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Genealogy Research: Overview

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


The West Virginia and Regional History Center has an extensive and varied collection of materials available for genealogical research. Included in this collection are prepared genealogies (both published and unpublished), census records, public records, military records, photographs, and manuscript materials.

The resources of the West Virginia and Regional History Center are available to all researchers on the sixth floor of the WVU Downtown Campus Library. Researchers should be aware that special rules govern the use of the West Virginia and Regional History Center. Read more in our Access Policy.

The West Virginia and Regional History Center does not have the staff to conduct genealogical research, but staff members are always available to help researchers locate the resources they need.

If you are unable to come to Morgantown to use our materials, you may choose one of the following options:

1. Borrow any circulating materials we have that might help you with your research through Interlibrary Loan.

2. Request from us a list of persons who will perform genealogical research for a fee.

3. For those who desire only a specific piece of information (e.g. an obituary) for which a citation is readily available (e.g. bibliographic citation, or exact date and place of death in case of an obituary), a limited search can be conducted upon request.

Getting Started

Helpful West Virginia information to remember as you start researching:

  • West Virginia was part of Virginia until June 20th, 1863
  • Birth and death records were not kept in West Virginia until 1853
  • County names and boundaries have changed over the years
  • Many county records have gaps due to losses from fires, floods, etc.

Genealogists should approach research at a specialized library collection with as much knowledge of research techniques and types of sources as possible.  Those researchers without previous knowledge or training in this type of investigation would find it helpful to consult such introductory manuals as the following:

Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Luebking (Editors) The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy (Provo, UT: Ancestry, 2006)

Val D. Greenwood. The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000.) 

Raymond S. Wright. The Genealogist's Handbook: Modern Methods for Researching Family History. (Chicago: American Library Association, 1995.)

Milton Rubincam. Pitfalls in Genealogical Research. (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1987.)


When conducting genealogical research into West Virginia historical resources, the following will provide essential information:

Carol McGinnis. West Virginia Genealogy: Sources & Resources. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988.)

Helen S. Stinson. A Handbook for Genealogical Research in West Virginia. (initial volume, 1981; three volumes, 1994.)

Rebecca H. Good and Rebecca A. Ebert. Finding Your People in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. 3rd edition. (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1993.) Includes four West Virginia counties.

Bertram H. Groene. Tracing Your Civil War Ancestor. 4th edition. (Winston-Salem, N.C.: John F. Blair, 1995.)

George K. Schweitzer. Civil War Genealogy: A Basic Research Guide for Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors. (Knoxville, TN: G.K. Schweitzer, 1980.)

Specialized Handbooks

The numerous guides and handbooks books which deal with specialized aspects of genealogical research can provide essential guidance to the novice researcher as well as the experienced family historian. The following are examples of those that are available:

Elizabeth Shown Mills. Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian. (Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1997.)

Noel C. Stevenson. Genealogical Evidence: A Guide to the Standard of Proof Relating to Pedigrees, Ancestry, Heirship and Family History. Revised edition. (Laguna Hills, Calif.: Aegean Park Press, 1989.)

Ancestry's Concise Genealogical Dictionary. Compiled by Maurine and Glen Harris. (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1989.)


This guide was created by Associate Librarian Kevin Fredette. Updated by Miriam Cady.