Skip to Main Content

Lost Records Localities Digital Collection

Records from counties and cities that have experienced record loss

Search Lost Records Localities Digital Collection


Numerous Virginia counties and cities, most of them in the eastern part of the state, have suffered tremendous losses of their early records because of military activity (predominantly during the Civil War), courthouse fires, and/or natural disasters. At some point, almost everyone conducting genealogical or historical research in Virginia will face the problem of finding information from a county or city described as a "lost records locality."

The Lost Record Localities Collection consists of court records that have survived from localities where most records no longer exist. These records have been identified during the course of records-processing projects, such as the Chancery Records Index, and added to an artificial online collection. This collection is updated periodically as new records are identified.

This collection does not include recovered records from higher or appeal courts. For an index of these records, see the Burned Jurisdiction Database.

Search Tips

  • Entries are searchable by keyword, record type, and locality.
  • To narrow by date, use the Publication Dates filter or Advanced Search option on the search results page.
  • Using quotes around phrases may return fewer, more relevant results.
  • Boolean operators OR, NOT and AND written in ALL CAPS may be used. By default, all search terms will be combined with the AND operator. To exclude terms, use the NOT operator before a term.
  • Wildcards can be used to find variant spellings or words. The question mark (?) will match any one character. For instance, "Ols?n" will match "Olsen" or "Olson". The asterisk (*) will match any number of characters (including zero). "Ch*ter" will match "Charter", "Character", and "Chapter", and "Temp*" will match "Temptation", "Temple", and "Temporary".

Related Resources

If the record you are looking for is not in the Lost Record Localities Collection, additional resources exist:

  • First, check the Localities with Record Loss page for the locality that interests you.
  • If records have survived for a locality, use the Using County and City Court Records guide to learn more about available record types and their research value, as well as the Guide to Virginia County and City Records on Microfilm to locate microfilm records available at the Library of Virginia. If no records have survived, search the records of surrounding localities. 
  • Finally, seek out alternative records, such as church, business, private, and government documents, that may help fill in gaps.

Examples of alternative records include:

Revised January 2024