North Dakota County records vary widely from county to county in both quality and quantity. Some have been carefully preserved while others have been much abused and neglected. Some North Dakota records have simply disappeared. For genealogists doing research in North Dakota there is no effective replace for an on-site search of county courthouse records. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia
From the time that each county in North Dakota was formed, records were kept on the county level. Many of those records still exist today. However, not all of them are entirely accurate. So, researchers may need to cross-reference certain information. Some of the record locations are as follows: County Judge – Probate and Marriage Records; Clerk of the District Court – Civil Court Records; Register of Deeds – Land Records.
The State Archives and Historical Research Library has copies of some of those records on file, but new records are continuously being transferred there. So, researchers are better off to begin by contacting the appropriate county office by letter. Letters will be transferred, in cases where the records have already been moved. Letters may often be addressed to the county office in care of the county courthouse. A Historical Records Survey of North Dakota is housed at the FHL. It is a bit outdated, but can still be a useful guide for researchers. See also a list of links to county and county seat government run websites.
North Dakota Counties
|County||Date Formed (Organized)||Parent County||County Seat|
|Barnes||1875||Cass County||Valley City|
|Billings||1879 (1886)||Dakota Territory||Medora|
|Bottineau||1873 (1884)||Dakota Territory||Bottineau|
|Bowman||1883 (1907)||Billings County||Bowman|
|Cavalier||1874 (1884)||Pembina County||Langdon|
|Dickey||1881||La Moure County||Ellendale|
|Dunn||1901 (1908)||Starner and Mercer Counties||Manning|
|Eddy||1885||Foster County||New Rockford|
|Emmons||1879||Burleigh County and Campbell County, SD||Linton|
|Foster||1873 (1883)||Pembina County||Carrington|
|Golden Valley||1912||Billings County||Beach|
|Grand Forks||1873 (1875)||Pembina County||Grand Forks|
|Griggs||1881||Foster, Burbank and Traill Counties||Cooperstown|
|Hettinger||1901 (1907)||Stark County||Mott|
|Kidder||1873 (1881)||Buffalo County||Steele|
|Logan||1873 (1884)||Buffalo County||Napoleon|
|McHenry||1873 (1885)||Buffalo County||Towner|
|McIntosh||1883 (1884)||Logan County||Ashley|
|McKenzie||1901 (1905)||Stark County||Watford City|
|Morton||1878 (1881)||Dakota Territory||Mandan|
|Nelson||1883||Foster and Grand Forks Counties||Lakota|
|Pierce||1887 (1889)||DeSmet (Old), Bottineau, McHenry and Rolette Counties||Rugby|
|Ramsey||1873||Pembina County||Devils Lake|
|Ransom||1873 (1881)||Pembina County||Lisbon|
|Richland||1873 (1875)||Pembina County||Wahpeton|
|Rolette||1873 (1884)||Buffalo County||Rolla|
|Sioux||1915||Standing Rock Reservation||Fort Yates|
|Slope||1914 (1915)||Billings County||Amidon|
|Stark||1879 (1883)||Dakota Territory||Dickinson|
|Steele||1883||Grand Forks, Griggs||Finley|
|Towner||1883 (1884)||Rolette and Cavalier Counties||Cando|
|Traill||1875||Grand Forks, Burbank and Cass Counties||Hillsboro|
|Walsh||1881||Grand Forks County||Grafton|
|Ward||1885||Bottineau, Renville (old) and Stevens (old) Counties||Minot|
|Wells||1881 (1884)||renamed from Gringras County||Fessenden|
|Williams||1873 (1903)||Dakota Territory||Williston|
North Dakota Extinct Counties
North Dakota has counties that no longer exist. They were established by the state, provincial, or territorial government. Most of these counties were created and disbanded in the 19th century; county boundaries have changed little since 1900 in the vast majority of states. These counties need to be looked at when doing genealogy research. Pay close attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was abolished or combined with another county.
- Allred County – In 1896 Allred became a part of Billings; in 1901 Allred was re-created from Billings County; in 1903 it was attached to Williams County; and in 1905 it was abolished when it became part of McKenzie County.
- Buffalo County was created in 1864 and organized in 1871. In 1873 Buffalo lost land to twenty-five counties in Dakota territory; in 1889 Buffalo became a county in the newly created state of South Dakota.
- Buford County was created in 1883. In 1891 Buford was attached to Ward County; in 1892 it was abolished and became part of Williams County.
- Burbank County was created in 1873, renamed to Barnes County in 1875
- French County was created in 1873 from Buffalo County; renamed De Smet County in 1875, eliminated in 1875.
- Dunn County (old) was created in 1883 from Howard Co and became part of Stark Co, 1896
- Flannery County was created in 1883 from Wallette Co . In 1891 Flannery was attached to Ward Co; in 1892 it was abolished and became
part of Williams Co.
- Gringras County was created in 1873 from Buffalo County and renamed Wells County in 1881
- Howard County was created in 1873 from unorganized area; abolished 1883; became part of Allred, Dunn, McKenzie and Wallace Counties
- McKenzie County (old) was created in 1883 from Howard County; abolished 1896; became part of Billings County in 1897
- Pembina County, Minnesota Territory (1849-1858, reconstituted as Pembina County, Dakota Territory in 1861, eventually reduced to present-day Pembina County, North Dakota.)
- Renville County (old) was created in 1873 from Buffalo County; attached to Ward, 1891; abolished 1892; became part of Bottineau and Ward Counties
- Sheridan County (old) was created in 1873 from Buffalo County; abolished 1892; became part of McLean County
- Stevens County was created in 1873 from Buffalo County; The original Stevens County was created in 1862 from unorganized land but was abolished in 1863. This Stevens County was attached to Ward in 1891 and was abolished in 1892 when it became part of McLean and Ward Counties.
- Wallace County was created in 1883 from Howard County; In 1896 Wallace was abolished and became part of Billings and Stark; in 1901 it was re-created from Billings and Stark but remained attached to Stark; in 1905 it was abolished again and became part of McKenzie County.
- Wallette County was created in 1873 from Buffalo County; abolished 1883; became part of Buford and Flannery Counties
- Wynn County was created in 1883 from Bottineau County and Renville County (old); was eliminated in 1887.
North Dakota Counties with Burned Courthouses
The damage to courthouses greatly has a bearing on genealogists in every way. No only are these historic structures torn from our lifetimes, so are the records they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, and others. Once destroyed they’re lost forever. Although they have been placed on mircofilm, computers and film burn too. The most heartbreaking side of this is the reason that nearly all of our courthouses are destroyed at the hands of arsonist. Although, not all records were lost. Many North Dakota counties have suffered a loss of records due to
courthouse fires, floods, and theft.