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 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.