Virginia Counties and Historical Facts

Virginia County records vary widely from county to county both in quality and quantity. Some are already very carefully maintained while others have been much abused and uncared for.

Some Virginia records have merely disappeared. For genealogists undertaking research in Virginia there’s no valuable replace for an on-site research of county courthouse records. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia

Records in Virginia Counties

Remember as you conduct your genealogy records research in the County and/or City, that when a new county was formed or incorporated, the records stayed in the parent and were not moved. Also many county and city records are still with the locality and not at the Library of Virginia.

Virginia Map of Counties
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Virginia Map of Counties

Most Virginia county records from before 1900 can be found on microfilm at the FHL and the Library of Virginia.

However, the sizes of both collections and the dates covered within those collections are different. The Library of Virginia’s website lists its holdings.

The city and county courthouses also hold many original records. Wars, fires and other problems have come up throughout Virginia’s history, which has caused many of the state’s records to be lost.

The majority of those records were lost during the destruction of courthouses and other buildings throughout the Civil War.

In 1865 Richmond burned, destroying many records. Jamestown was also destroyed 3 different times.

However, despite all of that, there are still many excellent genealogical resources to be found in the state.

Researchers must remember that the Virginia county boundary lines have changed many times throughout the years. Researchers must be mindful of that, as well as of migration patterns, in order to find the appropriate records.

There are several cities in Virginia that are independent from the counties that surround them. No other states have independent cities. Researchers should act as though those independent cities are counties for researcher purposes.

The Library of Virginia’s website lists 16 sets of independent city records. City status in Virginia is determined by populations, which means that 25 Virginia towns did not become incorporated until 1904 and beyond.

Several counties in Virginia have actually become part of its independent cities and therefore no longer exist as counties. In some instances, those county and city records are still kept separately. See also a list of links to county and county seat government run websites.

List of Virginia Extinct Counties

Kentucky has counties that no longer exist because they were discontinued, renamed or merged with another county..

A lot of these counties were established and disbanded within the 19th century; county borders have modified very little since 1900 in the vast most of states.

These are important for genealogy research purposes. See the History of Virginia Counties.

List of Virginia Counties with Burned Courthouses

Virginia burned county courthouse
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The destruction to Virginia courthouses drastically has a effect on family historians in almost every way.

Not only are these types of historic buildings torn from all of our lifetimes, so are the archives they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, and others. Once destroyed they are lost forever.

Although, not all records were lost. Numerous Virginia counties have dealt with a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.

The Civil War caused devastating damage to multiple cities and their records. “Burned Record Counties” records can be difficult to find or replace using other resources.

However, the Burned Record Counties Database at the Library of Virginia can be quite helpful to researchers. The manuscript room at the Library of Virginia holds the Burned Records County Collection.

The following counties have lost a large amount of records over the years: Appomattox, Buchanan, Buckingham, Dinwiddie, Elizabeth City, Gloucester, Hanover, Henrico, James City, King and Queen, Nansemond, New Kent, Prince George and Warwick counties.

Researchers interested in information on those counties may need to have added patience and spend more time looking into various different resource avenues.

  • Albemarle Co., Courthouse: created in 1744, all order books except the first and all loose papers were destroyed in Tarleton’s raid on Charlottesville in 1781.
  • Appomattox Co., Courthouse: created in 1845, county court records were destroyed by fire in 1892.
  • Bland Co., Courthouse: created in 1861, all but a few record books and some chancery papers were destroyed by fire in 1888.
  • Brunswick Co., Courthouse: created in 1732, the first pages of a number of early record books damaged by time.
  • Buchanan Co., Courthouse: created in 1858, county court records were destroyed by fire in 1885; records created after that date suffered extreme damage in a flood in 1977. A few re-recorded deeds exist.
  • Buckingham Co., Courthouse: created in 1761, county court records were destroyed by fire in 1869. One plat book survived and some wills and deeds were later recorded.
  • Caroline Co., Courthouse: created in 1728, most records prior to 1836 were destroyed during the Civil War. Some deeds and wills are recorded in extant Chancery Papers, and a considerable number of order books and loose papers survive.
  • Charles City Co., Courthouse: created in 1634 as an original shire, records have been destroyed at various times. The most damage occurred during the Civil War when the records were strewn through woods in a rainstorm. Many fragments of records exist, so many, in fact, that there is something for almost every year.
  • Chesterfield Co., Courthouse: created in 1749, lost one marriage register and some loose court papers during the Civil War.
  • Clarke Co., Courthouse: created in 1836, had pages cut from several record books during the Civil War.
  • Craig Co., Courthouse: created in 1851, lost the first deed book and most of the loose papers during the Civil War.
  • Dinwiddie Co., Courthouse: created in 1752, county court records prior to 1833 were destroyed in 1865. One plat book, one order book, and one judgment book survive.
  • Elizabeth City Co., Courthouse: created in 1634 as an original shire, records were damaged and/or destroyed during the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and the Civil War. A few early deeds, wills, orders, and guardian’s accounts survive.
  • Fairfax Co., Courthouse: created in 1742, original wills and deeds as well as many other loose papers were destroyed during the Civil War; deed books for twenty-six of the fifty-six years between 1763 and 1819 are missing.
  • Gloucester Co., Courthouse: created in 1651, all county court records were destroyed by an 1820 fire, and most of the records created after that date were destroyed in Richmond on 3 April 1865. Six minute books from the nineteenth century and two surveyor’s record books survive.
  • Greene Co., Courthouse: created in 1838, lost the first deed book during the Civil War when it was removed from the courthouse; no records were lost, but some suffered extreme water damage in efforts to put out a fire in the 1970s.
  • Hanover Co., Courthouse: created in 1721, most county court records were destroyed by fire in Richmond on 3 April 1865. A few isolated record books that were not sent to Richmond and various scraps of loose papers survive.
  • Henrico Co., Courthouse: created in 1634 as an original shire, all county court records prior to 1655 and almost all prior to 1677 are missing; additionally, many isolated records were destroyed during the Revolutionary War, and almost all Circuit Court records were destroyed by fire in Richmond on 3 April 1865.
  • James City Co., Courthouse: created in 1634 as an original shire, all county court records were lost in 1865.
  • King and Queen Co., Courthouse: created in 1691, county court records were lost in fires in 1828 and 1865. One plat book and three mid-nineteenth century Superior Court record books survive.
  • King George Co., Courthouse: created in 1721, had one will book, an early marriage register, and an order book “carried away during the Civil War.” A few years ago the will book was deposited in the Virginia Historical Society.
  • King William Co., Courthouse: created in 1702, all county court records prior to 1885 (except for seventeen will books) were destroyed in a fire in that year.
  • Lee Co., Courthouse: created in 1793, lost the oldest marriage register in an 1863 fire.
  • Louisa Co., Courthouse: created in 1742, lost one order book in Richmond in 1865.
  • Mathews Co., Courthouse: created in 1791, all county court records were burned in Richmond on 3 April 1865. At least two bond books, one plat book, and a number of fee books survive.
  • Northumberland Co., Courthouse: created in 1645, suffered some loss in a fire in the clerk’s office on 25 October 1710.
  • Nottoway Co., Courthouse: created in 1789, many county court records were destroyed or heavily mutilated in 1865.
  • Nansemond Co., Courthouse: created in 1652, county court records were destroyed in three separate fires, the earliest of which consumed the house of the court clerk in April 1734 (where the records were kept at that time), and the last on 7 February 1866. A few fee books have been found in the records of Sussex County. All records transferred to City of Suffolk include: Marr fr. 1866, Land fr. 1734, Probate fr. 1866 and Court Records fr. 1774.
  • New Kent Co., Courthouse: created in 1654, county court records were destroyed when John Posey burned the courthouse on 15 July 1787, and records created after that date were lost to fire in 1865.
  • Prince William Co., Courthouse: created in 1731, many county court records have been lost, destroyed, or stolen at various times. Scattered years of deeds, wills, and orders, as well as various bond books and a plat book, survive.
  • Prince George Co., Courthouse: created in 1703, most county court records were burned during the Civil War. A few record books survived and, proving that there is always hope, the volume in which deeds and wills were recorded between 1710 and 1713 was found within the last decade.
  • Richmond Co., Courthouse: created in 1692, has some record books damaged and mutilated due to unknown causes; additionally, the will books prior to 1699 were missing as early as 1793, and order books for the period 1794-1816 are also missing.
  • Rockingham Co., Courthouse: created in 1778, many pre-Civil War records were lost during the Valley Campaign of 1864. In an effort to safeguard the records, they were loaded onto a wagon that was subsequently set afire by Union troops. Records that were saved include: administrators, executors, and guardians bonds.
  • Russell Co., Courthouse: created in 1786, the first marriage register and all loose files were lost in a fire in the clerk’s office in 1872.
  • Stafford Co., Courthouse: created in 1664, many pre-Civil War county court records were lost to vandalism during the war. Scattered years of deeds, wills, and orders have survived as has an old General Index.
  • Surry Co., Courthouse: created in 1652, has lost deeds for 1835-1838 and order books for 1718-1741 and various other early record books are fragmentary. Court house fires in 1906 and 1922 did not result in loss of records which were then housed in a separate clerk’s office.
  • Warwick Co., Courthouse: created in 1643, county court records were destroyed at several times with most destruction occurring during the Civil War. A seventeenth century livestock registry, one order book, and one minute book from the eighteenth century survive.
  • Washington Co., Courthouse: created in 1777, lost a minute book for the period 1787-1819 and many loose papers in a fire in the clerk’s office on 15 December 1864.
  • Westmoreland Co., Courthouse: created in 1653, lost an order book for the period 1764-1776 to theft, and many loose papers were damaged during both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

List of Kentucky Counties

CountyDate FormedParent CountyCounty Seat
Accomack1661Northampton CountyAccomac
Albemarle 1744Goochland and Louisa CountiesCharlottesville
Alleghany1822Bath, Botetourt and Monroe CountiesCovington
Amelia 1734Brunswick and Prince George CountiesAmelia Court House
Amherst1761Albemarle CountyAmherst
Appomattox1845Buckingham, Campbell, Charlotte and Prince Edward CountiesAppomattox
Arlington1920renamed from Alexandria CountyArlington
Augusta1738Orange CountyStaunton
Bath1790Augusta, Botetourt and Greenbrier CountiesWarm Springs
Bedford1753Albemarle and Lunenburg CountiesBedford
Bland1861Giles, Tazewell and Wythe CountiesBland
Botetourt1769Augusta and Rockbridge CountiesFincastle
Brunswick1720Prince Geore, Surry and isle of Wight CountiesLawrenceville
Buchanan1858Russell and Tazewell CountiesGrundy
Buckingham1758Albermarle and Appomattox CountiesBuckingham
Campbell1781Bedford CountyRustburg
Caroline1727Essex, King and Queen and King William CountiesBowling Green
Carroll1842Grayson and Patrick CountiesHillsville
Charles City1634Colonial landsCharles City
Charlotte1764Lunenburg CountyCharlotte Court House
Chesterfield 1749Henrico CountyChesterfield
Clarke1836Frederick CountyBerryville
Craig1851Alleghany, Botetourt, Giles, Montgomery, Monroe and Roanoke CountiesNew Castle
Culpeper1748Orange CountyCulpeper
Cumberland1748Goochland and Buckingham CountiesCumberland
Dickenson1880Buchanan and Russell, Wise CountiesClintwood
Dinwiddie1752Prince George CountyDinwiddie
Essex1694old Rappahannock CountyTappahannock
Fairfax1742Prince William and Loudoun CountiesFairfax
Fauquier1758Prince William CountyWarrenton
Floyd1831Montgomery and Franklin CountiesFloyd
Fluvanna1777Albemarle CountyPalmyra
Franklin1785Bedford, Henry and Patrick CountiesRocky Mount
Frederick1738Orange and Augusta CountiesWinchester
Giles1806Montgomery, Monroe, Mercer, Tazewell, Craig and Wythe CountiesPearisburg
Gloucester1651York CountyGloucester
Goochland1727Henrico CountyGoochland
Grayson1792Patrick and Wythe CountiesIndependence
Greene1838Orange CountyStanardsville
Greensville1780Brunswick and Sussex CountiesEmporia
Halifax1752Lunenburg CountyHalifax
Hanover1720New Kent CountyHanover
Henrico1634Colonial landsRichmond
Henry1776Patrick and Pittsylvania CountiesMartinsville
Highland1847Bath and Pendleton CountiesMonterey
Isle of Wight1634Warrosquoyoake CountyIsle of Wight
James City1634Colonial landsWilliamsburg
King and Queen1720New Kent CountyKing George
King George1691Richmond and Westmoreland CountiesKing William
King William1701King and Queen CountyKing & Queen Court House
Lancaster1651York and Northumberland CountiesLancaster
Lee1792Russell and Scott CountiesJonesville
Loudoun1757Fairfax CountyLeesburg
Louisa1742Hanover CountyLouisa
Lunenburg1746Brunswick CountyLunenburg
Madison1792Culpeper CountyMadison
Mathews1790Gloucester CountyMathews
Mecklenburg1764Lunenburg CountyBoydton
Middlesex1669Lancaster CountySaluda
Montgomery1776Fincastle, Botetourt and Pulaski CountiesChristiansburg
Nelson1807Amherst CountyLovingston
New Kent1654York and James City CountiesNew Kent
Northampton1634Colonial landsEastville
Northumberland1648York CountyHeathsville
Nottoway1788Amelia CountyNottoway
Orange1734Spotsylvania CountyOrange
Page1831Rockingham and Shenandoah CountiesLuray
Patrick1790Henry CountyStuart
Pittsylvania1766Halifax CountyChatham
Powhatan1777Cumberland and Chesterfield CountiesPowhatan
Prince Edward1753Amelia CountyFarmville
Prince George1702Charles City CountyPrince George
Prince William1730King George and Stafford CountiesManassas
Pulaski1839Montgomery and Wythe CountiesPulaski
Rappahannock1833Culpepper CountyWashington
Richmond1692old Rappahannock CountyWarsaw
Roanoke1838Botetourt and Montgomery CountiesSalem
Rockbridge1778Augusta and Botetourt CountiesLexington
Rockingham1778Augusta CountyHarrisonburg
Russell1786Washington CountyLebanon
Scott1814Lee, Russell and Washington CountiesGate City
Shenandoah1778renamed from DunmoreWoodstock
Smyth1832Washington and Wythe CountiesMarion
Southampton1749Isle of Wight and Nansemond CountiesCourtland
Spotsylvania1720Essex, King and Queen and King William CountiesSpotsylvania
Stafford1664Westmoreland CountyStafford
Surry1652James City CountySurry
Sussex1753Surry CountySussex
Tazewell1799Russell and Wythe CountiesTazewell
Warren1836Frederick and Shenandoah CountiesFront Royal
Washington1776Fincastle and Montgomery CountiesAbingdon
Westmoreland1653Numberland and King George CountiesMontross
Wise1856Lee, Russell and Scott CountiesWise
Wythe1789Montgomery and Grayson CountiesWytheville
York1634Colonial landsYorktown

Virginia Independent City Repositories and Records

Virginia is the only state with independent cities. Independent cities are politically and administratively separate from the county or counties in which they are geographically located.

Independent cities operate their own court system. As of 1987, there were 41 independent cities in Virginia; since population determines city status, more than half were incorporated after 1904.

Many Virginia counties have been absorbed by independent cities. There are currently 39 independent cities in the Commonwealth.

Independent CityYear EstablishedYear Incorporated
Year Incorporated
(Independent City)
County / Cities
Formed from
Alexandria City174917791852 / 1870Alexandria County
Bedford City
(aka Liberty)
178218391969Bedford County
Bristol City
(aka Goodson)
185018561890Washington County
Buena Vista City-18901892Rockbridge County
Charlottesville City176218011888Albemarle County
Chesapeake City--1963Norfolk County and the former city of South Norfolk
Colonial Heights City191019261948Chesterfield County
Covington City181818331953Alleghany County
Danville City179318301890Pittsylvania County
Emporia City, VA188718921967Greensville County
Fairfax City
(aka Providence)
180518741961Fairfax County
Falls Church City185018751948Fairfax County
Franklin City1830s18761961Southampton County
Fredericksburg City172817821879Spotsylvania County
Galax City
(aka Bonaparte)
-19061954Grayson County and Carroll County
Hampton City16801849, 1852 & 18871908Elizabeth City County
Harrisonburg City178018491916Rockingham County
Hopewell City
(aka City Point)
1613-1916Prince George County
Lexington City177818741965Rockbridge County
Lynchburg City178618051852Campbell County
Manassas City185218741975Prince William County
Manassas Park City195519571975Prince William County
Martinsville City179118731928Henry County
Newport News City1880-1896Warwick County
Norfolk City168017361845Norfolk County
Norton City
(aka Prince's Flats)
-18941954Wise County
Petersburg City174817841850Dinwiddie, Prince George, and Chesterfield counties
Poquoson City188519521976York County
Portsmouth City175218361858Norfolk County
Radford City
(aka Lovely Mount, English Ferry, Ingles's Ferry, Central Depot, and Central City)
188518871892Montgomery County
Richmond City174217821842Henrico and Chesterfield Counties
Roanoke City
(aka Big Lick)
185218741884Roanoke County
Salem City180618361968Roanoke County
South Boston City179618841960Halifax County
Staunton City176118011871Augusta County
Suffolk City174218081910Nansemond County
Virginia Beach City-19061952Princess Anne County
Waynesboro City180118341948Augusta County
Williamsburg City
(aka Middle Plantation)
1633 / 169917221884James City and York Counties
Winchester City
(aka Opequon)
175217791874Frederick County
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