A Travellerspoint blog

County Collecting Basics

Some travelers keep track of all the states they visit. Others tally countries. I'm keeping track of every county I visit in the United States with the goal of eventually getting to all of them. County collecting is just keeping track of which counties you’ve visited. For most, merely crossing the county line is sufficient. My guidelines are a bit more restrictive.

My goal is not just to visit every county in the USA, but to stop in each county seat and mail a postcard home documenting when I was there. In this digital age that might seem a strange way to document one’s travels. There is, however, a reason. Between 1946 and 1973, my grandfather visited every county seat in the USA and mailed a postcard from each one. My uncle gave me this postcard collection which he has owned since my grandfather passed away almost 40 years ago. So the idea to visit each county seat and to document it with postcards has a significance in my family.

When I began this odd obsession back in 2007, I initially thought I would limit my county travels to my home state of Ohio. In fact, from 2008 through most of 2010, I didn’t add a single new county to my list. It was not until late in 2011 when this truly become a coast-to-coast project. One of the first things I did at that time was to go back over my travels prior to 2007 and mark which counties I had previously visited. Here’s a map showing where I had been up through the end of 2006.

For reference, the light blue (cyan) represents counties I had been to without visiting the county seat. If you know your geography, you can see many of those counties follow along the major interstate highways. Since my goal is to eventually stop in each county seat, I chose green to represent counties when I’d been to the county seat. Once collecting began, I started marking the counties from where I had mailed (and received) postcards in blue. As an example, here’s how the map looked at the end of 2007 after completing Ohio.


A couple more quick notes, and we’ll call this entry done. First, some states call their counties by another name. Louisiana uses the term parish. In Alaska, they are boroughs. They function the same—as administrative governmental entities below the state level and above the municipal level. Second, some counties have two county seats. This is more common in the South and Northeast, though there are a couple states in Midwest as well.

There are other oddities. Some states have independent cities that are separate entities from counties. Some states have eliminated all county level government, so those counties are essentially nothing more than lines on a map. A few counties don’t have any official county seat. And then there are the vast, sparsely populated parts of Alaska which are known as the Unorganized Borough. I’ve given careful consideration of how to handle all these ‘exceptions’ as I work toward visiting each county seat across the USA.

While travel is halted this spring, I’ll use that time to pull together a little historical perspective on where I’ve been over the last decade, ending with the two most recent county collecting trips from January and February of this year. If all goes well, by summer I can get back on the road and color a few more counties blue.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Posted by countycollector 16:17 Archived in USA

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Very nice

by VerySuiteBoy

I never knew about the connection to your grand dad. Makes this that much cooler in my book. I look forward to seeing you continue this quest!

by MsAnnMcD

Nicely done, great to see your blog back!

by BrightlyBob

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