While browsing through some genealogy blogs recently, I spotted an item of interest to me, the below pictured website. A large number of my ancestors and relatives lived in Appalachia, primarily northern West Virginia, where I was born and raised.
The DLA website is a product of a group of colleges and universities from West Virginia down to North Carolina and Tennessee. A list of these is on the site. The items posted are from their respective Special Collections departments.
If you have family connections up and down the Blue Ridge and the Smokies, you may want to check this out, especially if those family connections are verging into the brick wall category. It may take some time and slogging, but there are lots of family research tools available.
As a "for instance," the below list shows an 1845 list of poor children in Smyth County, Virginia. Pre-Civil War records in many southern counties can be scarce. This is just one example of the kind of materials you can find in local Special Collections and Archives.
The website address is dla.acaweb.org/cdm/. Get in there in dig like your coal mining ancestors!