Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Minnesota.... Land of 10,000 resources

Anyone who is active in Minnesota research knows that the state has a plethora of genealogical resources….some of the best in the country! As a lifelong resident whose ancestors began settling the state in the 1850’s, I’ve done unbelievable amounts of research over the past two decades. Since the landscape of genealogical resources is ever changing, it’s easy to be unaware of some of the wonderful tools at our disposal. Here I will summarize some of, what I find to be, the best resources Minnesota has to offer!

Free! There is a word that genealogists love! And today, it seems that free is getting harder and harder to find. Minnesota, however, still has many great free resources!
Minnesota State Historical Society--
The Minnesota State Historical Society has one of the finest collections in the country…and anyone with roots in Minnesota should get the opportunity to visit in person, at least once. The Research Center contains 1,000’s of rolls of microfilm… newspapers, census records, death certificates, and countless other resources. The library has an amazing collection of books and other research materials!  

Birth & Death Index--
To research from home, however, one can use the free birth & death indexes…. The birth index begins in 1900 (a few earlier, delayed births also made the index) and ends in 1935. The death index begins in 1904 and ends in 2001.
The records in this index can be viewed, for free, at the History Center... and copies of birth records obtained for $7.00 and the death records for the cost of a photocopy (nearing $.50 each these days, as costs keep increasing).

Marriage Index--
Independent of the State Historical Society, the State has created an index of marriage records. The index encompasses all marriages recorded since records began. There are also instructions for purchasing a record on the website. Unlike the birth/death index, which offers soundex searches, the marriage index does not. This can be tricky with the oldest records, with old/faint/poor handwriting and the transcriptionist’s interpretation of spellings…. While you can search based on bride/groom/years/county or any combination of those criteria, I have found some wildly misspelled names….so be aware that some creative searching may be required.

Sometimes, I think the old stand by website, the USGENWEB project, that’s been around since the early days of internet genealogy, is overlooked today. When visiting some of the various Minnesota county pages, it is evident that many are no longer actively updated… but the content from yesteryear still remains! Many counties have cemetery records, plat maps, vital records, and historical photos, among many other resources. If you haven’t visited the website for your Minnesota county recently (or any other State’s for that matter), you should take a few minutes and reacquaint yourself with the resources that are there. - Birth records--
Recently, I found that has added more Minnesota records to their online collection. Primarily scans of old birth records, which are a great resource! Unfortunately, these records are not indexed, so you will need to have an idea of when/where the birth occurred…. And then be prepared to browse through many hundred records. Hopefully, if you are not sure of the birth particulars, you can utilize the aforementioned birth index to give yourself a starting off point.
Since they have added these new Minnesota records, it’s very possible that they have added further records for others states as well! I haven’t browsed the other state’s collections yet, but I encourage you to!

Minnesota has thousands of cemeteries throughout the state… many records can be found listed on! This site is a great way to memorialize the final resting place for our ancestors. I also encourage people to join the site as a volunteer, to fulfill photograph requests in your area.

Paysites- [i.e.  Ancestry]
While I have only mentioned free sites up to this point, I want to touch briefly on mega-site, which also has many Minnesota records. Including the 1935-2002 birth index and 1970-1995 divorce index… As well as some early birth & death indexes, some of which can’t be found on Though I suspect anyone who has ancestry, has already utilized these resources.

Minnesota Genealogical Society
The genealogical society has many great resources and has classes and seminars for continuing education. I would strongly recommend that anyone who hasn't taken a look, stop by their website and have a looksee!


These are just some of the great research possibilities that Minnesota has to offer! I'm sure there are many more out there, that I've yet to stumble upon... I'd love to hear from anyone who has any other resources out there, whether to be found online or at a brick & mortar archive.... And hopefully I will have a enough new found genealogy gems that I can have a future follow up post!


  1. At Ancestry is an excellent database of Minnesota Cemetery Inscription Index, Select Counties with over 600,000 persons. If you don't want to pay for the site wait for the occasional free access and check it out.