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West Virginia: Local History & Genealogy Resource Guide

External Websites

The following external websites contain primary source and educational materials helpful in researching this state.

Church and Religious Records

Most religious records are maintained at the local level. It is important to reach out directly to your ancestors' house of worship. Keep in mind that original records from a particular religious institution may also have been transferred to the custody of an area library, historical society, or denominational archive for preservation and research. See the Library of Congress Church and Synagogue Records for Genealogy Research Guide for additional information and research strategies.

The following list provides a selection of the types of records and repositories that you may find for the denominations represented in your family or local history:

Coal Mining

Coal changed the lifestyle and landscape of West Virginia. For generations it has influenced economics and employment, which in turn has impacted the communities and families that rely on it.

Hatfields and McCoys

The Hatfield and McCoy feud was fueled by events that took place near the end of the 19th century. These events impacted communities and families well beyond these two specific family trees. Understanding the history that surrounds this feud provides context for contemporary local history and genealogical research.


To understand the time and place in which our ancestors lived, we must understand the laws that governed their community. These laws governed their daily lives and impacted the records they left behind.

Maps and Geographical Resources

These historical map collections may be searched by state or county.

Military Records

Military records often reveal much more than military service. Search these records for personal details, family ties, and local history context.

The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

Using Ancestry Library Edition for West Virginia

Begin your search through Ancestry's vast collections, by viewing the list designated as West Virginia records External .

Selected highlights:

  • Soldiery of West Virginia External - This is the most comprehensive compilation of West Virginia soldiers in the Revolution and other wars, containing rosters and, in many cases, service records of thousands of soldiers, with narratives on the various wars. The rosters and rolls, here collected for the first time, are drawn from both published and unpublished sources, the original records being in many cases in the Department of Archives and History of the State of West Virginia.
  • West Virginia 5th Cavalry Roster External - Created in the midst of the American Civil War, West Virginia became a state in 1863 when the northwestern counties of Virginia seceded from that state. This database is a listing of men who served in the state's 5th Cavalry. Each entry provides the soldiers name, rank and unit information. With over 1100 entries, this database can be a resource for researchers of nineteenth century ancestors from West Virginia.

State and Local Repositories

Despite the vast amount of information available online, most genealogy and local history records have not been digitized. Be sure to find the repositories of records in the specific communities where your ancestors lived. Over the years, some records have been shifted to nearby academic libraries or to state archives. Reach out to these institutions directly to discover what collections they hold and how you can access them.