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Personal Records: Guide

Adoption records contain information on the individual, birth parents and adoptive parents. The records are arranged by civil case file number within the court records. Adoption records are closed for 100 years from the date of adoption. A court order from the judge of the district court is required to view adoption records that are less than 100 years old.

A February 1918 listing of all non-U.S. citizens in Minnesota, conducted by order of the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety. The two-page form includes information about a person's place and date of birth, port of entry and date of arrival in the United States, occupation, names and ages of children, financial situation, and male relatives taking part in World War I. The collection has been indexed, and both the index and the forms are on microfilm

Access: State Archives Microfilm (SAM 169 and SAM 169-I)

The Minnesota Historical Society collections are particularly rich in material about the two major Minnesota tribes--the Dakota (or Sioux) and the Ojibwa (or Chippewa). Collections include microfilms of United State Bureau of Indian Affairs records, as well as allotment papers, Indian rolls, censuses, land records, subject files, treaty papers, curricula, correspondence, reports, legal materials, newspaper clippings, railroad records, and other papers from American Indians, government officials, lawyers, missionaries, clergy, and others.

Consult the Visual Resources Database for holdings of thousands of photographs of Minnesota Indian individuals, groups, and activities.

Significant publications include items about wars, folklore, religion, social customs, biography, and government relations and treaties, as well as such multi-volume works as United States Indian Office, Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs (1839-1943), and United States Department of the Interior, Biographical and Historical Index of American Indians and Persons Involved in Indian Affairs (8 vols).

American Indian Census Rolls
Microfilm of census rolls submitted each year by agents of superintendents in charge of reservations in Minnesota, or reservations in Wisconsin and North and South Dakota that had strong Minnesota connections. The data on the rolls varies but usually includes English and/or Indian name, roll number, age or birth date, sex, and relationship to head of family. There is not a census for every reservation or group of Indians for every year. Only persons who maintained a formal affiliation with a tribe under federal supervision are listed in these census rolls.

Access: Microfilm (M559)

Chippewa and Sioux Annuity Rolls
Information about the Chippewa (1841–1907) and Sioux (1849–1935) Indians who were paid annuities by the U.S. government under treaties negotiated between the tribes and the government. The rolls may give name of head of family; head's mark; number of men, women, children, and total number in each family; and amount of annuity paid. They are on microfilm and available through Interlibrary Loan.

Access: Microfilm (M390 and M405)

A 1918 survey of families in St. Paul with names of family members; ward, precinct, and block number; church; lodge; and newspaper subscriptions. The information about each person more than 16 years of age includes age, sex, country of birth, race or nationality, years in the United States, citizenship status, whether English is spoken or written, whether any other language is spoken or written, marital status, birthplaces of father and mother, where attending English classes, physical defects, and occupation. For each person younger than 16 the survey also includes information about last school and grade attended.

Access to some records may be restricted.

Access: State Archives notebooks: Public Safety Commission, Women's Committee of Ramsey County, Americanization Survey Cards. The records are not indexed.

Clippings of articles about Minnesota artists. Two files are kept, one by the curator of art and one by Reference Collections. The articles are from newspapers, periodicals, and exhibit catalogs.

Access: Request files from staff by artist's name.


Biography Collection
Brief information, arranged alphabetically by name, about more than 750 persons. Biographical and autobiographical sketches and notes, wedding and baptismal certificates, appointments, letters, reminiscences, school records, clippings, and memorial statements are included here when the Society does not hold an appropriate collection of personal or family papers.

Access: Manuscripts notebook P939.

Biography Files
Begun in 1917, this card file contains the names of about 100,000 persons, including farmers, doctors, educators, civic leaders, politicians, pioneer settlers, criminals, business executives, artists, actors, musicians, fashion designers, and authors. The references to persons are from newspapers, periodicals, and books within the Society's collections. The Minnesota Biographies Project (begun in 1976) has added another 50,000 names, updating and enhancing the published volume of Minnesota Historical Society Collections entitled "Minnesota Biographies, 1655-1912." Reference Collections also has vertical files of miscellaneous newspaper clippings that contain biographical information; locate them under the individual's name in the category "Biography" or under subject categories such as "Authors," "Artists," "Aviation-Biography," "Musicians," or "Sports-Biography."

Access: Ask staff for assistance in using this resource.

Biography Reference Sets



The Minnesota Historical Society holds unpublished collections of more than 600 businesses ranging in size from small grocery stores to multinational corporations. A few of these collections may contain payroll records and time books listing employee, employee number, job title, rate of pay, and hours worked. Annual reports, company newsletters, and employee newsletters also may contain information about individual employees.

See: Library catalog or Manuscripts Collections catalog: name of company. Access to some records may be restricted.

Company Newsletters
Newsletters produced by publicity and personnel departments and employee organizations. These may contain information about individual employees, as well as retirements, mergers, awards, moves, investigations, and company policies. Some newsletters are cataloged as separate periodicals; others are included within the collections of particular businesses (Northwest Airlines or Great Northern Railway, for example).

Fur Trade Records
Daybooks, journals, ledgers, invoice books, business contracts, traders' accounts, diaries, correspondence, personal narratives, cargo manifests, and notary contracts. The records cover the North American fur trade from 1700 to the present and contain information about contracts between companies and individual traders, trading licenses, migration patterns, early settlements, and fur trade company and American Indian interactions. For information about early fur-trade manuscript sources in the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society and elsewhere, see Bruce White, comp., The Fur Trade in Minnesota : an Introductory Guide to Manuscript Sources (Location: Reading Room HD9944.U46 M645).

Of interest to genealogists are burial records, cemetery plats, indexes to burials in hospital cemeteries, municipally owned cemeteries, obituary records, and listings of burials from Minnesota's state hospitals. Notable groups include Faribault State School and Hospital, Willmar State Hospital, Hastings State Hospital, Cambridge State Hospital, and St. Peter State Hospital. Minnesota Department of Health records include an incomplete 1933 statewide cemetery inventory listing the location and name of the cemetery and the name and address of the secretary or person in charge.

Library Collections
Records of Minnesota cemeteries, cemetery associations, plats, lot records, burial records, certificates, gravestone inscriptions, and epitaphs. In the late 1930s the Historical Records Survey of the Work Projects Administration (WPA) conducted a survey that has information about many Minnesota cemeteries, including private and Indian burials and abandoned cemeteries. The survey form includes name of cemetery; county; township, village or city; location; ownership; date established; date of first burial; dedication date; condition and history of cemetery; location of records; and source of information. The forms, which are arranged by county, do not list persons buried in the cemeteries.

Inscriptions have been copied from gravestones in cemeteries located in most of Minnesota's counties. Complete lists for some counties have been published. Some inscriptions from practically all counties have been copied and published.

Many inscriptions have been published in periodical articles and are not listed separately in the Reference Collections catalog.

The earliest census listings for the area that later became Minnesota are found in the 1820 Michigan territorial census. The 1830 territorial censuses do not seem to include Minnesota. The 1836 Wisconsin territorial census includes portions of present-day Minnesota as part of Crawford County and as part of Dubuque County (later in Iowa Territory). Portions of Minnesota are also in the 1838 Wisconsin Territory census as part of Crawford and Clayton Counties. Minnesota inhabitants are included in the 1840 Wisconsin and Iowa territorial censuses.

Minnesota became a territory in 1849. Territorial censuses were conducted in 1849, 1850, 1853, 1855, and 1857. Complete sets of the 1853 and 1855 censuses do not survive, but listings for some communities in some counties are in the State Archives.

Minnesota achieved statehood in 1858. Two series of censuses were conducted after this time: one by the federal government (decennial years) and another by the state government (1865, 1875, 1885, 1895, and 1905). Additional censuses (nonpopulation schedules) for 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 gathered information about deaths, farms, industry and communities.

There are microfilm copies of most of the censuses described here in both the State Archives and Reference Collections. Duplicates of some census schedules for occasional counties or townships for some years exist in the State Archives. These may contain more legible or more complete entries than those on microfilm.

Access: Microfilm copies of the 1820, 1840, 1850, 1857, 1860, 1865, 1870, 1875, 1880, 1885, 1890 Veterans, 1895, 1900, 1905, 1910, and 1920 Minnesota censuses as well as published copies of the 1849 and 1850 Minnesota censuses are available in the State Archives and the Reference Collections. Microfilm copies of the 1836 and 1838 Wisconsin censuses and the 1860, 1870, and 1880 Minnesota nonpopulation censuses are available. For other censuses, see State Archives notebooks (located in the library): Census Records; Territorial Records; county name. Some Minnesota censuses are indexed--see the individual descriptions below.

Non-Minnesota Censuses
In addition to the Minnesota federal and state censuses, the Society holds for other states a miscellaneous collection of published censuses and indexes, as well as microfilms. Full runs of censuses include, for example, the complete 1790 U.S. census; 1830 Michigan Territory census; 1836, 1850, and 1860 Wisconsin territorial and state censuses; 1840 and 1860 Iowa territorial and state censuses; 1860, 1870, and 1880 Dakota Territory census; 1885 Dakota Territory census for the area that became North Dakota in 1889.

Nonpopulation Censuses for Minnesota
Each census is for the 12 months preceding June 1 of the census year.

  • Agricultural Censuses

    • 1850 Name of owner, agent, or manager of farm; acres of land; cash value of farm; value of farming implements and machinery; number of livestock; produce during year; value of animals slaughtered.
    • 1860 Same information categories as 1850.
    • 1870 Same information categories as 1850, plus amount of wages paid; estimated value of all farm production.
    • 1880 Same information categories as 1870, plus cost of fences; cost of fertilizer; weeks of hired labor; poultry; forest products.
  • Manufacturing Censuses
    • 1850 Name of corporation, company, or individual; name of business; capital invested; raw materials used; kind of motive power and machinery; average number of employees; wages; annual products and value.
    • 1860 Same information categories as 1850.
    • 1870 Same information categories as 1850, plus number of months in active operation; materials and value.
    • 1880 Same information categories as 1870, plus greatest number of persons employed at one time.
  • Mortality Censuses
    • 1850 Name of person who died in preceding year; age; sex; color; free or slave; married or widowed; place of birth; month died; occupation; cause of death; number of days ill.
    • 1860 Same information categories as 1850.
    • 1870 Same information categories as 1850 plus if father and mother of foreign birth; omits free or slave and number of days ill.
    • 1880 Same information categories as 1870 plus marital status; birthplaces of father and mother (state or country); length of residence in county; place where taken ill if other county; name of attending physician.
  • Social Statistics Censuses
    • 1850 Lists by community the value of real and personal estate; annual taxes; crops; number and type of schools, libraries, newspapers, periodicals, and churches; pauperism; crime; wages.
    • 1860 Same information categories as 1850.
    • 1870 Same information categories as 1850, plus amount of public debt.
    • 1880 Provides information about homeless children; prisoners; paupers and indigents; deaf-mutes; blind; insane; idiots.

Population Censuses for Minnesota

  • 1849 Name of head of household; number of males; number of females. Published in Minnesota (Territory), Legislative Assembly, Journal of the House of Representatives, First Session of the Territory of Minnesota, 1850, Appendixes C and D, pp. 195-215 (Location: Reserve KFM5418.A115).
  • 1850 Name; age; sex; color; occupation; value of real estate; birthplace (state or country); married within year; attended school within year; illiterate. Census and surname index published in Harpole and Nagle, eds., Minnesota Territorial Census, 1850 (Location: F609.H3).
  • 1853 (Incomplete). Name of head of household; number of children; number in household; names of inhabitants (for some communities only).
  • 1855 (Incomplete). Name of head of household; number of males; number of females; total number in household.
  • 1857 Name; age; sex; color; birthplace; voting status of male (native or naturalized); occupation of each male over the age of 15. Microfilm index by surname.
  • 1860 Same information categories as 1850, plus value of personal estate; deaf, dumb, blind, insane, pauper, convict. Microfilm and published indexes by surname; see Meissner, Guide to the Use of the 1860 Minnesota Population Census Schedules and Index (Location: Reading Room F605.M4).
  • 1865 Name; sex; color; deaf, dumb, blind, insane; soldier in service on June 1, 1865.
  • 1870 Same information categories as 1860, plus census notes if father and mother of foreign birth; month of birth or marriage if occurred within last year; male citizen of United States age 21 and over; male citizen whose right to vote is denied. Microfilm index by county; within county by surname. Published index by surname gives page numbers for family entry and for agricultural entry.
  • 1875 Name; age; sex; color; birthplace (state or country); birthplaces of father and mother.
  • 1880 Same information categories as 1870, plus name of street; house number; relation of each person to head of household; marital status; number of months unemployed in previous year; whether ill or injured on day of enumeration; birthplaces of father and mother (state or country). Microfilm Soundex index (arranged phonetically by surname) lists only households with children under age of 10.
  • 1885 Same information categories as 1875, but instead of parents' birthplaces, census notes if father and mother are of foreign birth; plus deaf, dumb, blind, insane; soldier in Civil War.
  • 1890 Most of the U.S. population census for 1890 was destroyed by fire in the 1920s. For Minnesota, one page for Rockford Township, Wright County, survived (access: on roll 3 of the 1890 census microfilm). The local copy for Rockville Township, Stearns County, also survived (access: State Archives notebooks: Census Records, Stearns County).
  • 1890 (Incomplete)Veterans' Census. Name of surviving veteran or widow; rank; company; regiment or vessel; date of enlistment; date of discharge; length of service; post office address; disability incurred; remarks. Published index by surname.
  • 1895 Same information categories as 1885, plus length of residence in state and in enumeration district (years and months) of males; occupation; months regularly employed in previous year; if previously enumerated in census; omits deaf, dumb, blind, insane.
  • 1900 Same information categories as 1880, plus month and year of birth; mother of how many children and number of children living; year of immigration to United States; number of years in the United States; naturalization; literacy; English speaking; ownership of home. Microfilm Soundex index (arranged phonetically by surname) lists all households.
  • 1905 Same information categories as 1895, plus street address; birthplaces of father and mother (state or country); length of residence for each person; service in Civil and Spanish-American Wars.
  • 1910 Same information categories as 1900, plus length of marriage; language spoken; type of industry employed in; if employer, employee, or self-employed; number of weeks unemployed in 1909; if unemployed on April 15, 1910; if a survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy. Not indexed.
  • 1920 Name; address; relationship to family head; sex; race; age; marital status; if foreign born, year of immigration to the United States; whether naturalized, and year of naturalization; school attendance; literacy; birthplace of person and parents; mother tongue of foreign born; ability to speak English; occupation, industry, and class of worker; home owned or rented; if owned, whether mortgaged; for nonfarm mortgaged, market value, original amount of mortgage, balance due, interest rate. Microfilm Soundex (arranged phonetically by surname) includes all households.

Applications to the State Agricultural Society from residents who wished to have their farms designated century farms, signifying that the farm had been in the same family for 100 or more years. The Minnesota State Fair and Farmer magazine initiated this joint project in 1976. The forms give biographical and genealogical information and ownership history of the farm; some include reminiscences.

Access: See State Archives Notebooks

Records of some county coroners' offices giving name of deceased person, conclusion as to cause of death, name of coroner, and other relevant information; may also contain records of an inquest. The certificates are filed by the county coroner in the district court.

Access: State Archives notebooks: county name, coroner or district court, Coroners’ Records. Some records are indexed. Access to some information may be restricted.

Records of the Minnesota State Prison (Stillwater; 1851–), St. Cloud State Reformatory for Men (1887–), Red Wing State Training School for Boys (1866–), Sauk Centre Home School for Girls (1911–), Shakopee State Reformatory for Women (1920–), and St. Peter Security Hospital (1907–), some from the Forestry Camp at Willow River (1951–). Records vary from facility to facility, but may include inmate case files, admission and discharge registers, commitment papers, parole records, school records, inmate photographs, population reports, trial transcripts, hospital or clinic records, and disciplinary records.

Administrative files document the operation of the facilities, including correspondence, minutes, annual and biennial reports, newsletters, and financial records. "Non-inmate" records of genealogical interest include personnel and payroll records before 1940.

Jail records for some cities may include name, date of admission, date of discharge, and reason for admission.

Reference Collections
Minnesota State Prison (Stillwater) Reports, 1861–84, listing all prisoners and their offenses. The reports for 1860–73 list every person who was paid by the prison for supplies and repairs. Reports for 1853–1900 list the names of prison officials. These reports are particularly useful, since most published materials do not give names of inmates.


Civil Case Files
Documents relating to matters brought before the court, including monetary matters, changes of name, divorces, garnishments, and adoptions. The files may include complaint, answer, summons, findings, and judgment. Files generally do not include trial transcripts.

Criminal Case Files
Documents relating to criminal proceedings, including murder, larceny, battery, and embezzlement charges. Individual files may contain warrants, subpoenas, verdicts, and sentencing information if the person was convicted. The State of Minnesota is listed as the plaintiff. Cases for some counties are interfiled with civil cases. Files generally do not include trial transcripts.

Probate Records
Will books, final decrees of distribution of estate, and some order books, as well as indexes to wills and decrees. Records of insanity hearings and commitments from some probate courts are in the State Archives, as are letters of administration (usually pre-1880 only), minutes, records regarding guardianships and conservatorships, and wills from many county probate courts. While probate case files generally are retained by the courts, some from Freeborn, Pope, Washington, and Winona Counties have been transferred to the State Archives.

Matters heard by the probate court in each county vary by jurisdiction and over time. Probate courts traditionally have had jurisdiction over settlements of estates and over guardianships of minors and incompetents (this has included insanity hearings and commitments). They formerly heard many family matters now handled by the family division of the district court. Access to insanity and juvenile records is restricted by law. The Minnesota Historical Society is currently microfilming all Probate Court final decrees. The microfilm will soon be available on interlibrary loan.

Business Directories
The major set of directories is R. L. Polk's Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1878–1926 (Location: F604.5.A18), which covers Minnesota in all volumes, and North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana in the majority of them. Alphabetical arrangement is by community name; in addition to names of individuals and their business category or firm name, information may include when the community was established, and its location and population. Each volume contains a reverse listing by business category. Many other individual business directories for the state or a city are also available, the earliest publication being dated 1865. These directories do not list employees of a business.

City Directories
Name listings of persons residing in city, with occupation and address; generally provided for large cities only. Some directories list removals to other cities as well as death dates. By 1930 city directories include a wife's name in the entry for her husband and a reverse listing under street address. Library Collections holds directories for the following Minnesota cities (beginning with year indicated):

  • Albert Lea, 1914
  • Alexandria, 1911
  • Anoka, 1957
  • Austin/Mower County, 1894
  • Bemidji, 1922
  • Brainerd, 1888
  • Burnsville/Savage, 1967
  • Cloquet, 1927
  • Crookston, 1915
  • Duluth, 1882
  • Edina, 1941
  • Fairmont, 1957
  • Fargo/Moorhead, 1887
  • Faribault/Northfield/Rice County, 1907
  • Fergus Falls, 1919
  • Hastings, 1970
  • Hibbing, 1938
  • Hopkins, 1939
  • Hutchinson, 1972
  • International Falls, 1972
  • cities on the northern Iron Range, 1912
  • Little Falls, 1928
  • Mankato/Blue Earth County, 1878
  • Marshall, 1969
  • Minneapolis, 1859
  • Minneapolis suburban, 1956
  • New Ulm, 1911
  • Owatonna/Steele County, 1892
  • Pipestone, 1961
  • Red Wing, 1876
  • Rochester/Olmsted County, 1890
  • St. Cloud, 1888
  • St. Paul, 1856
  • St. Paul north suburban, 1956
  • St. Peter, 1971
  • South St. Paul/West St. Paul, 1947
  • Stillwater, 1881
  • Thief River Falls, 1915
  • Virginia, 1943
  • Willmar, 1907
  • Winona, 1866
  • Worthington, 1969

Sun Community Directories for many Minneapolis and St. Paul suburban areas are available from 1970s to present. Some directories include small communities within a larger city's vicinity, or all communities in the county, as well as farmers of the county. There are not complete sets of directories for every city. The Dual City Blue Book of 18 volumes (1885–1923) (Location: Reading Room F 613.T22 D8) covers St. Paul and Minneapolis basically as a social register and includes a reverse directory by address.

Professional Directories
State or national guides to members of professions, such as law or teaching. Often these directories list individuals' name, address, year of admittance or license for profession, college attended, and year of degree.

Rural Directories
Directories of farmers found as part of a county plat book (see section on plat books under Geographical Resources) or as part of county or city/county directory. The information may include name, section, township, number of acres, value of property, and post office. Reference Collections has directories (beginning with the year indicated) for the following counties:

  • Blue Earth, 1878 (see also Mankato)
  • Brown, 1911 only
  • Carlton, 1927 only
  • Freeborn, 1914
  • Goodhue, 1894
  • Morrison, 1928 only
  • Mower, 1905 (see also Austin)
  • Olmsted, 1896 (see also Rochester)
  • Rice, 1907 (see also Faribault/Northfield)
  • Stearns, 1931 only
  • Steele, 1892 (see also Owatonna)
  • Winona, 1923

In addition, some early gazetteers list farmers in selected Minnesota counties.

Telephone Directories
The majority of telephone directories in the Reference Collections for Minnesota cities begin in the 1940–50 period with the exception of the one for St. Paul and Minneapolis, which began as a combined directory in 1915. Telephone directories for earlier years do not give as complete a listing of residents as do city directories, because telephones were not found in every home. The Reference Library does not have telephone directories for non-Minnesota cities.

Information about the Argyle hailstorm, 1886–87; seed grain program distribution requests (grasshopper relief), 1874; Chisholm fire relief, 1908; the Hinckley, Milaca, New York Mills, and Sandstone fires, 1894; snowstorms, 1871–73; and drought relief, 1933; hail relief, 1930–34. May include name of person requesting relief; locality; legal description of property; marital status and number of children; nature of loss; plight of surviving family members; crops and livestock destroyed; photographs, plans, and specifications for replacement buildings; relief registrations; donations; amount of relief allowed; date of payment; in what manner paid; remarks.


Approximately 15,000 family histories published in a variety of forms: typed, printed, mimeographed, computer-generated, and standard publisher's format. Ranging from a few pages to 1,000 or more, the histories cover families throughout the United States with emphasis on New England and the Midwest.

Genealogical records (originals, photocopies or microfilms) collected by individual researchers: ancestor charts, family group sheets, correspondence, photographs, maps, vital statistics, newspaper clippings, autobiographies, greeting cards, and family histories.

Reports include name of farmer, address, nearest shipping point, name of railroad, nationality or descent of farmer, kind of crops and acres planted in 1917 and 1918, livestock and number of each kind, number of silos, and report of farm labor needs.

Access: State Archives Microfilm (SAM 217)


Periodicals and books published by the Minnesota Genealogical Society (MGS), genealogical organizations from around Minnesota, and the majority of the state genealogical organizations in the United States. Of particular interest is a periodical published by the MGS, MINNESOTA Genealogist (Location: Reading Room F605.M77 A24). The MGS (founded in 1969) has also published several volumes of ancestor and family-group charts noting the ancestral lines of some of its members, as well as the booklet An Introduction to Minnesota Research Sources, compiled by Warren and Peterson (Location: F605.W27 1988c).

Plat Books
Maps and atlases that show land ownership by county and may include county histories, directories and biographies of farmers and landowners, urban plats, and photographs and other illustrations. This information was obtained from land ownership records in the offices of the county registers of deeds and from canvassings of the counties. Publication dates are irregular. The collection includes more than 500 county atlases for Minnesota from the 1860s to the present and about 200 county atlases from other parts of the country, mostly New England, the Midwest, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Pre-1914 maps are on microfilm and are available on interlibrary loan. See MC174, MC175, and MC575.



Private Health and Welfare Facilities Records
Records of many private health and welfare institutions, about the institutions themselves and their patients. Examples of such collections are the records for Abbott Northwestern Hospital (Minneapolis), Fairview Deaconess Hospital School of Nursing (Minneapolis), Maternity Hospital of Minneapolis, Babies Home of St. Paul, and Edward F. Waite Neighborhood House (Minneapolis). The records may contain admission and discharge registers, administrative records governing the operations of the facility, and financial records. Patient registers of St. Paul (Luther) Hospital and Ellsworth (Minnesota) Hospital are in the records of the Minnesota Department of Health in the State Archives.

Public Health and Welfare Facilities Records
Records of state facilities for the care of the mentally retarded, mentally handicapped, chemically dependent, criminally insane, and physically handicapped. Facilities include the regional treatment centers (formerly called state hospitals) at Anoka (1900–), Brainerd (1957–), Cambridge (1925–), Faribault (1979–), Fergus Falls (1887–), Moose Lake (1938–), St. Peter (1866–), and Willmar (1907–); the former state hospitals at Rochester (1879–1982), Hastings (1900–1978), Owatonna (1945–1970), and Sandstone (1950–1959); and the Gillette Hospital for Crippled Children (St. Paul; 1897–).

The records vary from facility to facility, but may include admission and discharge registers; patient case books before 1900; hospital or clinic registers; birth and death records; cemetery records; autopsy reports; population reports; and, occasionally, commitment papers. Administrative records may include minutes; annual and biennial reports; executive correspondence; summary financial records; facility publications; and operating records. Nonresident records may include personnel and payroll records before 1940.

The State Archives also has records of former tubercular sanatoriums, including the Minnesota State Sanatorium at Ah-Gwah-Ching (Walker, 1907–) and the Glen Lake Sanatorium in Minnetonka (1916–1991). After 1963, Glen Lake also was known as the Oak Terrace Nursing Home and was operated by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Oak Terrace closed on June 30, 1991; its records are in the State Archives.

Other sanatoriums operated by counties or groups of counties for which records are available include Buena Vista Sanatorium (Wabasha, 1917–1955), Nopeming Sanatorium (St. Louis County, 1912–1971), Southwestern Minnesota Sanatorium (Worthington, 1915–1973), Sunnyrest Sanatorium (Crookston, 1913–1967), and Riverside Sanatorium (Granite Falls, 1915–1973).

Sanatorium records may contain admission and discharge registers, annual and biennial reports, financial records, and minutes of the government authority. Occasionally, the records may include payrolls.

Access: State Archives notebooks: name of city; name of facility; county name; name of facility. Access to certain health and welfare records is restricted.


The acquisition, sale, and management of Minnesota's trust fund, railroad grant, and related lands, as well as the federal land survey of Minnesota and the initial transfer of title of public lands to the state or to private parties, are documented in large part in records in the State Archives, in microfilm produced by the Society, or in records scheduled to be transferred to the State Archives. Some key records, notably U.S. General Land Office land patent records, are in the Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States Office, Springfield, Virginia.

Because of the variety and complexity of these records, only the Original Entry Tract Books and Registers of Land Entries are described here. See also Kinney and Lucas, Guide to the Records of Minnesota's Public Lands (Location: Reading Room HD243.M6 K5 1985).

Original Entry Tract Books
Books created by the U.S. General Land Office, later transferred to state custody, they provide a consolidated record of the initial transfer of title from the United States to private parties or to the state, regardless of how the land was acquired (by homestead, preemption, scrip, or grant). For each parcel of land, the following information is recorded: price, original purchaser or transferee, number of the homestead certificate or other authorizing document, sale date, date the final patent (title) was issued, name of patentee, and citation to the entry in the land patent records in the U.S. General Land Office records, National Archives. Land transfers are recorded by range and township.

An index organized by range and township can help you locate information about specific land parcels in the tract books. Both the tract books and the index are in microform and available through interlibrary loan. This information also is on CD-ROM.

Access: State Archives Microfilm (SAM 46)

Registers of Land Entries
Records of the U.S. General Land Office districts documenting the acquisition of state land by cash purchase, various types of scrip, military bounty land warrants, under the provisions of the Homestead Act or Timber Culture Act, or of ceded Indian lands. These records may be variously titled Register of Entries, Register of Certificates to Purchasers, Register of Homestead Entries, Register of Final Homestead Certificates, Register of Military Bounty Land Warrant Entries, or Serial Registers. Although these records focus on the details of a land transaction, they also place the purchaser in a specific place at a specific time. Some contain brief personal information about the purchaser. Additional biographical information may be found among the registrars' and receivers' correspondence of the land districts, especially when the validity of the entries was contested.

Manuscript histories generally written by residents, telling the history of a community or county. May include interviews with early settlers, photographs, cemetery transcriptions, and listings of town and/or county officials.

Published histories constitute the most extensive of the Society's collection of materials about Minnesota's counties, cities, villages, and townships. Many were published before 1920 or as part of the celebration of the U.S. bicentennial in 1976. Significant holdings of local history materials are available for states in New England, the Western Reserve, the Midwest, and the Northwest--all areas notable in the migrations of Minnesotans. The histories vary in scope, period of time, and quality.

Annals of Minnesota
The Works Projects Administration (WPA) project during the late 1930s and early 1940s gathered information on county history and wrote county histories. Information was gathered from newspapers and filed by name of county. The material is now on microfilm and available on interlibrary loan. Access: Microfilm (M529)




Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Records
Central office files of the Minnesota Department of the GAR, an organization of men who served in the Union Army and Navy during the Civil War, plus records for many of the almost 200 individual posts established in the state between the 1880s and the 1940s. Central office files include post charters and organizational records, departmental correspondence, membership information, encampment (reunion) files, and death reports (incomplete, 1889–1920) received from individual posts. The records of posts include minutes of meetings, registers of members, personal narratives, descriptive books detailing the war service of members, correspondence, and post financial records.

Published annual reports of GAR encampments--complete for Minnesota (1881–1947), with miscellaneous reports for other states and national encampments. The reports describe activities of member posts, list officers, and note deaths occurring during the year, giving name of person, date of death, residence, and post, with an occasional biographical sketch. Publications of the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic auxiliary are also available.

Access: State Archives

Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS)
An organization formed after the Civil War for men who served as officers. Manuscript collections of the Minnesota Chapter include membership records and memorials. The published collections include memorials from some other states.

Military Service Record Cards
Microfilm of service record cards for persons who entered federal military service via the Minnesota State Militia and the Minnesota National Guard. The information recorded may include name, service number, where and when enrolled, age or birth date, birthplace, residence, dates and places of service, service unit, rank or rating, where and when discharged, and civilian occupation. Included are records for the Civil War, the Spanish-American War (all branches of service), World War I (all branches, including nurses), the state guard, and the National Guard. The records are on microfilm and available through Interlibrary Loan; they are grouped by war and service branch, then alphabetically by surname within each group.

Access: State Archives Microfilm (SAM 1)

Muster Rolls
Individual serviceman's name, date and place of enlistment, physical characteristics, date and place of discharge, age, amount paid, clothes provided, and remarks. Muster rolls for the Civil and Spanish-American Wars are included, along with a few for World War I. They are fragile and their availability is limited.

Pension Records Indexes
Available published indexes are:

Pension Registers
Pension registers and indexes, about 1877–1949, for Minnesotans receiving pensions for military service, listing claimant's name, date of filing, address, military unit, information to support claim, action on claim. Many applications were filed by widows or children of servicemen. All but one of the 28 volumes are indexed.

Published Materials
Rosters for the Revolutionary and Civil wars constitute the bulk of the published military records held in the Reference Collections, with a smaller number of items for the French and Indian Wars, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I. For Minnesota veterans see particularly Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars (Reading Room E515.M66 1890) and Minnesota in the Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection (Reading Room E726.M6 H7). In addition to published rosters, a special Civil War veterans file was compiled to augment the information about Minnesotans who served in Minnesota regiments and to identify those who served with other states before moving to Minnesota after the war. This information may include residence, death date, widow's name, pension file number, regiment, and company.

The collection also includes published Civil War rosters from other, mostly northern, states. For more information see Resources for Civil War History at the Minnesota Historical Society (Reading Room F602.5.S65 1998).

Soldiers Bonus Records
Applications to the Soldiers Bonus Board from Minnesota soldiers, marines, sailors, and medical personnel who served in World War I. The 51-question form includes veteran's name, place and date of birth, name and residence of closest relative, draft information, present residence and occupation, name of employer and business address, name and address of parents at time of enlistment, length of residence in Minnesota, and marital status. The applications are arranged by application number. The application number for an individual veteran may be found under the veteran's name in the four unindexed volumes of the Soldiers Bonus Warrant Record.

Later Bonus records came under the jurisdiction of the Department of Veterans Affairs Department. These include:

  • World War II Bonus Records
    Applications include information on the applicant’s military service, proof of residence, and honorable discharge.

    Access: State Archives Microfilm (SAM 232)

  • Korean War Bonus Records
    Applications contain data on place of residence, date and place of birth, and basic service information.

    Access: State Archives Microfilm (SAM 158)

  • Vietnam War Bonus Records
    These bonuses were granted to survivors of deceased Vietnam War veterans. Applications include military casualty reports or death certificates, birth certificates, and marriage records.

    Access: State Archives Microfilm (SAM 162)

Each of these series is indexed and, as with many Society microfilms, can be borrowed through interlibrary loan.

Unpublished Materials: State Archives; Manuscripts Collections
Records may include bonus correspondence, daybooks, descriptive lists, hospital reports, inspection reports, lists of commissioned and noncommissioned officers, military appointments, military service record cards, monthly returns, muster rolls, payrolls and certificates of payments, pension information, orders, quartermaster's records, records of casualties, registers of men transferred, registers of men discharged, registers of deaths, registers of deserters, resignations and discharges, and miscellaneous information. The records include information for the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Dakota War (Sioux Uprising) of 1862, the Indian wars, the Spanish-American War, the Mexican Border Service, World War I, the Minnesota Home Guard, the Minnesota State Militia, and the Minnesota National Guard. Records may give person's hair and eye color, height, weight, place of birth, service unit, and ranking.

Access: Ask staff for assistance. Most records are not indexed, and many are in poor physical condition.

Veterans' Facility Records
Resident and administration records for the state-operated Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis (established 1887), including admission and discharge records, histories of residents' military service, hospital and clinic records, and population reports. Administration records document the governance and operation of the veterans' home; they include minutes, annual and biennial reports, superintendent's correspondence, and summary financial records. Nonresident records include pre-1940 personnel and payroll records. Access to certain records may be restricted.

Veterans’ Grave Registrations
Records maintained by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs describing branch of service, unit, cause of death, place of burial, and other biographical information. The records were compiled from1930 to 1975. Records are arranged by county and chronologically with a separate section for Fort Snelling National Cemetery. The collection is currently being indexed.

Veterans' Organizations Records
Information about members of service units and activities, residences of members since military service, and women's auxiliaries. The records may include applications for membership, obituaries of deceased members, biographical sketches, names and service records of members, personal narratives, reunion materials, and annual-meeting materials.

Access: State Archives notebooks: Adjutant General, name of organization. Manuscripts Collections catalog: name of organization; name of military conflict; names of officers of organization; name of person. The records are generally not indexed. Also see GAR and MOLLUS in this (Military and Veterans’ Records) section.

World War I Draft Registration Lists
Copies of the original draft lists from the U.S. War Department. The lists have the names, addresses, and draft numbers of 540,000 Minnesota men registered under the draft. The records are arranged by county and local draft board. They are not indexed and are difficult to read.

World War I Induction Lists
Photostatic copies of the original induction lists, covering about 60 percent of the 80,000 Minnesota men called into service under the draft. The information includes induction number, name, date ordered to report, date and hour person reported, date forwarded to and reported at mobilization camp, date if failed to report at mobilization camp, date rejected, and date of final acceptance. The records are arranged by county, local draft board, and date. They are not indexed and are difficult to read.

World War I Military Records
Biographical information and military service records for Minnesota men and women who served in World War I. The World War I Military Service Record, a four-page form voluntarily compiled by the individual, gives biographical information and military service record, including occupation before entry into the military and activities upon return to civilian life. The Gold Star Roll Record, a four-page form voluntarily compiled by family members, gives biographical information and military service records for men and women who died in service, including occupation before entry into the military and information about date, place, and cause of death. The index is listed after the Gold Star Roll inventory and box list.

World War II Military Records
Records of military service, about 1941–1947, for men who were commissioned, enlisted, or inducted into the armed services during World War II. Information includes name, address, local board number, register number, date and place of birth, race, branch of armed services, dates of entry into and separation from the armed services. As of 1991, records held for Rice, Waseca, and Watonwan Counties and local draft board nos. 14-25 of Hennepin County, covering northeast, north, and south Minneapolis, and some western and northwestern suburban areas.

Records of more than 400 of the state's 855 municipalities. (After 1975 all villages became known as cities by legislative mandate. "Municipality" is the formal title given to cities of all sizes.) Sets of municipal records vary in their completeness both in date spans and in record types.

The records include such administrative information as city council minutes, annual reports, correspondence and subject files; financial records, including payroll registers and registers of receipts and disbursements; municipal court and justice of the peace dockets; cemetery records, including burial registers and lot owner records; police jail registers and registers of tramps lodged in jail; death records; scrapbooks and newsletters; and poll lists and election registers containing the names of persons who voted in elections. Notable among the latter are Minneapolis registers of electors for 1902–1923, containing significant genealogical information. Some municipal records include information about the registration or licensing of saloonkeepers, peddlers, and others. Names of city council members appear in the minutes, and names of city officials and staff can be found in payroll registers and annual reports.

First papers (declaration of intention, petition, application and registry) and final papers (oath, petition, and certificate) required for persons applying for U.S. citizenship. Records before 1906 include name, date of filing, present residence in state, previous residence by state or country, renunciation of former allegiance, oath of allegiance, and witnesses' names. The record may include the date and port of entry into the United States. A standard form established in 1906 required more specific information about the person: personal description, names of wife and children, place of birth, place of residence, and date and location of entry into the United States. In 1922 changes in federal law enabled a wife to obtain citizenship independent of her husband's. The Minnesota Historical Society holds the records for all 87 Minnesota counties plus the Minnesota Supreme Court. The records are on microfilm and available for purchase or through interlibrary loan. The Range Genealogical Society is currently indexing the Minnesota naturalization records.

Daily and weekly Minnesota newspapers, as well as non-English-language, labor, ethnic, reservation (The Progress and The Tomahawk of the White Earth Indian Reservation for the Ojibwa), legal, prison (the Prison Mirror of the Minnesota State Prison, Stillwater), religious, political, school, and other special-interest papers. Since 1957 newspapers publishing or carrying legal notices have been required to file copies with the Minnesota Historical Society. The completeness of an individual newspaper file varies with the city and the time period.

Generally, small-town newspapers publish more detailed obituaries that may include place and date of birth and marriage, survivors, and biographical information. In larger cities, particularly Minneapolis and St. Paul, the older daily newspapers did not publish obituaries as they do today. If a death notice was printed, it was more often only a notice of the funeral. There is no separate master index of obituaries published in Minnesota newspapers. Knowing the date and place of death helps to locate obituaries.

Combined, printed indexes are available for the following newspapers (here referred to by commonly known titles): the Minnesota Pioneer (1849–1855); the Minneapolis Star and the Minneapolis Tribune (1971–1980); the Star Tribune of Minneapolis (1981–1986); the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the St. Paul Dispatch; and the Duluth Herald and the Duluth News Tribune.

CD-ROM versions of the Minneapolis Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press are also available. These date from 1986 and are current up to the past few months. All articles may be text-searched. Only obituary articles will be found, however, as paid obituary notices are not included.

Microfilms of newspapers are available through Interlibrary Loan and for purchase.


More than 1,500 interviews with Minnesotans from all walks of life--from politicians and business leaders to farmers, labor leaders, and members of the state's major ethnic communities. Information about family life, holiday customs, immigration, and community activities is represented throughout the collection, especially in the autobiographical reminiscences. Special projects document facets of the Asian, black, Finnish, Jewish, Mexican, Scandinavian, labor, and church communities in Minnesota. Other projects focus on industrial and environmental history and on a major powerline construction controversy in the 1970s.

Access: Audio tapes for listening as well as many oral-history transcriptions are available for use in the Library. Access to certain interviews is restricted.

Information about members, residences of members, and activities of a variety of organizations--social, ethnic, fraternal, patriotic, and service-oriented. The records may include applications, biographical sketches, obituaries, and organizational activities. Some records are in languages other than English. The records are not indexed.

A collection of publications by various types of organizations: specific ethnic groups, such as the St. Andrew's Society (Scots); fraternal societies, which often grew out of insurance cooperatives, such as the Modern Woodmen of America; patriotic organizations, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR); religious organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus; and service organizations, such as Rotary International.

The publications may be newsletters, annual reports, membership lists, histories, or constitutions and bylaws. They vary in format, frequency, and type of information included. Annual reports may have biographical information or obituaries of recently deceased members. Membership lists may also note addresses or death dates. Newsletters often mention members' activities. Publications of patriotic organizations often include all of the above as well as information about ancestors.

Reference Collections has lineage books for the DAR, the Sons of the American Revolution, the Colonial Dames, the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Mayflower Descendants, and other patriotic organizations.

Indexes to many printed passenger lists, some of which are in Reference Collections. Since Minnesota was not a first port of arrival, there are no federal records of passengers arriving at Minnesota ports. Steamboats arriving in Minnesota were not required to deposit passenger lists with any governmental agency; however, some steamboat passenger arrivals are listed in newspapers published in the cities where the passengers debarked.

About 10 percent of the available passenger lists are indexed in Passenger and Immigration Lists Index: A Guide to Published Arrival Records of about 500,000 Passengers Who Came to the United States and Canada in the Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Centuries, edited by P. William Filby (3 vols., 7 supplements; Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1981-88. Location: Reading Room CS68 .P362). Many of the published books and periodical articles indexed in Filby's guide are available in Reference Collections. Scholarly Resources Inc. is continuing to work on publishing lists of many ethnic groups’ arrivals. They include Germans to America (Location: Reading Room E184.G3 G38 1988), The Famine Immigrants (Location: Reading Room E184.I6 F25 1983), and Migration from the Russian Empire (Location: Reading Room E184.R9 M54 1995). The books include information on the individual immigrant, port of arrival, name of ship, and other information.



The Minnesota Historical Society Manuscript Collections include correspondence, diaries, account books, reminiscences, autograph albums, photographs, scrapbooks, and genealogies of many individuals and families. A Minnesotan is represented in each collection; family and friends may be from elsewhere. The bulk of these collections are in the library catalog or may be located through the Manuscripts card catalog; small collections of personal papers (one or two folders of papers) and reminiscences have been cataloged together in collection P939 Biographies. Access: See the inventory notebook for an alphabetical listing.

You can search and view our photographs online through the Visual Resources Database. More are available through the Library.

Minnesota Photographers Index by Patricia Harpole
A listing of photographers (from the 1850s to 1930) compiled from city directories and business gazetteers. The information includes name(s), address(es), and years of business. This index is of particular benefit in identifying a time frame for photographs that have a business label.

Minnesota Photographers Vertical File
Folders of biographical information on photographers that amplify the notations in the Photographers Index.

Individual portraits, from 1850 to the present. Occasionally, biographical information is attached to the photograph or its availability is noted. Each of the 1,400 formal portraits in the Lee Brothers Historical Photograph Collection has a biographical cover sheet.

Obituaries of Minnesota pioneer settlers collected by Edwin Clark, 1911–1921. The obituaries were clipped from newspapers and pasted in a scrapbook. There is an index of the more than 2,000 entries located in the Library (P790).

Most Minnesota counties operated poor farms. Some farms date from the 1860s (although most began later in the 19th century or early in the 20th) and continued up to the 1950s. Some became nursing homes or tuberculosis sanatoriums, usually no longer operated by the county. Records of several poor farms are in county records in the State Archives. These usually contain registers of residents ("inmates") that give date and cause of application and some or all of the following information: applicant's name, nationality, marital status, age, birthplace, length of residency in state or county, occupation, health status, and death date. A Historical Directory of Minnesota Homes for the Aged, by Ethel McClure (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1968), HV1468.M65 M24, may be useful in identifying records of poor farms and municipally owned nursing homes.




Persons who wish to practice various professions or trades in Minnesota have been required to register or to seek a state certificate or license. Licensing and regulatory board records and other materials in the State Archives give personal information about many examinees and licensees. Only some of the occupations are listed here. Practitioners of healing and the ministry were required to register credentials with the clerk of court. Published directories of practitioners, or annual or biennial reports of boards and agencies listing licensees, are in the Reference Collections; the Manuscripts Collections often contain additional information about persons in medicine, nursing, teaching, and other professions.

Professional Board Records
Records include licensing and other information about persons. The information varies according to the record group. Coverage dates, content, indexing, arrangement, and restrictions also vary. A sample of the type of boards is listed below with the dates of the earliest and latest dates of the board’s records.

  • Accountancy Board, 1909–1970
  • Barber Examiners Board, 1897–1980
  • Basic Sciences Examiners Board, 1927–1974
  • Chiropractic Examiners Board, 1919–1958
  • Cosmetology Board (formerly Board of Hairdressing and Beauty Culture Examiners), 1927–1970
  • Dental Examiners Board (now Board of Dentistry), 1885–1963
  • Electricity Board, 1899–1958
  • Law Examiners Board, 1891–1958
  • Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board (formerly Board of Professional Responsibility), 1944–1987
  • Medical Examiners Board (includes records of former Massage Board), 1883–1985
  • Nursing Board, 1883–1985
  • Optometry Board, 1899–1984
  • Osteopathic Examiners and Registration Board, 1903-62
  • Pharmacy Board, 1885–1975
  • Watchmakers Board, 1943–1983

Access to many records relating to health and legal professions is restricted; examination scores often are protected.

State Agency Records
Many state agencies have the authority to register, certify, license, regulate, inspect, or sanction persons and firms in various trades and services. Activities affecting human and animal life and health and finances and property usually are covered. Agency records may contain application or certification information for individual persons. Among such records are the following:

  • Detective and Protective Agents
    Register (1923–1944) in Governor's records and case files (1945–1969), in Secretary of State/Corporation Division records, State Archives.
  • Embalmers, Morticians, and Funeral Directors
    Lists (1898–1966) in Health Department published records, State Archives.
  • Health Care Professionals (1870s-1980s)
    Lists in Health Department published records, State Archives.
  • Notary Public Appointment and Registration Records
    Notaries public are appointed and commissioned by the governor. Commissions must be recorded with the administrator of the district court in the county of appointment.

The Minnesota Commission on Public Safety, established by the legislature in April 1917, was given broad powers to ensure protection of persons and property, defense of the state and the nation, and application of the state's resources to "successful prosecution" of the World War I. The commission was very active until most of its orders were rescinded in February 1919. It tied up its affairs in 1921. The commission ordered the establishment of the Home Guard of Minnesota, the Minnesota Motor Corps Division, and a corps of emergency local peace officers.

The commission issued 59 executive orders, which dealt with the regulation of liquor traffic, dance halls, and poolrooms; and provided for the registration of aliens and their property holdings, a farm crop and labor census, regulation of milk prices and the manufacture and distribution of bread, a statewide barberry eradication program, creation of municipal wood yards, and prohibitions against the employment of aliens as teachers and the use of foreign languages in schools.

The commission also formed an employment bureau, primarily concerned with providing farm labor, a speakers bureau, and a publicity bureau, which provided material to local newspapers, distributed pamphlets and leaflets in several languages, and published a weekly bulletin, Minnesota in the War. It also supported the "Liberty Chorus" and community sing movement.

Published materials include histories, timetables, annual reports, and newsletters issued by or about railroad companies and street and electric railways serving Minnesota. For company names, see Richard Prosser, Rails to the North STAR (Minneapolis: Dillon Press, 1966), and Russell Olson, The Electric Railways of Minnesota (Hopkins, Minn.: Minnesota Transportation Museum, 1976) and its Supplement (St. Paul: Minnesota Transportation Museum, 1990).

Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway Company (DM&IR) Payroll Records M497
Payroll records for the DM&IR and its two predecessor companies, the Duluth and Iron Range Railroad Company and the Duluth, Missabe and Northern Railway Company. The payrolls are organized by railroad, division and department, and payroll period. They contain the employee's name; job title; pay rate; compensation, including regular and overtime hours; and deductions. The records are fairly complete from 1884 through 1910. After 1910 there are records through 1970 for each year divisible by 10. These records are not indexed.

Great Northern Railway Company (GN) Records
Histories, correspondence, financial records, minutes, annual reports, newsletters, personnel files and indexes, and payrolls. The majority of the personnel files were destroyed before the company records were donated to the Minnesota Historical Society. The Society has employee file numbers 1–1587 and 1680–1927; some individual files are missing. A microfilm index (M379) in rough alphabetical order gives the employee's name, job title, and employee number; it includes employee numbers 1 to about 383,000. The microfilms are available through Interlibrary Loan.

The GN records include the unindexed business records for more than 250 subsidiary companies. These may contain corporate histories, correspondence, financial records, minutes, annual reports, and payrolls. The payrolls usually give employee name and number, job title, pay rate, and hours worked during the pay period. Access: Great Northern Railway Company notebooks. Access to some records is restricted.

Northern Pacific Railway Company (NP) Records
Corporate histories, correspondence, financial records, minutes, annual reports, and payrolls. The payrolls usually give employee name and number, job title, pay rate, and hours worked during the pay period. Payrolls are by department or branch line and are not complete.

The employee personnel files 1–210,000 (started in 1909) may include employment application, age, nationality, birthplace, residence, medical-examination and accident reports, and records of promotions, leaves of absence, dismissals, resignations, suspensions, retirements, and deaths. The personnel files are arranged by employee number; many are missing. A microfilm index (M380) in rough alphabetical order gives employee name, number, and job title; it includes employee numbers 1 to about 303,000. Also on microfilm are annual reports (1870–1968) to stockholders. The microfilms are available through Interlibrary Loan.

A related source of information is the unindexed daily record of new employees (4 vols.), listing new employees hired from 1909 through 1967. The register gives name, employee number and hiring date. Another is the personnel reference file, an alphabetical list of selected employees (largely administrative and supervisory) with information about appointments, promotions, and other administrative actions.

The NP records include unindexed business records for more than 200 subsidiary companies. These records may contain corporate histories, correspondence, financial records, minutes, annual reports, and payrolls. The payrolls usually give employee name and number, job title, pay rate, and hours worked during the pay period.

The records also contain unindexed employee newsletters issued by individual departments or the Advertising and Publicity Department.

Access: Northern Pacific Railway Company notebooks. Access to some records is restricted.


Church Histories
General histories of Christian denominations, histories of specific congregations and/or churches, minutes of annual meetings, and church bulletins and periodicals. A general history of Methodism in Minnesota, for example, will focus on the more prominent men and women of that denomination. Jubilee or anniversary booklets often include such items as membership lists and the names of confirmation-class members and the clergy. Minutes of a denomination's annual meeting may include names of newly ordained ministers, persons licensed to preach, names and residence of current clergy, lists of delegates to the meeting, and biographies of recently deceased clergy. Church bulletins and periodicals may contain information about weekly or monthly activities.

Episcopal Church Records
Documentation of the organization, administration, function, and history of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Diocese of Minnesota, and its parishes, missions (including Minnesota American Indian mission churches), officials, and leaders. The records include parish histories, historical information, financial and organizational records, sermons, lectures, minutes, diaries, clippings, biographical information, scrapbooks, and reports, as well as some parish records.

Access: Manuscripts Collections catalog: Protestant Episcopal Church, Diocese of Minnesota. The individual parishes are not listed; scan the inventory to locate a particular parish. Access to records for the most recent 25 years is restricted.

General Collections
Records of Christian churches in Minnesota may include baptisms, marriages, funerals, and other sacraments; lists of members; minutes of congregational or parish meetings and of women's, laymen's, and youth organizations; constitutions and bylaws; financial records; Sunday school records; bulletins; anniversary publications; and reports by, and biographical information about, ministers or priests. Synagogue/temple records contain similar types of information relevant to Jewish religious traditions. While the Minnesota Historical Society holds records for many individual churches and religious groups in Minnesota, it has only a minority of those that have existed in the state. Most records remain within their institutions. Some early records may be in languages other than English.

Access: Manuscripts Collections catalog: name of town; name of church, synagogue, or temple; denomination; name of priest, minister, or rabbi.

Roman Catholic Records
Questionnaires sent in 1948 by the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis (Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota) to each of its parishes. The questionnaires gathered information about persons, events, and dates significant in parish history; inventories of parish records; buildings; cemeteries; parish organizations; parochial school programs; and the ethnic composition and geographical origins of parish members. Many parishes sent additional information such as anniversary celebration materials. These materials may be in languages other than English. The questionnaires do not include sacramental records (for baptisms, marriages, funerals).

Access: Manuscripts Collections catalog: Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The records are organized alphabetically--by name of state, within each state by name of city, and within each city by name of parish. They are on microfilm and available through Interlibrary Loan.

United Church of Christ Records
Records documenting the organization, functions, congregations, and administration of the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ and its predecessor organizations, the Congregational Conference of Minnesota and the Evangelical and Reformed Church, Northern Synod. Included are records of several organizations, such as women's, laymen's, and youth groups; records of geographical subdivisions of the state organization; and the administration records of the conference. Records of some individual churches are included.

Access: Manuscripts Collections catalog: United Church of Christ, Minnesota Conference; Congregational Conference of Minnesota; Evangelical and Reformed, Northern Synod. While individual churches do not always have separate entries in the catalog, they are listed in the inventory.

Work Projects Administration (WPA), Historical Records Survey, Churches
Information gathered by the WPA in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The church history form includes name, denomination, and location of church; date established; any denominational or name changes; names of present officers; number of original members; number of present members; information about church buildings; names of pastors and dates of service; church cemetery; languages used for services; publications; and official records of church and its organizations. The records are not complete for the entire state.

Access: Manuscripts Collections catalog: Work Projects Administration. The records are arranged alphabetically--by name of county, within each county by name of city or township, and then by name of church.

College and University Resources
Records of a few colleges and universities held by the State Archives and the Manuscripts Collections may include names of staff and students in various sets of minutes and student enrollment records. The Reference Collections holds items published by a college or university that may include proceedings or minutes of faculty or advisory meetings, yearbooks, student magazines or newspapers, histories of the institution, and alumni lists. Access to some records may be restricted.

County Superintendent of Schools Records
Records providing countywide information about teachers and students. Until the office of superintendent of schools was abolished by the counties between 1950 and 1971, the superintendent received or compiled the following types of records containing genealogical information: teachers' annual or term reports, which include lists of pupils with ages, sex, and attendance records; school censuses, with information about school-age children and their families in the county; permanent pupil record cards, with comprehensive information about the student while he or she was in the district; lists of teachers, school officers, and other personnel; teacher examination and certification records; and teachers’ insurance and retirement fund records. The records occasionally contain poll lists for school elections.

Records are not complete for all counties, and there are none for some counties. Those records in the State Archives, however, usually cover several decades. Some series of records begin in the 19th century. Access to some information is restricted.

Private School Records
Records of several private elementary and secondary schools. The records contain names of trustees, faculty and other personnel, alumni, and students in various sets of minutes, programs, directories, and newsletters. Access to some records is restricted.

School District Records
Records of approximately 3,000 rural and independent districts. The records vary greatly in their completeness, both in date spans and in types of records. Some of the school districts still exist today; others were consolidated.

The records include clerk's and treasurer's financial records; school board minutes; pupil records; class records; teacher certification records; student and family censuses; class lists; school officer lists; records of auxiliary organizations, such as parent-teacher associations; records of teacher reading circles and various student clubs; library and textbook records; district consolidation records; records of school elections; and administrative records of several county superintendents of schools. Names of students appear in several record types and are found readily in the censuses, class lists, class records, and pupil records. Names of teachers are found in various teacher and student records, as well as in any financial records that contain payrolls. Names of school-board members and officers can be found in the board minutes and financial records. Access to certain school records is restricted.

School Publications
Published works from about 35 Minnesota college-level institutions and 250 junior and senior high schools. Publications from colleges (state, private, and community-governed two- and four-year schools) include class bulletins, literary works, yearbooks, and histories. Yearbooks are the basic resource for secondary schools.

State Special Education Facilities Records
Records of the Minnesota State Public School in Owatonna (1885–1947) for dependent and neglected children; the Minnesota School for the Deaf (now the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf), organized in Faribault in 1858; and the Minnesota School for the Blind (now the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind), organized in Faribault 1863. Records vary from facility to facility, but may include admission and discharge records, students' educational records, and population reports. Administrative records documenting the governance and operation of the facilities include minutes, annual and biennial reports, summary financial records, and operating records. Nonresident records include personnel and payroll records dated before 1940. Access to certain records is restricted.


Assessment rolls and tax lists for 55 counties. Assessment rolls for real property include the property owner's name; legal land description; building and land values used to provide estimated market value; classification and assessed value of each parcel of property. Assessment rolls for personal property include the property owner's name with assessed value for such items as livestock, jewelry, furniture, household and farm items, and other personal holdings. Tax lists include only summary financial information and indicate the actual amount of taxes paid on each person's real and personal property.

The records are usually in the State Archives for the years 1901 and before, and for the years ending in 0 and 1 in the 20th century through l961. The records for the years ending in 2-9 no longer exist. Assessment rolls and tax lists not in the State Archives may be held by the individual county. Some sets are available only in microfilm. The records are arranged chronologically, then alphabetically by political subdivision.

Access: Many sets are on microform and available through Interlibrary Loan.

Teachers Insurance and Retirement Fund records, 1915–31. Included are annual reports submitted by the county superintendents of schools to the Teachers Retirement Association listing the name of each teacher, district number, total years teaching experience, number of years in district, number of months in session, number of months taught, annual salary, and retirement deduction. The records also include applications and affidavits for teachers working in publicly funded schools in 1915 and miscellaneous applications. Applications include teachers' work history before 1915.

There is an incomplete and undated numerical and alphabetical index of teachers belonging to the fund.

Records of about 750 townships, many dating from the organization of townships in the 1850s and 1860s. Included are clerk's and treasurer's books, Board of Audit minutes, annual meeting minutes, and road record books. Names of township officers and residents and their activities are available in these records. Residents' names also may be found in birth and death registers (ending 1953) maintained by the township clerk; burial permits; justice-of-the-peace docket books; chattel mortgage record books and indexes; real and personal property assessment books; land, road, and poll tax lists; warrant books; poll lists; and bounty records for wolves, trees, gophers, grasshoppers, and crows. Not all of these records are extant for each township. Access to birth records less than 100 years old is restricted.

Union membership lists and dues paid and delinquent; lists of members accused of working for nonunion companies; requests for membership information; validations of membership; correspondence; meeting minutes; scrapbooks; election of officers; information about training programs. Records date from the 1880s through the 1970s. Access to some records may be restricted by donor.


Most birth, death and marriage records are retained in the county of record or at the State Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Records offices in Minneapolis. The State Archives collections at the Society do include birth and death registers for many townships across the state. Generally, these are chronological listings, although some of the volumes include indexes. Because the ledgers include both legitimate and illegitimate births, records less than 100 years old are sealed according to state privacy laws. Death ledgers are open. Some justice-of-the-peace records include lists of marriages performed.

The Society, in an arrangement with the Genealogical Society of Utah, is currently filming birth, death, and marriage records from Minnesota counties. The project is far from completion and only a few counties have been filmed. For location information on all of these records, check the library catalog under the township name and record type ("Preston births," for example) and the State Archives notebooks.

Information, compiled by the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety, about firms employing women and about individual female employees in 1918. The information about a firm includes wages, hours, and working conditions. The information about an employee includes name, age, country of birth, nationality, kind of work, wages per week, whether living at home, whether contributing to family support, marital status, whether son or husband is in war service, husband's present employment, husband's wages per week, and ages of children. A separate history sheet for married women with dependents gives employee's name; age; country of birth; marital status; family information, including child care; name of employer; distance of workplace from home; income; and relief needs.

Access: State Archives notebooks: Public Safety Commission, Woman's Committee, Survey of Women in Industry. The records are arranged by names of county and employer. They are not indexed.

Minnesota WPA projects in the late 1930s and early 1940s produced a variety of published histories and manuscript materials, including information about church congregations, school districts, cemeteries, and other background research for county histories, some of which were never completed.

Annals of Minnesota
Microfilmed transcripts of 19th century Minnesota newspaper articles. Subject and geographical headings include Counties, Immigration and Settlement, Names, Persons, and Nationality Groups.

Access: Manuscripts Collections catalog: Minnesota Federal Writers' Project, Annals of Minnesota. The transcripts are available through Interlibrary Loan.

Published Materials
Some of the information collected in Minnesota by the Historical Records Survey (HRS) of the WPA was published as Inventory of the County Archives of Minnesota (published 1937–1942; 44 vols.); Directory of Churches and Religious Organizations in Minnesota (published 1942; 583 p.); Guide to Church Vital Statistics Records in Minnesota: Baptisms, Marriages, Funerals (published 1942; 253 p.); and Guide to Public Vital Statistics Records in Minnesota (published 1941; 142 p.). They describe the records available in county courthouses and individual churches as of about 1943, but do not duplicate the records themselves. Not all Minnesota county archives inventories were published. Reference Collections includes many similar HRS publications for other states. Additional printed materials about WPA projects include local history, but rarely mention specific persons.

Unpublished Materials
Background files for unpublished Minnesota county histories, including interviews with early settlers. Historical information on individual Minnesota churches and cemeteries gathered by WPA workers for possible publication. The box lists included within the inventories serve as indexes.


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