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West Virginia was part of Virginia until 1863 and had the same court jurisdictions as Virginia counties. For information on courts changed or abolished prior to 1863, see the Virginia Research Outline.
West Virginia courts that have kept records of genealogical value include the following:
1863-present: Supreme Court of Appeals is the highest state court. It hears appeals from the circuit courts. The library does not have records from this court.
1852-present: Circuit courts have jurisdiction in from one to four counties over criminal, civil, and equity cases, including divorces. They also serve as an appellate court for county, statutory, and other inferior courts. From 1809 to 1852 they were known as circuit superior courts of law. The Family History Library has some circuit court records, such as Kanawha County law records and issue dockets (1831-83), fee books (1808-1919), and chancery records (1831-1930).
1643-1863 & 1863-present: County courts have county-wide jurisdiction over probates and guardianships. Their-primary responsibility is to serve as the administrative body of the county. They have custody over documents such as leases, deeds and judgments. From 1863 to 1872 this court was abolished. Its judicial functions were handled by the circuit courts and its administrative functions by a board of supervisors established in each township. It was reestablished in 1872 with its former jurisdictions. Many of the supervisors' records are in the custody of the county courts. The Family History Library has many county court records, such as over 300 microfilms of various Kanawha County Court records from 1773 to the early 1900s.
1863-present: Statutory courts were created at various times by special acts of the state legislature. The jurisdiction of these courts varies but may include limited civil cases, domestic relations, and appeals from municipal and justice courts. They exist in various counties (usually the most populous) under different names such as criminal courts, intermediate courts, or common pleas courts. Statutory courts with general criminal jurisdiction and some civil jurisdiction exist in Cabell, Harrison, Kanawha, McDowell, Marion, Mercer, Ohio, and Raleigh counties. Statutory courts with limited civil jurisdiction only are in Cabell, Hancock, Kanawha, Marshall, and Wood counties. The Family History Library has records of some of these courts, such as 13 microfilms from the Intermediate Court of Marion county including chancery and law orders from 1893 to 1919.
1863-present: Municipal courts have citywide jurisdiction over misdemeanors and preliminary hearings for felonies. The library has some records of these courts on microfilm.
1863-present: Justice courts have been established in magisterial districts (there are three to ten districts in each county). These courts have jurisdiction over minor criminal (misdemeanor) and civil cases involving less than $300. A justice of the peace usually turned over the dockets and records of his court to his successor and many of these records have been lost. Beginning about 1917 the justice gave quarterly lists of fines and payments to the county courts. Some of the justice court records are at county courthouses. The Family History Library has very few copies of these records.
Records at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has copies of court record books, order books, dockets, and indexes from the 1770s to about 1875, and to the 1930s for some counties. Other records are available at the various county courthouses or the Archives and History Library.
The early court records of Augusta county are available in Lyman Chalkley, Chronicles of the Scots-Irish Settlement in Virginia: Extracted from the Original Court Records of Augusta County, 1754-1800, Three Volumes, 1912, Reprint. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1980. (1912 edition is on Family History Library films 162043-44.)