Using Old U.S. County History Books

About county histories and how to use them

Many counties in the United States have compiled histories that were written in earlier times. County histories were particularly popular in the 1880s and 1890s. Often county histories will give useful information about a place and its history. Details like the churches in the area and when they were established, names of early settlers, information about county boundary changes, or deatils about the establishment of cities and towns are common. They were sometimes used as school books for children or passed down as family heirlooms, especially when the family member was mentioned in the book. Often county histories will contain biographies, family genealogies, or pictures of the wealthy or prominent citizens.

In general, the information in county histories can be deemed as reliable, especially when the details mentioned occurred close to the time that the history was written. However, sometimes the books can be inaccurate because people often paid to be profiled and so may have shared incorrect information about their own family history to sound more important. Or people gave information based on their own memory or family tradition. That makes it a good idea to verify for accuracy when you can.

In some areas, particularly for larger cities, there may histories written for a city or town as well.

Locating Old County History Books

An easy way to find county history books is to use our records directory on histories and genealogies and go to the place you are looking for to see what books are available. Another method is to go to or Google Books and do a search for the term "history of" and then the name of the county you are looking for.

Need help finding more records? Try our genealogical records directory which has more than 1.3 million sources to help you more easily locate the available records.

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