States' Counties and their Changes



As you research where your ancestors lived it can be so nice if they stayed in one location (a town or county) for decades, making the searching for records much easier. YET, there can be problems with even the same town or county.

There are many examples, but here is one of the changes. If an individual was born in Dade County, FL in 1899, the vastness of that county went from the St. Lucie River (near Lake Okeechobee) south to the Florida Keys. That was a big county but that was because the population was very small in pre-1900. Not until more people began living permanently in that area did things changes.

In 1909, enough people lived in the area to create Palm Beach County which went as far north as the St. Lucie River and south to Pompano. So that baby born just south of the St. Lucie River in 1899 when it was Dade County was now part of Palm Beach Co. By 1925, the northern end of Palm Beach County broke off and be came a new county named Martin County. So now that same individual lived in Martin County — 3 counties without moving one inch.

There are numerous similar cases. County boundaries have changed over the years. Another change was with Chester Co., PA with many border changes over the decades. This can make it difficult locating the right county name for a specific time frame and then getting the records.

Using this publication from Newberry Library online can provide some assistance in its history of counties that still exist and who they changed but even more important are the counties that not longer exist (name changed). An example in Florida was Mosquito County – no longer any count named that but the land is there and part of Brevard County now.

Click on the state on the map you are interested and review the topics available for that state. One of the best is ‘Index of Counties’ which will provide the listing of pas and present county names. Click on one for greater historic details. There is also ‘Individual County Chronologies’ which is good covering the changes to the county.

What is especially interesting is finding names of counties that once existed and later non-existed. Your ancestors could have been in such a county. You can download the files of specific locations to keep with your family history.

Photos: Huge Dade County map in 1890; and Chester Co., PA and neighboring counties

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Neighborhood Maps

Using Land Maps

Records by States

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