Historical Facts of Kansas Counties

Kansas County records vary widely from county to county in both quality as well as quantity. Some have been carefully maintained and some have been much neglected and neglected. A certain amount of Kansas records have purely vanished. For genealogists doing research in Kansas there is no effective replace for an on-site search of county courthouse records. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia.

Kansas is divided into 105  counties. Kansas State Government is located in Topeka.

Kansas Counties

The county seat’s county courthouse should be consulted for information regarding land deeds, court records, and probate records. Death and birth records from before statewide recording was required can also be found at the county seat, but in the office of the county clerk.

In general, court, land, and probate records were not recorded until each county was formed. However, that does vary from one county to the next. So, some records, especially those from shortly after each county was organized, may not be complete. Some counties had separate “date formed” information for the legislation in the county versus the county government organization (establishment of the county itself). Dates from when records began should be listed in parentheses on those early documents. If names of county seats are listed in parentheses, it means that they are no longer county seats in the present day. It could also mean that the listed name is the original county seat name. Researchers should also note that the probate judge holds early marriage records.

The links in the table below link to county and city government offices and is limited to government-maintained websites. If you know of a Kansas county that has an official government web site but is not linked, or if the link is in error, please contact us so we may edit our database.

County Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Allen August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Iola
Anderson August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Garnett
Atchison August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Atchison
Barber February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Medicine Lodge
Barton February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Great Bend
Bourbon August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Fort Scott
Brown August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties (Formerly Browne County) Hiawatha
Butler August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties El Dorado
Chase February 11, 1859 Formed from Butler and Wise counties Cottonwood Falls
Chautauqua March 03, 1875 Formed from Howard County Sedan
Cherokee February 18, 1860 One of the original 36 counties (Formerly McGee County) Columbus
Cheyenne March 06, 1873 From unorganized area Saint Francis
Clark March 07, 1885 Formed from Ford County Ashland
Clay February 20, 1857 From unorganized area Clay Center
Cloud February 26, 1867 Formed from Washington (Formerly Shirley County) Concordia
Coffey August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Burlington
Comanche February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Coldwater
Cowley February 26, 1867 Formed from Butler County Winfield
Crawford February 13, 1867 Bourbon and Cherokee Counties Girard
Decatur March 06, 1873 From unorganized area Oberlin
Dickinson August 30, 1855 From unorganized area Abilene
Doniphan August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Troy
Douglas August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Lawrence
Edwards March 07, 1874 Formed from Kiowa County Kinsley
Elk March 03, 1875 Formed from Howard County Howard
Ellis February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Hays
Ellsworth February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Ellsworth
Finney February 21, 1883 Formed from Arapahoe, Grant, Kearney and Sequoyah Counties Garden City
Ford March 06, 1863 From unorganized area Dodge City
Franklin August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Ottawa
Geary February 28, 1889 One of the original 36 counties (Formerly Davis County) Junction City
Gove March 02, 1868 From unorganized area Gove City
Graham February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Hill City
Grant March 06, 1873 Formed from Finney and Hamilton Counties Ulysses
Gray March 05, 1887 Formed from Finney and Ford Counties Cimarron
Greeley March 06, 1873 From unorganized area Tribune
Greenwood August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Eureka
Hamilton March 06, 1873 From unorganized area Syracuse
Harper February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Anthony
Harvey February 29, 1872 Formed from McPherson, Sedgwick and Reno Counties Newton
Haskell March 05, 1887 Formed from Finney and Ford Counties Sublette
Hodgeman March 06, 1873 From unorganized area (Formerly Hageman County) Jetmore
Jackson February 11, 1859 One of the original 36 counties (Formerly Calhoun County) Holton
Jefferson August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Oskaloosa
Jewell February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Mankato
Johnson August 25, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Olathe
Kearny March 06, 1873 Formed from Finney and Hamilton Counties Lakin
Kingman February 10, 1872 Harper and Reno Counties Kingman
Kiowa February 10, 1886 Formed from Comanche and Edwards Counties Greensburg
Labette February 07, 1867 Formed from Neosho County Oswego
Lane March 06, 1873 From unorganized area Dighton
Leavenworth August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Leavenworth
Lincoln February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Lincoln
Linn August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Mound City
Logan February 24, 1887 Formed from Wallace County (formerly named St. John County) Oakley
Lyon February 05, 1862 One of the original 36 counties (Formerly Breckenridge County) Emporia
Marion August 30, 1855 From unorganized area Marion
Marshall August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Marysville
McPherson February 26, 1867 From unorganized area McPherson
Meade March 07, 1885 Formed from Finney, Ford and Seward Counties Meade
Miami June 03, 1861 One of the original 36 counties (Formerly Lykins) Paola
Mitchell February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Beloit
Montgomery February 26, 1867 Formed from Wilson County Independence
Morris February 11, 1859 One of the original 36 counties (Formerly Wise County) Council Grove
Morton November 17, 1886 Formed from Seward County Elkhart
Nemaha August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties (Formerly Dorn County) Seneca
Neosho June 03, 1861 One of the original 36 counties (Formerly Dorn County) Erie
Ness February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Ness City
Norton February 26, 1867 From unorganized area (Formerly Billings (1873-9) Norton
Osage February 11, 1859 One of the original 36 counties (Formerly Weller County) Lyndon
Osborne February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Osborne
Ottawa February 27, 1860 From unorganized area Minneapolis
Pawnee February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Larned
Phillips February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Phillipsburg
Pottawatomie February 20, 1857 Formed from Calhoun and Riley Westmoreland
Pratt February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Pratt
Rawlins March 06, 1873 From unorganized area Atwood
Reno February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Hutchinson
Republic February 27, 1860 Formed from Washington County Belleville
Rice February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Lyons
Riley August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Manhattan
Rooks February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Stockton
Rush February 26, 1867 From unorganized area La Crosse
Russell February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Russell
Saline February 15, 1860 From unorganized area Salina
Scott March 06, 1873 From unorganized area Scott City
Sedgwick February 26, 1867 Formed from Butler County Wichita
Seward June 03, 1861 From unorganized area Liberal
Shawnee August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Topeka
Sheridan March 06, 1873 From unorganized area Hoxie
Sherman March 06, 1873 From unorganized area Goodland
Smith February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Smith Center
Stafford February 26, 1867 From unorganized area Saint John
Stanton March 06, 1873 Formed from Hamilton County Johnson City
Stevens March 06, 1873 Formed from Seward County Hugoton
Sumner February 26, 1867 Formed from Butler County Wellington
Thomas March 06, 1873 From unorganized area Colby
Trego February 26, 1867 From unorganized area WaKeeney
Wabaunsee February 11, 1859 One of the original 36 counties (Formerly Richardson County) Alma
Wallace March 02, 1868 From unorganized area Sharon Springs
Washington August 30, 1855 From unorganized area Washington
Wichita March 06, 1873 From unorganized area Leoti
Wilson August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Fredonia
Woodson August 30, 1855 One of the original 36 counties Yates Center
Wyandotte February 11, 1859 Formed from Leavenworth and Johnson Counties Kansas City


Interactive Map of Kansas Counties Formation

(Kansas maps made with the use AniMap Plus 3.0 & with the Permission of the Goldbug Company)

Kansas Extinct Counties

Kansas seems to have counties that no longer exist. They were organized by the state, provincial, or territorial authorities. A lot of these counties were established and disbanded during the Nineteenth century; county boundaries have evolved very little since Nineteen hundred in the vast majority of states. These counties need to be checked out when performing ancestry and genealogy research. Pay attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was eliminated or consolidated with a different county.

  • Arapahoe (1st) County: Established in August 30, 1855. Arapahoe County was attached to Marshall County for all business purposes. Arapahoe County was never organized. In early 1859 it was split into six counties (Arapahoe, Broderick, El Paso, Fremont, Montana, and Oro). When Colorado Territory was established Feb. 28, 1861, the new Colorado legislature created seventeen counties, which are considered the original counties of the state.
  • Billings County: Established on March 20, 1873. Billings County, during its brief history of less than one year, operated as an organized county because Norton County was organized on 22 Aug 1872 by the proclamation of Governor James Madison Harvey. Billings did not, however, have a county seat during its period of existence. The town of Norton was elected the county seat in 1874, following the reinstatement of the name of Norton County on February 25, 1874.
  • Breckenridge County: Established on August 25, 1855. The Territorial Legislature of 1855 organized Breckinridge County, attaching it to Madison County for civil, criminal, and military purposes. In 1861, Madison County was abolished, and its northern part was given to Breckinridge.
    Breckinridge County was renamed Lyon County in February 05, 1862, due to Breckinridge’s political sympathies.
  • Buffalo County: Established on March 20, 1873. In 1881, the northern tier of townships was removed from Buffalo County and added to Lane; the remainder was made part of newly-created Gray County, and later was taken to form part of Finney County. Buffalo County was never organized.
  • Calhoun County: Early marriages of Calhoun County, Kansas Territory, are in Holton, Jackson County, Kansas. Established on August 25, 1855 and Organized on September 24, 1855. The location of the town of Calhoun was in the extreme southeast corner of the county. By the time the 1859 Legislature changed the county name to Jackson on February 11, 1859, the town of Calhoun had lost its postoffice, and it soon faded into oblivion.
  • Davis County: Established on August 25, 1855. Davis was one of the original 33 counties created by the first territorial legislature. It lost territory to Dickinson County in 1857 and to Wabaunsee County in 1860; it gained territory from Dickinson in 1860 and from Riley in 1873. Name changed on March 07, 1889 to Geary County
  • Dorn County: Established on August 25, 1855. Named in honor of either (1) Earl Van Dorn (1820-1863), an army officer during the Mexican War and Indian campaigns, or, more likely, (2) Andrew Jackson Dorn (1815-1889), also a Mexican War veteran and Indian agent for the Osages, Quapaws, and Senecas and Shawnees at the Neosho Agency from 1853 to 1861. Both men joined the Confederate Army in 1861, and the county was renamed Neosho. The county was never organized. Dorn was divided on June 03, 1861 into present counties of Neosho and Labette.
  • Foote County: Established on 1881 from Unorganized Territory. (renamed Gray, 1887)
  • Garfield County: Established on 1887 from Buffalo County. (annexed to Finney, 1893)
  • Godfrey County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. The name changed to Seward (not present day county); then to Howard.
  • Howard County: Established on 1867 from Godfrey (which had been Seward) County. (divided, 1875 into Elkland and Chautauqua)
  • Hunter County: Established on 1867 as an Original County. (1870) (renamed Cowley)
  • Kansas County: Established on 1873 from Unorganized Territory. (abolished 1883; became Morton)
  • Lykins County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. (changed to Miami, 1861)
  • Madison County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. Madison was divided 1861–64 into Breckenridge (later Lyon) and Greenwood.
  • McGee County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. (name changed, 1866 to Cherokee)
  • Otoe County: Established on February 17, 1860 as an Original County. Named for the Otoe [Oto] Indian tribe of Nebraska. On February 24, 1864, the boundaries of Butler County were enlarged to include Otoe County. Most of the territory once comprising Otoe is included in the present county of Butler, with the remainder in the eastern parts of Harvey and Sedgwick counties.
  • Peketon Territory County: Established on 1854 as an Original County. The County Seat was Beach Valley. Peketon County was never organized due to no population, and its territory became a part of Marion County in February 26, 1867.
  • Richardson County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. (changed to Wabaunsee 1859)
  • St. John County: Established on 1881 (name changed to Logan 1887)
  • Sequoyah County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. (absorbed in 1883 by Finney) Some records are in Ford County.
  • Seward (old) County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. (as Godfrey; renamed, 1861; renamed Howard, 1867)
  • Shirley County: Established on 1860 as an Original County. (name changed 1867, Cloud)
  • Weller County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. (name changed 1859, Osage)
  • Wise County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. (name changed 1859, Morris)

Kansas Counties with Burned Courthouses

The harm to Kansas courthouses significantly has a effect on genealogists in every way. Not only are a lot of these historic buildings torn from our lifetimes, so are the records they stored: marriage, wills, probate, land records, among others. Once destroyed they’re destroyed permanently. Although they have been put on mircofilm, computers and film burn up too. The most heartbreaking side of this is the reason why virtually all of our courthouses are destroyed at the hands of arsonist. Though, not all records were lost. Numerous Kansas counties have dealt with a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.

  • Douglas County Courthouse had records destroyed 21 August 1863 in Quantrill’s raid. Some marriage records reconstructed.
  • Elk County Courthouse burned 1906