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.
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. See also a list of links to county and county seat government run websites.
South Dakota Counties
|County||Date Formed (Organized)||Parent County||County Seat|
|Aurora||1879 (1881)||Cragin and Wetmore counties||Plankinton|
|Beadle||1879||Buchard, Clark, Kingsbury, and Spink counties||Huron|
|Bennett||1909 (1912)||Lugenbeel, Shannon, Washabaugh, and Washington counties||Martin|
|Bon Homme||1862||Unorganized territory||Tyndall|
|Brookings||1862 (1871)||Unorganized territory||Brookings|
|Brown||1879 (1880)||Beadle County||Aberdeen|
|Brule||1875||Charles Mix County||Chamberlain|
|Buffalo||1873 (1871)||Unorganized territory||Gann Valley|
|Campbell||1873 (1884)||Buffalo||Mound City|
|Charles Mix||1862 (1879)||Unorganized territory||Lake Andes|
|Codington||1877 (1878)||Indian lands||Watertown|
|Custer||1857 (1877)||Indian lands||Custer|
|Deuel||1873 (1878)||Brookings||Clear Lake|
|Dewey||1883 (1910)||Armstrong County and Indian lands||Timber Lake|
|Douglas||1837 (1882)||Charles Mix||Armour|
|Fall River||1883||Custer||Hot Springs|
|Faulk||1873 (1883)||Unorganized lands||Faulkton|
|Grant||1873 (1878)||Codington and Deuel counties||Milbank|
|Gregory||1862 (1898)||Unorganized territory||Burke|
|Haakon||1914 (1915)||Stanley County||Philip|
|Hamlin||1873 (1878)||Deuel County||Hayti|
|Hand||1873 (1882)||Buffalo County||Miller|
|Hanson||1871 (1873)||Buffalo and Deuel counties||Alexandria|
|Harding||1909 (1911)||Unorganized lands||Buffalo|
|Hughes||1874 (1880)||Buffalo County||Pierre|
|Hutchinson||1862 (1871)||Unorganized territory||Olivet|
|Hyde||1873 (1883)||Buffalo County||Highmore|
|Jackson||1883 (1915)||Stanley County||Kadoka|
|Jerauld||1883||Aurora County||Wessington Springs|
|Jones||1917 (1917)||Lyman County||Murdo|
|Kingsbury||1873 (1880)||Hanson County||De Smet|
|Lake||1873||Brookings and Hanson counties||Madison|
|Lawrence||1873 (1877)||Unorganized territory||Deadwood|
|Lincoln||1862 (1867))||Unorganized territory||Canton|
|Lyman||1873 (1893)||Unorganized territory||Kennebec|
|McCook||1873 (1878)||Hanson County||Salem|
|McPherson||1873 (1884)||Buffalo County||Leola|
|Mellette||1909 (1911)||Lyman County||White River|
|Miner||1873 (1880)||Hanson County||Howard|
|Minnehaha||1862 (1868)||Unorganized territory||Sioux Falls|
|Moody||1873||Brookings and Minnehaha counties||Flandreau|
|Pennington||1875 (1877)||Unorganized territory||Rapid City|
|Perkins||1909 (1909)||Butte and Harding counties||Bison|
|Potter||1875 (1883)||Buffalo County||Gettysburg|
|Shannon||1875||Fall River County||Hot Springs|
|Spink||1873 (1879)||Hanson County||Redfield|
|Stanley||1873 (1890)||Unorganized territory||Fort Pierre|
|Sully||1873 (1883)||Potter County||Onida|
|Todd||1909||Meyer and Tripp counties||Winner|
|Tripp||1873 (1909)||Unorganized territory||Winner|
|Union||1864||Unorganized territory||Elk Point|
|Walworth||1873 (1883)||Buffalo County||Selby|
|Ziebach||1911||Armstrong, Schnasse, and Sterling counties||Dupree|
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.