County Basics

Pages

The History of Counties

Counties are part of our system of local government. They respond to local community needs, while also supporting the state and federal governments. County responsibilities may include responding to emergencies, law enforcement, paving and repairing roads, creating and managing parks, and making sure we all have clean water to drink– just to name a few! Where did counties come from and how did they develop these responsibilities?

Counties Across the United States

Do you live in a county? It might be called a parish if you live in Louisiana or a borough if you’re in Alaska! Some cities have incorporated to form their own governments, separate from the county. In fact, in some states, counties don’t actually have functioning county governments. No matter what they are called, there are a lot of counties and county equivalents in the U.S. Check out the list: 

Once you’ve looked at the list, answer the following questions: How many counties are there in the United States? Which state has the most counties? Which states have the fewest counties? Do any states not have counties?

County Names

You can imagine how difficult it is to come up with names for all of the different counties in the United States. County names come from many different places. What are the names of counties in your area? Counties are traditionally named after things like counties in England, famous people or Presidents, the shape or natural features of a county, or traditional American Indian names. This link will take you to a game where you can guess the top 200 county names and see how often some of them occur. Play until you’re stuck (for at least three minutes) and then click “Give Up?” to see the answers.

Your County!

Now that you’ve learned about the history, distribution, and names of counties, it’s time to take a look at your own county! The National Association of Counties has developed a website that will help you find facts about your county, and even help you explore your own county webpage.

Follow the link and use the map to find your county. Create a profile of your county that includes the following information:

  • County name
  • Population
  • Size
  • County seat
  • Elected or appointed officials and their position titles