deaths: 1862, 1864, 1872-73, 1876.
  • Wyoming County: Deaths: 1860-64, partial 1865-67, 1868-74.
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