Note About This Index
The Death Index of Virginia contains indexing errors, some of which relate to race and enslaved status. Some entries for individuals who died after the end of slavery are incorrectly coded as "slave" or "Free Negro." Additionally, entries use the term "black" when indexing post-1865 deaths. The original death registers use the historical term "colored," a racial category that was applied to Native American and multiracial individuals as well as those of African descent. Using "black" rather than "colored" is factually incorrect and obscures the racial diversity of nineteenth-century Virginia.
The Library of Virginia recognizes that these errors are offensive and place a burden on those researching non-white Virginians. As a supplement to this index, we recommend the FamilySearch collection Virginia Deaths and Burials, 1853–1912.
This Death Index of Virginia consists of deaths recorded between July 1, 1853 and 1896. During this period, state law required localities to keep registers of births and deaths. Volunteers with the Virginia Genealogical Society's Death Records Indexing Project have indexed registers from thirty-four Virginia cities and counties. It is important to note that not all deaths in those cities and counties were recorded.
Each entry lists the name of the deceased, place of death, and the county or city, year, and page number of the register where the death was recorded. Note that page numbers were supplied by the indexers and are not present on the original registers. Page numbering repeats at the beginning of each year.
Entries may also list gender, race, age, cause of death, place of birth, occupation, martial status, names of parents, name and description of informant. If the deceased was Black and died before 1866, entries may list free or enslaved status and, if applicable, the name of the enslaver.
- Search terms may include personal names, year/month/date of death, and city or county. Additional search terms may include place and cause of death, age, place of birth, gender, race, and marital status (usually "unmarried," "married," "widow," or "widower").
- Entries usually list race as "white" or "black." Deceased individuals labeled "black" in the index are listed as "colored" on the original registers; therefore, the keyword "black" may retrieve entries for Native American and multiracial people. Not all entries list race.
- Enslaved people and their enslavers may be located using the search terms "slave" and "owner." Free Black people who died before 1866 may be located using the phrase "Free Negro," which was the legal term for free people of African descent. Not all entries list enslaved status.
- Not all entries have full names. In most cases, only a given name is recorded for enslaved people, and some enslaved and free Black people are listed without a name. If an infant was not named at time of death, the register recorded only the surname or might note “Smith, Infant,” “Unnamed,” etc. Names of parents of the deceased are frequently omitted or unreliable, since the person giving the information may not have known the names.
- 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".