West Virginia Vital Records

West Virginia Vital Records

The Office of Vital Records is responsible for maintaining all state-level vital records created, administered and maintained by the state of West Virginia regarding a person’s most important life events. These records include such documents as birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates and are compiled and stored in permanent central registry state entities uses to develop statistical analysis of its population.

Birth Records

A birth certificate is a vital record that documents the birth of a child. The term "birth certificate" can refer to either the original document certifying the birth or to a certified copy or representation of the original document. The state of West Virginia enacted the statewide registration of birth records in 1917. It was compiled with by 1925, due to the fire in 1921 that destroyed most of the records from the beginning of the registration law. Some records prior to the statewide registration were collected from the county, clerks’ and church registers. These records are gathered by the West Virginia Family History Library and the catalogs manufactured by the West Virginia Family Search Catalog.

Death Records

A death record is most likely a copy of the information contained in a person’s death certificate. The state of West Virginia signed into law the statewide registration in 1917. Prior to this year, the records were collected from the counties and churches registers where the event occurred. The death records are available to the public the public at the West Virginia History Library and West Virginia Family Search Catalog, thought the records are not complete.

Marriage/Divorce Records

A marriage/divorce record is issued by a government official only after civil registration of the marriage/divorce occurs. West Virginia marriages were recorded by the existing counties as early as 1780.  For later counties, marriage records began when each county was organized. Marriage records can be obtained by writing to the county clerk of the county where the marriage took place. The state has copies of the county records since 1964 and an index for 1921-1963. Records prior to 1964 are kept at the County Clerk's office where they applied to be married. Divorces could only be granted by the Virginia legislature until 1851. Legal separations could be granted by the county court. After 1851, divorce proceedings were kept by the clerk of the circuit court in the county where the divorce was granted. 

Why Vital Records are Available to the Public?

In 1992, the West Virginia State Legislature passed a law named the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act. This law was enabled with the last changes in 2001 and aims to ensure disclosure of court records and other public records to the public: §29B-1-1. Declaration of policy. Every person throughout the state can request access to access all public records through the assigned specialized offices within its determined terms.

What Does Vital Records Access mean to You?

The law is similar to the West Virginia Open Meeting Law which legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. The West Virginia Freedom of Information Act intent is that all records maintained by state and local government entities be available for public access and copying.


West Virginia State Archives

State Archives

Contact: (304) 982-8439

Results Include

Full State Record Report:

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West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals 1863 - 1872

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals 1863 - 1872