Wells County, North Dakota Genealogy

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

County Facts
County seat: Fessenden
Organized: January 4, 1873
Parent County(s): Buffalo [1]
Neighboring Counties
Benson  • Eddy  • Foster  • Kidder  • Pierce  • Sheridan  • Stutsman
See County Maps
Location Map
North Dakota Wells Map.png

County Information[edit | edit source]

Description[edit | edit source]

Wells County was named after Edward Payson Wells.[2] The County is located in the center area of the state.[3]

County Courthouse[edit | edit source]

Wells County Courthouse
700 Railway St N
PO Box 596
Fessenden, ND 58438
Phone: 701.547.3122
Wells County Website

Clerk District Court has birth, marriage, death, burial, divorce probate and court records;
Register of Deeds has land records[4]

Wells County, North Dakota Record Dates[edit | edit source]

Information for this chart was taken from various sources, often containing conflicting dates. This information should be taken as a guide and should be verified by contacting the county and/or the state government agency.

Known Beginning Dates for Major Records[5]
Marriage Court Land Probate Census
1893 1887 1893 1873 1873 1873 1836
*State Dept. of Vital Records started births and deaths in 1923.
Full compliance by 1924.[6]

Record Loss[edit | edit source]

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

Boundary Changes[edit | edit source]

  • Parent County: Wells County was created 4 January 1873 from Buffalo County (Old).

County seat: Fessenden [7]

Populated Places[edit | edit source]

For a complete list of populated places, including small neighborhoods and suburbs, visit Hometown Locator. The following are the most historically and genealogically relevant populated places in this county:[8]

Unincorporated communities
Census-designated places
  • Berlin
  • Bilodeau
  • Bremen
  • Bull Moose
  • Cathay
  • Chaseley
  • Crystal Lake
  • Delger
  • Fairville
  • Forward
  • Fram
  • Germantown
  • Haaland
  • Hamburg
  • Hawksnest
  • Heimdal
  • Hillsdale
  • Johnson
  • Lynn
  • Manfred
  • Norway Lake
  • Oshkosh
  • Pony Gulch
  • Progress
  • Rusland
  • Saint Anna
  • Silver Lake
  • South Cottonwood
  • Speedwell
  • Sykeston
  • Valhalla
  • Wells
  • West Norway
  • West Ontario
  • Western
  • Woodward

Resources[edit | edit source]

Bible Records[edit | edit source]

Biographies[edit | edit source]

Business, Commerce, and Occupations[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries of Wells 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[edit | edit source]

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1890 1,212
1900 8,310 585.6%
1910 11,814 42.2%
1920 12,957 9.7%
1930 13,285 2.5%
1940 11,198 −15.7%
1950 10,417 −7.0%
1960 9,237 −11.3%
1970 7,847 −15.0%
1980 6,979 −11.1%
1990 5,864 −16.0%
2000 5,102 −13.0%
2010 4,207 −17.5%
Source: "Wikipedia.org".

Before North Dakota was a state in 1889, parts of North Dakota were included in the 1836 Iowa Territory census (also known as Wisconsin Territory), 1840 Iowa Territory census, 1850 Minnesota Territory census, and the 1860-1880 Dakota Territory censuses.[9] See links listed below.

Territory and State Census Records[edit | edit source]

Federal Census Records[edit | edit source]

Federal Censuses were taken for the state of North Dakota starting in 1890, although no records survived. The 1900 Census is the next Federal Census available. For links to Federal census indexes, see North Dakota Census.

Church Records[edit | edit source]

List of Churches and Church Parishes

Church records can be found online, kept onsite at the church, or housed in a church archive or library. See North Dakota Church Records for more information on how to locate the records.

Online Church Records
Wells County Church Histories

Lutheran Church

Court Records[edit | edit source]

Directories[edit | edit source]

Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]

Ethnic, Political, and Religious Groups[edit | edit source]

Funeral Homes[edit | edit source]

Genealogies[edit | edit source]

Guardianship[edit | edit source]

Land and Property Records[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

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

  • '76 thru '66: a pioneer story. 1966. By James D Weckerly. Lake Forest, Minnesota : Forest Lake Printing. At various libraries (WorldCat).
  • Fessenden diamond jubilee, 1893-1968. 1968. By Fessenden Diamond Jubilee Book Committee. (Fessenden, N.D.): Fessenden Diamond Jubilee Book Committee. Online at: FamilySearch Digital Library; At various libraries (WorldCat).
  • Growing with pride; the Harvey, N.D. area, her history, her people. 1981?. Harvey, North Dakota: Harvey 75th Jubilee Committee. Online at: At various libraries (WorldCat).
  • The history of Wells County, North Dakota: and its pioneers with a sketch of North Dakota history and the oregin [sic] of the place names. 1929. By Walter Earnest Spokesfield. (S.l.: s.n.) Online at: At various libraries (WorldCat).

Maps and Gazetteers[edit | edit source]

Migration[edit | edit source]

Military Records[edit | edit source]

Online Collections[edit | edit source]

These collections are unique to North Dakota. You will find nationwide databases for military records on U.S. Military Online Genealogy Records and North Dakota Military Records.

Civil War

World War I

World War II

Korean War

Vietnam War

For further information see North Dakota Military Records.

Naturalization and Citizenship[edit | edit source]

Online Naturalization Indexes and Records

Newspapers[edit | edit source]

For more information, see North Dakota Newspapers.

North Dakota Newspaper Catalogs

North Dakota Newspapers Online

Obituaries[edit | edit source]

Other Records[edit | edit source]

Periodicals[edit | edit source]

Probate Records[edit | edit source]

Probate records, including wills and estates, are at the county clerk's office. See also North Dakota Probate Records.

Online Probate Indexes and Records

School Records[edit | edit source]

Social Security Records[edit | edit source]

Tax Records[edit | edit source]

County tax records are at the county treasurer's, auditor's or clerk's office in the county courthouse. Some tax records may have been moved to the North Dakota State Archives.

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Birth, marriage, death, and divorce records may be recorded on registers, certificates, or other documents at the county clerk's office. Many records are also being digitized and put online. See North Dakota Vital Records for more information about availability and how to access them.

Birth[edit | edit source]

Marriage[edit | edit source]

Death[edit | edit source]

Online Death Indexes and Records

Divorce[edit | edit source]

Research Facilities[edit | edit source]

Archives[edit | edit source]

Listed below are archives in Wells County. For state-wide archival repositories, see North Dakota Archives and Libraries.

North Dakota State University Archives
West Building 3551 7th Avenue N
Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing Address:
NDSU Archives
Libraries NDSU Dept #2080
PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Phone: 701-231-8914
Fax: 701-231-5632
Email: ndsu.archives@ndsu.edu

Family History Centers[edit | edit source]

Family History Center and Affiliate Library Locator map - search for local Family History Centers or Affiliate Libraries

  • Family History Centers provide one-on-one assistance, free access to center-only databases, and to premium genealogical websites.
  • FamilySearch Affiliate Libraries have access to most center-only databases, but may not always have full services normally provided by a family history center.

Local Centers and Affiliate Libraries

Libraries[edit | edit source]

Listed below are libraries in Wells County. For state-wide library facilities, see North Dakota Archives and Libraries.

Museums[edit | edit source]

Bowdon Museum and Library
232 40th Ave. NE
Bowdon, ND 58418

Manfred Heritage Museum, Inc.
PO Box 321
Harvey, ND 58341-0321
Telephone Number: 701-547-2564 (summer) or 701-324-2027

Societies[edit | edit source]

Listed below are societies in Wells County. For state-wide genealogical societies, see North Dakota Societies.

Wells County Historical Society
903 4th St. N.E.
Fessenden, ND 58438
Telephone: 701-547-3684

Websites[edit | edit source]

Research Guides[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America,10th ed. (Draper, UT:Everton Publishers, 2002).
  2. Genealogy Trails: Wells County, North Dakota, Genealogy and History
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Wells, North Dakota," in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wells_County,_North_Dakota accessed 8/28/2018
  4. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Wells County, North Dakota. Page 527 At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  5. Alice Eichholz, ed. Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources, Third ed. (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004), 519.
  6. Alice Eichholz, ed. Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources, Rev. ed. (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 1992), 562; Alice M. Hetzel, U.S. Vital Statistics System: Major Activities and Developments, 1950-95 (Hyattsville, Md.: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, [1997]), 58.
  7. The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America,10th ed. (Draper, UT:Everton Publishers, 2002).
  8. Wikipedia contributors, "Wells County, North Dakota," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia.
  9. Alice Eichholz, ‘’Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County and Town Sources,’’ 3rd ed. (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 2004), 511. Free online version; FHL Book 973 D27rb 2004; WorldCat entry.