Research Guide: WV Birth/Death/Marriage Records – The Archives

Per the website: The WV Vital Research Records Project is a joint venture between the WV State Archives and the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) to place online via the WV Archives and History Web site selected WV county birth, death and marriage records, and selected statewide death records in a viewable, downloadable and searchable format accessible at: http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_select.aspx

I cannot overstate how amazing West Virginia’s archives are for researching genealogy. You would be hard pressed to find another state that offers such accessibility and easy use.

On the link above, you have three types of records searches offered: Birth, Death and Marriage. I will cover each, with examples, below.

In addition to birth/marriage/death records, I have also included at the bottom of the blog a list of research recommendations provided by the Archives as well as the contact information in the event you would like to request (per fee) research.

Lastly, explore all this website has to offer. In the column to the left of the research links is a search tab. If you are looking up a specific event in West Virginia history or if your ancestor featured prominently in WV culture, there is a possibility that you can find more information from simply searching there.

Birth Records Research:

Under last name, I simply typed “Taraczkozy”, my Ma’s maiden name. I did not fill in any other blank because the name is so unique, I had no fear of receiving too many entries. I was correct, from that search I received two possibilities.

The first entry is for Vilma Taraczkozy, DOB 14 Dec 1909, McDowell County. In the last column, under “Image Size” you can click the size of the file and it will pull up (in another tab) the document. In this case:

Record Image

Vilma was my Great Aunt. Balint and Elizabeth were my Grandfather Alex’s Parents. This is her Delayed Birth Certificate. What is a delayed birth certificate, you ask?

West Virginia became a state in 1863 but their requirement of birth certificates did not begin until 1917. Even though required, it would not be until 1925 that the requirement was generally complied with by all counties in the state. As Vilma was born in 1909, before compliance was mandatory, she did not have a birth certificate issued at the time of her birth. But why would she need one then? I cannot answer for certain but she might have needed it for a driver’s license, as proof of identity for legal purposes, etc.

A delayed birth certificate is any birth certificate not filed within one year of the date of birth. The top part of the form was completed and signed by one of the registrant’s parents, or if older the actual person or in this case, her sister because she was out of state. The next section (Abstract Section) is the supporting documentation brought as written proof of the date as noted by the parents. I have seen baptism records, church records and family Bibles referenced. I have also seen the “sworn testimony” of relatives other than the parents (siblings, grands, aunts, cousins, etc). The next section lays out what in the document allows for confirmation of the date. Finally, an official signs off on the document to make it official.

The second entry says just the last name Taraczkozy, not the first. It does not give the specific date, just the year 1917. The birth occurred in Raleigh County and the size of the document is considerably larger than the first. When you click the link you see this:

Record Image

This is the actual Register of Births, Raleigh County, Year 1917. It is the full book where births were recorded. Thankfully, this one is typed (for the most part). I have seen ones that are handwritten and a nightmare to make out the words. The race of the child is white and funnily, the x lands in the middle of the column, so it is not immediately clear whether this is a boy or a girl. I will let you in on the fact that it is a boy! Wilson Louis Taraczkozy. He was born 06 Aug 1917 to Elizabeth Marosi and Bill Taraczkozy. It was a live birth and his doctor’s name was E.S. Dupuy.

It is quite possible, given the date of birth, that an official document was not issued for Wilson. He passed away when he was a toddler, so the need for a delayed birth certificate never came to fruition.

For an example of the handwritten register books, I offer you the record of Guy Terry, Husband’s Great Grandfather:

Record Image

Using as an example my Mom’s (which is not old enough to search in the archives, but for visual reference), this is what a regular Wyoming County, West Virginia birth certificate from 1947 looks like:

There is so much traceable history you can find on a birth certificate other than just confirming the location and date/time of a person’s birth. A mother’s maiden name, the birthplace of the parents, the age of the parents and (sometimes) the occupations. As you can see with the amazing spelling of Mom’s maiden name, sometimes a spelling confirmation is necessary. OR – a spelling mishap can help you find further documents with variations of surnames. That is the story with my Contorchick/Kantorczyk lines.

Sometimes you can get both the birth certificate and the register pages. that is always a treat. The dates on birth certificates range from 1790-1944. Sometimes, even if you are certain a person is born in WV, you just cannot find the certificate. Depending on the year, the area of residence and poverty level of the family – sometimes a birth certificate was never produced.

Search Hacks and Reminders:

  • If you try filling in every blank on the search form and it comes back blank, try using maybe just the last name or last name and date. I have been known to pull up a county for a specific year and search through hundreds to find what I am looking for.
  • Try variations of the surname you are searching. For Taraczkozy, I have no less than 14 variations. When I find a new database, I search each variant. It helps to have a notebook on the side where you write down the variations of names and dates.
  • Sometimes you can put in just the first name and the birth year and if you are not afraid to do tons of scrolling, it can yield treasure.

Death Records Research:

Using only “Seletyn” as the surname and not including any dates or locations, I was able to pull up the list below for death records in WV. Lacy and Tracy are the twins born to Nana (Beatrice) and Grandpa Fred who died as infants.

I will reference Fred James Seletyn’s records below.

As with other records discussed above, if you see two for an individual but they are of different sizes, that usually means you will find the actual certificate (smaller sized file) as well as the Register of Deaths book notation (larger sized file). Such is the case with my Grandfather.

As with previous records noted above, there is a lot of information to be revealed in a death certificate. Full name, date of death and location of death are not the only identifying descriptions on this piece of paperwork. Also, you will find if they are:

  • Married or Single
  • If married, name of Spouse
  • Occupation
  • Mother’s maiden name / birthplace (sometimes)
  • Father’s name / birthplace (sometimes)
  • Cause of death
  • Buried or Cremation
  • Name of cemetery (and address)
  • Funeral Home (if applicable)
Record Image

The Register of Deaths Book offers a great number of details as well:

  • Full name of deceased
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Place and Cause of death
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Consort Of (or) Unmarried
  • Source of Information (normally the doctor who completes the death certificate)
Record Image

Marriage Records Research:

The marriage records I have encountered have been various County Marriage Registration Books. This Marriage Record is for Mamie Seletyn and Ernest Sweeney, my 2nd Great Aunt and Uncle.

The information supplied from this document:

  • Full Names of couple
  • Place of Birth
  • Age (in years)
  • Current residence
  • The date the license was issued
  • The date of the ceremony and the minister hearing the vows

Research Suggestions From The Archives And Research You Can Request For A Fee:

Services Available

Note To the Researcher: Archives and History traces its origins to the West Virginia Historical and Antiquarian Society, a quasi-public/private group that performed many of the current programs and services from 1890 to 1905. In 1905, the Bureau of Archives and History was created; in 1925 it was made a department, which it remained until 1977. Archives and History has always performed as the state archives and has responsibility for state and public records and publications. It collects and provides access to these and all types of historical materials that document and tell the history of the state and its people.

Until June 20, 1863, the area now known as West Virginia was part of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Archives and History Library collections include some materials on Virginia, but most pertain to West Virginia counties. The Library is the premier resource for West Virginians and those with possible “roots” in the state.

Genealogical research in West Virginia should be approached with as much specific information as possible. A knowledge of geographic locations is essential as most materials are arranged by county. Staff members are available to assist with reference sources, research procedures and the use of records.

Resources

Before visiting the Library, researchers should check the Archives and History Web site at www.wvculture.org/history. This site contains information on Library holdings of state- and county-government, military, and naturalization records; maps and manuscripts; and recent additions to the microfilm, photograph, state publications, and special collections. Also available are guides to research methodology for adoptions, Revolutionary or Civil War ancestors, and others.

The Web site offers several searchable databases. Among those in the West Virginia Memory Project are databases on the Civil War Union militia, the West Virginia Veterans Memorial, the Photograph Collection, and the John Brown/Boyd B. Stutler Collection. Another Web site offering is the Vital Research Records Project. This collaborative venture between West Virginia Archives and History and the Genealogical Society of Utah is placing select West Virginia county birth, death, and marriage records and state death records online in searchable databases linked to digitized images of the records.

Other features of the Archives and History Web site include trivia quizzes on the state and its citizens, historical material on various West Virginia topics, and a genealogy surname exchange list. Information on Archives and History publications is also available online.

The Library has extensive holdings of primary and secondary resources supporting family and local historical research. A listing of resources as they relate to West Virginia includes:

Printed Sources

A number of reference guides to records dating from the 1700s, useful for initial genealogical research, are available. Among these are:

The Library holds a broad selection of histories of West Virginia counties and communities, published court and census records, cemetery readings, and newspapers. An extensive collection of family histories, many donated by researchers and compilers, are available, as are some family and local histories for adjacent states.

Primary State Records

When West Virginia became a state, county records remained within each county. Microfilm copies of original records, filmed by and obtained from the Genealogical Society of Utah, are an important resource at the Library. All West Virginia counties are included; however, some records are incomplete. Records include births and deaths (since 1853), marriages, wills, deeds, surveys, estate records, and some circuit court and naturalization records. A limited number of very early records for contiguous Virginia counties is available.

Tax records include land tax books and personal property tax records. Land records, originally maintained by the State Auditor’s Office and prepared by county assessors, date from the counties’ formations to the 1930s, and for almost one-half the counties through 1959. Personal property tax lists for pre-statehood years are available on microfilm for select West Virginia counties. The original lists are at The Library of Virginia, 800 E. Broad St., Richmond, VA 23219.

The Library has land grants copied from the Virginia Land Office and indexed by Sims. Available on microfilm from The Library of Virginia are Northern Neck grants (Fairfax proprietorship) and Virginia land surveys (1779-1861), which include some present-day Virginia and Kentucky areas.

Some vital statistics, including death certificates (1917-1973) and delayed and regular birth certificates (c. 1880-1929), are available. More recent records are maintained by the Vital Registration Office, 350 Capitol Street, Room 165, Charleston, WV 25301-3701.

Census Records

Most West Virginia and Virginia census records are available on microfilm prepared by the National Archives. The census of Virginia, which includes those counties now in West Virginia, is available for the years 1790 and 1810-1860. Also available are the Virginia census for 1870 and slave schedules for 1850 and 1860. West Virginia census records include the years 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and the 1890 Special Census of Union Veterans and Widows.

Military Records

Records of service in the colonial wars, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 can be found in lists of pensioners and in printed sources such as:

  • Virginia’s Colonial Soldiers, by Bockstruck
  • The Soldiery of West Virginia, by Lewis
  • West Virginians in the Revolution, by Johnston
  • West Virginia Revolutionary Ancestors Whose Services were Non-Military, by Reddy.

Archives and History houses a large collection of Civil War material in the West Virginia Adjutant General’s Papers. These papers consist of letters and documents primarily related to the service of West Virginia Union regiments and militia, with a few non-West Virginia and Confederate documents included. The Library also has microfilm of service records, with index, to West Virginia Union troops. Arranged by regiment and company, information consists of name, age, date and place of enlistment and discharge, and brief notes concerning some men’s service. Confederate records of Virginia and West Virginia, with index, are available on microfilm. Other records on microfilm include the veterans’ burial file, containing information on some servicemen interred in the state prior to 1936. Many printed Civil War regimental histories are also available.

Spanish-American War records are in the printed Report of the Adjutant General, 1899-1900. Records from the Adjutant General’s Office provide muster information on men in the National Guard from 1890 through World War I, as well as other World War I enlistments. World War I draft cards and World War II “Old Men’s Draft” cards for West Virginians are available on microfilm from the National Archives.

The West Virginia Veterans Memorial Archives document the military men and women who died during 20th-century conflicts and whose names are inscribed on the Veterans Memorial at the Capitol Complex. A searchable database of these records is available online. Additional military records for U.S. service, especially for 20th-century engagements, are kept by the Office of the Adjutant General, 1703 Coonskin Drive, Charleston, WV 25311-1085; the National Archives, Washington, D.C. 20408; and the Military Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis, MO 63132.

Public Records, State Documents, Private Papers, and Audio-Visual Collections

Archives and History houses state printed document and public records collections, most created in the 20th century but some dating to the formation of the state in 1863 or earlier. The Library also holds extensive photograph, moving images, manuscript, and map collections. In addition, thousands of newspaper clippings on historical places, people, and events are on file. Access to some of these collections requires advance notice.

Research Requests and Fees

Photocopying is done by the Library staff within the limits of the Copyright Law and the condition of the material. The standard fee for regular and legal size black and white photocopies is 25 cents per page; 11″ x 17″ copies cost 50 cents. Oversize document copies require additional fees. Reader-printer microfilm letter size copies are 50 cents per exposure if copied by staff and 25 cents if copied by patrons at coin-operated machines. Separate fees exist for birth and death certificate copies, certification of copied records, and land grants.

Research conducted by staff is limited to one-half hour, and requests must be submitted in writing. Telephone and e-mail requests will not be accepted. A non-refundable fee of $20 must accompany each out-of-state request. In-state patrons must enclose a non-refundable fee of $10. Both fees cover up to $2.50 in copies and postage. Additional costs will be billed.

Inquiries must be limited to two SPECIFIC requests and should provide full name, county of residence, approximate dates and documents requested. For example, “Send me anything on the Smith family” is not a serviceable request. Names of individuals who conduct research for a fee will be supplied when requests require more extensive research.

Research Requests: Effective November 15, 2017

A non-refundable fee of $20.00 must accompany each out-of-state research request. The fee covers up to $2.50 in copies and postage. Additional costs will be billed. There is a $10.00 research fee for in-state patron requests.A fee of $8.00 must accompany each out-of-state copy request for a copy of an obituary, newspaper article, land grant, or uncertified county record or state certificate as defined in 82-6-6.2. There is a $5.00 fee for an in-state copy request. See Archives and History Library Services and Fee Guidelines for complete information.

The Archives will not answer e-mail research requests. All research requests must be submitted in writing to the Archives and History Library; 1900 Kanawha Boulevard East, Building 9; Charleston, WV 25305-0300. Please do not send copies of drivers licenses and other forms of ID with your research requests.

Current fees are subject to change. A listing of all Library fees is available upon request.

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