Internet users everywhere can now view Hank Williams' death certificate, or great-grandpa's birth certificate through an upgraded online database of more than 5.7 million vital records in West Virginia, officials said yesterday.
Unlike most states that provide only lists or indices of vital records online, West Virginia's database also includes images of the original files, said Joe Geiger, director of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History's archives and history section.
West Virginia's searchable database also is free.
State officials started the online service four years ago by entering records from Calhoun, Gilmer, Hardy, Harrison, Mineral and Pendleton counties, said state archivist Debra Basham. Just recently, it completed entering data from all 55 counties and upgraded its server to increase by three times the speed with which users can access and download information.
Records can be searched by name, date or county.
Some birth and death records from as early as 1853 are available, but better records exist after 1917 when the West Virginia Department of Health Vital Registration began collecting county records. Marriage records are available from the inception of each county, the earliest of which dates to 1780. However, birth records are not placed online until 100 years after the event while death records are also kept offline, but only for 50 years.
The West Virginia online vital records database is available at http://www.wvculture.org/vrr. I'd suggest you first read a great article giving details that may be found at http://www.wvculture.org/history/vitalrecordsarticle.pdf.