Virginia Border Changes
3/5/2010
You've got questions about discovering, preserving and celebrating your family history; our experts have the answers.
Q. My fifth-great-grandfather died in Berkely County, Va., in 1799. This county is now in West Virginia. Which state should I research in?

A. According to the Library of Virginia Web site, when the state of West Virginia was established in 1863, the counties retained their original local records.

That means for most records, you'll contact the Berkeley County clerk and the West Virginia Archives. For a list of the West Virginia Archives' Berkeley County records on microfilm, see www.wvculture.org/history/bluenote.html#berkeley. You'll find many of the same records at the Family History Library (FHL)—click the Library tab and then Family History Library Catalog, and do a place search of the online catalog on the county name. You can rent FHL microfilm through your local branch Family History Center.

Emily Anne Croom, author of Unpuzzling Your Past, 4th edition (Family Tree Books) and the Family Tree Magazine's Virginia State Research Guide, says Berkeley County marriage records begin in 1781; land, probate and court records, in 1772.

But you'll still want to research in Virginia. Berkeley County was formed in 1772 from Frederick County, so Croom advises looking in Frederick County for records earlier than 1772, in case your family was there at the time. She adds "I'd suggest researching all the family members who might have been in these two counties—the family 'cluster'—since records of other family members might add to the facts on the 'target' ancestor. In addition, sometimes ancestors have records on file in neighboring counties." That often happens when an ancestor lived closer to the courthouse in the next county than to the one in his own county.

The Library of Virginia has some West Virginia County records on microfilm; visit www.lva.lib.va.us/whatwehave/local/WVArecords/WVAcounty/berkeley.htm to see a list of Berkeley County holdings.