West Virginia Emigration and Immigration

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The settlement of present-day West Virginia began in the mid-1700s when Scotch-Irish and German settlers from Pennsylvania came to the area that is now Berkeley and Greenbriar counties. Heavy settlement began in the 1760s after Indian claims had been settled. These pioneers were generally from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and other northern states and not from Virginia or other areas east of the mountains.

In the early and mid-1800s, many Germans and Irish came directly to West Virginia. A few Blacks were brought to the region in the early years, but many more came after the Civil War to work in the coal mines. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, large numbers of immigrants arrived from Ireland and from southern and eastern Europe, especially Hungary, Italy, and Poland.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was an important port of entry to West Virginia, but the major port between 1870 and 1915 was New York, where thousands of European immigrants boarded labor trains headed for the coal fields. The Family History Library and the National Archives have passenger lists for New York for 1820 to 1919, and indexes for 1820 to 1846 and 1897 to 1943. The lists for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania date from 1800 to 1916 with indexes for 1800 to 1948. More detailed information on U.S. immigration sources is in the United States Research Outline.

Names of colonial immigrants to America that have been listed in published sources are indexed in P. William Filby, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. 15 Volumes. (Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1981-; Family History Library book 973 W32p; some volumes are on films beginning with 1597960 items 4-6). The first three volumes are a combined alphabetical index published in 1981. Supplemental volumes have been issued annually. There are also later cumulative indexes.

The early court records of Augusta county through 1800, which include many of the first settlers of West Virginia, have been published in Lyman Chalkley, Chronicles of the Scots-Irish Settlement in Virginia : extracted from the original court records of Augusta County, 1754-1800 

Volumes 1-2   Family History Library US/CAN Film 162043
Volume 3   Family History Library US/CAN Film 162044