Minnesota Genealogy and Ancestry Research

This page will provide you with information that will help you in your genealogy and ancestry research for the state of Minnesota. It includes a timeline for the state, when the state began recording vital records, what US and State census records are available, a map of the counties in the state and link to page showing when counties were formed, and links to a variety of genealogy and ancestry resources for the state of Minnesota.

Minnesota State History Timeline

There are more detailed timelines for Minnesota State History in the Links section below.

1650s – First Europeans visit and map out portions of Minnesota.

1763 – The U.S. gains eastern Minnesota after winning the French and Indian War.

1803 – The U.S. buys western Minnesota from the French as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

1805 – Zebulon Pike explores the region.

1825 – Fort Snelling is established at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers.

1832 – Explorer Henry Schoolcraft finds the source of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca.

1849 – The U.S. creates the Minnesota Territory.

1858 – Minnesota is admitted as the 32nd state.

1862 – The Dakota War was fought between the United States and the Dakota Sioux.

1889 – The Mayo Clinic is founded in Rochester by Dr. William Mayo.

1965 – Herbert Humphrey becomes vice-president of the United States.

1992 – The Mall of America is completed in Bloomington.

1998 – Jesse Ventura, former professional wrestler and Navy Seal, is elected governor.

Minnesota Vital Records

Legislation that ordered recording of county vital records was passed in 1870. In some counties marriage registrations began before that date, but these early records are somewhat incomplete.

In 1907 the Minnesota Vital Records law was enacted, giving the state the responsibility of keeping birth and death records. This office has birth records starting in 1900 and death records starting in 1908. The Minnesota Historical Society has an online death certificate index that currently runs from 1908 to 1996. There is no statewide marriage index until 1958 and the statewide divorce index begins in 1970, but these two statewide indexes only provide verification of the marriage or divorce

For more detailed information, see Minnesota Vital Records originally written by Carol L. Maki and Michael John Neill for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org has many vital record collections, many of which I’ve listed in the links below.

Minnesota Census Records


Population Schedules

  • • Indexed’1850, 1860 (Minnesota Historical Society), 1870, 1880, 1890 (limited), 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • • Soundex’1880, 1900, 1920

Industry and Agriculture Schedules

  • 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880

Mortality Schedules

  • 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880

Union Veterans Schedules

  • 1890

Although not a state at the time, Minnesota residents were enumerated in 1850 as part of the regular federal enumeration process. Both the 1850 and 1860 schedules have printed indexes.

Much of the Minnesota 1870 federal census was destroyed. Only the schedules for Stearns, Steele, Stevens, St. Louis, Todd, Wabasha, Wadena, Waseca, Washington, Watonwan, Wilkin, Winona, and Wright counties still exist. However, a duplicate of the entire census retained by the Minnesota Historical Society was microfilmed. There are, therefore, two versions of the 1870 federal census for the state of Minnesota. The extant 1890 federal census includes one page of Rockford Township in Wright County. A state copy for the 1890 federal return of Rockville Township, Stearns County, is at Minnesota Historical Society Research Center.

The extensive early logging industry in Minnesota may make it difficult to locate ancestors involved in that particular labor force. Some may be counted in the lumber camps or at the numerous boarding houses in the river cities and towns. It is also important to note that the steamboat crews on the rivers were often enumerated in the city in which the boat was temporarily docked. Federal non-population schedules for Minnesota for 1860 to 1880 (agriculture, manufacturing, mortality, and social statistics) can be purchased through the Minnesota Historical Society order department.


Minnesota inhabitants were first enumerated in the Michigan Territory 1820 census and the 1836 census of the Wisconsin Territory. A census of the Minnesota Territory was ordered in 1849, which included the name of head of household and number of males and females in that household.

The 1857 Minnesota territorial census was mandated for statehood qualification and apparently included fictitious names in seven counties to boost the population.


State censuses were also taken in 1865, 1875, 1885, 1895, and 1905. Each of the state census enumerations includes all members of the household. In 1865, ‘Soldier in service on June 1, 1865’ was included. The 1875 census gives the birthplaces of father and mother. The 1895 and 1905 censuses may be especially helpful to the genealogist as they include the length of time an individual has lived in the state and the district.

For more information and online resources see Minnesota Census at FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com U.S. Federal Census Collection.

Minnesota Counties

Minnesota Counties Map
Minnesota Counties Map

The Minnesota County Resources page will provide you with the location of the county on the above map, the address, date formed, parent county(ies), and dates first records for birth, marriage, death, land, probate and court were kept.

Minnesota Genealogy and Ancestry Links

Minnesota State History Timeline links