West Virginia death records are made public after 50 years (after the date of death), so you can freely access any records older than that. They are available either through the Health Statistics Center (50 years until the present) or through the State Archives for older material.
Overall, the state has been collecting data since 1917 though many counties have their own death records from as far back as the 1850s. Some go back even farther. You can contact the individual county registrar offices to see what records are in their archives, or use the West Virginia Division of Culture and History website (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_dcsearch.aspx) to search online.
Their database includes West Virginia death records from around 1853 up until the late 1950s, though there are incomplete portions for some years. You can search by name and see the actual document images though some of the registration entries can be hard to read because they are hand-written.
You can visit the research room at the Cultural center in person if you wish, at 1900 Kanawha Blvd East in Charleston. They're open Monday through Saturday for standard business hours.
But if you are looking for more recent documents, you will have to put in a request on paper to have them released to you. And you can only request documents for someone in your immediate family, such as parents, grandparents, siblings, children, grandchildren or a spouse. You can also get someone who is an immediate family member to provide written permission to release a West Virginia death record to you.
First, you need to complete the request form which can be printed out from the Health Statistics Department website (http://www.wvdhhr.org/bph/hsc/vital/forms/deathfm.pdf). It's very simple and only requires the name of the deceased, where they died and the date of death. You also have to indicate your relationship to them, and provide your own contact information.
Their office is at the Health Statistics Center, 350 Capitol Street, Room 165, Charleston WV, 25301-3701 USA. You can get while-you-wait service if you visit with your forms in person, and mailed applications are processed within 5 business days once they get your forms.
You also need to include the current fee for a West Virginia birth record, which is $12 USD. Extra copies ordered at the same time are also $12 each. They will take cash at the counter but mailed orders need to have a check or money order enclosed. Make payments out to "Vital Registration".
If they cannot locate the record you've asked for, refunds are not issued. They will search for one year before and one year after the date of death you've provided at no extra cost though.
Depending on the county, the West Virginia death record you get will contain the deceased's full name, date and place of death, and usually their birth date or age when they died. You may also get their place of residence, occupation and spouse's name as well.
To request a West Virginia death certificate by mail, you can follow these steps:
Fill out the West Virginia Death Certificate form in its entirety and print it.
Make out a $12 check or money order to "Vital Registration."
Send the completed application and payment to the address listed below. Processing times for mailed requests can be in excess of 19 business days.
For more information on how to access West Virginia death records, you can contact the office using one of the following methods:
West Virginia Department of Health
350 Capitol Street
Charleston, WV 25301-3701
Obtaining Death Records In West Virginia
West Virginia death records are maintained by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources through their Health Statistics Center. Authorized persons can make requests directly to the Department of Health.
Multiple Ordering Options
There are several ordering options available for requesting West Virginia death records. Orders made through the Department of Health directly can be done in person and by mail. If you prefer to use a credit card, then you can also make a request using a third party company by phone, fax, or internet.
West Virginia death records are not considered public information, and therefore, their access is limited. To have your request for West Virginia death records processed, you must be a parent or grandparent, spouse, child or grandchild, funeral director, or otherwise be able to prove a legal interest in the record.