Washington County records differ extensively from county to county in either quality and also quantity. Some are already carefully conserved while some have been substantially neglected and uncared for. Many Washington records have simply vanished. For genealogists performing research in Washington there’s no effective replace to have an on-site search of county courthouse records. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia
Washington is divided into 39 counties. Washington came from what was previously the western part of Washington Territory and was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state in 1889. The first counties were created from unorganized territory in 1845. Eight of the counties were created by Oregon governments prior to the organization of Washington Territory, 26 were created during Washington’s territorial period, and five were created after Washington became a state.
Most of the court, probate and land records for various counties were originally housed at the county seat. However, the regional branches of the state archives now house a lot of them. Many counties were grouped together under the same judicial jurisdictions. See also a list of links to county and county seat government run websites.
|County||Date Formed||Parent County||County Seat|
|Benton||1905||Yakima and Klickitat Counties||Prosser|
|Chelan||1899||Okanogan and Kittitas Counties||Wenatchee|
|Clallam||1854||Jefferson County||Port Angeles|
|Columbia||1875||Walla Walla County||Dayton|
|Grays Harbor||1915||Thurston County||Montesano|
|Jefferson||1852||Thurston County||Port Townsend|
|Kitsap||1857||King and Jefferson Counties||Port Orchard|
|Klickitat||1859||Walla Walla County||Goldendale|
|Pacific||1851||Lewis County||South Bend|
|Pend Oreille||1911||Stevens County||Newport|
|San Juan||1873||Whatcom County||Friday Harbor|
|Skagit||1883||Whatcom County||Mount Vernon|
|Stevens||1863||Walla Walla County||Colville|
|Walla Walla||1854||Skamania County||Walla Walla|
|Yakima||1865||Ferguson County (defunct)||Yakima|
Washington Extinct Counties
Washington contains counties that no longer are in existence. They were recognized by the state, provincial, or territorial government. Most of these counties were created and disbanded during the Nineteenth century; county borders have modified very little since 1900 in the vast number of states. These counties really should be considered when you are performing genealogy and family history research. Pay attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was abolished or joined with another county.
- Chehalis County – Formed in 1854 (renamed Grays Harbor, 1915) Thurston.
- Slaughter County – formed in 1857 and renamed Kitsap County in 1857.
- Sawamish County – formed in 1854 and renamed Mason County in 1864.
- Spokane County (old) – formed in 1859, abolished and became part of Stevens County in 1864; In 1879 part of this county was set off as Present Spokane County
Washington Counties with Burned Courthouses
The destruction to Washington courthouses tremendously has a effect on family historians in almost every way. Not only are these kinds of historic buildings ripped from our lifetimes, so are the records they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, and others. Once destroyed they’re destroyed forever. Despite the fact that they have been placed on mircofilm, computers and film burn as well. The most heartbreaking side of this is the reason that almost all of our courthouses are destroyed from arsonist. However, don’t assume all records were lost. Numerous Washington counties have dealt with a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.
- Clark County Courthouse and Jail destroyed by fire on February 25, 1890. Many county records were destroyed, including probate records, Superior and District court records, and records of the Sheriff, Superintendent of Schools and Surveyor’s office. The County Auditor’s records were safe from fire.