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

County Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Accomack 1661 Northampton County Accomac
Albemarle 1744 Goochland and Louisa Counties Charlottesville
Alleghany 1822 Bath, Botetourt and Monroe Counties Covington
Amelia 1734 Brunswick and Prince George Counties Amelia Court House
Amherst 1761 Albemarle County Amherst
Appomattox 1845 Buckingham, Campbell, Charlotte and Prince Edward Counties Appomattox
Arlington 1920 renamed from Alexandria County Arlington
Augusta 1738 Orange County Staunton
Bath 1790 Augusta, Botetourt and Greenbrier Counties Warm Springs
Bedford 1753 Albemarle and Lunenburg Counties Bedford
Bland 1861 Giles, Tazewell and Wythe Counties Bland
Botetourt 1769 Augusta and Rockbridge Counties Fincastle
Brunswick 1720 Prince Geore, Surry and isle of Wight Counties Lawrenceville
Buchanan 1858 Russell and Tazewell Counties Grundy
Buckingham 1758 Albermarle and Appomattox Counties Buckingham
Campbell 1781 Bedford County Rustburg
Caroline 1727 Essex, King and Queen and King William Counties Bowling Green
Carroll 1842 Grayson and Patrick Counties Hillsville
Charles City 1634 Colonial lands Charles City
Charlotte 1764 Lunenburg County Charlotte Court House
Chesterfield 1749 Henrico County Chesterfield
Clarke 1836 Frederick County Berryville
Craig 1851 Alleghany, Botetourt, Giles, Montgomery, Monroe and Roanoke Counties New Castle
Culpeper 1748 Orange County Culpeper
Cumberland 1748 Goochland and Buckingham Counties Cumberland
Dickenson 1880 Buchanan and Russell, Wise Counties Clintwood
Dinwiddie 1752 Prince George County Dinwiddie
Essex 1694 old Rappahannock County Tappahannock
Fairfax 1742 Prince William and Loudoun Counties Fairfax
Fauquier 1758 Prince William County Warrenton
Floyd 1831 Montgomery and Franklin Counties Floyd
Fluvanna 1777 Albemarle County Palmyra
Franklin 1785 Bedford, Henry and Patrick Counties Rocky Mount
Frederick 1738 Orange and Augusta Counties Winchester
Giles 1806 Montgomery, Monroe, Mercer, Tazewell, Craig and Wythe Counties Pearisburg
Gloucester 1651 York County Gloucester
Goochland 1727 Henrico County Goochland
Grayson 1792 Patrick and Wythe Counties Independence
Greene 1838 Orange County Stanardsville
Greensville 1780 Brunswick and Sussex Counties Emporia
Halifax 1752 Lunenburg County Halifax
Hanover 1720 New Kent County Hanover
Henrico 1634 Colonial lands Richmond
Henry 1776 Patrick and Pittsylvania Counties Martinsville
Highland 1847 Bath and Pendleton Counties Monterey
Isle of Wight 1634 Warrosquoyoake County Isle of Wight
James City 1634 Colonial lands Williamsburg
King and Queen 1720 New Kent County King George
King George 1691 Richmond and Westmoreland Counties King William
King William 1701 King and Queen County King & Queen Court House
Lancaster 1651 York and Northumberland Counties Lancaster
Lee 1792 Russell and Scott Counties Jonesville
Loudoun 1757 Fairfax County Leesburg
Louisa 1742 Hanover County Louisa
Lunenburg 1746 Brunswick County Lunenburg
Madison 1792 Culpeper County Madison
Mathews 1790 Gloucester County Mathews
Mecklenburg 1764 Lunenburg County Boydton
Middlesex 1669 Lancaster County Saluda
Montgomery 1776 Fincastle, Botetourt and Pulaski Counties Christiansburg
Nelson 1807 Amherst County Lovingston
New Kent 1654 York and James City Counties New Kent
Northampton 1634 Colonial lands Eastville
Northumberland 1648 York County Heathsville
Nottoway 1788 Amelia County Nottoway
Orange 1734 Spotsylvania County Orange
Page 1831 Rockingham and Shenandoah Counties Luray
Patrick 1790 Henry County Stuart
Pittsylvania 1766 Halifax County Chatham
Powhatan 1777 Cumberland and Chesterfield Counties Powhatan
Prince Edward 1753 Amelia County Farmville
Prince George 1702 Charles City County Prince George
Prince William 1730 King George and Stafford Counties Manassas
Pulaski 1839 Montgomery and Wythe Counties Pulaski
Rappahannock 1833 Culpepper County Washington
Richmond 1692 old Rappahannock County Warsaw
Roanoke 1838 Botetourt and Montgomery Counties Salem
Rockbridge 1778 Augusta and Botetourt Counties Lexington
Rockingham 1778 Augusta County Harrisonburg
Russell 1786 Washington County Lebanon
Scott 1814 Lee, Russell and Washington Counties Gate City
Shenandoah 1778 renamed from Dunmore Woodstock
Smyth 1832 Washington and Wythe Counties Marion
Southampton 1749 Isle of Wight and Nansemond Counties Courtland
Spotsylvania 1720 Essex, King and Queen and King William Counties Spotsylvania
Stafford 1664 Westmoreland County Stafford
Surry 1652 James City County Surry
Sussex 1753 Surry County Sussex
Tazewell 1799 Russell and Wythe Counties Tazewell
Warren 1836 Frederick and Shenandoah Counties Front Royal
Washington 1776 Fincastle and Montgomery Counties Abingdon
Westmoreland 1653 Numberland and King George Counties Montross
Wise 1856 Lee, Russell and Scott Counties Wise
Wythe 1789 Montgomery and Grayson Counties Wytheville
York 1634 Colonial lands Yorktown

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 City Year Established Year Incorporated
(Town)
Year Incorporated
(Independent City)
County / Cities
Formed from
Alexandria City 1749 1779 1852 / 1870 Alexandria County
Bedford City
(aka Liberty)
1782 1839 1969 Bedford County
Bristol City
(aka Goodson)
1850 1856 1890 Washington County
Buena Vista City - 1890 1892 Rockbridge County
Charlottesville City 1762 1801 1888 Albemarle County
Chesapeake City - - 1963 Norfolk County and the former city of South Norfolk
Colonial Heights City 1910 1926 1948 Chesterfield County
Covington City 1818 1833 1953 Alleghany County
Danville City 1793 1830 1890 Pittsylvania County
Emporia City, VA 1887 1892 1967 Greensville County
Fairfax City
(aka Providence)
1805 1874 1961 Fairfax County
Falls Church City 1850 1875 1948 Fairfax County
Franklin City 1830s 1876 1961 Southampton County
Fredericksburg City 1728 1782 1879 Spotsylvania County
Galax City
(aka Bonaparte)
- 1906 1954 Grayson County and Carroll County
Hampton City 1680 1849, 1852 & 1887 1908 Elizabeth City County
Harrisonburg City 1780 1849 1916 Rockingham County
Hopewell City
(aka City Point)
1613 - 1916 Prince George County
Lexington City 1778 1874 1965 Rockbridge County
Lynchburg City 1786 1805 1852 Campbell County
Manassas City 1852 1874 1975 Prince William County
Manassas Park City 1955 1957 1975 Prince William County
Martinsville City 1791 1873 1928 Henry County
Newport News City 1880 - 1896 Warwick County
Norfolk City 1680 1736 1845 Norfolk County
Norton City
(aka Prince's Flats)
- 1894 1954 Wise County
Petersburg City 1748 1784 1850 Dinwiddie, Prince George, and Chesterfield counties
Poquoson City 1885 1952 1976 York County
Portsmouth City 1752 1836 1858 Norfolk County
Radford City
(aka Lovely Mount, English Ferry, Ingles's Ferry, Central Depot, and Central City)
1885 1887 1892 Montgomery County
Richmond City 1742 1782 1842 Henrico and Chesterfield Counties
Roanoke City
(aka Big Lick)
1852 1874 1884 Roanoke County
Salem City 1806 1836 1968 Roanoke County
South Boston City 1796 1884 1960 Halifax County
Staunton City 1761 1801 1871 Augusta County
Suffolk City 1742 1808 1910 Nansemond County
Virginia Beach City - 1906 1952 Princess Anne County
Waynesboro City 1801 1834 1948 Augusta County
Williamsburg City
(aka Middle Plantation)
1633 / 1699 1722 1884 James City and York Counties
Winchester City
(aka Opequon)
1752 1779 1874 Frederick County
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