Step-by-Step Minnesota Research, 1880-Present

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search


Minnesota Gotoarrow.png Step-by-step research 1880--present


  • A suggested approach to genealogy research in Minnesota family history records.

Step-by-step Minnesota
Research 1880--to the present

Table of Contents

1. Contact living relatives.
2. Online census records.
3. Births, marriages, and deaths online
4. Obituary and cemetery records online.
5. Military records online.
6. Immigration and naturalization records online.
7. Study clues.
8. Printed local histories or biographies online.
9. Wills and probate.
10. Historical or genealogical societies.
10. Visit a Family History Center.



What sets this era in Minnesota genealogy apart from earlier time periods are the 1908 advent of civil registration (state birth, marriage, and death certificates) and the possibility that you have older living relatives who can provide memories and family records. In addition, U. S. census records (occurred every 10 years--1880-1940); Minnesota state census records for 1885, 1895, and 1905; Social Security collections; obituary and cemetery records make it possible to find a lot of genealogical information in just a few rich record types.
See also, How to use "record hints".

Step 1. Find out everything you can from living relatives and their family records:

Every good genealogy project starts with finding all the clues you can gather from living relatives — both from their memories and from documents or memorabilia in their homes.

What should you ask?

In order to extend your research on your ancestors, you are looking for names, dates, and places. Everything you learn that tells you about when and where a relative lived is a clue to a new record search. Be sure to ask questions that lead to that information, including about their occupations, military service, or associations with others, such as fraternal organizations. See also:

What documents should you look for and ask to copy?

  • Announcements of births, weddings,
    and anniversaries
  • Baby and wedding books
  • Certificates
  • Deeds, and property records
  • Family Bibles
  • Family reunion notices and records
  • Fraternal or society records
  • Insurance policies
  • Journals and diaries
  • Letters and cards
  • Licenses (business, marriage,
    fishing, driving)
  • Naturalization documents
  • Newspaper clippings and obituaries
  • Medical records
  • Military service and pension documents
  • Occupational awards
  • Passports
  • Personal histories and biographies
  • Photograph albums
  • Printed Notices and Announcements
  • Programs (graduation, award ceremonies, funerals)
  • School records
  • Scrapbooks
  • Wills and trusts

Family Members Born After 1940

Because the most recent census available was taken in 1940, family documents and the knowledge of living family members play a vital role in identifying these people. Once you have learned names, places of residence, and clues to estimate approximate birth date, the next important step is to send for birth, marriage, and death records for them. Skip to Step 3: Find birth, marriage, and death certificates for your ancestors and their children.


ErlingMildredEide50Anniv.jpg

Using the clues to lead to census record searches.

In our search of old papers in the home, we find this 50th wedding anniversary newspaper announcement for your grandparents. As they had been married fifty years, we can assume they were at least 70 years old. It seems likely that they could be found, starting in the 1940 census of Minnesota. Since we have the names of their children, we are looking for Erling Eide, with those children.

1940 Minnesota census.png

1930 Minnesota census.png

We find Erling and Mildred Eide, with their three children, in the 1940 census of Minneapolis. Then, in 1930 they are listed living in the home of his parents, Christian and Sophie Eide. So we next follow up by finding the family of Christian and Sophie going back in time in as many censuses as possible:
1920 Minnesota census.png

1910 Minnesota census.png

By finding all of the census records available, we have the best chance of identifying all of the children of Christian and Sophie. The 1910 census tells us that they came to Minnesota in 1907, so we do not look for them in the 1905 Minnesota state census or the 1900 U.S. census.

When we find out Erling Eide's wife Mildred's maiden name, we will also look for her in pre-1930 census records, hopefully living with her parents.


Step 2. Find your ancestors in every possible census record, 1880-1940, online.

A census is a count and description of the population of a country, state, county, or city for a given date. A census took a "snapshot" of a family on a certain day. For each person living in a household you might find (depending on the year) their name, age, birthplace, relationship to head of household, place of birth for father and mother, citizenship status, year of immigration, mother of how many children and number of children living, native language, and whether they were a veteran of the military.

To learn more about census records, including search strategies, see United States Census Records for Beginners.

Look at the samples of census records below. You should find your family members in every possible census, using these convenient links:

United States census records

  • Here is a sample of a 1900 United States census record. You can see all the different information you can glean from this record once you find your family in the census.
    1900 United States Census.jpg
  • Here is a sample of the 1880 census, which is much simpler:
United States 1880 Census (11-0629).jpg

*You will want to find and keep notes on census records from every census during each ancestor's lifetime. For example, if your ancestor was born in 1897 and died in 1945, you will want to find them in the 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 censuses. (The 1890 census was destroyed.)
  • With the census records, you will then be able to estimate approximate birth dates and marriage dates. These records will lead you to new searches because you will find the names of other members of the family. You will find clues to other states and countries your family lived in before coming to Minnesota.
  • You can use what you learned from the census records to help you search for birth, marriage, and death records. Possibly the clues you find in the certificates will lead you back to the census records again for new names of family members.




Minnesota birth index3.png
Minnesota birth index2.png

Using the census clues to lead to a birth certificate.

Now, we want to try to find important birth records for the various people represented in these census records. Here is just two examples of birth index records of the two daughters of Erling and Mildred Eide. Notice that we now know that Mildred's maiden name was Mildred Wentworth.

Minnesota marriage index 1.png

Using the census clues to lead to a marriage certificate.

Fequently, our main purpose for locating records for the marriages is to establish the maiden name of the wife. Also in some cases the names of the parents of the bride and groom are given.

Minnesota death index.png

Using the census clues to lead to a death certificate.

By studying the census records, and assuming that most people lived to be 65-70 years old, you can decide the time frame where you would expect to see a death certificate. In this example, we learn that Sophie Eide, mother of Erling Eide, was originally Sopie Guttormsen. It is very important to send for death certificates. Even though you might feel that knowing a death date is not high priority, the death certificate is important because of all the secondary data: birth date and place of the deceased, maiden name of the wife, names of the deceased's parents, birth places of the deceased's parents.

Tip Tip1.jpg Some of the examples shown above are index entries. That means for each of them an actual, original, full certificate exists. It is highly advisable to order the original certificate. It will contain many details not given in the index. In some cases, the image of the original is found online. Instructions are given below on obtaining the original certificate in other cases.

Step 3: Find birth, marriage, and death certificates for your ancestors and their children.

States, counties, or even towns in some states recorded births, marriages, and deaths. You have probably seen these types of certificates and have your own. In addition to the child's name, birth date, and place of birth, a birth certificate may give the birthplaces of the parents, their ages, and occupations. A death certificate may give the person's birth date and place, parents' names and birthplaces, and spouse's name.

Tip Tip1.jpg Remember that for family members born after 1940 you do not have census records to rely on. The information from interviewing family members will hopefully give you enough detail that you know approximate years of birth, marriage, or death. Sending for certificates will help verify identities, prove relationships, and fill in greater detail.

Studying what you have found:

Cycle icon.jpg

Obtaining the certificates

Online databases, usually indexes, with some images

Also, see How to Find Minnesota Birth Records.

Also, see How to Find Minnesota Marriage Records.

Also, see How to Find Minnesota Death Records.


Finding Microfilm Copies of Certificates

Many Minnesota state or county birth, death, and marriage certificates and vital records indexes are available on microfilm through the Family History Library. These may be searched at a family history center near you. Most notably, you will find:

Many of these microfilms are also available online, as the film description will indicate.

Records at the County Courthouse

From the date of the formation of a county until the establishment of state civil registration, birth and marriage records were kept by the County Clerk. They may have been microfilmed, or you can write for them. It is appropriate to write asking for either a single record or for a list of all the marriages for a given surname. This Letter Writing Guide will help you with phrasing a letter. This online directory by Genealogy Inc. will give you the address of the County Clerk. Click on the map to select a county, then scroll down to the "Courthouse and Government Records" to find the address and phone number.

If you are at the main Family History Library, check first to see if microfilms of the county vital records are available. In the search field of the FamilySearch Catalog, enter the state and county. Then click on the "Vital Records" subject. The cost of renting the microfilms at a Family History Center probably makes it less expensive to just write to the County Clerk.

Ordering certificates through the mail

Even if you find an online indexed entry for a birth, marriage, or death, almost always the full original certificate will contain a wealth of information not contained in the index. A death certificate will usually give the names and birth places of the parents of the deceased. A marriage certificate frequently asks for the parents names of the bride and groom. A birth certificate frequently asks for the birth place, occupation, residence, and age of the parents. Although it costs money, consider sending for the full original certificates at least of your direct line ancestors (grandparents, great-grandparents).

Samples of records

Here are some samples of Minnesota certificates. Notice the types of information available in each, particularly the identity of the parents, which adds another generation to your research.
Minnesota City and Township Birth Records 1871-1947 DGS 4859975 118.jpg

Minnesota marriage full record.jpg

Minnesota death full record.jpg

Step 4: Using all the death date information, try to find additional details about your ancestors in Social Security records, obituaries, and cemetery records online.

U.S. Social Security Death Index and Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

The U.S. Social Security program began in 1935 but most deaths recorded in the index happened after 1962. The Social Security Death index includes those who had a Social Security number and/or applied for benefits. The index entries give the person's full birth date, last known residence, and residence at the time they first enrolled. Women are listed under their married name at the time of their death. You can search these records online at United States Social Security Death Index. Also at Ancestry.com, ($), index.

The Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 picks up where the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) leaves off, by providing information filed in the application or claims process, including valuable details such as birth date, birth place, and parents’ names. Unless the deceased would be at least 75 years old today, the parents' names are not published. You will not find everybody who is listed in the SSDI, as criteria for inclusion differs.

If you find your ancestor in the SSDI index, you can order a copy of their original Social Security application (SS-5). If you can prove the individual has died (by sending an obituary or copy of their cemetery headstone), the application will also give the deceased's parents' names, if listed.

Social Security Death Index

Minnesota SSDI.png

SS Applications and Claims Index

Minnesota SS Claims.png


Obituaries and cemeteries

Obituaries


Cemeteries

NOTE: Each database covers different cemeteries, although some may overlap. Don't be discouraged if you do not locate your individual in the first database. Check each collection.


Step 5: Search military records: World War I and World War II draft cards and Civil War pensions.

World War I Draft Registration

Minnesota WW I.png

World War II Draft Registration

Likewise, the World War II draft in 1942 may give birth date, birth place, residence, occupation, employer, and other family members as contacts. Search for your male relatives born in this time period at U.S. WW II Draft Registration Cards, 1942. Minnesota WW II.png

Civil War Pensions

Civil War widow's pension.png

This collection consists of two card indexes to widows who had applied for a pension renewal. The first covers service between 1812-1860 and the second covers service in the Civil War and later. This is helpful in locating a woman in census and death records under her new surname.

WWI Remarried Widow pension.png





Step 6: If your ancestor was an immigrant, search immigration and naturalization records online.

The census records may show that your ancestor was born in another country. It will be necessary to try to find the town or city they were born in to continue research in the country of origin. Searches of immigration records (usually passenger lists) and naturalization (citizenship) records are the next goal. Immigration refers to people coming into a country, such as the United States, and emigration refers to people leaving a country to go to another. Usually these records are passenger lists of the ships they sailed on. A typical record will show name, age, and country of origin, but in ship lists after 1906 you can find the actual town of birth, the next of kin still living in the old country and their residence, and the names of relatives in the place they are traveling to.

Census clues to Immigration records

Census records can provide important clues about nationality and immigration. This chart lists data that can be found in each of the census records. Gather the information in the census records specifically about immigration, as it will help narrow down your search.

Immigration and Naturalization Found in the U.S.Census by Year
(other information also given but is not listed here)
Year of census
Immigration and Naturalization Information
1870
  • Whether father and mother are of foreign birth
1880
  • Place of birth for father and mother
1900
  • Place of birth for father and mother
  • Naturalization status: alien, papers submitted, or naturalized
  • Year of immigration to U.S.
  • How many years lived in U.S.
1910
  • Place of birth for father and mother
  • Naturalization status: alien, papers submitted, or naturalized
  • Year of immigration to U.S.
1920
  • Place of birth for father and mother
  • Naturalization status: alien, papers submitted, or naturalized
  • Year of immigration to U.S.
  • Year of naturalization
  • Native language
  • Native language of father and mother
1930
  • Place of birth for father and mother
  • Naturalization status: alien, papers submitted, or naturalized
  • Year of immigration to U.S.
  • Native language
1940
  • Naturalization status: alien, papers submitted, or naturalized

Immigration records

Passenger lists and border crossing lists are the most common immigration records. There are many immigration records available. Click here to see a complete list of available immigration records online. Notice that they are listed by state, but under the letter "U" there is a long list of records that cover all of the United States. Unless family information tells you the port where family arrived, you will need to search all of the United States Immigration Online Genealogy Records for the time period when your ancestors arrived.

Minnesota passenger list 1.png

Minnesota passenger list2.png


There are also many immigration records unique to Minnesota:

Naturalization (Citizenship) Records

Naturalization is the process of becoming a citizen. Records can include the immigrant's declaration of intent to become a citizen, petitions for citizenship, and final certificate of naturalization. Naturalization records after 1906 can show birth date and place, spouse's name, marriage date and place, and lists of children with their birth dates.

Minnesota naturalization records could be recorded at the county court or the Federal District or Circuit Court. You must look for them in both locations. Try searching first in any county where the person lived, unless the census tells you the year they were naturalized, and you have evidence of where they lived that year. If you cannot locate them in the county records, try searching for them in the Federal courts.

Minnesota Naturalization and Citizenship Online Records

Minnesota naturalization.png


Step 7: Study each record for other possible searches.

Cycle icon.jpg

You can now go through a process of working back and forth between all the different record types. Most researchers find clues in the census records that alert them to new certificates to obtain. The certificates then give them ideas of new facts to look for in the census. For example, when a marriage certificate gives you a wife's maiden name, you will then want to look for her in earlier censuses listed with her family as a child. When the census shows you her parents' names, you may then search for their death records. The death records might show their patents' names and take you back to the census to search for them. A naturalization record listing children's names might lead you back to birth certificate searches, and so on.




Here is a simple pedigree showing what we have discovered so far:

Minnesota pedigree.PNG

Here are some sample research projects you could continue with:

.=== Step 8: Search a printed local history or biography online. ===

Local histories

Biographies

These collections of biographies can be searched online. Most have a table of contents and an index. Or you can use the "Find" function on your computer.

Step 9: Write to a county for wills and probate packets.

Minnesota probate index.png

County probate records


Step 10: Contact a county historical or genealogical society.

  • County historical societies have collections that are frequently little known and often overlooked. Many have a surname file, where they have collected genealogies, newspaper clippings, old photographs, etc. Many have a sort of "pioneer ancestor" program, where people can submit pedigrees to prove they are the descendants of an early resident of the county. Most keep track of queries about families that once lived in the area from other distant relatives who may actually have more family memorabilia than you.
  • If you can find the society on the internet, they may list their holdings. Or call them on the phone, find out what they have, and find out what arrangements can be made to search their collection. Frequently, you can hire one of their members to search the collection for you.

This online directory by GenealogyInc. lists historical and genealogical societies by county: Click on the map to select a county, then scroll down to the historical or genealogical society listings. Here is an example of an internet website for a local genealogical society. Minnesota society.png

Step 11: After online research, search the collection at the Family History Library or a Family History Center.

  • Records are catalogued by location. Do these three searches for each place: Minnesota; the county (or counties) where your ancestors lived; and the town (or towns) where they lived.


  • Search by state.
Search by state.png
  • Search by county.
Search by county.png
  • Search by town.
Search by town.png
  • View the expanded list of library holdings. After clicking on "Search", you will next see a list of topics. Click on any topic, and the list will expand to show the records available. Records listed can then be viewed at the Family History Library or a Family History Center.
Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 12.32.42 PM.png






Use the Wiki articles for Minnesota and its counties to find out about other records in state, county, or local repositories.

Although FamilySearch is actively working to microfilm and preserve records throughout the world, this huge job is nowhere near complete. We have tried in the Wiki to provide information about collections, books, and records held in government and ecclesiastical archives beyond the Family History Library records. In Minnesota, United States Genealogy, you can find links to these records and how to access them. Also here you will find information on records from your particular Minnesota county of interest.


Retrieved from "http://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/index.php?title=Step-by-Step_Minnesota_Research,_1880-Present&oldid=3439938"