South Dakota Records Details and Resources

By Family Tree Editors Premium


The first available federal census for the state of South Dakota is the 1900 census. Dakota Territory censuses and mortality schedules were taken in 1860, 1870, 1880 and 1885. South Dakota’s state censuses are true research gems. Taken every 10 years beginning in 1895, they are available through 1945 and include details not usually found on other enumerations.

For example, the 1925 through 1945 censuses gathered the following information: name; county; post office where person received mail; town or township name; if in a town, ward number; age; occupation; owner or renter; place of birth; years lived in South Dakota; years living in United States; if naturalized; birthplace of father and mother; and more. These censuses, recorded primarily on index cards, are available at the South Dakota State Historical Society and on Family History Library microfilm. The 1895 census is on subscription site


South Dakota began keeping birth, death, marriage and divorce records on a statewide basis in 1905. This registration requirement was usually complied with by the early 1930s. Some records prior to 1905 may be found at county courthouses with the registrar of deeds.

Vital records 1905 and later are on file with the State Health Department at the Office of Vital Records in Pierre. When South Dakota’s Vital Records System was started in July of 1905, individuals born before then were given the opportunity to file delayed birth records. Nearly 200,000 birth records more than 100 years old can be searched online at

Marriages prior to 1905 recorded in a town or county are available from that county’s treasurer. Pre-1905 divorces will be on file with the clerk of courts in the county where the divorce case was tried.

County-level courts in South Dakota include District County Court and Circuit Court. Their records include probate, guardianship, and civil and criminal cases. Land records are held by the registrar of deeds in the individual counties. Most of these records and their indexes remain in county courthouses, and few records are available on microfilm.

The state archives, part of the South Dakota State Historical Society, has naturalization records from South Dakota county courts except Brule and Campbell. It also holds Territorial Probate Court records and some local and county records. Its newspaper microfilm is available through interlibrary loan.

The archives holds book, periodical, manuscript, map, and sound recording collections for the State Historical Society, as well as government documents. But because the State Archives was not created until 1975, the collections are not as extensive as those of many state archives. For a fee, you can request searches of the archives’ naturalization records, newspapers, and federal and state census collections.


  • French-Canadian Families of the North Central Sates: A Genealogical Dictionary, 8 vols., Paul J. Lareau and Elmer Courteau (Northwest Territory French and Canadian Heritage Institute, 1980)


  • The Administration of the Public Domain in South Dakota by Charles L. Green (Hipple Printing, 1939)
  • Fifty Million Acres: Conflicts Over Kansas Land Policy, 1854-1890 by Paul Wallace Gates (University of Oklahoma Press, 1997)
  • A History of the Public Land Policies by Benjamin Horace Hibbard (University of Wisconsin Press, 1965)
  • Indian Depredation Claims, 1796-1920 by Larry C. Skogen (University of Oklahoma Press, ca. 1996)



  • Northwestern Gazetteer: Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Montana Gazetteer and Business Directory from R.L. Polk & Company (R.L. Polk & Company, 1914)
  • Postoffices and Postmarks of Dakota Territory by George H. Phillips (J-B Publishing, 1973)
  • The Post Offices of South Dakota, 1861-1930 by George H. Phillips (J-B Publishing, 1975)
  • South Dakota Place Names from the Federal Writer’s Project (University of South Dakota, 1940)


  • Some Black Hills Area Cemeteries, South Dakota, 6 vols., from the Rapid City Society for Genealogical Research (Rapid City Society for Genealogical Research, 1993)
  • South Dakota Cemeteries, 1990 by Maurice Krueger and Florence Krueger (Maurice and Florence Krueger, 1990)
  • South Dakota Grave Registration Project; Cemetery Information from the US Work Projects Administration (filmed by the Family History Library, 1980)
  • South Dakota Graves Registration Service; Field Data-Veterans from the US Work Projects Administration (filmed by the Family History Library, 1980)

Return to the main South Dakota page

From the Family Tree Sourcebook
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