Boundary Changes

To determine where we should look for records, we need to know the county and state our ancestor lived. As we search, we need to review histories and maps of the county and state to see when and how the boundaries changed.

States changed their boundaries more than we think. For example, Kentucky settlements were a part of Virginia until Kentucky became a state in 1792, but continued to have boundary disputes with Tennessee until 1820. The northwestern portion of Virginia split in 1863, forming West Virginia. Colonial Louisiana included sections of ten other states, including Minnesota.

County boundaries changed more frequently than state boundaries. Present day Indian River County, Florida has changed county boundaries six times since being Indian Lands. Sections of Mellette County, South Dakota were formerly part of Cheyenne and Jackson Counties.

To begin determining changes in county and state boundaries, you can search the following books:

Red Book

The Handybook for Genealogists

Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries Series


One Response to Boundary Changes

  1. Donna McDermit says:

    In March 1863, my husband’s great grandfather left Point Pleasant, VIRGINIA to homestead to Madison County, Indiana. He cleared land, planted crops and then at some point returned to Point Pleasant, WEST VIRGINIA, to bring his family back to Indiana. Until reading the “Boundry Changes” article and then researching the exact timeframe of the boundry change, historically, I hadn’t realized what was happening during that time of his life. We don’t know why he moved to Indiana, but it now makes me wonder…was it because he didn’t agree with the political climate, the boundry changes, etc.? I’m sure we’ll never know.

    Thank you for posting this article!

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