West Virginia Deaths (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at FamilySearch.org.
Access the records: West Virginia Deaths, 1853-1970 .

Collection Time Period

Counties kept death records from 1853 to the present.

Record Description

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.

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.

Record Content

County death records contain some or all of these genealogical facts:

  • Name of deceased
  • Death date and place
  • Cause of death
  • Age at death in years, months, and days
  • Gender
  • Color or race
  • Marital status
  • Parents’ names
  • Birthplace
  • Occupation
  • Name of informant (earlier entries include relationship to deceased)

How to Use the Records

Begin your search by finding your ancestors in the index. Name indexes to deaths make it possible to access a specific record quickly. Remember that these indexes may contain inaccuracies, such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.

When searching the index it is helpful to know the following:

  • The place where the death occurred.
  • The name of the person at the time of death.
  • The approximate death date.

Use the locator information found in the index (such as page, entry, or certificate number) to locate your ancestor in the death records. Some on-line indexes, such as indexes to FamilySearch Historical Records, will take you directly to an image. Compare the information in the death record to what you already know about your ancestor to determine if this is the correct person. You may need to compare the information of more than one person to make this determination.

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. For example:

  • Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth to find or verify their birth records and parents' names.
  • Use the birth date or age along with the place of birth 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 employment records or other types of records such as military records.
  • Use the parent’s birth places to find former residences and to establish a migration pattern for the family.
  • The name of the officiator is a clue to their religion or area of residence in the county.
  • The name of the undertaker or mortuary could lead you to funeral and cemetery records which often include the names and residences of other family members.
  • 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.

If you are unable to find the ancestors you are looking for, try the following:

  • Check for variant spellings of the surnames.
  • Check for a different index. There are often indexes at the beginning of each volume.
  • Search the indexes and records of nearby counties.

Keep in mind:

  • 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.

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

Record History

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.

Original Records

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

Why This Collection Was Created?

The state required counties to begin recording deaths to track public health issues.

Record Reliability

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.

Related Web Sites

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

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.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should also list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the Wiki Article: How to Cite FamilySearch Collections

Examples of Source Citations for a Record in This Collection

"West Virginia Deaths, 1853-1970."  index and images, FamilySearch  (https://www.familysearch.org: accessed 6 May 2011). entry for Alma Lee Henshaw Howard, died 5 Dec 1960; citing Death Records, FHL microfilm 559,885;  Clerk of the County Court, Cabell County Courthouse, Huntington, West Virginia.

Sources of Information for This Collection:

"West Virginia Deaths, 1853-1970," index, FamilySearch, 2009. Digital copies of originals housed in County Courthouses throughout West Virginia.

The database published by FamilySearch, West Virginia Deaths, 1853-1970, indexes the following original records:

Barbour County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Death records, 1853-1969.” Barbour County Courthouse, Philippi, West Virginia, United States.

Berkeley County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Death records, 1865-1970.” Berkeley County Courthouse, Martinsburg, West Virginia, United State.

Boone County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Death records, 1865-1968.” Boone County Courthouse, Madison, West Virginia, United States.

Braxton County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Death records, 1853-1969.” Braxton County Courthouse, Sutton, West Virginia, United States.

Cabell County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Death records, 1853-1967.” Cabell County Courthouse, Huntington, West Virginia, United States.

Grant County (West Virginia). County Clerk. “Births, marriages, deaths, 1865-1969.” Grant County Courthouse, Petersburg, West Virginia, United States.

Hampshire County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Births and deaths, 1888-1903.” Hampshire County Courthouse, Romney, West Virginia, United States.

Hampshire County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Death records, 1866-1969.” Hampshire County Courthouse, Romney, West Virginia, United States.

Hardy County (West Virginia). County Clerk. “Birth, death records, 1853-1970.” Hardy County Courthouse, Moorefield, West Virginia, United States.

Harrison County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Birth and death records, 1853-1906.” Harrison County Courthouse, Clarksburg, West Virginia, United States.

Jackson County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Vital records, 1853-1919.” Jackson County Courthouse, Ripley, West Virginia, United States.

Kanawha County (West Virginia). County Clerk. “Death records, 1853-1967.” Kanawha County Courthouse, Charleston, West Virginia, United States.

Lincoln County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Death records, 1909-1936.” Lincoln County Courthouse, Hamlin, West Virginia, United States.

Marion County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Death records, 1861-1986.” Marion County Courthouse, Fairmont, West Virginia, United States.

Mason County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Vital records, 1853-1968.” Mason County Courthouse, Point Pleasant, West Virginia, United States.

Mingo County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Vital records, 1882-1927.” Mingo County Courthouse, Williamson, West Virginia, United States.

Monongalia County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Births, deaths, 1853-1970.” Monongalia County Courthouse, Morgantown, West Virginia, United States.

Morgan County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Record of accidental deaths, 1913-1958.” Morgan County Courthouse, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, United States.

Preston County (West Virginia). County Clerk. “Deaths, 1868-1920, 1924-1969.” Preston County Courthouse, Kingwood, West Virginia, United States.

Tucker County (West Virginia). County Clerk. “Deaths, 1852-1970.” Tucker County Courthouse, Parsons, West Virginia, United States.

Upshur County (West Virginia). Clerk of the County Court. “Vital records, 1853-1970.” Upshur County Courthouse, Buckhannon, West Virginia, United States.

West Virginia. Division of Vital Statistics. “Certificates of deaths, 1917-1956.” West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Charleston, West Virginia, United States.