Benton County, Washington Genealogy

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Guide to Benton County Washington ancestry, family history, and genealogy. Birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, family history, and military records, since 1905, when the county was formed.

Hot air balloon event in Prosser, Benton County, Washington
County QuickStart:

Benton County, Washington
Map of Washington highlighting Benton County
Location in the state of Washington (disambiguation)
Map of the U.S. highlighting Washington
Location of Washington in the U.S.
Founded March 8, 1905
County Seat Prosser
Washington, Benton County Courthouse.png
Address Benton County Courthouse
600 Market Street
Prosser, WA 99350-0190
Phone: 509.786.5624
Benton County Website

County Overview[edit | edit source]

Description[edit | edit source]

The County was named for a U.S. Senator from Missouri (1821–51) and later U.S. Representative (1853–55) Thomas Hart Benton. The County is located in the southcentral area of the state.[1]

It is important to note where the population of Benton county resides.

Northern Benton county is a Federal Department of Energy Reservation (with the Hanford Nuclear Plants). No one has lived there since 1943. Before then it had a handful of rural communities.

Western Benton county is dominated by Prosser, with very close ties to other Yakima Valley communities. The Yakima River cuts a Valley through the regions rolling hills, and much of the population of Yakima County lives along the river in this valley, which creates a continuous connected group of towns and communities from Pomona in the north, through Yakima City, and into Benton County to Prosser, and Benton City. Many of the residence of western Benton County go to Prosser or into Yakima County for goods and services, as well as to go to the hospital, have children, get married, and for funeral services and burial.

Eastern Benton County is dominated by the Tri-City Metropolitan Area, the fourth largest metro area in Washington State. The three cities that the metro area is named for are Kennewick and Richland in Benton County and Pasco in Franklin County. It also includes the towns of West Richland and Finley (Benton County) and Burbank (Walla Walla County). The area has been a gathering place from prehistoric times because of the intersection of three major rivers. The Snake and the Yakima Rivers empty into the Columbia River in this location, hence it is also called the Three Rivers Region. The county boundaries follow the rivers, Benton county south and west of the Columbia, and Franklin and Walla Walla north and east of the Columbia, with the Snake River between them. From the first settlers in this area, there have been ferries and then bridges that connected these communities. Any resident in or near the confluence of the rivers may have records in Benton, Franklin or Walla Walla county.

The southern boundary of Benton is also the Columbia River, with Umatilla County, Oregon on the other side. The small cluster of communities along the Columbia in the south rely on services in Hermiston, Oregon.

Parent County(s)[edit | edit source]

Benton County, Washington was created 8 March 1905 from Klickitat and Yakima counties[2]

County Seat: Prosser [3]. See also Towns and Communities in Benton County, Washington Genealogy. For Courthouse, see Archives, libraries, etc.

Boundary Changes[edit | edit source]

For animated maps illustrating Washington County boundary changes, "Rotating Formation Washington County Boundary Maps" (1843-1915) may be viewed for free at the website.

Courthouse[edit | edit source]

Benton County Courthouse
600 Market Street
Prosser, WA 99350-0190
Phone: 509.786.5624

County Auditor has birth records 1905-1907
and marriage records from 1905.
County Clerk has divorce, probate and court records.
County Assessor has land records. [5]

See also Archives, libraries, etc. in Benton County, Washington Genealogy.

Dates of Major County Records[edit | edit source]

Known Beginning Dates for Major County Records[6]
Birth* Marriage Death* Court Land Probate Census
1905 1905 1915 1884 1885 1884 1850
*Statewide registration for births and deaths began in 1907.
General compliance by 1917.
Record Loss[edit | edit source]

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

As part of the Manhattan Project (see details below) all of northern Benton County was evacuated in 1943. There are *no* town or local records for the towns of Hanford, White Bluffs, or [Old] Richland (1905-1943). There are also no records for the 2 dozen small rural communities scattered throughout northern Benton county. There are federal census, and some school census for these areas, and a very few number of phone directories. There are several books of the personal memories of those evacuated, available in FHLC (see local histories below). Many of the graves in the White Bluff Cemetery were moved to Prosser Cemetery (a few moved to Richland or Kennewick). The graves were moved on very short notice by the family members then present. All remaining graves have no record whatever, and are completely unreachable.

[New] Richland was incorporated in 1958. They have *no* records prior to that date. Personal discussion with the city clerk assures me that even though they have the same name, there is absolutely no tie--legal, financial, records or jurisdiction, with the town of the same name in the earlier time period.

Neighboring Counties[edit | edit source]

Benton County, Washington Genealogy isurrounded by:Franklin | Grant | Klickitat | Walla Walla | Yakima | Oregon counties: Morrow | Umatilla

Topics for Benton County, Washington Genealogy[edit | edit source]

The topics or headings on this page describe records that are used for genealogy and family history. They include links to web sites with indexes, images, or information about the county.

Bible Records[edit | edit source]

Biography[edit | edit source]

Biographical information is often found in state and local histories or genealogies. See also Washington Biography.

Business and Commerce[edit | edit source]

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Tombstone Transcriptions Online Tombstone Transcriptions in Print List of Cemeteries in the county
FindAGrave Family History Library FindAGrave
Tombstone Project WorldCat
Billion Graves Washington Periodicals WA State Digital Archives
WAGenWeb Archives Linkpendium
Billion Graves Genealogy Trails
WAGenWeb FamilySearch Places
See Washington Cemeteries for more information.

Census[edit | edit source]

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1910 7,937
1920 10,903 37.4%
1930 10,952 0.4%
1940 12,053 10.1%
1950 51,370 326.2%
1960 62,070 20.8%
1970 67,540 8.8%
1980 109,444 62.0%
1990 112,560 2.8%
2000 142,475 26.6%
2010 175,177 23.0%
Source: "".
Federal Census Contents
Names, ages, birthplaces 1850–1940
Birthplaces of parents 1880–1940
Relationships 1880–1940
Family and Neighbors All years
Immigration year 1900–1930
Citizenship 1910–1940

Censuses 1) Give names, ages, and more about the family; 2) Pinpoint the area to find other records; and 3) Provide clues for further research.

Church Records[edit | edit source]

The information church records provide depends upon the church practices and the record keepers. Records may include names, ages, and dates of events such as baptism, marriage, or burial. See Washington Church Records.

  • Church records (microfilmed originals or published transcripts) for Benton County, Washington Genealogy are listed in the FamilySearch catalog.

List of Churches and Church Parishes

Court Records[edit | edit source]

Your ancestors may be found in court records as defendants, plaintiffs, witnesses, or jurors. Court records can clarify family relationships, places of residence, occupations, and family history. See Washington Court Records for courts used through the years.


For specialized court records, see Divorce  · Guardianship  · Land  · Naturalization · Probate

Directories[edit | edit source]

Emigration and Immigration[edit | edit source]


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

American Indian[edit | edit source]
Japanese[edit | edit source]
  • World War II Files, 1942-1946. Public Welfare/Social Security Department, (Japanese Internment) Assistance Cases, Evacuee Referrals for Resettlement and Assistance, 1945-1946 from the Washington State Archives – Digital Archives.

Funeral Homes[edit | edit source]

Gazetteers[edit | edit source]


Genealogy[edit | edit source]

A FamilySearch Community Tree is available for this place.
Many local libraries and societies have collections of family genealogies. County histories or biographies often include brief genealogies of the featured persons. 

Guardianship[edit | edit source]

Guardianship of orphans or adults unable to manage their own affairs were handled by the probate and the District courts. See Washington Court Records.

History[edit | edit source]

Local histories for Benton County, Washington Genealogy may include biographies, history of churches, schools, local government with names of officials, military information, and more. See Washington Local Histories.

Local Histories

History Resources

History Timeline[edit | edit source]

Historical County Boundaries from Newberry Library[7]

Emphasis for this timeline is on events that affected migration, records, or record-keeping. Unless otherwise mentioned, the events below were gleaned from Elizabeth Gibson. Benton County -- Thumbnail History,, Essay 5671.

  • 1803 - The first inhabitants were the Yakima Indians, Umatillas, Klickitats, and Wallulas.
  • 1853 - March 2, U.S. President Millard Fillmore establishes Washington Territory.
  • 1858 - A gold rush to British Columbia brought the first influx of white people, as rushers traveled through on their way north.
  • 1880s - Steamboats and railroads connected what would become known as Kennewick to the other settlements along the Columbia River.
  • 1880s and earlier - Benton County has very little rainfall, and some farmers had been successful at dryland farming.
  • 1890s - Irrigation came to the county and brought many changes.
  • 1905 - March 6, Washington State Legislature creates Benton County (out of Klickitat).
  • 1942 - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Manhattan District, surveyed the northern part of the county for a secret government project.
  • 1943 - The government ordered everyone living in the town sites of Hanford, White Bluffs, and [Old] Richland, as well as all the rural communities in northern Benton County, to evacuate. Shortly thereafter, a huge government construction project began, known only as the Matthattan Project. Thousands of people moved to the Eastern Washington desert. No one knew what they were building, just that it would help the war effort. Only when they heard the news of the devastation caused by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6, 1945, did the workers know what they had built. "Our bomb clinched it!" read the Richland Villager.

Land and Property[edit | edit source]

Land records (especially deeds) may give the name of a spouse, heirs, and witnesses, who are sometimes relatives or in-laws. County deeds, mortgages, and leases show transfers from person to person. See also Court Records for actions involving real estate. See Washington Land for government-to-person records.

  • County Recorder's Office: check deeds, file mining claims, get assistance in finding ownership of a particular property, and obtain copies of county plat maps, 1878-present (prior records having been destroyed in a fire).

Maps[edit | edit source]

GrantFranklinWalla WallaYakimaKlickitatUmatilla County, ORMorrow County, ORWA BENTON.PNG
Click a neighboring county
for more resources

Migration[edit | edit source]

Most residents came to Washington from other states or crossed the border from Canada. (See Seattle Passenger Lists for those who came from other countries.) Although few other migration records exist, try:
• Censuses: (use birthdates and places of children as clues)
• Land Records: (1st deed may reveal previous residence)
• Death-related records of children may give town or county of birth
• Records of relatives and neighbors

Military[edit | edit source]

Naturalization and Citizenship[edit | edit source]

Declarations of Intent before 1906 often include the nation of origin, foreign and "Americanized" names, residence, and date of arrival. See Washington Naturalization and Citizenship for more information. Note: Until 1922 in the United States, women's citizenship was based on that of their husbands.

  • Naturalization Records, 1905-1954 at Washington State Digital Archives Collection. (Free index, no images)
    • Includes Declarations of Intention, Petitions for Naturalization and Certificate Stubs.

Newspapers[edit | edit source]

Small town newspapers provide historical content and contain obituaries, birth or death notices, legal notices, and community news, such as visits to or from out-of-town relatives. See Washington Newspapers for tips, resources, and details.

Obituaries[edit | edit source]

Obituaries may mention birth, marriage, spouse, parents, living family members, education, occupation, and more. See Washington Obituaries for state level collections and United States Obituaries for tips and insights.

Periodicals[edit | edit source]

Probate Records[edit | edit source]

Probate records identify heirs of the decedents, give the (approximate) death dates, and provide specifics about property holdings. The records were kept by the county judge.

These include wills, inheritance records, dockets, and other documents regarding property and estates of individuals who have died. See also Court Records for civil actions involving estates. Also see Washington Probate Records.

Public Records[edit | edit source]

Public records are documents created by civil authorities that either don't fit comfortably in another topic, or that could fit in several topics.

  • Petition Records 1912-1984 Part of Washington, County Records, 1856-2009 FamilySearch Historical Collections. (Free, browse images)
    • See what genealogical information may be in these records.
    • Petitions for roads, courthouse removal, other civil matters.

School Records[edit | edit source]


Taxation[edit | edit source]

Washington tax records complement land records and can supplement the years between censuses. There may be gaps of several years in the tax records of some counties. For more information, see the wiki page Washington Taxation.

Vital Records[edit | edit source]

The county auditors in Washington kept records of birth, marriage, and death. The county clerk has the divorce records - the earliest dates to the present.

Visit the Washington State Department of Health website to order a Washington Birth, Death, Marriage or Divorce Certificate. See Washington Vital Records for details and history of the records. .

Birth[edit | edit source]

In 1891, coroners, physicians, and midwives were to "return" births and deaths to the county auditor. Many went unrecorded. In 1907, the State Center for Health Statistics assumed this responsibility.[8] See also Washington Birth Records.

For earlier or unrecorded births, search:

  • Washington Delayed Birth Certificates often include statements of witnesses to the birth.
  • Death Records often give birth date, place, parents
  • Censuses to learn age, family members, location, etc.
  • School Censuses in Washington give date of birth and name of parent or guardian
  • Cemeteries usually give birth date or age, and sometimes birth place
  • Obituaries often include birth info, living and deceased family members, and more
Marriage[edit | edit source]

Marriage records include certificates, marriage returns, license applications or affidavits. Counties kept the records until 1968, when the state took over. See also Washington Marriage Records.

  • 1905-1920 - Washington State Digital Archives has a database of Benton County Marriages from 1905 to 1920. This database is an index to marriage certificates filed with the Auditor in Benton County, Washington. For FHL entries, click here[low quality link].
  • 1901-1954 Marriage Records 1901-1954 Part of: Washington County Records, 1856-2009 FamilySearch Historical Collections. (Free, browse images)
    • See what genealogical information may bee in these records.
    • Includes Marriage license applications 1939-1980, certificates 1905-2008 , license index 1906-1926; Marriage affidavits 1905-1922.
Divorce[edit | edit source]

Divorce records give the names of the parties and may give the date and place of their marriage. See Washington Vital Records for excellent information.

Online Records

Death[edit | edit source]

In 1891, coroners, physicians and midwives were to report (or return) all births and deaths under their supervision to County Auditors. On July 1, 1907, the State took over.[9] See Washington Death Records.

Voting Registers[edit | edit source]

Websites[edit | edit source]

Check back often with websites. Local societies and libraries may know of other websites.

Sites with online indexes or images of records
The Benton County WAGenWeb Project Free Data may be submitted by individuals or complete transcriptions
The USGenWeb Archives Project Free Data may be submitted by individuals or complete transcriptions
Washington State Digital Archives Free Includes indexes, some linked to images.
  • Type county name, click Search, then select a collection.
  • Collections were posted to the appropriate headings for this Wiki page in December, 2013.
FamilySearch Historical Collections Free Search indexes or browse images at
  • Click "Last Updated." Collections through December 2013 have been posted to the appropriate topics for this Wiki page.
Sites that search for links pertaining to Benton County, Washington Genealogy
Websites at RootsWeb - Benton WA Free Data may be submitted by individuals or complete transcriptions
Linkpendium Free Click links. Some sites they link to may have fees ($)
CyndisList Free Click links. Some sites they link to may have fees ($) Free "Benton County, Washington Facts" Free "Washington Genealogy Network Group on Facebook"
Tri-City Genealogical Society Free Click links. Some sites they link to may have fees ($)
Major catalogs for hard copy collections of Benton County, Washington Genealogy
Books, microfilm, or manuscripts of genealogical records
FamilySearch catalog Select topics. To select towns, add a comma to the search box.
WorldCat To find nearby libraries that have specific items, see WorldCat Online Catalog.
Allen County Public Library (Indiana)
See also local libraries and Washington Archives and Libraries

Archives, Libraries, etc.[edit | edit source]

Listed below are archives in {{{1}}} County. For state-wide facilities, see Washington Archives and Libraries.

Resources for Benton County, Washington Genealogy are available in libraries, archives, and other repositories at all levels: the town, the county, the state (including universities), and the nation.

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]

Local public libraries—even smaller ones—often have Unique Genealogical Collections that are not online for the area they serve. Many libraries in Washington have an area dedicated to local history and genealogy.

Museums[edit | edit source]


  • East Benton County Historical Museum is located at 205 Keewaydin Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336-0602 (509) 582-7704 / ebchs @
  • The REACH is the new museum that has replaced CREHST. The museum is located in Columbia Park West. The photo collections are no longer available.
  • CLOSED** The Columbia River Exhibition of History, Science, and Technology (CREHST) is a museum and science center created to tell the dynamic story of the Columbia Basin and surrounding region." It features an excellent exhibit and materials available on the Hanford project and the huge influx of people to support it in the 1940's. Two collections of interest specifically to genealogists are their photos collections (indexes for Marlin's Columbia Photography, North Light Studio and Wendland Studio) and their collection of General Electric Company newsletters.
Societies[edit | edit source]

East Benton County Historical Society & Museum
(509) 582-7704

Tri-City Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 1410
1314 Jadwin Ave
Richland, WA 99352-1410

Listed below are societies in {{{1}}} County. For state-wide genealogical and historical societies, see Washington Societies.

  • East Benton County Historical Society primarily runs a museum of local history and a research library. The museum features local history, from the ancient petrified forests to the Native Americans to the pioneers and settlers. Of special note is an extensive photograph collection depicting life in Kennewick, Richland, Finley, Hover, Hanford, White Bluffs and surrounding areas. "The museum library houses an extensive collection of materials including obituaries, local history files, family history information, high school annuals and books of local and regional interest. There are also 121 books from Dr. Glen Axford's Audubon Collection."

  • The Tri-City Genealogical Society has an extensive collection of local and regional resources as well as references for other areas. Check their resources page for an updated list of their holdings. They also provide genealogical help at the Mid-Columbia Library, have online resources, and conduct local research for a small fee.

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:[10]

Unincorporated communities
  • Apricot
  • Audrey
  • Badger
  • Berrian
  • Bettie
  • Chaffee
  • East White Bluffs
  • Edna
  • Ethel
  • Geneva Junction
  • Gibbon
  • Ginger
  • Helen
  • Highland
  • Horse Heaven
  • Kiona
  • Longview
  • May Junction
  • Nancy
  • North McNary
  • North Prosser
  • North Prosser
  • Pearl
  • Pierce
  • Plymouth
  • Ruby
  • Ruth
  • Susie
  • Wahluke
  • Whitcomb
  • Whitstran
  • Willa
  • Yellepit
Census-designated places
Ghost towns
  • Mottinger

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Benton County, Washington," in,_Washington. accessed 15/07/2019
  2. The Evolution of Washington Counties by Newton Carl Abbott, Fred E. Carver, 1979. Published by the Yakima Valley Genealogical Society and Klickitat County Genealogical Society.
  3. The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America,10th ed. (Draper, UT:Everton Publishers, 2002).
  4. John H. Long, Atlas of Historical County Boundaries (Chicago: Newberry Library, 2006) online.
  5. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Benton County, Washington page 732, At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
  6. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), Benton County, Washington . Page 732-735 At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Book 973 D27e 2002; Alice Eichholz, ed. Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources, Third ed. (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004), 733-734.
  7. John H. Long, Atlas of Historical County Boundaries (Chicago: Newberry Library, 2006) online.
  8. Washington State Archives - Digital Archives, Birth Records, About this Collection
  9. About Death Records at Washington State Digital Archives.
  10. Wikipedia contributors, "Benton County, Washington," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia,,_Washington, accessed 4 March 2019.