Is It a Town or a County?

Locations can create all kinds of problems for genealogists. For this reason it is necessary to be as precise as possible. Some locations are logical.

For example, Knoxville, Illinois, is in Knox County, Illinois.

But this is not always the case.

Des Moines, Iowa, is in Polk County, not in Des Moines County, Iowa.

Keokuk, Iowa, is not located in Keokuk County, Iowa.

And remember there are townships as well which may or may not add to the confusion. Hancock County, Illinois, has a Webster Cemetery and a village of Webster. Webster Cemetery is not located near the village of Webster.

Provide as much detail as possible when listing locations in your genealogical database. Personally I always use the word “county” in a location. It reduces confusion.


10 thoughts on “Is It a Town or a County?

  1. Kristin

    Illinois seems to love this. My relatives live in and around Centralia so the 3 counties I’m researching the most are Washington, Marion, and Clinton. But, Clinton, IL. is in DeWitt County, not Clinton Co. Washington IL is in Tazewell County, not Washington Co. My family lived in Marion Co, then moved to Marion, IL, in Williamson Co.
    Centralia has a different challenge when trying to pin down county locations. It straddles Washington, Clinton, and Marion counties. I’ll leave the county out, unless I can see the original source that lists the county, too.

  2. Patty

    I do know that from my own experience. I’ve gotten a headache trying to get things figured out at times.I thought I was going around in circles. So appreciate the clarification.

  3. Terri

    And then there’s places like where I live. Madison, Alabama is located in Madison County. BUT, although I have a Madison address, I actually live in Limestone County. No rhyme or reason, just the way it is…

  4. Dana Rahm Sutton

    I’d always wondered why a set of my great-grandparents moved from
    Morgan County IL & were listed in Cass County in the following census.
    There’s a good chance that they didn’t move at all, but the county line
    moved. I’m still not absolutely sure, but that means there is more work
    to be done.

      1. Dana Rahm Sutton

        1850 & 1860. I know the county line was moved between those 2 census dates, but I’m not sure of the exact location of these folks’ place. He was a wagon maker, not a farmer, so they may have had a very small property or perhaps they were living on the same property with other relatives.

        Thanks for asking. A guy at the State Archives is from that neck of the woods, & he was the one who alerted me to the change in the county lines.

        These are the same couple that had two burial places—in 2 states! I did figure that out but I’m not sure when they were moved. It makes life interesting.

        1. michaeljohnneill Post author

          It may be referenced in Illinois statutes. Have you looked there? County histories may also mention it.

          1. Dana Rahm Sutton

            Hi Michael, I’ve checked the statutes but not the county histories. I think it’s possible that they lived so close to the county line that either the census taker made a mistake or they just thought they were in Morgan County but were really in Cass all aling. Just after the end of the Civil War, they moved to Brownville, NE, & shortly afterward to Atchison County, Missouri. Few of my family seem to have made it into county histories, but I’ll look. Thanks

          2. michaeljohnneill Post author

            It’s possible a county history mentions the border change. It’s possible if they didn’t own any real property (or sold and bought on a regular basis), that they moved around and crossed the line without really moving very far at all.

  5. Frank

    I live in the city of Boise, Idaho which is in Ada County. Boise County adjoins Ada County and has the town of Idaho City (population 442) as it’s county seat. I guess the early settlers had a weird sense of humor.


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