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Genealogy Research: Newspapers, Biographical Resources and City Directories

This is a guide to conducting genealogical research at the West Virginia and Regional History Center

West Virginia Newspapers

The West Virginia and Regional History Center holds the largest collection of historical West Virginia newspapers in existence. The newspapers are available for viewing on microfilm at the WVRHC. Users can research the Center’s holdings using WorldCat, the WVU Libraries' Online Catalog.

The newspaper collection contains 1200 titles that range from 1791 to the present. The majority of newspapers began publishing in the late 19th century and early the 20th century.The West Virginia University Libraries receives and preserves on microfilm all the newspapers that are currently published in the state.

Several newspaper indexes are also available. The Charleston Newspaper Index from 1973 to 1988 is available in book format. The Charleston Newspaper Index beginning with September 1987 is accessible through the online catalog and at the Center's web site. The other available indexes are for Clarksburg newspapers for the years 1810 to 1825, Kanawha Valley newspapers from 1855 to 1865, the Martinsburgh Gazette published from 1810 to 1855, and Mannington newspapers from 1890 to 1899.

A wide variety of genealogical information is available in the newspaper collection. Obituaries began to appear in the late 19th century. One can also find birth announcements, marriage notices, local history, social events such as family reunions, court documents and other legal matters and genealogical and historical columns.

Because of the high demand for access to the newspaper collection, only duplicate reels of newspaper microfilm are available through Interlibrary Loan. Please see our Interlibrary Loan section for a listing of duplicate microfilm.

Duplicate copies of West Virginia newspaper microfilms that were microfilmed by the WVU Libraries are available at a charge of $75 per roll. Microfilm Reproduction Request Form

City Directories

City directories, available for about two dozen of the largest West Virginia towns, provide complete listings of citizens with their place of residence and type of employment. Wheeling, Martinsburg, and Charleston had directories as early as the 1870s. Directories from other cities began to appear in the 1890s and early 1900s. Holdings for city directories range from nearly complete runs of annual volumes to only a few scattered volumes. Holdings exist for the following West Virginia towns and cities:

Beckley, Bluefield, Buckhannon, Charleston, Clarksburg, Elkins, Fairmont, Grafton, Huntington, Keyser,

Martinsburg, Morgantown, Moundsville, New Martinsville, Parkersburg, Point Pleasant, Princeton,

Weirton, Weston, Wheeling and Williamson.

State gazetteers, published from 1875 to 1924, include comprehensive listings of businessmen involved in every sort of enterprise in towns large and small.

Biographical Resources

A wide assortment of works with compilations of brief biographies of West Virginians of state and local prominence include:

George W. Atkinson. Bench and Bar of West Virginia. (Charleston, W.V.: Virginia Law Book Company, 1919).

George W. Atkinson & Alvaro F. Gibbens. Prominent Men of West Virginia. (Wheeling: W.L. Callin, 1890)

Walter E. Clark. West Virginia Today. (New Orleans: J.O. Jones Co. , 1941)

Jim F. Comstock. West Virginia Women. (Richwood, W.Va.: Comstock, 1974)

Ethel Davie. Talent and Courage: Outstanding West Virginia Women in the 1990s. (Charleston, W.V. :Ethel Davie, 1992)

Encyclopaedia of Contemporary Biography of West Virginia. (New York: Atlantic Pub. And Engraving Co., 1894)

Ethel. C. Leahy. Who's Who on the Ohio River and its Tributaries. (Cincinatti, Ohio: E.C. Leahy Pub. Co., 1931)

Men of West Virginia 2 vols. (Chicago: Biographical Pub. Co., 1903)

Robert E. Murphy. Progressive West Virginians. (Wheeling: Wheeling News, 1905)

West Virginians: A Work of Biography. (New Orleans: J.O. Jones Co. , 1928)

West Virginia Women's Commission. Missing Chapters: West Virginia Women in History. (Charleston, W.V. : West Virginia Women's Commission, 1983)

Who's Who in West Virginia. (Chicago: A.N. Marquis Co., 1916, 1939, 1983)

Additional sources for biography include the Personal Name Index, a card index for 50 works of West Virginia history, and the West Virginia Civil War Union Soldiers Index. The West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia is also an excellent source for biographical sketches of hundreds of West Virginians.