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.

Family History Episode 16 – The Family History Library Catalog

Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.

Originally published 2009

Republished January 28, 2014

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-2009. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 16

In our first segment we’re going to get acquainted with the largest repository of genealogy materials in the world:  The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s free and available to the public and I’m going to get you ready to make good use of it through the online Family History Library catalog. Click on the show notes link, above, to read some great updates since the episode aired on how to use the online catalog and growing collection of digital records.

Then in our second segment my guest is Don R. Anderson, Director of the Family History Library, who describes the evolving direction of the Family History Library and its host site, FamilySearch.org.

Links

FamilySearch 

Family History Library Catalog

 

Season Three

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family HistoryThe Genealogy Gems Podcast Episodes
2008 – 2009 Season Three

Scroll to the bottom of each Podcast Show Notes Page and click the episode mp3 file to download the episode for listening.  It will take a minute or two for the episode to download, and it will open in your computer’s audio program (for example: Quicktime or Windows Media Player.)

Episode 41 Listen & Show Notes
Family History Expo Wrap-Up, California Voter’s Database at Ancestry and Day of the Week Tool, Mailbox, Lulu, Valentine For You: Stories of Love

Episode 42  Listen & Show Notes
Family Tree Magazine, Genline, and another great Venice Song

Episode 43 Listen & Show Notes
Genealogy at Borders, Roots Television Interview, the new U.S. Census Bureau History Website, and Crossword Puzzle

Episode 44 Listen & Show Notes
Canadian Border Crossings, Godfrey Memorial Library, U.S. Census Bureau, and Digital Preservation Cheat Sheet

Episode 45  Listen & Show Notes
Prison stories & research, Google customization, & Free British Records

Episode 46 Listen & Show Notes
A listener’s Leatherhead, Handwriting Analysis, and Genealogy Gems Premium.

Episode 47 Listen & Show Notes
A Walk Through Childhood Memories, Family Tree and Me Displays, Girding Your Loins with James Mowatt of the Historyzine Podcast, Birthday Alarm Website, Ancestor Handwriting Analysis Winner and a new analysis of a single signature by Paula Sassi, Announcement of the NEW Family Tree Magazine hosted by Lisa Louise Cooke.

Episode 48  Listen & Show Notes
Lisa’s exclusive interview with Kathy Lennon of The Lennon Sisters.  Kathy discusses her passion for family history and the Lennon family tree.  Also, Paula Sassi analyzes the handwriting of our contest winner’s ancestor.  Plus a new look for the Genealogy Gems Podcast Newsletter.

Episode 49 Listen & Show Notes
A great idea for genealogy societies, new Family Tree Magazine Podcast episode and Lisa’s genealogy podcasting article and videos for the magazine, Train Robbery History, Part 2 of Lisa’s interview with Kathy Lennon of the famous Lennon Sisters from the Lawrence Welk Show, Premium Discount, Handwriting Analysis opportunity and the Best Pals Contest.

Episode 50  Listen & Show Notes
The Louise Carousel, Amos Alonzo Stagg, A Little Genealogy Daydreaming with genealogy podcasters, Interview with Tim Russell of A Prairie Home Companion, America’s first radio stations, Handwriting analysis of a victim of the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, State Fair History, Best Pals Dolls Winner Announcement, and Upcoming Conferences.

Episode 51 Listen & Show Notes
Interview with Jim Beidler, Chairman of the FGS 2008 Conference, The History of the Ice Cream Cone, Discount on Premium Membership, Mac Minutes with Ben Sayer, The MacGenealogist, Favorite Genealogy Sayings, Census Abbreviations.

Episode 52  Listen & Show Notes
Gems From Across the Pond: Interviews with genealogy author and lecturer Rick Crume, and British Records Specialist Dr. Christopher T. Watts, and British History Podcasts.

Episode 53  Listen & Show Notes
Virginia Halloween History, Mailbox, Navy History, Interview with Yvette Arts of World Vital Records & Search Tips, Chips the U.S. War Dog, The MacGenealogist reviews iFamily for Leopard, and Name That Tune!

Episode 54  Listen and Show Notes
New podcast launch: Family History: Genealogy Made Easy, History that puts a little cash in your pocket, Interview with the Forensic Genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick, Some Ideas on Creating family traditions and Heirlooms, The MacGenealogist, Another Linguistic History Trivia Bit, and Name That Tune Round 2!

Episode 55  Listen and Show Notes
Genealogy News, New Google Gadgets, Discover the census records you probably aren’t using, but should with Curt Witcher of the Allen County Library, Taxing Bachelorhood, and Name That Tune Round 3!

Episode 56  Listen and Show Notes
The 2009 Genealogy Gems Christmas Podcast

Episode 57  Listen and Show Notes
Frisbee & Fuller Brush History, Southern California Genealogical Jamboree, Interview with Sally Jacobs the Practical Archivist on Photo Preservation

Episode 58  Listen and Show Notes
Review of Behind the Scenes with Ancestry, Exciting New Records Online, Income Tax History, Creating a Family History Valentine, Lisa answers Listener Questions

Episode 59  Listen and Show Notes
Review of new online records, The First U.S. Presidential Photograph, Interview with Holly Hansen of Family History Expos, GenClass with Lisa Alzo, Number Please?

Episode 60  Listen and Show Notes
We celebrate the 2nd birthday of the podcast with our special guest Darby Hinton who starred in the 1960s TV show Daniel Boone. Lisa also makes recommendations to a listener on her Bristol Brick Wall.

DNA Testing: 3 Tips Before You Ask Your Relatives to Spit

Here’s what you need to know before you encourage your relatives to join you on your genetic genealogy journey. There are a few things to think about before they spit in that tube and our DNA Guide, Diahan Southard, is here to help!

dna_beforeyouspit_featureimage

Did you see those holiday price wars on DNA testing over the holidays? I’m guessing we haven’t seen the end of these now that it’s becoming so trendy! Genealogists are seeing the research payoffs of DNA testing and now another major genealogy website (MyHeritage) is offering testing services, as well.

As the prices and sales generally become more attractive, more of you will want to expand your personal genetic database to include aunts, uncles, and cousins. But what is the best way to proceed? How exactly do you ask someone for his or her DNA? You may just have one shot at this. If so, which test? Which company? Here are three tips to consider before spitting into the tube!

Tip One: Test the Eldest Generation First

You likely have a limited amount of funds with which to populate your family genetic database, so you’ll want to use them wisely. Anyone who does not have both parents living should be tested first. Here’s what I suggest:

  • ordering an autosomal DNA test for everyone
  • ordering a YDNA for one male delegate for each surname you want represented

As for the testing company, you now have four choices:

1. FTDNA
2. 23andMe
3. AncestryDNA
4. MyHeritage

While there are several factors to consider when choosing a company, database size is probably the number one factor. Currently, AncestryDNA has the largest DNA database. The reason this is important is because your DNA will be matched and compared to others who have taken a DNA test. By testing with a company that has done lots of tests, your chance of finding matches goes up tremendously. You can also go to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy’s wiki for a full list of characteristics of each company.

Tip Two: Take Care of Everything for the Person Being Tested

Depending on the needs and interest of your relative, you can handle everything from ordering, payment, to even correspondence. All they have to do is spit or swab! This will often alleviate feelings of trepidation on part of the person being tested, especially if they aren’t really into this genealogy craze in the first place. Here are my recommendations:

If testing at Family Tree DNA: You will need to keep track of the log-in credentials for each relative.

If testing at AncestryDNA: Make sure all kits are registered under your account. The easiest way to do this is to have the family member take a photo of the activation code on the sample collection tube and send it to you so you can register it after you have logged into your Ancestry account. Hint: Register everyone’s DNA test results under the family member who has a subscription to Ancestry!

If testing at MyHeritage: Make sure that all kits are registered under your account. To the best of my knowledge, you order the kit under your account.

If your relative does want to be involved, all the better! You can have them share their Family Tree DNA or 23andMe login with you, or they can share their AncestryDNA results with you. To share their AncestryDNA results with you, visit my website at https://www.yourdnaguide.com/sharing-ancestrydna.

If you haven’t tested with a particular company yourself, familiarize yourself with the sample collection so you can be helpful when they have questions:

Tip Three: Share Your Own Experience

First of all, nothing speaks louder than your own experience. Before asking your relative to take a test, consider starting with a short summary of your own DNA journey. Keep in mind what might interest them – do they like deep history? If yes, you could share the ethnicity results of your own test. Did they have a special connection to Great-grandpa Joe? In this case, you could show how your DNA connected to a 2nd cousin who was also a descendant of Joe. Maybe you could bust out the photo album. Remind them that while Joe is gone, there are threads of DNA that can speak for him and we need as many of his descendants as possible to be tested in order to preserve his genetic legacy and unravel the mystery of his past.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

 

 

Newsboys: Colorful Figures of the Past

Newsboys or “newsies” used to sell the news. But for a time in American history, they were the news!

Newsboy. Little Fattie. Less than 40 inches high, 6 years old. Been at it one year. May 9th, 1910. Location: St. Louis, Missouri. Wikimedia Commons image, original at Library of Congress.

Newsboy. Little Fattie. Less than 40 inches high, 6 years old. Been at it one year. May 9th, 1910. Location: St. Louis, Missouri. Wikimedia Commons image, original at Library of Congress.

You’d know them by their common call: “Read all about it!” It was their job to sell stacks of inexpensive newspapers on every street corner that would support them. The Library of Congress has posted a fascinating page about the history of newsies, including their own appearance in the papers.

In 1899, newspaper prices rose–and that cut into the profit margins of boys who had very little  profit to begin with. In New York City, many newsboys refused to sell papers published by Pulitzer and Hearst. Over the next few years, the newsboys didn’t exactly unionize, but they did organize. Eventually they formed the National Newsboys’ Association, which evolved into today’s Boys Club and Girls Club.

It’s interesting to read how the newspapers reported the doings of the boys who were essentially their salespeople. I bet it was a tricky place to be caught: a newspaper couldn’t afford to totally alienate their own best salesmen. Those salesmen were actually children, whom nobody wants to be accused of targeting. But their activities were aimed at driving down prices. In some cases, you see newspapers taking “the high road” and reporting charitable efforts to help these boys, like this story from the 1909 Washington Herald:

Newsies article

Click here to read this full story on Chronicling America. And click here to “read all about” newsboys and their role in American newspaper life.

Remember, stories like these are the kind that shaped our ancestors’ lives. Whether we find our relatives mentioned directly in the paper or we just see what life was like around them, we can learn so much from reading the same newspapers they did. Learn more from my book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers–and Genealogy Gems Premium Subscribers can check out “Getting the Scoop on Your Ancestors in Newspapers” in the Premium Videos section.

 

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