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Today’s Virginia counties did not always exist in the present form. They went through many different changes in the space of a few short years.
Virginia Territorial Counties
The history of Virginia counties starts with the Virginia Colony which was founded in 1606.
In 1619, The Virginia Company of London divided up the settled portions of Virginia into four large citties (aka “burroughs or incorporations). Those 4 cities were:
- Elizabeth City (originally named Kecoughtan)
- James City
- Charles City
- Henrico City
In 1634, the local government regions in Virginia changed to the name of shires (later called counties). The original 8 Virginia Shires of were:
- Accomac Shire (now Northampton & Accomack Counties)
- Charles City Shire (now Charles City County)
- Charles River Shire (now York County)
- Elizabeth City Shire (extinct – consolidated with the City of Hampton)
- Henrico Shire (now Henrico County)
- James City Shire (now James City County)
- Warwick River Shire (extinct – consolidated with the City of Newport News)
- Warrosquyoake Shire (now Isle of Wight County)
Between 1637 and 1642, their names changed from “Shires” to “Counties”.
The Virginia Colony lasted until June 25, 1788, when the State of Virginia was created as the 10th state.
Virginia Counties Today
Today, Virginia is currently divided into 95 counties and 39 independent cities. States bordering Virginia are Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and Washington, District of Columbia.
Several Virginia counties have become part of its independent cities and therefore no longer exist as counties.
Fun Facts about Virginia Counties
Counties by Year
- Accawmack, Charles City, Charles River, Elizabeth City, Henrico, James City, Warrosquyoake, and Warwick River Counties was the original 8 counties / shires created in 1634.
- Dickenson County was the last county created on February 27, 1880.
County Size Facts
- Pittsylvania County (978 sq mi) is the largest county in Virginia.
- Arlington County (26 sq mi) is the smallest county in Virginia.
County Population Facts
- Highland County (2,214) is the least populated county in Virginia.
- Fairfax County (1,142,234) is the most populated county in Virginia.
Virginia City Facts
Virginia’s 10 largest cities (2018) are:
- Virginia Beach (450,057) is an Independent City
- Norfolk (245,752) is an Independent City
- Chesapeake (235,410) is an Independent City
- Arlington (229,534) is in Arlington County
- Richmond (220,892) is an Independent City
- Newport News (180,775) is an Independent City
- Alexandria (154,710) is an Independent City
- Hampton (136,255) is an Independent City
- Roanoke (99,572) is an Independent City
- Portsmouth (95,536) is an Independent City
Boundary Changes of Virginia Counties from 1617-1995
This Interactive Map of Virginia Counties show the historical boundaries, names, organization, and attachments of every county, extinct county and unsuccessful county proposal from 1617 to 1995.
List of Virginia Counties
|County||Date Formed||Parent County||County Seat||Notes|
List of Old Former / Extinct Virginia Counties
At least 32 counties that were established by Virginia law no longer exist. These are important for genealogy research purposes.
These defunct counties were either
- Judicial counties
- Counties established by declaration of the Constitutional Convention of 1868-69
- Counties established by legislative act but never organized and later abolished by legislative act
- Counties established outside the present boundaries of Virginia
- Counties whose names have been changed.
The below Virginia counties no longer exist:
Accawmack County, Virginia
Created in 1634 as a Original Shire. It was renamed to Northampton County in 1642.
Charles River County, Virginia
Created in 1634 as a Original Shire. It was renamed to York County in 1642
Dunmore County, Virginia
Elizabeth River Shire / County, Virginia
Created in 1772 as an Original Shire. It was re-named Elizabeth City County about 1636. In merged into the Independent City of Hampton in 1952.
Fincastle County, Virginia
Established in 1634 from Botetourt County. It ceased to exist in 1776 when it was divided to form Montgomery County, Washington County, and Virginia County (now the state of Virginia). Some Fincastle County genealogy records may be found in the Montgomery County.
Kentucky County, Virginia
Created in December 7, 1777 from Fincastle County. It was abolished when it formed the State of Kentucky in 1780.
Lower Norfolk County, Virginia
Created in 1637 from New Norfolk County. It was abolished May 16, 1691 and divided to form Norfolk and Princess Anne counties. Records can be found in the City of Chesapeake.
Nansemond County, Virginia
Created in 1636 from Upper Norfolk County. It was Incorporated as the City of Nansemond in 1972 and merged with the City of Suffolk in 1974.
New Norfolk County, Virginia
Created in 1636 from Elizabeth City County. It was abolished in 1637 and divided into Lower Norfolk and Upper Norfolk Counties.
Norfolk County, Virginia
Created in May 16, 1691 from Lower Norfolk County. It merged into the Independent City of Chesapeake in 1963.
Princess Anne County, Virginia
Created in May 16, 1691 from Lower Norfolk County. It merged into the Independent City of Virginia Beach in 1963.
Old Rappahannock County, Virginia
Upper Norfolk County, Virginia
Created in 1637 from New Norfolk County. It was renamed to Nansemond County in 1646.
Warrosquyoake County, Virginia
Created in 1634 as an Original Shire. It was renamed to Isle of Wight County in 1637.
Warwick River County, Virginia
Created in 1634 as an Original Shire. It was renamed to Warwick County in 1643.
Warwick County, Virginia
Created in 1643 from Warwick River County. It was abolished in 1952 when it became Indepentent City of Warwick. In 1958 the City of Warwick merged into the Indepentent City of Newport News.