McKenzie County, North Dakota Genealogy

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United StatesGotoarrow.png North Dakota Gotoarrow.png McKenzie County

Guide to McKenzie County, North Dakota ancestry, genealogy and family history, birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, family history, and military records.

County Information


Founded April 20, 1905 The county is named after early North Dakota politician Alexander McKenzie.

McKenzie County was first created by the March 8, 1883 Dakota Territory legislature but eliminated in 1891 due to a lack of settlement. The county was then recreated by the 1905 state legislature.

In terms of area, it is the largest county in the state.

Its county seat is Watford City. The county seat before Watford City was Alexander from 1905 to 1907 and Schafer from 1907 to 1941.[1]

In the early days, McKenzie County was known as the "Island Empire" due to the fact that it is surrounded by water on three sides. The Missouri River forms the northern and part of the eastern border. The Little Missouri also runs along part of the eastern and southern borders. The Yellowstone River forms the western border.[2]

County Courthouse

McKenzie County Courthouse
201 5th St NW
PO Box 523
Watford, ND 58854
Phone: 701.444.3452
Adams County Website

Clerk District Court has birth and death records from 1943, marriage, divorce, probate and court records from 1905 and burial records;
Register of Deeds has land records[3]

McKenzie County, North Dakota Record Dates

Beginning Dates for Major County Records
Birth* Marriage Death* Court Land Probate Census
1905 1906 1905 1905 1905 1905 1890

Record Loss

There is no known history of courthouse disasters in this county.

Boundary Changes

1901--McKenzie County was created 24 May 1901 from Billings County.
County seat: Watford [4]

Populated Places

  • Alexander
  • Watford City

Indian Reservation

A portion of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is located in McKenzie County. The remainder of the reservation is in Mountrail, Dunn, Mercer, and Ward Counties.

County Facts
Organized: May 24, 1901
County seat: Watford
Parent County(s): Billings [4]
Variant Spellings:
Neighboring Counties
Billings  • Dunn  • Golden Valley  • Mountrail  • Williams  • Richland (MT)  • Roosevelt (MT)  • Wibaux (MT)
See County Maps
Location Map
North Dakota McKenzie Map.png

This page is available for adoption

History Timeline


Bible Records


Business, Commerce, and Occupations


Cemeteries of Adams County, North Dakota online and in print
Tombstone Transcriptions Online
Tombstone Transcriptions in Print (Often more complete)
List of Cemeteries in the County
See North Dakota Cemeteries for more information

Census Records

Historical populations
Census Pop.  %±
1910 5,720
1920 9,544 66.9%
1930 9,709 1.7%
1940 8,426 −13.2%
1950 6,849 −18.7%
1960 7,296 6.5%
1970 6,127 −16.0%
1980 7,132 16.4%
1990 6,383 −10.5%
2000 5,737 −10.1%
2010 6,360 10.9%
Source: "".

State Census Records

Federal Census Records

Federal Censuses were taken for North Dakota starting in 1910. For links to Federal census indexes, see North Dakota Census.

Church Records

Court Records


Emigration and Immigration

Ethnic, Political, and Religious Groups

Funeral Homes



Land and Property Records

When the United States acquired North Dakota, most of the land became available for homesteading or purchase from the federal government. After land was transferred from the government to private owners, the registrar of deeds in each county recorded the land transactions in the form of deeds and mortgages. For more information, see North Dakota Land and Property.

Online Land Records

For more information see North Dakota Land and Property

Local Histories

Local histories, including those of the county, are available for McKenzie County. These histories can include biographies, church, school and government history, and military information.

  • Early history of McKenzie County. n.d. By Geo. F. Shafer. n.p.: n.p. Online at:.

Maps and Gazetteers


Military Records

Civil War

World War I

Naturalization and Citizenship

Online Naturalization Indexes and Records


North Dakota Newspapers Online

North Dakota Newspaper Catalogs


Other Records


Probate Records

Probate records of North Dakota are at the county clerk's office.

Online Probate Records

School Records

Tax Records

Tax records are at the county treasurer's, auditor's or clerk's office, or the state archives.

Vital Records

Vital Records (birth, marriage, death, and divorce records) may be recorded on registers, certificates, or other documents at the county clerk's office.




Online Death Indexes and Records


Research Facilities


Family History Centers

Family History Centers provide one-on-one assistance and free access to premium genealogical websites. In addition, many centers have free how-to genealogy classes.


Old Sod Post Office of Grassy Butte
609 Main St.
Grassy Butte, ND 58634
Phone: 701-863-6754


Lewis and Clark Trail Museum
P. O. Box 343, Alexander
ND 58831-0343
Phone: 701-828-3595

Pioneer Museum of McKenzie County
P. O. Box 126
Watford City, ND 58854-0126
Phone: 701-444-2990 or 701-444-5804


McKenzie County Museum and Historical Society, Inc.
11542 Highway 23
Watford City, ND 58854

McKenzie County Heritage Association
P. O. Box 512
Watford City, ND 58854


Research Guides


  3. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), McKenzie County, North Dakota. Page 524 At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America,10th ed. (Draper, UT:Everton Publishers, 2002).