West Virginia History

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The following important events in the history of West Virginia affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements. See the Virginia Research Outline for additional information about the earlier history and records of the area that became West Virginia.

1731-1734:  Morgan Morgan, the first white settler in West Virginia established a home in Berkeley County, Virginia.

1738: Frederick and Augusta counties were formed from Orange County, Virginia. Frederick County included territory later in the Eastern panhandle of West Virginia and began functioning in 1743. Augusta County encompassed all the area west of the Blue Ridge mountains north of the Carolinas and began functioning in 1745.

1753:  Hampshire County, Virginia was created. This was the first county whose boundaries were within present-day West Virginia.

1775:  West Augusta District was established by Virginia and included all of West Virginia and western Pennsylvania. Ownership of part of this district was disputed with Pennsylvania.

1779:  Virginia ceded most of the northern part of West Augusta District to Pennsylvania after Pennsylvania agreed to accept land grants that Virginia had made in the disputed region.

1784:  Virginia ceded its claims north of the Ohio River to the United States but reserved a section known as the Virginia Military District for Revolutionary War bounty land.

1788:  Virginia ratified the constitution and became a state.

1861-1865:  In a dispute over secession, fifty western counties broke off to form the “restored government of Virginia,” which remained loyal to the Union. The state of West Virginia was admitted to the Union in 1863. During the Civil War, about 32,000 West Virginia soldiers enlisted in the Union Army, while 9,000 served the Confederacy.

1870s:  Industrial expansion in West Virginia attracted Black immigrants from southern states and European immigrants from overseas.

Sources for studying the history of West Virginia include:

Comstock, Jim F. The West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia. 25 volumes. Richwood, West Virginia: 1976. (Family History Library book 975.4 H26w; fiche 6051466-490.) This primarily includes biographical and geographical sketches from other published sources. This serves as a partial index to the Supplemental Series.

Comstock, Jim F. The West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia: Supplemental Series. 25 volumes. Richwood, West Virginia:  1974. (Family History Library book 975.4 H26wa; volumes 12-13 on film 1321160 item 9; volumes 1-25 on fiche 6051350.) This contains reprints of several articles and books related to West Virginia history and people.

Doddridge, Joseph. Notes on the Settlement and Indian Wars. With a memoir of the author by his daughter Narcissa Doddridge, republished with the addition of new and valuable material by John S. Ritenour and Wm. T. Lindsey, Pittsburgh, PA., 1912; reprinted 1960, 1970, 1976, 1996 by McLain Printing Company, Parsons, WV. (Family History Library book 973 H2do; fiche 6049128.)

Rice, Otis K. West Virginia: A History. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 1985. (Family History Library book 975.4 H2ric.)

Withers, Alexander Scott, Chronicles of Border Warfare, edited and annotated by Reuben Gold Thwaites. The Robert Clarke Company, Cincinnati, OH, 1895; reprinted 1961, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1989 by McLain Printing Company, Parsons, WV. (Family History Library book 975.5 H2wc 1961; fiche 6067169.)

Helpful bibliographies of West Virginia local histories are:

Forbes, Harold M. West Virginia History: a bibliography and guide to research. Morgantown, West Virginia; West Virginia University Press, 1981. (Family History Library book 975.4 H2f.)

Daughters of the American Revolution, West Virginia. Bibliography of Local History and Genealogy. N.p.: 1965. (Family History Library film 940922.) This is a helpful index to books and articles on West Virginia families.

To determine county boundary changes, see:

West Virginia County Formations and Boundary Changes. Charleston, West Virginia: Historical Records Survey, 1939; (Family History Library book 975.4 E2h; film 1573628.)

Another helpful source is:

Sims, Edgar Barr. Making a State: Formation of West Virginia. Charleston, West Virginia : E.B. Sims, 1956.  (Family History Library book 975.4 R2s.)

Web Sites



A History of The Middle New River Settlements and Contiguous Territory