Are We There Yet? Introducing Historic West Virginia Law

No ancestor on my pedigree chart hailed from West Virginia. I don’t have a state-related ancestral tale to tell, but there is always a story.

Picture a carload of talkative genealogists heading east to the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. Two had not been to West Virginia. The obliging driver took a detour across the sliver of West Virginia between Ohio and Pennsylvania so they could briefly experience the state. Or maybe it was to get them to hush. On my second visit I almost grabbed a rattlesnake, but that is less genealogy-related than my first visit.

West Virginia is the newest addition to The Advancing Genealogist’s online law library. Three new pages cover historic statutory law, historic case law, and historic law extras. A find from each category follows.

From Historic West Virginia Statutory Law:

  • “An ACT to amend the law relating to the maintenance of illegitimate children. Passed February 22, 1867. Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:

The first section of chapter one hundred and twenty-five of the Code of Virginia, second edition, is hereby amended and re-enacted so as to read as follows:

“1. Any unmarried woman may go before a justice of any township of the county in which she has resided for the last preceding year, and accuse any person of being the father of a child of which she has been delivered. The said justice shall examine her under oath and reduce her examination to writing and sign it. On such examination, unless the child be two years old or upwards, the justice shall issue a warrant directed to any county where the accused may be, requiring him to be apprehended and taken before a justice of any township in which he may be found ; and it shall be the duty of such justice to require the accused to enter into a recognizance, with one of more good securities in a sum not less than one hundred, nor more than five hundred dollars, conditioned for his appearance at the next term of the circuit court of the county in which such warrant issued, to answer said charge, and to abide by and perform the order of the court in relation thereto.”[1]

From Historic West Virginia Case Law:

    • Amanda Hardman vs. R. C. Orr et ux, July Term, 1871.
      • A man named Hickman had his “natural son” H. H. Hardman buy land with Hickman’s money, with the intention of conveying the land to Hickman’s “natural daughter,” Sophia. Sophia took possession of the land, but her father and her brother died before it was deeded it to her. A disagreement about who got what ensued. The case is a great source of names and relationships.
      • Sophia, wife of R. C. Orr, and natural daughter of Hickman.
      • H. H. Hardman, brother of Sophia, recognized by Hickman as his natural son. H. H. used his mother’s surname.
      • [Given name not in case] Hardman, mother of Sophia and her brother.
      • Amanda, widow of H. H. Hardman, and their infant heirs.
      • An unnamed wife of Hickman, who was not the mother of Sophia Orr and H. H. Hardman.[2]

From Historic West Virginia Law Extras:

  • A company of infantry “of the West Virginia National Guard, consists of forty-one privates and certain officers. [West Virginia Code, chap. 18, sec. 10]”[3]

See what waits in the historic West Virginia law collection.

Never pass up the chance to cut through a sliver of a new state.

[1] Acts of the Legislature of West Virginia (Wheeling, WV: John Frew, public printer, 1867), Chapter 56, “An Act to Amend the law relating to the maintenance of illegitimate children,” pp. 64-64, digital images 69–70 of 292; digitized book, HathiTrust ( : accessed 17 October 2023).

[2] Reports of Cases Determined in the Supreme Court of Appeals of the State of West Virginia, Volume 5 (Wheeling, WV: Lewis Baker & Co., 1873), Amanda Hardman vs. R. C. Orr et ux, 1871, pp. 71–73, digital images 85–87 of 632; digitized book, HathiTrust ( : accessed 17 October 2023).

[3] The Virginia and West Virginia Judicial Dictionary-Digest, Words and Phrases, Volume 2 (Cincinnati, OH: W. H. Anderson Company, 1922), “Company of Militia,” p. 823, digital image 17 of 840; digitized book, HathiTrust ( : accessed 17 October 2023).

Thanks to Linda McCauley for updating the law library map!

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2 Responses to Are We There Yet? Introducing Historic West Virginia Law

  1. Lisa S. Gorrell says:

    Thank you! Your list is growing! I sure appreciate the work you have done.

    • debbiemieszala says:

      West Virginia is the 23rd state in the law library. Pretty crazy how it has grown. Thanks for using the library!

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