West Virginia Archives and Libraries

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Beginning Research
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Local Research Resources

The following repositories preserve sources, maintain indexes, and provide services to help genealogists document their ancestors who lived in West Virginia.

Remember, prior to 1863 West Virginia was part of Virginia, and many early West Virginia records are housed in Virginia Archives and Libraries.

Wiki Articles on Repositories for West Virginia[edit | edit source]

Boyd County Public Library (Ashland, KY) · Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library · Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh, PA) · Library of Congress (Washington, DC) · Library of Virginia (Richmond, VA) · Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library · Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library (Lancaster, VA) · Maryland State Archives (Annapolis, MD)  · National Archives I (Washington, DC) · National Archives II (College Park, MD) · National Archives at Philadelphia (PA) · New York Public Library (New York City, NY) · Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library · Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston · Santa Cruz Public Library Downtown (Santa Cruz, CA) · University of Chicago Library (Chicago, IL) · Virginia Historical Society (Richmond, VA) · Washington National Records Center (Suitland, MD) · West Virginia Archives and History · West Virginia University Wise Library · West Virginia Vital Registration Office

Online Records of West Virginia[edit | edit source]

Links to online databases and indexes that may include vital records, biographies, cemeteries, censuses, histories, immigration records, land records, maps, military records, naturalizations, newspapers, obituaries, or probate records.

National Repositories[edit | edit source]

Library of Congress Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C.

Library of Congress[edit | edit source]

101 Independence Ave. SE
Thomas Jefferson Building, LJ G4
Washington, D.C. 20540-4660
Telephone: Reading Room: 202-707-5537
Fax: 202-707-1957
E-mail: Ask a Librarian form
Website: Library of Congress

The Library of Congress "Local History and Genealogy Reading Room" has moved to the main reading room, but services are unchanged. They are part of the world's largest library including 50,000 genealogies, 100,000 local histories, and collections of manuscripts, microfilms, maps, newspapers, photographs, and published material, strong in North American (including West Virginia), British Isles, and German sources.[1]

National Archives I[edit | edit source]

National Archives I on Pennsylvania Ave, D.C.
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC
Telephone: 1-866-272-6272
Fax: 301-837-0483
E-mail: National Archives and Records Administration inquiry form
Website: NARA
Nationwide (including West Virginia) censuses, pre-WWI military service and pensions, passenger lists, naturalizations, passports, federal bounty land, homesteads, bankruptcy, ethnic sources, prisons, and federal employees. The National Archives Building in Washington, DC (Archives I), houses textual and microfilm records relating to genealogy, American Indians, pre-World War II military and naval-maritime matters, the New Deal, the District of Columbia, the Federal courts, and Congress.[2]

National Archives II[edit | edit source]

National Archives II in College Park, MD

8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
Telephone: 866-272-6272
Fax: 301-837-0483
E-mail: I have a question form
Internet: National Archives at College Park, Maryland

Archives II houses documents created after 1900 at the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, and Treasury, modern military records, passport applications, and District of Columbia records. Residents of West Virginia are found in their records.[3]

National Archives at Philadelphia[edit | edit source]

National Archives at Philadelphia sign

14700 Townsend Road
Philadelphia, PA 19154-1096
Telephone: 215-305-2044
Fax: 215-305-2052
E-mail: Philadelphia.archives@nara.gov
Website: National Archives Philadelphia

This branch has federal agency and court records for Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. All U.S. federal censuses 1790-1940, and indexes. Also has passenger arrivals in Philadelphia 1800-1945 and Baltimore, pension and bounty land warrant applications, naturalizations 1790-1990, early federal history, diplomacy, military history, Chinese-Americans, World War II homefront, National Park Service, merchant marine, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, federal tax evasion and smuggling cases.[4]

WNRC stack area in Suitland, MD

Washington National Records Center[edit | edit source]

4205 Suitland Road
Suitland, MD 20746-8001
NARA telephone: 866-272-6272
NARA E-mail: Contact Us form
Internet: Services for the Public

Older than 15-years federal criminal court, federal civil court, and federal bankruptcy court records, and the federal agency records from the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.[5]

Statewide Repositories[edit | edit source]

West Virginia Archives and History[edit | edit source]

The Cultural Center
Capitol Complex
1900 Kanawha Boulevard East
Charleston, WV 25305-0300
Telephone: 304-558-0220
Fax: 304-558-2779
Website: Archives and History Library
Website: West Virginia Archives and History: Genealogy Corner Click on records to search and view digitized records.

This the best place to start West Virginia genealogy research. They have manuscripts, biographies, county histories, and tax records.[6]

West Virginia Vital Registration Office[edit | edit source]

Room 165
350 Capitol Street
Charleston, WV 25301-3701
Telephone: General questions (but no certificate requests) 304-558-2931
Website: Requesting WV Vital Records

The West Virginia Vital Registration Office has:[7]
  • West Virginia births 1917-present
  • West Virginia delayed birth records starting around 1850
  • West Virginia marriage indexes 1924-present
  • West Virginia marriages 1964-present
  • West Virginia deaths 1917-present
  • West Virginia divorce indexes 1967-present
Certified copies. Certificates are hand abstracted from the original source document. The person on a certificate, parents, grandparents, wife, husband, child, grandchild, brother, or sister of the person on a certificate may request a copy. Close relatives can obtain certified copies of BMD, and divorce records from the West Virginia Vital Registration Office in these ways:[8]
  • In person. Fastest delivery. Their fee must be paid by cash, check, or money order.
  • By mail. Slowest delivery. See their Certificate Request Forms Internet page. Their fee must be paid by check, or money order.
  • Online, or by telephone, or fax. You can use a credit card to pay their fee and request express delivery of an official West Virginia certified copy of a vital record for an extra fee from the private company VitalChek West Virginia.
Genealogical research. A good resource for West Virginia genealogical vital record information is the West Virginia Archives and History Library in Charleston. Among other sources, they have early (pre-1917) county birth and death records. For marriage records prior to 1964 contact the county clerk of the county where the license was obtained.[7]
Online indexes. Internet sites like Ancestry.com ($) provide information from some of West Virginia's vital records, for example, Ancestry.com has West Virginia births 1804-1938, marriages 1785-1971, and deaths 1853-1973.[9]

Regional Repositories[edit | edit source]

Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library[edit | edit source]

404 West Pike Street
Clarksburg, WV 26301
Telehone: 304-627-2236
Fax: 304-627-2239
E-mail: Contact form
Website: Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library

This is a large genealogical collection with indexes, periodicals, histories, obituaries, cemeteries, and family folders.[6]

Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library[edit | edit source]

101 West King Street
Martinsburg, WV 25401
Telephone: 304-267-8933
Fax: 304-267-9720
Website: History and Genealogy Resources

They have a good genealogy collection with many sources for the earliest West Virginia settlers.[6]

Parkersburg & Wood County Public Library[edit | edit source]

Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library
3100 Emerson Ave.
Parkersburg, WV26104-2414
Telephone: 304-420-4587
Fax: 304-420-4589
Website: Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library

West Augusta Historical and Genealogical Society's collection includes genealogies, family histories, cemetery transcripts, obituaries and family folders. Covers northwest West Virginia and parts of southwest Pennsylvania.[6]

Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston[edit | edit source]

114 Broad Street, Carriage House
Charleston, SC 29401
Telephone: 843-410-1720
Website: Archives and Record Management

Diocese Archives records pertain to the chancery, parishes, clergy, men and women religious, laity, schools, cemeteries, hospitals, social services, buildings, and properties. Please make an appointment before visiting.[10]

WVU Wise Library in Morgantown

West Virginia University Wise Library[edit | edit source]

West Virginia and Regional History Center
PO Box 6069
1549 University Ave
Morgantown, WV 26506-6069
Telephone: 304-293-3536
Fax: 304-293-3981
Website: West Virginia Collection

World's largest collection of West Virginia-related research material including 4.5 million manuscript documents, 30,000 books, 15,000 pamphlets, 1,200 newspapers, 100,000 photographs and prints, 5,000 maps, 25,000 microfilms, and oral histories.[11]
  • A useful guide to this collection is James W. Hess, Guide to Manuscripts and Archives in the West Virginia Collection. Morgantown, West Virginia. West Virginia University Library, 1974. FHL book 975.4 A5h The 1959 edition by Charles Shetler, is on film 940918 item 4

Outside of West Virginia Respositories[edit | edit source]

Boyd County Public Library[edit | edit source]

Ashland Main Branch
1740 Central Ave
Ashland, Kentucky 41101
Telephone: 606-329-0518
Fax: 606-329-0578
Website: Boyd County Public Library]

Near where Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia come together, this library has many sources about West Virginia people, including family folders, biographies, genealogies, and pedigrees.[6]

Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania[edit | edit source]

Historical Society of Western PA in Pittsburgh

Senator John Heinz History Center, Library and Archives
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222
Telephone: 412-454-6364
E-mail: library@heinzhistorycenter.org
Internet: http://www.heinzhistorycenter.org/libraryArchives.aspx

Colonial records of the Ohio Company with land grants and settlers since the 1750's in southwestern Pennsylvania and the area that became West Virginia.[6]

Library of Virginia[edit | edit source]

Library of Virginia in Richmond

800 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219-8000
Telephone: 804-692-3500
Fax: 804-692-3556
E-mail: Contact Us Select department to open dialog box
Website: Library of Virginia

The Library of Virginia is an important resource for pre-1863 West Virginia research. Their large genealogical collection has family Bibles, birth, marriages, deaths, divorces, histories, biographies, and newspapers. Many of their manuscripts are now online. The General Library contains printed materials, while the Research and Information Services Division consists of government records and other historical documents. Many collections are available online, such as Confederate pensions, veterans and widows, an index to wills and administrations, Revolutionary War bounty land, and Virginia Land Office patents and grants.[12] [13]

Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library[edit | edit source]

Mary Ball Washington Museum, Lancaster, VA

8346 Mary Ball Road
Lancaster, Virginia 22503
Telehone: 804-462-7280
Fax: 804-462-6107
E-mail: nfo@mbwm.org
Website: Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library

A small library with a good name index to nearly every history book published in Virginia, West Virginia, or Kentucky, including court records from 1651, indexes and abstracts, Virginia vital records, census records, county histories, biographies, church and cemetery records, family histories, newspapers, obituaries, vertical files, militia records, and fraternal organizations.[6] [14]

Maryland State Archives[edit | edit source]

Hall of Records Building
350 Rowe Boulevard
Annapolis, MD 21401
Telephone: 410-260-6400
Fax: 410-974-2525
E-mail: ref@mdsa.net
Internet: Maryland State Archives

This is the premier facility for locating Maryland ancestors who migrated into West Virginia. The Maryland State Archives online has nearly all available public records from 1634 to 1789; most original state and county records through the mid-twentieth century; microfilm copies of land, probate, and vital records to the present; and over 130 major card indexes to Maryland land records and early settlers, newspapers, county records, church records, family, and business records. This is the most complete collection of any of the 13 colonies. It can take up the three days just to check the indexes.[15] For more information about the state archives, see the following references.
  • Maryland. Hall of Records. A Guide to the Index Holdings at the Hall of Records. Rev., Bulletin, [Maryland. Hall of Records] No. 17. (Annapolis, Maryland: Hall of Records, 1972.) FHL book 975.2 A1 no. 56. This is a county-by-county list of indexes and years covered.
  • Papenfuse, Edward C., et al. A Guide to Government Records at the Maryland State Archives: A Comprehensive List by Agency and Record Series. (Annapolis, Maryland: Maryland State Archives, 1992.) FHL book 975.2 A3g. This guide lists record types, years covered, and series number.
  • Papenfuse, Edward C., et. al. A Guide to the Maryland Hall of Records: Local, Judicial and Administrative Records on Microfilm. Volume 1. (Annapolis, Maryland: Hall of Records Commission, 1978.) FHL fiche 6049468; book 975.2 A3pa v. 1. Volume one is a detailed list of many records on microfilm for Allegany County, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, and Baltimore City, Maryland. These include court, probate, and land records. The archives has additional computer printout lists for all counties. You can write to them for information about records of specific localities and time periods.
  • Radoff, Morris Leon, et al. The County Courthouses and Records of Maryland, Part Two: The Records. (Annapolis, Maryland: Hall of Records Commission, 1963.) FHL fiche 6054101 (fiches 4 and 5), 6054105; book 975.2 B4ma no. 13 This is a county-by-county list of record types, years covered, and series number.

New York Public Library[edit | edit source]

New York Public Library in Manhattan

U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy Division
Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, Room 315S
New York, New York 10018-2788
Telephone: 212-930-0829
E-mail: Ask a Librarian form
Website: New York Public Library

This is one of the largest research libraries in the world, including excellent genealogical resources for West Virginia. The library has city and telephone directories, vital records indexes, local histories, genealogies, federal and state censuses, passenger lists, genealogical collections (including DAR transcripts), and church records.[16] For maps, try the Map Division at the same address.

Santa Cruz Public Library Downtown[edit | edit source]

224 Church Street
Santa Cruz, California 95060
Telephone: 831-427-7707 ext. 5794
E-mail: E-mail reference service form
Website: Santa Cruz Public Library

Holds the Genealogical Society of Santa Cruz County's library, including the Tina Brayton Collection which is equivalent to the Draper Manuscript Collection  but larger and with a better index, and many compiled genealogies of Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia families.[17] [18]

University of Chicago Library[edit | edit source]

University of Chicago Regenstein Library

1100 East 57th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637-1502
Phone: (773) 702-4085
E-mail: Ask a librarian form
Internet: The University of Chicago Library

This library has plentiful historical records. Noteworthy is the Durrett Collection  of historical Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio River Valley manuscripts. The size and content of this collection is comparable to the Draper Manuscript Collection. It includes the earliest people in the Ohio Valley.[19]

Virginia Historical Society[edit | edit source]

Virginia Historical Society in Richmond

428 North Blvd
Richmond, Virginia 23221-0311
Telephone: 804-358-4901
E-mail: Ask a Librarian form
Website: Virginia Historical Society, Looking for People

They have more records for early West Virginia than in any West Virginia repository.[6] County records such as marriages, county court records, wills, censuses, land, militia lists, bounty lands, passenger lists, tax lists, poll lists, genealogies, newspapers, family Bibles, and African American genealogy. They have a card index to 10 million documents of the Old Dominion, that is Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky.[12] [20]

Guidebook[edit | edit source]

  • Ellen Garrison, Archives in Appalachia: A Directory (Boone, North Carolina: Appalachian Consortium Press, 1985). WorldCat 12712710; FHL Book 975 A3a. Includes Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia arranged alphabetically by state, then by the name of the repository. Each entry lists the archive, its address, phone number, inclusive dates of the collection, the records of the collection, what subjects are covered by the collection, and the size of the collection. There are two indexes: Record type, and Subject, with reference numbers corresponding to the repository.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Collections in Local History and Genealogy Reading Room in The Library of Congress (accessed 8 January 2014).
  2. Information for Researchers at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC in National Archives (accessed 31 December 2013).
  3. William Dollarhide and Ronald A. Bremer. America's Best Genealogy Resource Centers (Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest, 1998), 2. WorldCat 39493985; FHL Ref Book 973 J54d.
  4. Dollarhide and Bremer, 126-27.
  5. Dollarhide and Bremer, 29.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Dollarhide and Bremer, 117.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Genealogy Information in Vital Registration in WV DHHR Health Statistics Center (accessed 15 May 2017).
  8. Requesting WV Vital Records in Vital Registration in WV DHHR Health Statistics Center (accessed 15 May 2017).
  9. Card Catalog - Ancestry.com Keywords Search for "West Virginia" in the Birth, Marriage & Death category in AncestryInstitution.com (accessed 16 May 2017).
  10. Archives and Record Management in Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston (16 May 2017).
  11. West Virginia University Libraries in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 25 April 2016).
  12. 12.0 12.1 Dollarhide and Bremer, 97.
  13. Using the Collections in Library of Virginia (accessed 7 January 2014).
  14. Genealogy and History Library in Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library (accessed 7 January 2014).
  15. Dollarhide and Bremer, 55.
  16. Dollarhide and Bremer, 81.
  17. Dollarhide and Bremer, 113.
  18. The Tina Brayton Collection in Genealogical Society of Santa Cruz County (accessed 3 January 2014).
  19. Dollarhide and Bremer, 39.
  20. Looking for People in Virginia Historical Society (accessed 7 January 2014).