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Genealogy Research

The History Center regularly assists new and experienced genealogists. We have a wide variety of genealogy resources at the WVRHC.

#1 tip: Call before you travel! If you are looking for something specific but are not sure that we have it, contact us and we can check.

WVRHC staff are knowledgeable and ready to help locate materials, but they are unable to perform genealogy research. Please refer to our Research Requests page for details on available services.

#2 tipThings to remember when doing genealogy in West Virginia:

  1. West Virginia was part of Virginia until June 20, 1863.
  2. Birth and death records were not kept until 1853.
  3. County names and boundaries changed frequently. Many county records have gaps due to natural disasters (e.g., fires and floods).

#3 tip: We encourage prospective genealogists to approach research at a specialized library collection like the WVRHC with as much knowledge of research techniques and types of sources as possible, and remember that special rules govern these materials. Please familiarize yourself with the WVRHC's policies and services so you can be as prepared as possible.


Beginning your family history research can be overwhelming. Helpful information on getting started is available from the following websites.  (For more web genealogy resources, check out our Online Genealogy Resources page):

The following books may be helpful for beginners:

  • Croom, Emily Anne. Unpuzzling Your Past: The Best-Selling Basic Guide to Genealogy. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2001.
  • Luebking, Sandra Hargreaves and Loretto Dennis Szucs, eds. The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy. 3rd edition. Provo, UT: Ancestry, Inc., 2006.
  • The Handy Book for Genealogists: United States of America. 11th edition. (Logan, Utah: Everton Publishers, 2006.)
  • Drake, Paul. More What Did They Mean By That? : A Dictionary of Historical and Genealogical Terms: Old and New. (Westminster, Md.: Heritage Books, 2006.)

For information specific to West Virginia genealogy take a look at these books:

  • McGinnis, Carol. West Virginia Genealogy: Sources & Resources. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988.)
  • Stinson, Helen S. A Handbook for Genealogical Research in West Virginia. (initial volume, 1981; three volumes, 1994.)

For more helpful books on how to do genealogical work, check out our Genealogy Bibliography page.