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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|
|Albemarle County||16 Oct 1744||Goochland and Louisa Counties||Charlottesville|
|Alleghany County||05 Jan 1822||Bath, Botetourt and Monroe Counties||Covington|
|Amelia County||30 Sep 1734||Brunswick and Prince George Counties||Amelia Court House|
|Amherst County||07 Apr 1761||Albemarle County||Amherst|
|Appomattox County||08 Feb 1845||Buckingham, Campbell, Charlotte and Prince Edward Counties||Appomattox|
|Arlington County||13 Mar 1847||renamed from Alexandria County||Arlington|
|Augusta County||15 Dec 1738||Orange County||Staunton|
|Bath County||14 Dec 1790||Augusta, Botetourt and Greenbrier Counties||Warm Springs|
|Bedford County||13 Dec 1753||Albemarle and Lunenburg Counties||Bedford|
|Bland County||30 Mar 1861||Giles, Tazewell and Wythe Counties||Bland|
|Botetourt County||28 Nov 1769||Augusta and Rockbridge Counties||Fincastle|
|Brunswick County||17 Dec 1720||Prince Geore, Surry and isle of Wight Counties||Lawrenceville|
|Buchanan County||16 Feb 1858||Russell and Tazewell Counties||Grundy|
|Buckingham County||07 Apr 1758||Albermarle and Appomattox Counties||Buckingham|
|Campbell County||15 Dec 1781||Bedford County||Rustburg|
|Caroline County||15 Mar 1727||Essex, King and Queen and King William Counties||Bowling Green|
|Carroll County||17 Jan 1842||Grayson and Patrick Counties||Hillsville|
|Charles City County||16 Apr 1634||Colonial lands||Charles City|
|Charlotte County||27 Nov 1764||Lunenburg County||Charlotte Court House|
|Chesterfield County||01 May 1749||Henrico County||Chesterfield|
|Clarke County||08 Mar 1836||Frederick County||Berryville|
|Craig County||21 Mar 1851||Alleghany, Botetourt, Giles, Montgomery, Monroe and Roanoke Counties||New Castle|
|Culpeper County||23 Mar 1748||Orange County||Culpeper|
|Cumberland County||23 Mar 1748||Goochland and Buckingham Counties||Cumberland|
|Dickenson County||27 Feb 1880||Buchanan and Russell, Wise Counties||Clintwood|
|Dinwiddie County||09 Mar 1752||Prince George County||Dinwiddie|
|Essex County||26 Apr 1694||old Rappahannock County||Tappahannock|
|Fairfax County||24 May 1742||Prince William and Loudoun Counties||Fairfax|
|Fauquier County||05 Apr 1758||Prince William County||Warrenton|
|Floyd County||15 Jan 1831||Montgomery and Franklin Counties||Floyd|
|Fluvanna County||03 Jun 1777||Albemarle County||Palmyra|
|Franklin County||29 Nov 1785||Bedford, Henry and Patrick Counties||Rocky Mount|
|Frederick County||15 Dec 1738||Orange and Augusta Counties||Winchester|
|Giles County||16 Jan 1806||Montgomery, Monroe, Mercer, Tazewell, Craig and Wythe Counties||Pearisburg|
|Gloucester County||1651||York County||Gloucester|
|Goochland County||06 Mar 1727||Henrico County||Goochland|
|Grayson County||07 Nov 1792||Patrick and Wythe Counties||Independence|
|Greene County||24 Jan 1838||Orange County||Stanardsville|
|Greensville County||28 Nov 1780||Brunswick and Sussex Counties||Emporia|
|Halifax County||17 Apr 1752||Lunenburg County||Halifax|
|Hanover County||20 Nov 1720||New Kent County||Hanover|
|Henrico County||1634||Colonial lands||Richmond|
|Henry County||23 Oct 1776||Patrick and Pittsylvania Counties||Martinsville|
|Highland County||19 Mar 1847||Bath and Pendleton Counties||Monterey|
|Isle of Wight County||1634||Warrosquoyoake County||Isle of Wight|
|James City County||1634||Colonial lands||Williamsburg|
|King and Queen County||12 May 1691||Richmond and Westmoreland Counties||King William|
|King George County||24 Nov 1720||New Kent County||King George|
|King William County||12 Sep 1701||King and Queen County||King & Queen Court House|
|Lancaster County||1651||York and Northumberland Counties||Lancaster|
|Lee County||25 Oct 1792||Russell and Scott Counties||Jonesville|
|Loudoun County||17 May 1757||Fairfax County||Leesburg|
|Louisa County||02 Jun 1742||Hanover County||Louisa|
|Lunenburg County||01 Apr 1746||Brunswick County||Lunenburg|
|Madison County||05 Dec 1792||Culpeper County||Madison|
|Mathews County||16 Dec 1790||Gloucester County||Mathews|
|Mecklenburg County||27 Nov 1764||Lunenburg County||Boydton|
|Middlesex County||1673||Lancaster County||Saluda|
|Montgomery County||07 Dec 1776||Fincastle, Botetourt and Pulaski Counties||Christiansburg|
|Nelson County||23 Dec 1807||Amherst County||Lovingston|
|New Kent County||16 Apr 1654||York and James City Counties||New Kent|
|Northampton County||16 Apr 1634||Colonial lands||Eastville|
|Northumberland County||1648||York County||Heathsville|
|Nottoway County||23 Dec 1788||Amelia County||Nottoway|
|Orange County||20 Sep 1734||Spotsylvania County||Orange|
|Page County||30 Mar 1831||Rockingham and Shenandoah Counties||Luray|
|Patrick County||26 Nov 1790||Henry County||Stuart|
|Pittsylvania County||15 Dec 1766||Halifax County||Chatham|
|Powhatan County||03 Jun 1777||Cumberland and Chesterfield Counties||Powhatan|
|Prince Edward County||17 Nov 1753||Amelia County||Farmville|
|Prince George County||25 Aug 1702||Charles City County||Prince George|
|Prince William County||17 Jun 1730||King George and Stafford Counties||Manassas|
|Pulaski County||30 Mar 1839||Montgomery and Wythe Counties||Pulaski|
|Rappahannock County||18 Feb 1833||Culpepper County||Washington|
|Richmond County||26 Apr 1692||old Rappahannock County||Warsaw|
|Roanoke County||30 Mar 1838||Botetourt and Montgomery Counties||Salem|
|Rockbridge County||12 Jan 1778||Augusta and Botetourt Counties||Lexington|
|Rockingham County||12 Jan 1778||Augusta County||Harrisonburg|
|Russell County||06 Jan 1786||Washington County||Lebanon|
|Scott County||24 Nov 1814||Lee, Russell and Washington Counties||Gate City|
|Shenandoah County||12 Jan 1778||renamed from Dunmore||Woodstock|
|Smyth County||23 Feb 1832||Washington and Wythe Counties||Marion|
|Southampton County||20 Apr 1749||Isle of Wight and Nansemond Counties||Courtland|
|Spotsylvania County||17 Dec 1720||Essex, King and Queen and King William Counties||Spotsylvania|
|Stafford County||1664||Westmoreland County||Stafford|
|Surry County||16 Feb 1652||James City County||Surry|
|Sussex County||28 Nov 1753||Surry County||Sussex|
|Tazewell County||20 Dec 1799||Russell and Wythe Counties||Tazewell|
|Warren County||09 Mar 1836||Frederick and Shenandoah Counties||Front Royal|
|Washington County||07 Dec 1776||Fincastle and Montgomery Counties||Abingdon|
|Westmoreland County||1653||Numberland and King George Counties||Montross|
|Wise County||16 Feb 1856||Lee, Russell and Scott Counties||Wise|
|Wythe County||01 Dec 1789||Montgomery and Grayson Counties||Wytheville|
|York County||1634||Colonial lands||Yorktown|
|Accawmack County (Extinct)||1634|
|Accomack (Old) (Extinct)||21 Jun 1904|
|Charles River County (Extinct)|
|Dunmore County (Extinct)||24 Mar 1772|
|Elizabeth River Shire (Extinct)|
|Fincastle County (Extinct)||08 Apr 1772|
|Kentucky County (Extinct)||31 Dec 1776||Fincastle County||Harrodstown (aka Oldtown)||Jun 30, 1780|
|Lower Norfolk County (Extinct)||1637|
|Nansemond County (Extinct)||1637|
|New Norfolk County (Extinct)||1636|
|New Norfolk County (Extinct)|
|Norfolk County (Extinct)||21 Jun 1904|
|Old Rappahannock County (Extinct)||1634|
|Princess Anne County (Extinct)||16 May 1691|
|Upper Norfolk County (Extinct)||16 Jul 1637|
|Warrosquyoake County (Extinct)||1634|
|Warwick County (Extinct)||1642|
|Warwick River County (Extinct)||1634|
|Yohogania County (Extinct)||06 Nov 1776|
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.