Historical Facts of South Dakota Counties

South Dakota County records differ extensively from county to county in either quality and quantity. Some have been very carefully preserved while others have been significantly neglected and neglected. Many South Dakota records have purely vanished. For genealogists carrying out research in South Dakota there’s no effective substitute for an on-site research of county court house records. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia

South Dakota is divided into 66  counties. Todd County and Shannon County are the only counties in South Dakota which do not have their own county seats. Hot Springs in Fall River County serves as the administrative center for Shannon County. Winner in Tripp County serves as the administrative center for Todd County. South Dakota State Government is located in Pierre.

South Dakota Counties

In 1990, a county records surveying project was started by the South Dakota State Historical Society. However, that information is still in the process of being centralized. For the moment, some records are held by local offices, while others are held by state offices, or at the South Dakota State Archives.

The WPA made county archives inventories at one point. However, only records for the following counties have been published: Bennett, Buffalo, Clark, Faulk, Haakon, Jackson, Mellette, Miner, Washabaugh. Records and documents that were not published were archived in Vermillion, at the University of South Dakota.

Land records, marriage records, and death records are all held by each county’s Register of Deeds, along with birth records for that county, unless adoptions took place. Criminal, civil, probate, and divorce records are kept in the offices of the Clerk of the Courts. The South Dakota State Archives holds several mothers’ pension records, insanity records, and adoption records. However, access to those records is restricted.

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 South Dakota 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 (Organized) Parent County County Seat
Aurora February 22, 1879 (1881) Cragin and Wetmore counties Plankinton
Beadle February 22, 1879 Buchard, Clark, Kingsbury, and Spink counties Huron
Bennett March 09, 1909 (1912) Lugenbeel, Shannon, Washabaugh, and Washington counties Martin
Bon Homme April 05, 1862 Unorganized territory Tyndall
Brookings April 05, 1862 (1871) Unorganized territory Brookings
Brown October 1, 1879 (1880) Beadle County Aberdeen
Brule January 14, 1875 Charles Mix County Chamberlain
Buffalo January 08, 1873 (1871) Unorganized territory Gann Valley
Butte March 02, 1883 Harding Belle Fourche
Campbell January 08, 1873 (1884) Buffalo Mound City
Charles Mix May 08, 1862 (1879) Unorganized territory Lake Andes
Clark January 08, 1873 (1881) Hanson Clark
Clay April 10, 1862 Unorganized territory Vermillion
Codington February 15, 1877 (1878) Indian lands Watertown
Corson March 2, 1909 Indian lands McIntosh
Custer January 11, 1857 (1877) Indian lands Custer
Davison January 08, 1873 (1874) Hanson Mitchell
Day February 22, 1879 (1882) Clark Webster
Deuel January 08, 1873 (1878) Brookings Clear Lake
Dewey March 09, 1883 (1910) Armstrong County and Indian lands Timber Lake
Douglas January 08, 1837 (1882) Charles Mix Armour
Edmunds January 08, 1873 (1883) Buffalo Ipswich
Fall River March 06, 1883 Custer Hot Springs
Faulk January 08, 1873 (1883) Unorganized lands Faulkton
Grant January 08, 1873 (1878) Codington and Deuel counties Milbank
Gregory May 08, 1862 (1898) Unorganized territory Burke
Haakon November 3, 1914 (1915) Stanley County Philip
Hamlin January 08, 1873 (1878) Deuel County Hayti
Hand January 08, 1873 (1882) Buffalo County Miller
Hanson January 13, 1871 (1873) Buffalo and Deuel counties Alexandria
Harding February 26, 1909 (1911) Unorganized lands Buffalo
Hughes January 08, 1874 (1880) Buffalo County Pierre
Hutchinson May 08, 1862 (1871) Unorganized territory Olivet
Hyde January 08, 1873 (1883) Buffalo County Highmore
Jackson March 8, 1883 (1915) Stanley County Kadoka
Jerauld March 09, 1883 Aurora County Wessington Springs
Jones January 15, 1917 (1917) Lyman County Murdo
Kingsbury January 08, 1873 (1880) Hanson County De Smet
Lake January 08, 1873 Brookings and Hanson counties Madison
Lawrence January 11, 1873 (1877) Unorganized territory Deadwood
Lincoln April 05, 1862 (1867)) Unorganized territory Canton
Lyman January 08, 1873 (1893) Unorganized territory Kennebec
Marshall March 10, 1885 Day County Britton
McCook January 08, 1873 (1878) Hanson County Salem
McPherson January 08, 1873 (1884) Buffalo County Leola
Meade February 07, 1889 Lawrence County Sturgis
Mellette March 09, 1909 (1911) Lyman County White River
Miner January 08, 1873 (1880) Hanson County Howard
Minnehaha April 05, 1862 (1868) Unorganized territory Sioux Falls
Moody January 08, 1873 Brookings and Minnehaha counties Flandreau
Pennington January 11, 1875 (1877) Unorganized territory Rapid City
Perkins February 26, 1909 (1909) Butte and Harding counties Bison
Potter January 14, 1875 (1883) Buffalo County Gettysburg
Roberts March 08, 1883 Grant County Sisseton
Sanborn March 09, 1883 Miner County Woonsocket
Shannon January 11, 1875 Fall River County Hot Springs
Spink January 08, 1873 (1879) Hanson County Redfield
Stanley January 08, 1873 (1890) Unorganized territory Fort Pierre
Sully January 08, 1873 (1883) Potter County Onida
Todd March 09, 1909 Meyer and Tripp counties Winner
Tripp January 08, 1873 (1909) Unorganized territory Winner
Turner January 13, 1871 Lincoln County Parker
Union January 07, 1864 Unorganized territory Elk Point
Walworth January 08, 1873 (1883) Buffalo County Selby
Yankton April 10, 1862 Unorganized territory Yankton
Ziebach February 01, 1911 Armstrong, Schnasse, and Sterling counties Dupree


Interactive Map of South Dakota Counties Formation

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

South Dakota Extinct Counties

South Dakota has counties that no longer exist. They were organized by the state, provincial, or territorial government. A lot of these counties were established and disbanded during the Nineteenth century; county borders have adjusted little since 1900 in the great most of states. These counties needs to be considered when performing genealogy and family history research. Pay attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was abolished or consolidated with a different county.

  • Armstrong County, South Dakota (1873-1879): Armstrong County was first created by the Dakota Territorial Legislature in 1873 in the southeastern part of the state, taking its territory from Charles Mix County and Hutchison County. The county was short lived and never fully organized. In 1879 it was annexed into Hutchison County
  • Armstrong County, South Dakota (1883-1952): In 1883 Dakota Territory created a new county west of the Missouri River and named it Pyatt County. The county was formed from unorganized lands and parts of Cheyenne, Dewey County (then named Rusk) and Stanley County. The county was never formally organized, and was attached to Stanley County for governmental purposes. In 1895, the county was renamed Armstrong in honor of Moses K. Armstrong, a pioneer in the territory who lobbied for territorial organization and later served in the Territorial Legislature and as a territorial delegate to the United States House of Representatives. The county originally covered much of the souther part of what is now the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. 1898 part of the county was annexed to Stanley County to the south. The western portion was lost when Ziebach County was created in 1911. In 1952, given its small population and with much of the best landed flooded by the Oahe Dam, the county was abolished and annexted into the southern part of Dewey County.
  • Ashmore County was formed in 1873 and renamed Potter County in 1875
  • Beadle County (old) was formed in 1873 and was abolished in 1879; became part of Brown County
  • Boreman County (1873–1909): Created by Dakota Territory from unorganized lands in 1873. Lost territory to North Dakota when South Dakota became a state in 1889. Abolished in 1909 when it became part of Corson County.
  • Bramble County was formed in 1873 from Hanson County, it was abolished in 1879 and became part of Miner County
  • Bruguier County was created in 1862 from unorganized area, it was abolished in 1864 and became part of Buffalo County and Charles Mix County
  • Burchard County was created in 1873 from Hanson County, it was abolished in 1879 and became part of Beadle County and Hand County
  • Cheyenne County was created in 1875 from Pratt County, Rusk County, Stanley County and unorganized area, it was abolished, 1883; became part of Jackson, Nowlin, Pyatt, and Sterling.
  • Choteau County was created in 1883 from Martin County, it was abolished, 1898; became part of Butte and Meade
  • Cole County was created in 1862 from Hanson County, it was named changed to Union in 1864
  • Cragin County was created in 1873 from Hanson County, it was abolished, 1879; became part of Aurora
  • Delano County was created in 1875 from Lawrence County and unorganized area, it was abolished, 1898; became part of Meade
  • Ewing County was created in 1883, it was abolished in 1890
  • Forsythe County was created in 1875 from unorganized area, it was abolished, 1881; became part of Custer
  • Greeley County was created in 1873 from Hanson County, it was abolished, 1879; became part of Day
  • Jayne County was created in 1862 from Yankton County and Unorganized area, it was abolished, 1871; became part of Hanson, Hutchinson, and Turner
  • Lugenbeel County (1875–1909): Created by Dakota Territory from unorganized lands and Meyer and Pratt Counties in 1875. Abolished in 1909 when it became part of Bennett and Todd Counties.
  • Mandan County was created in 1875 from unorganized area, it was abolished in 1887 and became part of Lawrence County
  • Martin County was created in 1881 from unorganized area, it was abolished in 1898 and became part of Butte County. Was attached to Lawrence County.
  • Meyer County was created in 1873 from unorganized area, it was abolished in 1909 and became part of Mellette County and Todd County
  • Nowlin County (1883–1898): Created by Dakota Territory in 1883 from Cheyenne and White River Counties. Abolished in 1898 when it became part of Lyman County and Stanley County.
  • Pyatt County (1883–1895): Created by Dakota Territory from unorganized lands in 1883. Renamed Armstrong in 1895.
  • Rusk County was created in 1873 from unorganized area, it was renamed Dewey County in 1883
  • Schnasse County (1883–1911): Created by Dakota Territory from unorganized lands and part of Boreman County in 1883. Lost territory to North Dakota when South Dakota became a state. Abolished in 1911 when it became part of Ziebach County.
  • Sterling County (1883–1911): Created by Dakota Territory from Cheyenne County. Abolished in 1911 when it became part of Ziebach County.
  • Stone County was created in 1873 from Hanson County, it was abolished in 1879 and became part of Brown County and Day County
  • Todd County (old) was created in 1862 from unorganized area, in 1890 Todd disestablished and attached to Charles Mix County. It was abolished in 1897 and became part of Gregory County
  • Washabaugh County, South Dakota: (1889-1979) The eastern part of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is now under the control of Jackson County.
  • Washington County, South Dakota: (1883-1943) was merged into Jackson County, Pennington County and Shannon County
  • Wetmore County was created in 1873 from Hanson County, it was abolished in 1879 and became part of Aurora County and Miner County
  • White River County was created in 1875 from Pratt County and unorganized area, it was abolished in 1898 and became part of Jackson County
  • Ziebach County (old) was created in 1877 from Pennington County, it was abolished in 1898 and became part of Pennington County

South Dakota Counties with Burned Courthouses

The damage to South Dakota courthouses significantly has a impact on genealogists in each and every way. Not only are these kinds of historic buildings ripped from our lifetimes, so are the files they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, among others. Once destroyed they’re lost forever. Even though they have been put on mircofilm, computers and film burn as well. The most sad side of this is the reason why almost all of our courthouses are destroyed at the hands of arsonist. Although, not all the records were damaged or lost. Numerous South Dakota counties have endured a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.

  • Day County Courthouse was destroyed by a fire in 1962
  • Grant County wooden courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1881
  • Lawrence County courthouse was destroyed in the great fire of 1879, along with all the records.