West Virginia Deaths (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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West Virginia Deaths, 1804-1999 .
This article describes a collection of records at FamilySearch.org.
West Virginia, United States
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Flag of West Virginia
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Location of West Virginia
Record Description
Record Type Death
Collection years 1804-1999
FamilySearch Resources
Related Websites

What is in the Collection?

The collection consists of name indexes of West Virginia statewide and county death records. The statewide death index covers years 1917-1956 and includes all 55 West Virginia counties. The county deaths index covers years 1853-1970. Data is searchable for all state and county records. However, records within each county may not be available for the full year range.

The index is linked to death entry images available online at West Virginia Culture.

Collection Content

Death entries were recorded in pre-printed register books containing many entries per page beginning in 1853. Earlier records were handwritten. They were usually typewritten by 1930. After 1917, death records were submitted to the state on individual certificates, while registers were maintained in the counties.

Clerks of each County Court recorded deaths beginning in 1853, when West Virginia was part of Virginia. West Virginia began collecting deaths from the counties in 1917. Most deaths in the counties were recorded because of the legal requirement for registration.

The state required counties to begin recording deaths to track public health issues. The death date, residence, and other facts that were current at the time the death occurred are quite reliable, though there is the chance of misinformation. Other data, such as date and place of birth, have more chance of error due to the lack of knowledge of the informant, transcription errors, and other circumstances.

The State of West Virginia has death certificates for 1917 through 1973 at West Virginia Division of Culture and History in Charleston, West Virginia. The original county records are generally located in the courthouse for each county.

What Can this Collection Tell Me?

County death records usually contain some or all of the following facts:

  • Name of deceased
  • Gender and age of deceased in years, months and days
  • Death date and place
  • Cause of death
  • Color or race
  • Marital status
  • Birthplace of deceased
  • Parents’ names of deceased
  • Birthplace of parents
  • Occupation of deceased
  • Name of informant (sometimes, includes relationship to deceased)

How Do I Search the Collection?

To use these records it is helpful to know the following:

  • The name of the person at the time of death
  • Other identifying information such as the approximate death date or the place where the death occurred

Search by Name by visiting the Collection Page:
Fill in the requested information on the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the individuals in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to find your ancestor. Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names, or variations of their name, throughout their life.
  • If your ancestor used an alias or a nickname, be sure to check for those alternate names.
  • Even though these indexes are very accurate they may still contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.

For tips about searching on-line collections see the on-line article FamilySearch Search Tips and Tricks.

What do I do Next?

When you have located your ancestor’s death record, carefully evaluate each piece of information given. These pieces of information may give you new biographical details that can lead you to other records about your ancestors. Add this new information to your records of each family.

I Found Who I was Looking for, What Now?

  • Use the names along with the place to find the family in census records.
  • Use the residence and names of the parents (if the deceased is a child) to locate church and land records.
  • Occupations listed can lead you to other types of records such as employment or military records.
  • Compile the entries for every person who has the same surname; this is especially helpful in rural areas or if the surname is unusual.
  • Continue to search the records to identify children, siblings, parents, and other relatives of the deceased who may have died or been buried in the same county or nearby. This can help you identify other generations of your family or even the second marriage of a parent. Repeat this process for each new generation you identify.
  • When looking for a person who had a common name, look at all the entries for the name before deciding which is correct.
  • The information in these records is usually reliable, but depends upon the reliability of the informant.
  • Earlier records may not contain as much information as the records created after the late 1800s.
  • There is also some variation in the information given from one record to another record.

I Can't Find Who I'm Looking for, What Now?

  • Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for alias names, nicknames and abbreviated names.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby localities.
  • Try alternative search methods such as only filling in the surname search box (or the given name search box) on the landing page leaving the other box empty and then click on search. This should return a list of everyone with that particular name. You could then browse the list for individuals that may be your ancestor.

For a summary of this information see the wiki article: United States, How to Use the Records Summary (FamilySearch Historical Records).

Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to support@familysearch.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Citing this Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation:

"West Virginia, Deaths, 1804-1999." Database. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2016. County courthouses, West Virginia.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for West Virginia Deaths, 1804-1999.

How Can I Contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.