Monroe County Genealogy Source Materials
This page is devoted to helping amateur genealogists find basic references to original records, published works and online sources of information pertaining to this county. At the outset it is important to know that the County of Monroe was not formed the instant that the first settlers arrived. Instead, counties in the Virginias were progressively subdivided over a period of a century, so that original materials relevant to the present territorial limits of Monroe are to be found in four modern county courthouses.
County Courthouses Containing Records Relevant to Monroe
The courthouses listed here all have records rooms open to the general public and contain ledgers with deeds, surveys, births, marriages, deaths and wills that are well indexed and easy to use. They have staff that are willing to answer questions and they generally have large-format photocopiers. However, some of the older more fragile ledgers may be off limits to copiers so it is best to come armed with a digital camera or lots of note paper.
Fincastle in Botetourt County, Virginia
This was the county seat for a huge area of western Virginia from 1770-78 and contains the very earliest surveys and tithable (tax) records for the first permanent settlers of our area. Also available are records of court proceedings while a comprehensive index for all recorded surnames for this period is available. The museum behind the courthouse has a bookstore with some useful titles.
Christiansburg in Montgomery County, Virginia
This courthouse contains the records for Fincastle Co. which existed from just 1772-76. This is not to be confused with the modern town of Fincastle which was not included within its boundaries. In fact, Fincastle County covered much of southwestern Virginia and what is now southern West Virginia and Kentucky. Its relevance to Monroe is that the southwestern tip of our county, around Peterstown and the New River, was within the boundaries of Fincastle County for its brief existence.
Lewisburg in Greenbrier County, West Virginia
The county seat for much of the Greenbrier Valley and the Middle New River settlements was in Lewisburg from 1778-98. This courthouse contains the first land entry books and deeds, however published transcriptions or abstracts of many of these records are available through the Greenbrier Historical Society bookstore (see below).
Union in Monroe County
Our county was formed in 1799 although the courthouse contains one survey book, No. 3, which has important 18th Century records. The standard records are in a room adjacent to the County Clerk's office while the serious researcher may ask for access to a basement room where some of the earlier, more obscure records are kept. In addition, Summers County researchers can look in the Union Courthouse for records of their early residents because this county was not split off from Monroe, and others, until 1871.
Greenbrier Historical Society, North House, Lewisburg
This facility contains a museum, a well organized records room with library, and an excellent bookstore with numerous transcriptions of early records on sale. Also, there is a good selection of books dealing with the history of the Virginias. Volunteers are on hand to help visitors during normal hours. Publications of particular interest to Monroe genealogists are listed below.
Larry Shuck Transcriptions
Three important titles are "Deeds & Wills", 1777-1833; "Personal Property Tax Lists", 1782-1815; and "Early Court Records" 1780-1835. These three books each contain many thousands of names for the post-Revolutionary period. They are basically abstracted from the originals and are well indexed, but watch out for the fact that multiple spellings of the same name are typically recorded as written without comment. This confusion results from the fact that the settlers were often illiterate and early scribes relied on phonetic spelling, particularly of non-English names.
Helen Stinson transcription
A "Land Entry Book" for 1780-1786 is transcribed in its entirety and covers the period before deeds were widely recorded. This book is also well indexed, but spellings are recorded as originally written so that the same surname may occur up to seven times in the index. Some of these spelling variants do survive to the present but many have been standardized over the years.
Journal of the Greenbrier Historical Society
This journal was begun in 1966 and contains a variety of articles, but titles of special genealogical interest include "Early Greenbrier County Marriages", 1776-1850, in Volume V, Number 2, and "The Mathews Trading Post Ledger, 1771-1779", in Volume IV, Number 4. Back issues of this journal can often be purchased, and if unavailable, photocopies can be made by the volunteer staff for a small charge.
Monroe County Historical Society Museum, Main Street, Union
The Historical Society maintains a small museum with library, files of unpublished records and photographs, and a number of informal publications prepared by members over the years. Opening hours are limited to June through September, so access during other months must be obtained by writing to the Society's address. A complete list of publications is available on this website, so information below concerns only those materials of special interest to genealogists.
Note: These items can be purchased by mail; see our publications page.
Index to Morton's History
The book was published in 1916 and is available in a "print on demand" version through Amazon.com, but the Index was compiled by our Society much more recently and makes this standard reference into a very useful research tool. In fact the Index contains about 14,000 line entries, many of which are multiple, so most of the early citizens of Monroe are included.
This 1990 comprehensive compilation contains the information on over 12,500 gravestones in Monroe County, mainly names and dates of birth and death. Often husband and wife are linked together. The book is completely indexed with a special "Maiden Name Index" and location information on the cemeteries is included.
Also among the Society's publications are pamphlets on individual towns, including Forest Hill, Gap Mills & Zenith Valley, Greenville, Sinks Grove and Second Creek. These books consist of collections of earlier articles and can be very helpful in tracing ancestors if you have an idea of where they lived.
Shirley Ulaki Books
These impressive volumes include "Kinfolk of Second Creek", "Monroe County Soldiers in the Civil War", and "We the People of Old Monroe". They include much transcribed material from early handwritten records that would otherwise be difficult to obtain and they are well indexed. They are sold through the Historical Society Museum.
The Historical Society and the nearby Monroe County Public Library contain numerous genealogies of individual surnames which have been compiled over the years primarily by family members and donated to these institutions. They are not for sale but may be perused in these collections. The list of names is here. It is important to remember that individual volumes may contain dozens or even hundreds of other surnames because of intermarriage and these are not listed separately.
Important Library Collections in the Virginias
These libraries contain collections of great interest to genealogists which include books, but also original documents in the form of manuscripts, maps and photographs. In fact, each is a major research center which can be accessed onsite or online.
This library has records of colonial and state governments including copies of county court records, church records, personal papers, business records, organization records, cemetery records, Bible records and genealogical notes and charts. Especially useful are extant colonial tax (tithable) records including counties now in West Virginia as these are generally the earliest positive record of a settler's arrival in an area.
This unit is a research arm of the WV Division of Culture and History and includes state archives, databases of births, deaths, and marriages, and a "Genealogy Corner". Included are some records that predate the formation of the state in 1863, like the early surveys listed in the Sims Index of Land Grants which date from the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.
Listed under "West Virginia Collection: Manuscripts and Archives" are the papers of Margaret Ballard. This is an extensive collection spanning 40 feet of shelving and comprised of personal and business papers as well as photographs relating to her family and to Monroe County.
These collections are a resource for genealogical and historical research for the whole state and adjacent parts of West Virginia. Histories of many counties are included and can be very useful in tracing ancestors as they moved down the Shenandoah Valley toward the frontier areas later defined as West Virginia.
Specialty Publishers of Genealogical & Historical Materials
These companies focus on local subjects such as individual family genealogies or county level census reports. Books or pamphlets may be reprints of older works, complete transcriptions of courthouse documents or abstracted treatments of wills or land grants which retain the family names of settlers but not a lot of details.
This company offers over 4000 titles, including numerous family genealogies and local histories. A sleeper is "Lord Dunmore's Little War of 1774" which has an index of about 9800 individuals (allowing for variant spellings) covering all militiamen who participated in the conflict as well as settlers who provided services to the troops. The publisher is justified in claiming that the list is a substitute for a kind of census of western Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania prior to the American Revolution.
Titles dealing with Monroe County include the Censuses of 1810 and 1850, the abstracted wills from 1799 to 1879, and a reprint of Hardesty's "Monroe Co. History and Biographies" originally published in the late 19th Century. Similar entries are available for Greenbrier County. Be sure to look for "Land Grants in Fincastle County, 1772-1776" which includes the first recorded settlers of the Peterstown area, and other parts of southwest Monroe which fell within this jurisdiction during its brief history.
Online Genealogy Sites
The existence of these user-friendly sites has made genealogy the multi-billion dollar business it is today because individuals can instantly discover their family relationships on their home computer, and indeed, enter their own family data with ease. A cautionary tale is that the information is generated primarily by amateurs so that verification with other sources, particularly original county-level records, is highly desirable.
Roots Web is the free service arm of Ancestry.Com and contains millions of records of its own. Subscriptions are necessary for Ancestry.Com. Roots Web makes no attempt to merge the dozens of entries it may get on a single individual so that the interested user may compare and contrast the various entries and decide which appears to be more reliable. The user should always start with the name and significant dates of a great grandfather if possible because the farther back in time you go, the greater the chances that a relative will have entered family data. Also, include as much information as you have, wife's name for instance, as this lowers the risk of unwanted duplication.
This is an arm of the LDS Church (Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and this information has been collected over many years by the church membership. Sources of information may include archival materials such as the US Censuses and Social Security Death Index.
The site differs from the above in that it is specifically for county level or state level archives. It does urge the general public to submit materials so the included documents are diverse but spotty. Individual surnames or county names may be searched and there are some gems derived from such diverse source materials as Church Records, Obituaries and Military Records.
Why not Google your ancestor, or use another search engine, because researchers are increasingly posting family sites on the web. This type of search is particularly effective if your relative has a distinctive name.
Local Researchers Willing to Help
Most amateur genealogists will be able to use the above diverse resources and have the fun and satisfaction of building a family history from the ground up. However, if you do get stuck and are unable to travel to Monroe, there are experienced people who are willing to help out. Or, if you do come to Union and need someone to open the Historical Society or to guide you through the courthouse, we can also help. Remember to check the organizations and publishers listed above because a large and increasing number of transcriptions and abstracts of early court records are now for sale or accessible online. If you do plan to use one of the volunteers listed below, please remember that this sort of research may be time consuming, and that you may be charged an hourly rate and asked to pay for photocopying.
Sandra White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sandy has been helping folks in the Monroe County Courthouse for years. She has had a long term interest in genealogy and has lots of kinfolk in the area. Sandy has made an extensive compilation of records of "Slaves of Monroe" for 1799 to the Civil War. These records are based on the county will books as well as birth and death records. She charges a nominal sum for her time.
Shirley Green Ulaki (email@example.com)
Shirley has roots in Monroe going way back and has written family genealogies of the Ellis, Koiner and Scaggs/Foster families. She has also worked in the Monroe Co. Courthouse to clean, organize and archive all the 200 year old records located in the basement storage room. She has transcribed a great number of these records and compiled them into three volumes mentioned above, and these are on sale at the Historical Society Museum.
Fred Ziegler (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Fred is the current President of the Historical Society and although he is a recent arrival in Monroe County, he has compiled numerous colonial era records and is working on a book cataloging the pre-Revolutionary settlers to the Greenbrier Valley. So, he can advise on the very early records.