West Virginia Genealogy Research and Working with Changing County Boundaries

As many American’s know, the state of West Virginia was formed in 1863 from the state of Virginia during the Civil War. Those researching their West Virginia roots prior to that year, may wonder which counties to search and what records are available. We have some tips to make your West Virginia research a little easier!

West Virginia genealogy research

The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Boston Public Library collection, Wikipedia Commons.

County level research is important when trying to find the vital records of our ancestors. Birth, marriage, and death records typically are found on the county level. This means you will need to obtain a copy of these types of certificates from the local courthouse or other county repository, such as a county archives.

But what happens when the state or county wasn’t around when your ancestor lived there? Such is the case with this Genealogy Gems reader. Here is her question regarding West Virginia research:

I have a 3rd great-grandfather I am trying to find with his parents who may have been born in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. He was born in 1814. My question is that Greenbrier County was in Virginia at the time of his birth. Now it is in West Virginia which was made a state in the 1860s, so where do I look for his records? Finding his parents has been a brick wall! What would you suggest?

Birth Records in the 1800s

The first thing we want to address is the hope that this reader will find a birth record for 1814. Early birth records of this time-frame were typically kept by the churches in the form of christening or baptismal records. Civil registrations of births, which were created by the local or federal government, were not kept regularly for American states until much later. The earliest cities and states to require civil registration can be seen here, but a few examples include: New York in 1880, Virginia in 1853,and Florida in 1865. [1]

Because birth records can not always be located in church or civil registration for this early time period, we suggest using alternate records as your supporting evidence. Substitute birth records might be, but are not limited to: school records, censuses, pension records, marriage records, and biographical sketches. (Click these links to learn more about each type of record.)

West Virginia Genealogy Research: County Level

Next, let’s discuss the uniqueness of researching in West Virginia. West Virginia was created in 1863 out of the state of Virginia. Many of the counties that were once in Virginia, kept the same name and retained their records when they became part of West Virginia.

There is a wonderful resource in the book titled “Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources” which was edited by Alice Eichholz. This book has a chart for each U.S. state listing the year each county was formed and from what parent county. To find the chart, flip through to the West Virginia section. Each county is listed in alphabetical order. In this case, we would locate “Greenbrier” and take note that according to the chart, Greenbrier County, West Virginia was formed in 1778 by portions of both Montgomery and Botetourt County, Virginia. A chart like this is helpful for any genealogist in determining which counties should be researched.

Greenbrier County, West Virginia: A Timeline of Changing County Boundaries

I took the liberty of looking further into Greenbrier County, West Virginia by examining more closely the changing county boundaries of this county over time. I did this by using the chart I mentioned above found in the Red Book. First, I found Greenbrier county and it’s parent county, then, I searched the list for further instances when parts of Greenbrier county were used to form newer counties. You see, we want to see the changes of this county’s boundaries so that we know what possible places to look for records. Let me show you what I found. We are going to need a time line for this!

  • 1778: Greenbrier county was originally formed in 1778 from two parent Virginia counties: Montgomery and Botetourt.
  • 1788: part of Greenbrier County, Virginia became Kanawha County
  • 1799: Greenbrier shrunk further when a portion of its boundaries became Monroe County, Virginia
  • 1818: Nicholas County, Virginia formed from Greenbrier
  • 1831: part of Greenbrier created the new county of Fayette, Virginia
  • 1863: Greenbrier county, Virginia became part of the State of West Virginia
  • 1871: Summers County, West Virginia was created by a small portion of Greenbrier

As you can see, our Genealogy Gems reader may need to visit and research several county repositories both within the state of Virginia and West Virginia.

Greenbrier county is rather unique, as it had boundary changes quite regularly. It may be difficult to visit each of these county courthouses, spanning many miles apart, in hopes of finding targeted records for their ancestor. For this reason, our reader may wish to begin at the West Virginia State Archives. At most state archive repositories, records for all the counties can be easily looked at via microfilm. This may save valuable travel time. (Note: Before visiting any state archives facility, call ahead to verify what information and records they have, so that you do not have a wasted trip.)

There is also a free guide at Family Tree Magazine for West Virginia genealogy research that we highly recommend.

More on Advanced Research Strategies

Creating a FAN club tipsChanging county boundaries is just one area that must be mastered to ensure accurate genealogy research. Here are 3 more articles that will help you beef up your genealogy research skills:

The Genealogy FAN Club Principle Overcomes Genealogy Brick Walls

Missing Census or Missing Family: Legacy Tree Genealogists Answer

Resolving Three Common Conflicting Evidence Problems in Genealogy

ARTICLE REFERENCES

[1] Johni Cerny, “Births and Deaths in Public Records,” originally written in “The Source: A Genealogist’s Guidebook to American Genealogy,” online article, Ancestry Wiki, accessed 20 Feb 2017.

Episode 145 – Blast From the Past Episodes 5 and 6

[iframe src=”http://html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/2136782/height/100/width/480/thumbnail/yes” height=”100″ width=”480″ scrolling=”no”]

In this episode I’ve got another blast from the past for you.  We have reached deep into the podcast archive and retrieved episodes 5 and 6.

In Episode 5 we touch on using the video website YouTube for genealogy, and then I walk you through how to Bring Sites Back From the Dead with Google. Then we wrap things up with a cool little way to Spice Up Your Genealogy Database.

In episode 6 I have a gem for you called Cast a Shadow on Your Ancestors, and we cover the free genealogy website US GenWeb

Episode: # 05
Original Publish Date:  March 25, 2007

MAILBOX

Email this week from   Mike O’Laughlin of the Irish Roots Cafe: “Congratulations on your podcast!  I am sure it will help many folks out there. I was glad to see the fine Irish families of Scully and Lynch on your latest show notes!”

GEM:  You Tube Follow Up
Note: The Genealogy Tech Podcast is no longer published or available.

  • YouTube in the news – the concern was raised by Viacom this month about YouTube benefiting from their programming without compensating them, which could mean copyright infringement.  While the course of YouTube could change depending on the outcome of this suit, the attraction for family historians remains strong because of the nature of the content.
  • Software mentioned:
    Pinnacle.  Final Cut for MAC.  Limits with Movie Maker
  • I posted 2 videos – A Nurse In Training Part 1 & 2

Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel  Click the Subscribe button to receive notification of new videos

 

GEM:  Bring Sites Back From the Dead with Google                                                    

When you get a “File Not Found” error when clicking on a link, it doesn’t mean the information is always gone forever.  You may be able to find it in the Cache version.

Google takes a snapshot of each page it examines and caches (stores) that version as a back-up. It’s what Google uses to judge if a page is a good match for your query.  In the case of a website that no longer exists, the cache copy us a snapshot of the website when it was still active hidden away or cached. 

Practically every search result includes a Cached link. Clicking on that link takes you to the Google cached version of that web page, instead of the current version of the page. This is useful if the original page is unavailable because of:

1.      Internet congestion

2.      A down, overloaded, or just slow website – Since Google’s servers are typically faster than many web servers, you can often access a page’s cached version faster than the page itself.

3.      The owner’s recently removing the page from the Web

 

Sometimes you can even access the cached version from a site that otherwise require registration or a subscription. 

 

If Google returns a link to a page that appears to have little to do with your query, or if you can’t find the information you’re seeking on the current version of the page, take a look at the cached version.

 

Hit the Back button and look for a link to a “cached” copy at the end of the URL at the end of the search result. Clicking on the “cached” link should bring up a copy of the page as it appeared at the time that Google indexed that page, with your search terms highlighted in yellow.

 

If you don’t see a cached link, it may have been omitted because the owners of the site have requested that Google remove the cached version or not cache their content.  Also, any sites Google hasn’t indexed won’t have a cache version.

 

Limit:  If the original page contains more than 101 kilobytes of text, the cached version of the page will consist of the first 101 Kbytes (120 Kbytes for pdf files).

 

Really looking for an oldie but a goody?  Try the Wayback Machine

It allows you to browse through 85 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago.

To start surfing the Wayback, type in the web address of a site or page where you would like to start, and press enter. Then select from the archived dates available. The resulting pages point to other archived pages at as close a date as possible. Keyword searching is not currently supported.

GEM:  Spice up your database

  • Search Google Images, then Right click and save to your hard drive.
  • Use Silhouettes
  • Find something that represents what you do know about that person.  It really does help you see them more as a person and less as an entry in your database – their occupation, a reader, a sport, etc.

Episode: # 06
Original Publish Date: April 1, 2007

You can learn more about Jewish roots at the 350 Years of American Jewish History website JewishGen, The Home of Jewish Genealogy

GEM:  Cast a Shadow on Your Ancestors

In the episode #5 I shared a little gem that would spice up your genealogical database – adding silhouettes and artistic images to the file of an ancestor when you don’t have a photograph.

Probably the most famous silhouette these days are the silhouettes used by Apple for advertising the iPod digital music and audio player.  It may surprise your teenager or grandchild to learn that the first silhouettes were done hundreds of years ago.

Back then silhouettes (or shades as they were called), they paintings or drawings of a person’s shadow. They were popular amongst English royalty and the art form quickly spread to Europe.  A silhouette can also be cut from black paper, and was a simple alternative for people who could not afford other forms of portraiture, which, in the eighteenth century, was still an expensive proposition.

The word took its name from Étienne de Silhouette, but it’s uncertain as to whether his name was attributed because he enjoyed this art form, or as the story goes because the victims of his taxes complained that they were reduced to mere shadows.

Either way, the popularity of Silhouettes hit new heights in the United States where they were seen in magazines, brochures and other printed material. But they faded from popularity as Photographs took over in the 1900s.

As a follow up, I want to share with you a simple technique for creating your own silhouettes. You can use ordinary snapshots to create a visual family record.

  • Take a photo of a person in profile against a neutral background. 
  • Blanket the photo background with white acrylic or tempera paint
  • Fill in the image with a heavy black permanent marker, curing the shoulders down for a classical pose. 
  • Add fun details like cowlicks, eyelashes, hats, and jewelry that express the person’s personality with a fine felt-tip pen.
  • Photocopy the doctored photos onto quality art paper.  Since glossy papers work print best, you could also use your computer scanner to scan the image into your hard drive.  From there you can add it to your database, or print it out onto glossy photo paper for mounting.

To represent folks in your family tree, create a silhouette of your father to represent his Great Great Grandfather, and add a farmer’s hat and rake to represent his profession of farming.  Chances are dad has inherited some of his profile anyway.  Have fun with it and be creative.  But of course be very sure to label to silhouette appropriately as a creative interpretation rather than a literal rendering.

You can also do silhouettes of your family including extended family and arrange the portraits together on a wall.  Use black painted frames in a variety of shapes and sizes and hang in a way that represents the family tree / relationships.

Check out the Art Café Network website for a Short History of Silhouettes by Katherine Courtney.

For More detailed how-to information, they have additional pages on cutting visit http://artcafenetwork.net/meet/kat/silhouette/cutting.html

2 Silhouette books to turn to:

Silhouettes%20:%20Rediscovering%20the%20Lost%20Art<img%20src=”http:/www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=genegemspodc-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0970115105″%20width=”1″%20height=”1″%20border=”0″%20alt=””%20style=”border:none%20!important;%20margin:0px%20!important;”%20/>%20″ >Silhouettes: Rediscovering the Lost Art

by Kathryn K. Flocken

Old-Fashioned Silhouettes (Dover Electronic Clip Art) (CD-ROM and Book)

 

GEM:  GenWeb Pages

Last year the website celebrated its 10th Anniversary.  The USGenWeb Project consists of a group of volunteers working together to provide Internet websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States. The Project is non-commercial and fully committed to free access for everyone. Organization within the website is by state and county.

You can go to the homepage of the website and click on the state of your choice from the left hand column.  From the state page you can select the county you wish to search in.  However, when I know they name of the county I want to search in,  I’ve found it’s often quicker just to search at google.com and do a search like  “genweb sibley county mn”  The choice is yours. 

Remember to use the Google search gem that I gave you in episode one (see episode #134  http://www.genealogygemspodcast.com/webpage/episode-145-a-blast-from-the-past ) to quickly search within the county website.   Many don’t have search engines of their own, and so that’s when I first really started using that search technique.  These county sites are often very rich though, and after a focused search, it’s rewarding just to wander the site.  It will help you become more familiar with the county!

You’ll likely find databases of Births, Deaths, Marriages, townships histories, plat maps, surnames, and a host of other topics. Because each county has its own volunteer coordinator, the information you will find varies from county to county.  And as always, info is being added regularly, so you need to book mark them and return on a regular basis to see what’s new.

Be sure and share your resources as well.  That’s the power behind the GenWeb project – volunteers.  Volunteering your county resources will enrich other’s experience and will likely lead to connections that will continue to further your own research.

Book Mentioned in this episode:
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Online Genealogy, Second Edition
by Rhonda McClure

Check out this episode

Virginia Genealogy Strategies and Best Websites – Podcast Episode 269

Episode Show Notes

In this episode, we’re focusing on early Virginia genealogy.
 
In our first segment, I’ve invited a professional genealogist to join us to help pave the way for tracing our ancestors back to Virginia just prior to the Revolutionary War. Jeri Satterwhite-Dearing specializes in early Virginia research in her work as a professional genealogist with Legacy Tree Genealogists.  In this podcast episode she explains some of the biggest challenges you’ll face when researching early Virginian ancestors, the records you should be looking for, and some of the best resources.  
 
In the second segment, I’ll cover a list of the best websites for Virginia Genealogy. 
 

Exclusive Discounts

Learn more at https://www.legacytree.com/GenealogyGems This is our affiliate link and includes special discount coupon codes just for you.

Listen to the Podcast Episode

 

Our Sponsors:

MyHeritage DNA 

Get your MyHeritage DNA kit here

MyHeritage DNA

 

 

 

Get 20% off Newspapers.comClick here and use coupon code genealogygems

 

Visit Fort Wayne

Fort Wayne, Indiana is the home of the second largest free genealogy library in the country. Make your plans to visit today. Learn more at https://www.visitfortwayne.com 

Visit Fort Wayne and the Genealogy Center

Learn more about the free genealogy resources at VisitFortWayne.com

 

7 Best Websites for Virginia Genealogy

1. Archival Resources of the Virginias

Formerly known as Virginia Heritage, this website is a “consolidated database of finding aids that provides information about the vast array of manuscripts and archival materials housed in Virginia and West Virginia.”

2. Cyndi’s List: Virginia (state)

A comprehensive and growing list of links to genealogy resources for Virginia research.

3. FamilySearch Research Wiki: Virginia state page

A guide to Virginia ancestry, family history, and genealogy (birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, and military records.)

4. Linkpendium: Virginia

Links to Virginia family history & genealogy resources such as census, birth, marriage, death records & more.

5. VAGenWeb – State of Virginia

Part of the U.S. GenWeb Project.

6. Virginia Memory

From the website: “Part of the online presence of the Library of Virginia, the state archives and reference library. The Library maintains vast and varied collections of print materials, manuscripts, archival records, newspapers, photographs and ephemera, maps and atlases, rare books, and fine art that tell the history of the commonwealth and its people.”

7. Virtual Jamestown

From the website: “The Virtual Jamestown Archive is a digital research, teaching and learning project that explores the legacies of the Jamestown settlement and “the Virginia experiment.” As a work in progress, Virtual Jamestown aims to shape the national dialogue on the occasion of the four hundred-year anniversary observance in 2007 of the founding of the Jamestown colony.”

Become a Genealogy Gems Premium Member

Premium Members have exclusive access to:

  • Video classes and downloadable handouts
  • The Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast
  • Downloadable ad-free show notes PDF handouts

Become a member here.

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership

Genealogy Gems Podcast App

Don’t miss the Bonus audio for this episode. In the app, tap the gift box icon just under the media player. Get the app

Get the Free Genealogy Gems Newsletter

The Genealogy Gems email newsletter is the best way to stay informed about what’s available with your Premium eLearning Membership. Sign up today.

Follow Lisa and Genealogy Gems on Social Media:

Pin It on Pinterest

MENU