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United States  Gotoarrow.png  West Virginia  Gotoarrow.png  Probate Records


Contents

Record Synopsis

Probate is the “court procedure by which a will is proved to be valid or invalid” and encompasses “all matters and proceedings pertaining to the administration of estates, guardianships, etc.”[1] Various types of records are created throughout the probate process. These may include, wills, bonds, petitions, accounts, inventories, administrations, orders, decrees, and distributions. These documents are extremely valuable to genealogists and should not be neglected. In many instances, they are the only known source of relevant information such as the decedent’s date of death, names of his or her spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their places of residence. They may also include information about adoption or guardianship of minor children and dependents. For further information about the probate process, types of probate records, analyzing probate records, and to access a glossary of probate terms, see United States Probate Records.

History

The area of West Virginia was a part of Virginia until the Civil War, 1861-1865. During that time there was a dispute over secession and fifty western counties broke off to form the “restored government of Virginia,” which remained loyal to the Union. The state of West Virginia was admitted to the Union in 1863.
Once its own state, West Virginia continued keeping probate records in the county courts. 

  •  A brief history of the settlement and boundary changes of West Virginia and the resultant effects on record keeping can be found on Ancestry. ($)
  • A discussion of West Virginia Probate Records written by Johni Cerny in Red book: American State, County, and Town Sources can be found at Ancestry. ($)

State Statutes

Understanding the Kentucky probate laws and how they changed over time can help us learn how the estate was administered, taxed, and distributed and might help to solve difficult genealogical problems.

Additional information about Kentucky state statutes relating to probate matters can be found at law libraries. Online digital versions of state statutes can often be found by conducting a search engine search for the term, "Kentucky statutes."

Repositories

Local

 You can obtain copies of the complete probate packets by contacting the county clerk's office in the appropriate courthouse. Some probate matters have been recorded in deed books and court order books.

Regional

The West Virginia State Archives has an online index to their county court records.

National

  • The Family History Library has copies of many calendars of wills, order books, witness books, bonds, fee books, inventories, appraisals, and bills of sale from most counties. From Kanawha County, for example, the library has 208 microfilms of fiduciary settlements for 1871 to 1968, and 121 films of wills for 1820 to 1968.

Statewide Record Collections

The following publications index early wills and estate settlements:

  • Johnston, Ross B. West Virginia Estate Settlements 1753-1850. Fort Worth, Texas: American Reference Publishers, Incorporated, 1969. (Family History Library FHL Collection, book 975.4 P28j. This is arranged by counties and is indexed.
  • Torrence, Clayton. Virginia Wills and Administrations, 1632-1800. 1930. Reprint. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1985. FHL Collection, book 975.5 P22t.

Learn More

Published Materials

Websites

  • West Virginia State Archives
    Archives And History Library
    The Cultural Center
    1900 Kanawha Blvd., East
    Charleston, WV 25305-0300
    Tel: 304-558-0230, ext. 168
    West Virginia State Archives

  • FindLaw has information about West Virginia State Probate Courts.

References

  1. Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1979), 1081, "probate."


 

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