Thursday, February 1, 2018

More Than One County the Same County?

Sometimes if you don't ask the right questions, you just never find out.
Marion Co., Ohio Courthouse

A few years ago, I was researching in a county that was known to have record losses through a burned courthouse.  And, I wasn't having much luck.  

As I was packing up to leave, the county worker asked me if I had tried searching in the north courthouse.  I wasn't sure what she meant, and she explained that there were actually two county seats in this county.

I had never heard of such a thing.

Sure enough, I found what I needed in the courthouse that hadn't burned, and one I didn't even know existed.  It was in the days before information was more easily accessible via the Internet.

Here is a list of United States counties with more than one county seat:  

And, here is a screenshot I use in one of my presentations:
So, when you find out there has been record losses in one of your counties that you research, be sure to ask:

  1. What years were burned?
  2. Which years were not affected?
  3. Where are they housed?
    1. There is always a possibility they may have been housed in another location, such as an annex.
  4. Ask how badly they were burned.
    1. Think about it.  Have you ever tried to burn a book?  It's hard.  It may singe around the edges, but it really is difficult to burn the whole thing.

It was only a few years ago that two friends of mine went to research in a northwestern Kentucky county.  I don't recall if there had been record loss there, or not.

They didn't find what they had hoped to find, so they left and went across the street to a bookstore.  In a conversation with the owner, he asked what they were in town for.

They mentioned they had been researching at the courthouse, but hadn't had the luck they hoped to have.

He asked which records they were looking for, and when they told him, he said he had those in the back of the store!

In a bookstore!

Don't give up.  Here is another screenshot from one of my presentations concerning Adams Co., Ohio.

Seventy years!!!  Like I said, don't give up.


  1. This is good to know. So far, I don't have burned counties, but one cannot foresee the future.

    This post reminds me that the records fire in St. Louis has had marvelous recoveries. Which underscores your statement to never give up.

    We saw the smoke from that fire (the highest land in the area was between our house and that fire, but the smoke could be seen from everywhere. I wasn't working with genealogy at that time, but I thought "there go my father's records and the records of my children's father."

  2. Oh, Sue! I can't even imagine all that was lost in that St. Louis fire. I have researched all over the south, and the most difficult times have been where the records I have most needed were destroyed. I just feel like crying. Thank you for writing!

  3. The problems of fire and other causes of destruction are not confined to the U.S. I find that records I may need are no longer extant. But before we rule anything out we must be thorough researchers and ensure we have checked all available indexes and catalogues. Just because it is not on the local catalogue does not mean it is not there. I have noticed items at smaller archives have been catalogued by the National Archives here in the U.K.

    1. Hilary, have brought up a valid point. Each day we see record destruction through war, fires, rodents, and catastrophes. And, I'm all for researching in the smaller facilities, such as libraries and archives that are not as well know. Thank you for bringing this up.