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 It is a bit outdated, but can still be a useful guide for researchers.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.

List of North Dakota Counties

CountyDate Formed (Organized)Parent CountyCounty Seat
Adams1907Stark CountyHettinger
Barnes1875Cass CountyValley City
Benson1883Ramsey CountyMinnewaukan
Billings1879 (1886)Dakota TerritoryMedora
Bottineau1873 (1884)Dakota TerritoryBottineau
Bowman1883 (1907)Billings CountyBowman
Burke1910Ward CountyBowbells
Burleigh1873Buffalo CountyBismarck
Cass1873Dakota TerritoryFargo
Cavalier1874 (1884)Pembina CountyLangdon
Dickey1881La Moure CountyEllendale
Divide1910Williams CountyCrosby
Dunn1901 (1908)Starner and Mercer CountiesManning
Eddy1885Foster CountyNew Rockford
Emmons1879Burleigh County and Campbell County, SDLinton
Foster1873 (1883)Pembina CountyCarrington
Golden Valley1912Billings CountyBeach
Grand Forks1873 (1875)Pembina CountyGrand Forks
Grant1916Morton CountyCarson
Griggs1881Foster, Burbank and Traill CountiesCooperstown
Hettinger1901 (1907)Stark CountyMott
Kidder1873 (1881)Buffalo CountySteele
LaMoure1873Pembina CountyLaMoure
Logan1873 (1884)Buffalo CountyNapoleon
McHenry1873 (1885)Buffalo CountyTowner
McIntosh1883 (1884)Logan CountyAshley
McKenzie1901 (1905)Stark CountyWatford City
McLean1883Dakota TerritoryWashburn
Mercer1875Dakota TerritoryStanton
Morton1878 (1881)Dakota TerritoryMandan
Mountrail1871Ward CountyStanley
Nelson1883Foster and Grand Forks CountiesLakota
Oliver1885Mercer CountyCenter
Pembina1867Indian landsCavalier
Pierce1887 (1889)DeSmet (Old), Bottineau, McHenry and Rolette CountiesRugby
Ramsey1873Pembina CountyDevils Lake
Ransom1873 (1881)Pembina CountyLisbon
Renville1910Ward CountyMohall
Richland1873 (1875)Pembina CountyWahpeton
Rolette1873 (1884)Buffalo CountyRolla
Sargent1883Ransom CountyForman
Sheridan1908McLean CountyMcClusky
Sioux1915Standing Rock ReservationFort Yates
Slope1914 (1915)Billings CountyAmidon
Stark1879 (1883)Dakota TerritoryDickinson
Steele1883Grand Forks, GriggsFinley
Stutsman1873Pembina CountyJamestown
Towner1883 (1884)Rolette and Cavalier CountiesCando
Traill1875Grand Forks, Burbank and Cass CountiesHillsboro
Walsh1881Grand Forks CountyGrafton
Ward1885Bottineau, Renville (old) and Stevens (old) CountiesMinot
Wells1881 (1884)renamed from Gringras CountyFessenden
Williams1873 (1903)Dakota TerritoryWilliston

List of 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.

List of 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.