In much of the United States, counties function as an arm of state government and play a decisive role in the delivery of basic services to people at a local level. Understanding that, there are times when a researcher knows the name of a town or city and needs to find the county where it resides. As the National Association of Counties explains,
Traditionally, counties performed state-mandated duties, which included assessment of property, record keeping (e.g., property and vital statistics), maintenance or rural road, administration of election and judicial functions, and poor relief. Today, counties rapidly are moving into other areas, undertaking programs relating to child welfare, consumer protection, economic development, employment/training, planning and zoning, and water quality, to name just a few.
In the past I would squint over a dog-eared AAA road atlas trying to line up and decipher the light blue county line markers, hoping they’d been drawn accurately. With the advent of online mapping application the job became somewhat easier although not every service provided county borders (for example Mapquest does, Google Maps does NOT). It still involved a great deal of zooming in and out to find the county labels.
Eventually I found a better tool, NACO’s City Search.
This search capability allows anyone to quickly find the county where a city has been placed. It also allows users to find all cities in a state, see postal zip codes by county, and list all towns in a county. It is quick and intuitive, and is a utility worth bookmarking for future reference.
I’ve used it extensively to help me track United States Counties that I have Visited. I have also used it to help determine county designations for various genealogy designations (although county borders do change over time so it’s important to cross-reference it with another tool I’ve written about previously: The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries