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.
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.
Counties kept death records from 1853 to the present.
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.
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
Birthplace of deceased
Parents’ names of deceased
Birthplace of parents
Occupation of deceased
Name of informant (sometimes, includes relationship to deceased)