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Archives & Manuscripts

Quick link to archives catalogue

The Archives and Manuscripts division of the West Virginia and Regional History Center contains more than 4,000 collections consuming nearly 20,000 linear feet of shelf space. In addition to unmatched holdings regarding West Virginia's founding and political development, the collection preserves outstanding primary information resources regarding virtually all aspects of the state's economic, cultural, and social history from early settlement to the present.

Archives & Manuscripts (A&M) collections include:

  • Political papers of 32 West Virginia Governors, 23 United States Senators, 24 United States Representatives, and numerous elected officials of state and county governments.
  • Records of the statehood movement and the constitutional conventions.
  • Archives of 28 of West Virginia's 55 county courts, which include deeds, bonds, licenses, surveys, elections, tax records, road records, court orders, and court cases.
  • Civil War documents, including correspondence, diaries, muster rolls, etc.
  • Transcriptions of births, marriages, deaths, wills and estate settlements, and other vital records from the late 18th to early 20th century for all 55 counties.
  • Family papers, unpublished family histories, genealogies, and compiled genealogical data.
  • Art, music, and literary manuscripts created by West Virginians.
  • Papers of labor leaders and labor organizations, businesses, educators, writers, artists, industrialists, churches, ministers, civic organizations, ethnic groups, schools, political parties, physicians.

Starting your research

Finding aids for the A&M collections are accessible through the searchable "Guide to Archives & Manuscripts Collections" catalog.

Search tips for the Guide are available.

Patrons can also consult print editions of the  Guide to Manuscripts and Archives in the West Virginia Collection (1974, 1965, and 1958 editions) and the Parkinson Guide (2002), all available at the WVRHC's reference desk, for descriptions of the archives and manuscripts holdings.

Some A&M materials are available on microfilm, which can be found on the A&M Collections on Microfilm list.  

What is a finding aid and why should I use it?

A finding aid describes a collection of archival records, personal papers, or manuscripts. It is a tool to help researchers determine if the materials in a collection relate to their research, find where materials are located, and understand and interpret the materials they are using. All of the WVRHC's online finding aids include a brief summary (abstract) of the collections they describe, and some include more detailed descriptions and inventories.

Each finding aid contains information on:

  • the title of the collection,
  • who created the materials, if known,
  • dates of the records,
  • size of the collection (extent), and
  • access restrictions, if any.

Some finding aids also include information on:

  • the history or biography of the creator of the records (Historical Note),
  • how the materials are organized (usually in the Collection Scope and Content Note),
  • inventories or contents lists of boxes or folders in a collection, and
  • selected topics covered by the records.