Thursday, January 19, 2012
Book Review: West Virginia Genealogy Sources & Resources
While the copy I own is new, the book was actually published in 1988. Don't let that scare you away out of fear it is outdated, though. Some the prices may have went up since the book was published, but the majority of the information in the book is still of us.
In writing the book, the author sent questionnaires/surveys to all county clerks, at least one library in each county and all known genealogical and historical societies in the state. County clerks were asked to provide information on their records, restrictions to records, whether they handle research requests and what they charge if they do.
Libraries were asked for information about the library (hours, contact information, etc), the size of their genealogical holdings, and whether they have restrictions on access or answer research requests. Societies were asked to provide information on their group (size, start date, dues, etc); whether they answered queries, whether they operated a library, archives or museum; their holdings and whether they offered publications for sale.
All the information garnered from these questionnaires was included in the book. For ones that didn't respond, the author attempted to provide the information from other sources.
The book consists of an introduction, six chapters, three appendices and an index. The first chapter is quite brief and offers a quick overview of the state of West Virginia. To give you an idea of how brief, the entire chapter is covered in 2 pages.
The second chapter gets into vital and county records. It starts by giving an overview of record-keeping and requesting records. Then it gets to the meaty stuff with the details on what each county courthouse has. Each county will have a short paragraph about the county including its formation, then lists what years are covered in the records, and information on in-person research and written queries. Some counties have more information than others because not all clerks responded to the questionnaire.
Chapters three and four get into other types of records. These include family Bibles, newspapers, land records and naturalization, just to name a few.
In chapter five, we learn about genealogical collections. The first part of the chapter covers larger collections at the state level. The rest of the chapter is broken down alphabetically by county.. The library surveys are used to fill it in.
Chapter six covers genealogical and historical societies. Again, it is organized alphabetically by county. This is not a comprehensive list because I know of at least one society that wasn't included. The way it handles non-county specific societies such as the state genealogical society is a little disappointing. I actually missed it at first because it's buried in a county listing, I would have preferred to have it in a separate section.
Appendix A is a bibliography of genealogy sources. It is broken down by topic (military, newspapers, etc) and then by county. Appendix B is an inventory to the Historical Records Survey Archives, which are available on microfilm at the West Virginia University Library. It gives a brief description of what is on each of the 299 reels.
Last but not least, Appendix C is a list of West Virginians who filed Civil War damage claims with the Southern Claims Commission. It gives the individual's name, county and file number.
Even accounting for the possibility that some of the information in the book may be out of date, I would still recommend the book to others researching West Virginia ancestors. While it doesn't cover every available source in the state (I don't think any book does), it is jam-packed with information that can be used in your research.