Retracing Our Family Legacy

Evolution of Virginia Counties

County Formations

As the early colonists continued to spread out their settlements and their numbers grew, the General Assembly soon found it necessary to create eight shires in which to govern the colony and hold court. In 1623/24, courts were kept in Charles City, Elizabeth City, and James City. In February 1631/32, the General Assembly added five more shires.

The eight original shires:

  • Charles City
  • Henrico
  • James City
  • Elizabeth City
  • Warwick River
  • Warrosquyoake, later Isle of Wight
  • Charles River, later York
  • Accawmacke (Accomack).

The creation of the shires, which later became known as counties, was to make the administration of justice more accessible to the colonists. There were six kinds of courts in Virginia: {1} Magistrate's court {2} Parish court {3} Monthly court {4} General court {5} General Assembly {6} Court of Admiralty.

For the period 1750-1770, twenty-six new counties were formed. The continuous westward trek of settlers demanded the government provide courts in their areas. As the westward expansion continued, Virginia created Kentucky county and Illinois county. Kentucky County was eventually split into three counties, Jefferson, Fayette, and Lincoln. Illinois county (the Northwest Territory) was ceded to the nation and became a territory. This voluntary gift to the nation included all of the Ohio Valley and parts of Wisconsin and Michigan. The counties of Mercer, Madison and Bourbon were created in 1786, but became part of the State of Kentucky in 1792 when it was organized as a state. Madison, Woodford and Fayette were also formed while Kentucky was still a part of Virginia. By the time Kentucky received statehood, it was comprised of nine counties. The records of those counties are housed in Kentucky. Records prior to their formation are located in Virginia records of such counties as Augusta, Montgomery and Botetourt. West Virginia was also a part of Virginia until it ceded to the Union in 1863 and became a state.


Includes dates formed

Accomack: Changed to Northampton county 1642/43, reappears as Accomac Sep 1663. Original Shire.

Albemarle 1744 Formed from Goochland & Louisa Counties. Charlottesville

Alleghany 1822 Formed from Bath, Botetourt, and Monroe Counties. Covington

Alexandria Changed to Arlington 1791, retroceded to District of Columbia.

Amelia 1735 Formed from Prince George & Brunswick Counties.Amelia

Amherst 1761 Formed from Albemarle County. Amherst

Appomattox 1845 Formed from Buckingham, Charlotte, Campbell & Prince Edward Counties. Records destroyed by fire 2 Feb 1895. Appomattox

Arlington 1801 Established as Alexandria Co. of the District of Columbia; retroceded to VA in 1846; organized as VA county of Alexandria 1847; name changed to Arlington in 1920. Arlington

Augusta 1738 Formed from Orange County. Staunton

Bath 1791 Formed from Augusta, Botetourt, and Greenbrier Counties. Warm Springs

Bedford 1754 Formed from Lunenburg & Albemarle Counties.Bedford

Bland 1861 Formed from Wythe, Tazewell, & Giles Counties. Some records destroyed by fire, 1885. Bland

Botetourt 1770 Formed from Augusta County. Fincastle

Brunswick 1720 Formed from Isle of Wight, Prince George, & Surry Counties. Lawrenceville

Buchanan 1858 Formed from Russell & Tazewell Counties. Courthouse burned 1885. Grundy

Buckingham 1761 Formed from Albemarle County. Fire destroyed all records in 1869. Buckingham

Campbell 1782 Formed from Bedford County. Rustburg

Caroline 1729 Formed from Essex, King & Queen, & King William Counties. Bowling Green

Carroll 1842 Formed from Grayson & Patrick Counties. Hillsville

Charles City 1634 Original Shire. Charles City

Charlotte 1765 Formed from Lunenburg County. Charlotte Court House

Chesterfield 1749 Formed from Henrico County Chesterfield Court House

Clarke 1836 Formed from Frederick & Warren Counties. Berryville

Craig 1851 Formed from Alleghany, Botetourt, Montgomery, Roanoke, Giles, and Monroe Counties. New Castle

Culpeper 1749 Formed from Orange County. Culpeper

Cumberland 1749 Formed from Goochland County. Cumberland

Dickenson 1880 Formed from Wise, Buchanan, & Russell Counties. Clintwood

Dinwiddie 1752 Formed from Prince George County. Fire destroyed most records in 1833. Dinwiddie

Dunmore 1772 No longer exists, the name was changed to Shenandoah County.

Essex 1692 Formed from Old "Rappahannoc" County. Tappahannock

Fairfax 1742 Formed from Prince William County. Fairfax

Fauquier 1759 Formed from Prince William County. Warrenton

Fincastle 1773 Formed from Botetourt County. Fincastle County no longer exists, the records are in Montgomery.

Floyd 1831 Formed from Montgomery & Franklin Counties. Floyd

Fluvanna 1777 Formed from Albemarle County. Palmyra

Franklin 1786 Formed from Bedford & Henry Counties. Rocky Mount

Frederick 1738 Formed from Orange & Augusta Counties. Winchester

Giles 1806 Formed from Montgomery, Monroe, Wythe & Tazewell Counties. Pearisburg

Gloucester 1651 Formed from York County. Gloucester

Goochland 1728 Formed from Henrico County. All records were destroyed by fire June 1820; other records were lost during the Civil War, 1865. Goochland

Grayson 1793 Formed from Wythe & Patrick Counties. Independence

Greene 1838 Formed from Orange County. First Deed Book lost during the Civil War. Standardsville

Greensville 1781 Formed from Sussex & Brunswick Counties. Some records were destroyed by fire. Emporia

Halifax 1752 Formed from Lunenburg County. Halifax

Hanover 1721 Formed from New Kent County. Records were destroyed in 1865. Hanover

Henrico 1634 Original Shire. Richmond

Henry 1777 Formed from Pittsylvania County. Martinsville

Highland 1847 Formed from Bath & Pendleton Counties. Some records were destroyed by fire, 1947. Monterey

Illinois 1778-1780 given to the nation 1783 (The Northwest Territory).

Isle of Wight 1634 Original Shire. Founded as Warrosquyoake, name changed to Isle of Wight in 1647. Isle of Wight

James City 1634 Original Shire. Williamsburg

Kentucky 1776 Divided into three parts; Jefferson, Fayette and Lincoln and the Commonwealth of Kentucky formed about 1780, state formed 1792.

King and Queen 1691 Formed from New Kent County. Most records destroyed 1864 in the Civil War. King and Queen

King George 1721 Formed from Richmond County. First Will Book is missing. King George

King William 1702 Formed from King and Queen County. Most records destroyed by fire, 1885. King William

Lancaster 1652 Formed from Northumberland & York Counties. Lancaster

Lee 1793 Formed from Russell & Scott Counties. Jonesville

Loudoun 1757 Formed from Fairfax County. Leesburg

Louisa 1742 Formed from Hanover County. Louisa

Lunenburg 1746 Formed from Brunswick County. Lunenburg

Madison 1793 Formed from Culpeper County. Madison

Mathews 1791 Formed from Gloucester County. All records destroyed during Civil War, 1865. Mathews

Mecklenburg 1765 Formed from Lunenburg County. Boydton

Middlesex 1673 Formed from Lancaster County. Saluda

Montgomery 1777 Formed from Fincastle County. Christiansburg

Nansemond 1645 Formed from Upper Norfolk County. No longer exists.

Nelson 1808 Formed from Amherst County. Lovingston

New Kent 1654 Formed from York County. Records burned 1865, during Civil War. New Kent

Norfolk 1634 Original Shire. No longer exists, is now a city.

Northampton 1634 Original Shire formed as Accomac and changed to Northampton 1642. Eastville

Northumberland 1648 Original Shire. Formed from the Indian District, Chicacoan, lying between Rappahannock & Potomac Rivers. Heathsville

Nottoway 1789 Formed from Amelia County. Nottoway

Old Rappahannock No longer exists. See Essex County and Richmond County.

Orange 1734 Formed from Spotsylvania County. Orange

Page 1831 Formed from Rockingham & Shenandoah Counties. Luray

Patrick 1791 Formed from Henry County. Stuart

Pittsylvania 1767 Formed from Halifax County. Chatham

Powhatan 1777 Formed from Chesterfield & Cumberland Counties. Powhatan

Prince Edward 1754. Farmville

Prince George 1703 Formed from Charles City County. Most records before 1865 lost, incomplete records 1865-90. Prince George

Prince William 1731 Formed from Stafford & King George Counties. Manassas

Pulaski 1839 Formed from Montgomery and Wythe Counties. No marriage records before 1882. Pulaski

Rappahannock 1833 Formed from Culpeper County. Washington

Richmond 1692 Formed from Old "Rappahannoc" County. Incomplete marriages 1672-1853. Warsaw

Roanoke 1838 Formed from Botetourt and Montgomery Counties. In 1848/49, a part of Montgomery County was added. Salem

Rockbridge 1778 Formed from Augusta and Botetourt Counties. Lexington

Rockingham 1778 Formed from Augusta County. A fire in 1864 destroyed some wills and deeds. Harrisonburg

Russell 1786 Formed from Washington County. A fire in 1853 destroyed marriage records, Will Book 1, and Common Law Order Book, 3. Lebanon

Scott 1814 Formed from Lee, Washington, & Russell Counties. Gate City

Shenandoah 1772 Formed from Frederick County. Originally called Dunmore County. Woodstock

Smyth 1832 Formed from Washington & Wythe Counties. Some records were destroyed by fire. Marion

Southampton 1749 Formed from Isle of Wight & Nansemond Counties. Courtland

Spotsylvania 1721 Formed from Essex, King William, and King & Queen Counties. Spotsylvania

Stafford 1664 Formed from Westmoreland County. Stafford

Surry 1652 Formed from James City County. Surry,

Sussex 1754 Formed from Surry County. Sussex

Tazewell 1800 Formed from Russell, Washington, and Wythe Counties. Tazewell

Upper Norfolk County 1637 Changed to Nansemond County, 1642.

Warren 1836 Formed from Frederick and Shenandoah Counties. Front Royal

Washington 1777 Formed from Fincastle County. Some records missing. Abingdon

West Augusta 1758 Part of Augusta County, courts were held at Fort Pitt. Divided into the counties of Ohio, Yohogania, and Monongalia in 1776. This was in the area disputed by Virginia and Pennsylvania. The dispute over these lands was settled in 1779, and Augusta County court records show deeds of lands that are now in Pennsylvania.

Westmoreland 1653 Formed from King George and Northumberland Counties. Montross

Wise 1856 Formed from Russell, Lee, & Scott Counties. Wise

Wythe 1790 Formed from Montgomery and Grayson Counties. Wytheville

York 1634 Original Shire. Founded as Charles River County, changed to York in 1642. Yorktown


West Virginia Counties


In May 1861, when Governor Letcher called out the Virginia militia, many residents along the Ohio and Pennsylvania borders were not in sympathy with the Confederacy. The residents of about 40 counties held a convention, and broke away from Virginia, forming the new state of West Virginia in 1863.


 Name - Date formed - Parent County - Address

Barbour 1843 from Harrison, Barbour and Marion. Grafton

Berkeley 1772 from Frederick. Martinsburg

Boone 1847 from Kanawha, Cabell and Logan. Mactison

Braxton 1836 from Kanawha, Lewis and Nicholas. Sutton

Brooke 1797 from Ohio county. Wellsburg

Cabell 1809 from Kanawha. Huntington

Calhoun 1856 from Gilmer. Grantsville

Clay 1858 from Braxton and Nicholas. Clay

Doddridge 1845 from Harrison, Tyler, Ritchie, and Lewis. West Union

Fayette 1831 from Logan, Greenbrier, Nicholas and Kanawha. Fayetteville

Gilmer 1845 from Lewis and Kanawha. Glenville

Greenbrier 1778 from Montgomery and Botetourt. Lewisburg

Hampshire 1753 from Frederick. Romney

Hancock 1848 from Brooke. New Cumberland

Hardy 1786 from Hampshire. Moorefield

Harrison 1784 from Monongalia. Clarksburg

Jackson 1831 from Mason, Kanawha and Wood. Ripley

Jefferson 1801 from Berkeley. Charles Town

Kanawha 1788 from Greenbrier and Montgomery. Charleston

Lewis 1816 from Harrison. Weston

Logan 1824 from Giles, Cabell, Tazewell and Kanawha. Hamlin

Marion 1842 from Monongalia and Harrison. Fairmont

Marshall 1835 from Ohio. Moundsville

Mason 1804 from Kanawha. Point Pleasant

Mercer 1837 from Giles. Princeton

Monongalia 1776 from West Augusta. Morgantown

Monroe 1798 from Greenbrier. Union

Morgan 1820 from Hampshire and Berkeley. Berkeley Springs

McDowell 1858 from Tazewell. Welch

Nicolas 1818 from Greenbrier, Kanawha and Randolph. Summersville

Ohio 1776 from West Augusta. Wheeling

Pocahontas 1821 from Greenbrier, Randolph, Bath and Pendleton. Marlinton

Pendleton 1788 from Hardy, Augusta, Rockingham and Bath. Franklin

Pleasants 1851 from Tyler, Wood, and Ritchie. St. Marys.

Preston 1818 from Monongalia. Kingwood

Putnam 1848 from Kanawha, Cabell and Mason. Winifield

Raleigh 1850 from Fayette. Beckeley

Randolph 1787 from Harrison. Elkins

Ritchie 1843 from Lewis, Harrison, and Wood. Harrisville

Roane 1856 from Kanawha, Jackson and Gilmer. Spencer

Taylor 1844 from Harrison, Barbour and Marion. Grafton

Tucker 1856 from Randolph. Parsons

Tyler 1814 from Ohio. Middlebourne

Upshur 1851 from Randolph, Barbour, and Lewis. Buckhannon.

Wayne 1842 from Cabell. Wayne

Webster 1860 from Nicholas, Braxton, and Randolph. Webster Springs

Wetzel 1846 from Tyler. New Martinsville

Wirt 1848 from Jackson and Wood. Elizabeth

Wood 1798 from Harrison. Parkersburg

Wyoming 1850 from Logan. Pineville

Yohogania 1776 from West Augusta.