West Virginia Probate Records
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.” 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.
A brief history of the settlement and boundary changes of West Virginia and the resultant effects on record keeping can be found on Ancestry.
- Probate records of West Virginia have been kept by the county courts. 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.
- 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 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, 1965. (Family History Library book 975.5 P22t.)
- 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
- FindLaw has information about West Virginia State Probate Courts.
- 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.
- Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1979), 1081, "probate."