History & Facts of Kentucky Counties

Kentucky County records vary widely from county to county in both quality and quantity. Some have been carefully preserved while others have been much abused and neglected. Some Kentucky records have simply disappeared.

For genealogists doing research in Kentucky there is no effective replace for an on-site search of county courthouse records. Kentucky has 120 counties. Each county serves as the local level of government within its borders. The largest city in Kentucky, Louisville is a "consolidated local government". The second largest, Lexington, is an "urban-county government". Lexington and Fayette County are completely merged and there are no separate incorporated cities within the county. 

Kentucky Counties

The Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives holds early vital records for the state of Kentucky up to 1911. Probate and land records can also be found there. Although, many records can also be found in county clerk offices.

The date when a county was organized, the date when records were first recorded there, and legal enactment dates may be different. The beginning dates of some records are on inventory sheets from the Kentucky Historical Society and Kentucky Department for Libraries. Since some counties were formed from another, land records may be available from the time before a county was first organized. Court record dates apply to records that can be found at the county seat. However, not all records are extant from the original listed date.

Researchers should contact the appropriate county courthouse or county official in the county of interest. Note that there are two county courthouses each in the counties of Kenton and Campbell. Also, researchers should check the records available at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.

County Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Adair December 11, 1801 Green County Columbia
Allen January 11, 1815 Barren and Warren Counties Scottsville
Anderson January 16, 1827 Franklin, Mercer and Washington Counties Lawrenceburg
Ballard February 15, 1842 Hickman and McCracken Counties Wickliffe
Barren December 20, 1798 Green and Warren Counties Glasgow
Bath January 15, 1811 Montgomery County Owingsville
Bell August 1, 1867 Knox and Harlan Counties Pineville
Boone December 13, 1798 Campbell County Burlington
Bourbon October 17, 1785 Fayette County Paris
Boyd February 16, 1860 Carter, Lawrence and Greenup Counties Catlettsburg
Boyle February 15, 1842 Lincoln and Mercer Counties Danville
Bracken December 14, 1796 Campbell and Mason Counties Brooksville
Breathitt February 8, 1839 Clay, Estill and Perry Counties Jackson
Breckinridge December 7, 1799 Hardin County Hardinsburg
Bullitt December 13, 1796 Jefferson and Nelson Counties Shepherdsville
Butler January 18, 1810 Logan and Ohio Counties Morgantown
Caldwell January 31, 1809 Livingston County Princeton
Calloway November 3, 1822 Hickman County Murray
Campbell December 17, 1794 Harrison, Mason and Scott Counties Alexandria & Newport
Carlisle May 3, 1886 Hickman County Bardwell
Carroll February 9, 1838 Gallatin, Henry and Trimble Counties Carrollton
Carter April 10, 1838 Greenup and Lawrence Counties Grayson
Casey November 14, 1806 Lincoln County Liberty
Christian December 13, 1796 Logan County Hopkinsville
Clark December 6, 1792 Bourbon and Fayette Counties Winchester
Clay April 1, 1807 Madison, Floyd and Knox Counties Manchester
Clinton February 20, 1835 Wayne and Cumberland Counties Albany
Crittenden April 1, 1842 Livingston County Marion
Cumberland December 14, 1798 Green County Burkesville
Daviess January 14, 1815 Ohio County Owensboro
Edmonson January 12, 1825 Grayson, Hart and Warren Counties Brownsville
Elliott April 1, 1869 Carter, Lawrence and Morgan Counties Sandy Hook
Estill February 19, 1808 Clark and Madison Irvine
Fayette June 30, 1780 one of the three original counties Lexington
Fleming February 10, 1798 Mason County Flemingsburg
Floyd June 1, 1800 Fleming, Mason and Montgomery Counties Prestonsburg
Franklin December 7, 1794 Woodford, Mercer and Shelby Counties Frankfort
Fulton January 15, 1845 Hickman County Hickman
Gallatin December 14, 1798 Franklin and Shelby Counties Warsaw
Garrard December 17, 1796 Madison, Lincoln and Mercer Counties Lancaster
Grant February 12, 1820 Pendleton County Williamstown
Graves December 19, 1821 Hickman County Mayfield
Grayson January 25, 1810 Hardin County Leitchfield
Green December 20, 1792  Lincoln and Nelson Counties Greensburg
Greenup December 12, 1803 Mason County Greenup
Hancock January 3, 1829 Daviess, Ohio and Breckinridge Counties Hawesville
Hardin December 15, 1792 Nelson County Elizabethtown
Harlan January 28, 1819 Knox County Harlan
Harrison December 21, 1793 Bourbon and Scott Counties Cynthiana
Hart January 28, 1819 Hardin and Barren Counties Munfordville
Henderson December 21, 1798 Christian County Henderson
Henry December 14, 1798 Shelby County New Castle
Hickman December 19, 1821 Caldwell and Livingston Counties Clinton
Hopkins December 9, 1806 Henderson County Madisonville
Jackson February 2, 1858 Rockcastle, Owsley, Madison, Clay, Estill and Laurel Counties McKee
Jefferson May 1, 1780 one of the three original counties Louisville
Jessamine December 19, 1798 Fayette County Nicholasville
Johnson February 24, 1843 Floyd, Morgan and Lawrence Counties Paintsville
Kenton January 29, 1840 Campbell County Covington & Independence
Knott May 5, 1884 Perry, Breathitt, Floyd and Letcher Counties Hindman
Knox December 19, 1799 Lincoln County Barbourville
Larue March 4, 1843 Hardin County Hodgenville
Laurel December 21, 1825 Whitley, Clay, Knox and Rockcastle Counties London
Lawrence December 14, 1821 Floyd and Greenup Counties Louisa
Lee March 1, 1870 Owsley, Breathitt, Wolfe and Estill Counties Beattyville
Leslie March 29, 1878 Clay, Harlan and Perry Counties Hyden
Letcher March 3, 1842 Perry and Harlan Counties Whitesburg
Lewis December 2, 1806 Mason County Vanceburg
Lincoln June 30, 1780 one of three original Kentucky counties Stanford
Livingston December 13, 1798 Christian County Smithland
Logan September 1, 1792 Lincoln County Russellville
Lyon  January 14, 1854 Caldwell County Eddyville
Madison December 15, 1785 Lincoln County Richmond
Magoffin February 22, 1860 Floyd, Johnson and Morgan Counties Salyersville
Marion January 25, 1834 Washington County Lebanon
Marshall June 1, 1842 Calloway County Benton
Martin September 1, 1870 Lawrence, Floyd, Pike and Johnson Counties Inez
Mason November 5, 1788 Bourbon County Maysville
McCracken January 15, 1825 Hickman County Paducah
McCreary March 12, 1912 Wayne, Pulaski and Whitley Counties Whitley City
McLean January 28, 1854 Muhlenberg, Daviess and Ohio Counties Calhoun
Meade December 17, 1823 Hardin and Breckinridge Counties Brandenburg
Menifee May 29, 1869 Powell, Wolfe, Bath, Morgan and Montgomery Counties Frenchburg
Mercer December 15, 1785 Lincoln County Harrodsburg
Metcalfe May 1, 1860 Barren, Monroe, Adair, Cumberland and Green Counties Edmonton
Monroe January 19, 1820 Barren and Cumberland Counties Tompkinsville
Montgomery  December 14, 1796 Clark County Mount Sterling
Morgan December 7, 1822 Floyd and Bath Counties West Liberty
Muhlenberg December 14, 1798 Christian and Logan Counties Greenville
Nelson November 29, 1784 Jefferson County Bardstown
Nicholas December 18, 1799 Bourbon and Mason Counties Carlisle
Ohio December 17, 1798 Hardin County Hartford
Oldham  December 15, 1823 Henry, Shelby and Jefferson Counties La Grange
Owen February 6, 1819 Scott, Franklin, Gallatin and Pendleton Counties Owenton
Owsley January 23, 1843 Clay, Estill and Breathitt Counties Booneville
Pendleton December 13, 1798 Bracken and Campbell Counties Falmouth
Perry November 2, 1820 Clay and Floyd Counties Hazard
Pike December 19, 1821 Floyd County Pikeville
Powell January 7, 1852 Clark, Estill and Montgomery Counties Stanton
Pulaski December 10, 1798 Green and Lincoln Counties Somerset
Robertson August 1, 1867 Bracken, Nicholas, Harrison and Mason Counties Mount Olivet
Rockcastle January 8, 1810 Pulaski, Lincoln, Knox and Madison Counties Mount Vernon
Rowan May 1, 1856 Fleming and Morgan Counties Morehead
Russell December 14, 1825 Cumberland, Adair and Wayne Counties Jamestown
Scott June 1, 1792 Woodford County Georgetown
Shelby June 23, 1792 Jefferson County Shelbyville
Simpson January 28, 1819 Allen, Logan and Warren Counties Franklin
Spencer January 7, 1824 Shelby, Bullitt and Nelson Counties Taylorsville
Taylor March 1, 1848 Green County Campbellsville
Todd December 30, 1819 Christian and Logan Counties Elkton
Trigg January 27, 1820 Christian and Caldwell Counties Cadiz
Trimble February 9, 1837 Henry County, Oldham County and Gallatin Counties Bedford
Union January 15, 1811 Henderson County Morganfield
Warren December 19, 1796 Logan County Bowling Green
Washington June 2, 1792 Nelson County Springfield
Wayne December 18, 1800 Pulaski and Cumberland Counties Monticello
Webster July 1, 1860 Hopkins, Union and Henderson Counties Dixon
Whitley January 17, 1818 Knox County Williamsburg
Wolfe March 5, 1860 Owsley, Breathitt, Powell and Morgan Counties Campton
Woodford November 12, 1788 Fayette County Versailles

Kentucky Extinct Counties

Kentucky contains some counties that no longer exist because they were discontinued, renamed or merged with another county. These are important for genealogy research purposes. Those counties are:

  • Beckham: was formed from Carter Co. and from Lewis and Elliott Counties. It was dissolved by the state Court of Appeals on 29 Apr 1904 as not being formed in accordance with the state constitution. Only marriage and postal records remain.
  • Josh Bell: Formed just after the Civil War, on February 5, 1867, from portions of Harlan and Knox Counties. Originally named Josh Bell County at its formation, the name was changed to Bell County by the legislature on January 31, 1873.

Kentucky Counties with Burned Courthouses

The damage to courthouses greatly has a bearing on genealogists in every way. No only are these historic structures torn from our lifetimes, so are the records they housed: marriage, wills, probate, land records, and others. Once destroyed they're lost forever. Although they have been placed on mircofilm, computers and film burn too. The most heartbreaking side of this is the reason that nearly all of our courthouses are destroyed at the hands of arsonist.

  • Allen County Courthouse - a courthouse fire on 2 Oct 1902 destroyed some records.
  • Anderson County Courthouse - Two courthouse disasters, on 26 Oct 1859 and on 13 Jan 1915, resulted in some record loss. However, only Order Book D and Mortgage Book B were lost.
  • Ballard County Courthouse - Most records were destroyed in a courthouse fire on 17 Feb 1880.
  • Bath County Courthouse - No records seem to have been lost in a courthouse fire on 21 May 1864.
  • Bell County Courthouse - Records were lost in fires in 1914 and 1918. Also records were damaged with some loss in a flood in 1976.
  • Boone County Courthouse - Some records may have been destroyed in the late 1880s due to a fire.
  • Bourbon County Courthouse - Some records were lost in a fire on 8 May 1872.
  • Boyle County Courthouse - Some records were lost in a courthouse fire in 1860.
  • Bracken County Courthouse - Some records were lost in a fire on 20 Apr 1848.
  • Breathitt County Courthouse - The courthouse or the jail was burned during the Civil War by Confederate troops. A fire in 1873 destroyed most of the county's records.
  • Breckinridge County Courthouse - Records were saved from a fire on 28 Dec 1864, though some records were lost to a fire in Feb 1958.
  • Butler County Courthouse - The courthouse was burned in 1872.
  • Caldwell County Courthouse - A courthouse fire on 15 Dec 1864 destroyed some records.
  • Calloway County Courthouse - A courthouse fire destroyed some records in 1906.
  • Carlisle County Courthouse - A courthouse fire destroyed some tax records on 22 Oct 1980.
  • Christian County Courthouse - The courthouse burned in December 1864 and destroyed some records.
  • Clay County Courthouse - On 20 Jan 1936, there was a courthouse fire.
  • Clinton County Courthouse - Most records were lost in a courthouse fire in 1864. Another fire in 1980 destroyed some records.
  • Crittenden County Courthouse - The courthouse was burned by guerillas on 25 Jan 1865 destroying some records. More records were destroyed in a fire which occurred in May 1870.
  • Cumberland County Courthouse - Records were lost in courthouse fires on 3 Jan 1865 and on 3 Dec 1933.
  • Daviess County Courthouse - No records were lost in a courthouse fire on 4 Jan 1865.
  • Elliott County Courthouse - Some records were destroyed in a courthouse fire on 19 Dec 1957.
  • Estill County Courthouse - Soldiers either set fire to the courthouse or the jail (depending on the source) in Oct 1864. In any case, the courthouse collapsed in 1865.
  • Fayette County Courthouse - Most records for before 31 Jan 1803 were destroyed by fire. A second fire on 14 May 1897 also destroyed some early records.
  • Floyd County Courthouse - Some records were destroyed by fire in Apr 1808.
  • Graves County Courthouse - Fire destroyed courthouse records in 1864 and on 18 Dec 1887.
  • Grayson County Courthouse - Three courthouse fire destroyed some or all redords of the time. The first was on 24 Dec 1864. The second was on 16 Jun 1896 from which three record books were saved. No records were lost in the fire of 3 Apr 1936.
  • Hardin County Courthouse - A fire destroyed records on 23 Dec 1864, and on 6 Dec 1932.
  • Harlan County Courthouse - The courthouse burned in Oct 1863, but the county clerk's records were saved.
  • Harrison County Courthouse - A fire on 24 Jan 1851 destroyed some records.
  • Hart County Courthouse - Some records were lost in a courthouse fire on 3 Jan 1928.
  • Henry County Courthouse - A loss of some records occurred due to a fire in 1804.
  • Hopkins County Courthouse - Courthouse fire destroyed records in 1829 and in Dec 1864.
  • Jackson County Courthouse - There was a courthouse fire in 1949.
  • Larue County Courthouse - No records were lost in a fire set by guerrillas on 21 Feb 1865.
  • Laurel County Courthouse - A courthouse fire occurred on 9 Dec 1958.
  • Magoffin County Courthouse - No records were lost in a courthouse disaster in 1957.
  • Marion County Courthouse - Morgan's Raiders burned the clerk's office destroying all records on 5 Jul 1863.
  • Marshall County Courthouse - Records were lost in two courthouse disasters in 1888 and Dec 1914.
  • Martin County Courthouse - A courthouse fire in 1892 destroyed records.
  • McCreary County Courthouse - Courthouse fires destroyed some records in 1927 and in 1951.
  • McLean County Courthouse - There was a courthouse fire in 1903.
  • Meade County Courthouse - A tornado on 3 Apr 1794 destroyed the courthouse and some records.
  • Mercer County Courthouse - A courthouse fire occurred on 15 May 1928.
  • Metcalfe County Courthouse - There were reportedly courthouse fies in Mar 1865, and in 1867 or 1868.
  • Monroe County Courthouse - Records were lost in courthouse fires on 22 Apr 1863 and in 1888.
  • Montgomery County Courthouse - Fires on 4 Mar 1851 and 2 Dec 1863 destroyed many records.
  • Morgan County Courthouse - Courthouse records were lost twice: in Oct 1862 and in 1925.
  • Ohio County Courthouse - The courthouse burned on 20 Dec 1864.
  • Oldham County Courthouse - A courthouse fire occurred in 1873.
  • Owsley County Courthouse - In Jan 1929 and again on 5 Jan 1967, there were courthouse fires. In the 1929 fire, all records were destroyed.
  • Perry County Courthouse - Some records were lost in courthouse disaster in 1885 and in 1911.
  • Pike County Courthouse - No records were lost in a courthouse disaster in 1977.
  • Powell County Courthouse - The courthouse was burned by guerrillas in the Spring of 1863, and the jail was burned in 1864. Records were lost in both fires.
  • Pulaski County Courthouse - Fires in 1838 and on 7 Dec 1871 destroyed some records.
  • Rockcastle County Courthouse - A fire destroyed most early records in 1871.
  • Rowan County Courthouse - Courthouse fires on 21 Mar 1864 and in the 1890s destroyed many records.
  • Russell County Courthouse - No records were lost in a courthouse disaster in 1976.
  • Scott County Courthouse - Many records were destroyed on 9 Aug 1837 and again in 1876.
  • Simpson County Courthouse - Most records were destroyed in a fire 16 May 1882.
  • Spencer County Courthouse - Courthouse fires occurred on 25 Jan 1865 and again in 1914. No records were lost in the 1914 fire.
  • Taylor County Courthouse - Some records were lost in a courthouse fire on 25 Dec 1864.
  • Trigg County Courthouse - Courthouse fires on 13 Dec 1864, 13 Jan 1892, and 29 Nov 1920 destroyed many records
  • Trimble County Courthouse - Some records were lost in a courthouse fire in 1952.
  • Warren County Courthouse - A courthouse fire destroyed some records in 1864.
  • Washington County Courthouse - Two fires, one in 1795, and the second in 1814 destroyed courthouses, though some records were saved.
  • Wayne County Courthouse - A fire in 1898 destroyed its fourth courthouse.
  • Whitley County Courthouse - Some records were lost in a courthouse disaster in 1930.
  • Wolfe County Courthouse - Records were lost in courthouse fires in 1886 and 1913.
  • Woodford County Courthouse - A fire destroyed many records on 11 Oct 1965.

 

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