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West Virginia Genealogy

Early West Virginia genealogy documents may date from the mid 1800s but the bulk of the official collection of vital registrations will come from 1917 until the present.

West Virginia Vital Records

Fairly standard privacy restrictions apply in West Virginia. Records are made public after 100 years for birth certificates, and 50 years for death and marriage records. Until that time, you can only make a request to get a copy of a certificate if you are after your own record or it belongs to your child, parent, sibling, spouse or grandchild.

Once public, you can get copies from various historical sources such as the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. But any that are still confidential can only be ordered either from the Health Statistics office in Charleston or your local county clerk's office. For material between 1917 and 1921, you will have to go to your local office due to a fire that destroyed the state's records.

Ordering from the Health Statistics office is fairly simple. You can get the request forms from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources website. Once completed, just send the forms to the necessary office along with the search fee and a copy of your personal photo ID.

You can go to the service counter and get while-you-wait service if you are in the area, or you can send everything in by mail. The wait time is fairly short and your request should be processed in about 5 days. At the counter, you can pay your fee in cash if you want but mailed applications need to be accompanied by a check or money order.

The cost for each record will be $12 each, with no refunds if they are unable to locate the record you want.

West Virginia Division of Culture and History

The archives library at the West Virginia Division of Culture and History in Charleston has a good collection of West Virginia genealogy material. Not only can you find public vital records stored here for free access, they also have photographs, newspaper archives, government documents of many kinds, Civil War records, personal manuscripts, naturalization files, court records, old maps and more.

They have a surname exchange program so that genealogists can get in touch with other people who are doing the same research. There is a fee to join ($15) but it is a unique way to get some assistance with your West Virginia genealogy work.

You can visit the archive library 6 days a week (they are closed Sundays), and they are open typical business hours except for Thursday when they are open later in the evening.

West Virginia Genealogy Groups

Getting in touch with others who are pursuing similar genealogy goals can be a great way to learn about new resources. The West Virginia Genealogy Society is the main state-wide group and there are a couple dozen smaller groups that focus on specific counties or regions.

Not only can you meet other genealogists, you may get access to hard-to-find documents when you join a good group.

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