Virginia History

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United States > Virginia > Virginia History

Brief History

The following important events in the history of Virginia affected political jurisdictions, family movements, and record keeping. The following important events affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements.

  • 1607:  The Virginia Company of London founded the first permanent English settlement in America at Jamestown.
  • 1617: Pocahontas died and buried in England
  • 1624:  The King dissolved the Virginia Company and established Virginia as a crown colony with an elected General Assembly.  
  • 1697: Some Indians had received education at Williams and Mary's College
  • 1711-1712 Tuscarora Wars
  • 1710-1740s:  Passes across the Blue Ridge mountains leading from eastern Virginia into the Shenandoah Valley were discovered. Emigrants from Pennsylvania and New Jersey began to enter the valley.  
  • 1750-1784:  Land grants made to the Ohio Company encouraged exploration beyond the Alleghenies. The new area southeast of the Ohio River was organized by Virginia in 1775 as the District of West Augusta, although much of this was ceded to Pennsylvania in 1786.  
  • 1754-1763: French and Indian War
  • 1770s:  The Wilderness Road opened access across the Cumberland Gap from Virginia into Kentucky. The area that was to become Kentucky was organized as Kentucky County, Virginia, in 1776.  
  • 1780s:  In 1784, Virginia formally ceded its claims north of the Ohio River to the United States. In 1788 Virginia ratified the United States constitution to become a state.  
  • 1792:  Kentucky became a separate state.  
  • 1861-1870:  Most of Virginia joined the Confederacy, although fifty western counties broke off and were admitted to the Union as the state of West Virginia in 1863. Virginia was readmitted to the Union in 1870.  
  • 1898: Over 300,000 men were involved in the Spanish-American War which was fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines.
  • 1917–1918: More than 26 million men from the United States ages 18 through 45 registered with the Selective Service. World War I over 4.7 million American men and women served during the war.
  • 1930's: The Great Depression closed many factories and mills. Many small farms were abandoned, and many families moved to cities.
  • 1940–1945: Over 50.6 million men ages 18 to 65 registered with the Selective Service. Over 16.3 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II.
  • 1950–1953: Over 5.7 million American men and women served in the Korean War.
  • 1950's–1960's The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances.
  • 1964–1972: Over 8.7 million American men and women served in the Vietnam War

Timeline of Changing Boundaries

Throughout most of its history, parts of the territory that old Virginia once claimed were carved off to form parts of other states:

  • 1779 part of Virginia became part of North Carolina
  • 1786 part of Virginia became part of Pennsylvania
  • 1792 part of Virginia became Kentucky
  • 1792 part of Virginia became part of Maryland
  • 1803 part of Virginia became part of Tennessee
  • 1803 part of Virginia became Ohio and Indiana territory
  • 1816 former part of Virginia became Indiana
  • 1818 former part of Virginia became Illinois
  • 1863 part of Virginia became West Virginia

Historical Content

Histories are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden names of women
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation
  • Migration
  • Military service
  • Descendants

Local Histories

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies. The United States Research "History" page cites nationwide bibliographies of local histories which include histories of Virginia.

  • Virginia Local History: A Bibliography [1] The Family History Library has many local histories for Virginia. These often have biographical sketches and genealogical information about local families.
  • A Bibliography of American County Histories [2] [3]
  • United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress [4] [5]

State Histories Useful to Genealogists

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the laudatory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of Virginia are:

  • History of Virginia [6] Volumes four through six contain biographies. This history is indexed by Wardell's, Virginians & West Virginians, 1607-1870, see the Virginia Genealogy page.

United States History

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:

  • The Almanac of American History, [7] [8] This provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed [9] [10] This includes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations. A snippet view is available at Google books.
  • Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium [11] [12] [13] This includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.

To find more books and articles about Virginia 's history use the Internet Google search for phases like "Virginia history." Family History Library Catalog Surname Search lists many more histories under topics like:


Web Sites


  1. Virginia Local History: A Bibliography. Richmond, Virginia: Virginia State Library, 1971. (Family History Library book 975.5 A1 Number 87; film 928084 item 8.)
  2. Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. (FHL book 973 H23bi)
  3. Worldcat
  4. Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Book, 1975-76. (FHL book 973 A3ka.)
  5. Worldcat
  6. History of Virginia. Six Volumes. Chicago, Illinois: American Historical Society, 1924. (Family History Library book 975.5 H2a; Volume 1 on film 1421672 item 11; Volumes 2-6 on film 1321473.)
  7. Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983. (FHL book 973 H2alm)
  8. Worldcat
  9. Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. (FHL book 973 H2ad.)
  10. Worldcat
  11. Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Springfield, Mass.: G&C Merriam, 1971. (FHL book 973 H2v)
  12. Limited view at Google Books
  13. Worldcat
  14. Writings on American History By American Historical Association, Library of Congress, United States National Historical Publications Commission, Published by KTO Press, 1921 FHL book 973 H23w
  15. Worldcat