Nebraska History

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United States > Nebraska > Nebraska History


The following important events in the history of Nebraska affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements.

  • 1803: Nebraska was part of the Louisiana Territory when it was purchased by the United States from France.
  • 1804-1824: United States government explorers visited the region and described it as a vast wasteland. The resulting myth of the Great American Desert delayed significant white settlement in Nebraska.
  • 1813-1827: Trading posts and forts were established near present-day Omaha.
  • 1823: First settlement at Bellevue
  • 1830-1854: Nebraska was part of an area designated as Indian Territory. Between 1833 and 1876, Indian tribes ceded all Nebraska claims to the United States government.
  • 1840s-1860s:Pioneer wagons heading west passed through the Platte Valley over the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails.
  • 16 March 1854: The Omaha Indians ceded to U.S. government.
  • 30 May 1854: The Kansas-Nebraska Act established the Nebraska Territory. The creation of the Colorado and Dakota territories in 1861 and the Idaho Territory in 1863 reduced Nebraska to nearly its present size. Lands in Boyd and Thurston counties were received from South Dakota in 1890.
  • 3 April 1860 - 24 October 1861: Pony Express
  • 1863: The first claim under the Homestead Act was staked near Beatrice.
  • 1865:The first railroad to the Pacific Coast was begun at Omaha. It was completed in 1869.
  • 1 March 1867: Nebraska became a state.
  • 1868: Sioux Indian land cession
  • 1875-6 May 1877: Chief Crazy Horse and 900 warriors surrendered at Camp Robinson, Nebraska. The Sioux had been on the warpath since 1875.
  • 1877: Sioux Indian Black Hill land cession
  • 1870-1890: Nebraska's greatest population growth occurred in the post-Civil War boom as settlers arrived from the eastern United States and northern Europe.
  • 1898: Over 300,000 men were involved in the Spanish-American War which was fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines.
  • 1904: The Kinkaid Homestead Act opened the last range land in northwestern Nebraska to settlement.
  • 1917–1918: More than 26 million men from the United States ages 18 through 45 registered with the Selective Service. World War I over 4.7 million American men and women served during the war.
  • 1930's: The Great Depression closed many factories and mills. Many small farms were abandoned, and many families moved to cities.
  • 1940–1945: Over 50.6 million men ages 18 to 65 registered with the Selective Service. Over 16.3 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II.
  • 1950–1953: Over 5.7 million American men and women served in the Korean War.
  • 1950's–1960's The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances.
  • 1964–1972: Over 8.7 million American men and women served in the Vietnam War.

Historical Content

Histories are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden names of women
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation
  • Migration
  • Military service
  • Descendants

Local Histories

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies. The United States Research "History" page cites nationwide bibliographies of local histories which include histories of Nebraska.

  • A Bibliography of American County Histories [1] [2]
  • United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress [3][4]
  • The Pony Express
    Pony Express riders carried the U.S. Mail on horseback. There were approximately 80 of them. There were support personnel as well that numbered over 400. The Pony Express Route Covered Parts of: California, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming.
    Pony Express Riders Biographies:
    By Name Include Some Photos

State Histories Useful to Genealogists

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the laudatory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of Nebraska:

The Nebraska State Historical Society has a major collection of state and local histories. The Family History Library also collects histories.

  • History of Nebraska is an especially helpful source [5]

United States History

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:

  • The Almanac of American History, [6][7]This provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed [8] [9]This includes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations. A snippet view is available at Google books.
  • Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium [10][11][12]This includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.

To find more books and articles about Nebraska's history use the Internet Google search for phases like "Nebraska history." Family History Library Catalog Surname Search lists many more histories under topics like:


Web Sites


  1. Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. (FHL book 973 H23bi)
  2. Worldcat
  3. Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Book, 1975-76. (FHL book 973 A3ka.)
  4. Worldcat
  5. James C. Olson, History of Nebraska, 2nd ed. (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1966; Family History Library book 978.2 H2o).
  6. Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983. (FHL book 973 H2alm)
  7. Worldcat
  8. Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. (FHL book 973 H2ad.)
  9. Worldcat
  10. Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Springfield, Mass.: G&C Merriam, 1971. (FHL book 973 H2v)
  11. Limited view at Google Books
  12. Worldcat
  13. Writings on American History By American Historical Association, Library of Congress, United States National Historical Publications Commission, Published by KTO Press, 1921 FHL book 973 H23w
  14. Worldcat