Now What: Early West Virginia Genealogy

By David A. Fryxell Premium
Q. How can I find birth records in West Virginia before 1850?
A. Virginia, of which West Virginia was then a part, first mandated birth and death registration in 1853; county records before that date may be spotty or nonexistent. Fortunately, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History’s Vital Research Records Project is placing vital records online. At, you can search the records and view the originals. Most cover only years after 1853 or even later, but earlier records are available for Barbour, Cabell, Jackson, Logan, Mingo, Monongalia, Monroe, Ohio, Taylor and Upshur counties.
If you strike out online, check with the county clerk’s office where the birth took place. Original birth certificates are in county courthouses, with a few original records located in West Virginia University’s West Virginia and Regional History Collection. Microfilmed county records are available in the West Virginia Archives and History Libraryand through your local FamilySearch Center.
Because these sources have few pre-1853 birth records, you may have to turn to less-official sources such as church records and family Bibles. Because West Virginia was part of Virginia prior to the Civil War, you may have some luck in the Library of Virginia’s digital collection of family Bibles. Search the catalog. Click Archives & Manuscripts and include family Bible in your search terms.
From the May/June 2012 issue of Family Tree Magazine

Get Your Free Essential Genealogy Research Forms

Sign up for the Family Tree Newsletter and receive 10 research forms as a special thank you!
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Your guide to West Virginia research!

Family Tree’s State Guide for West Virginia helps you trace your ancestors with convenient advice and resources. Instant access for just $3!