North Dakota

North Dakota 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 North Dakota. 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 North Dakota.

North Dakota History Timeline

1682 – Robert de La Salle claimed much of North Dakota for France.

1738 – French fur trader Pierre de La Verendrye visited the land and met with the Mandan.

1803 – The United States bought the land as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

1804 – Lewis and Clark built Fort Mandan and spent the winter in North Dakota. They meet Sacagawea.

1812 – A Scottish settlement near Pembina is founded.

1818 – North Dakota is part of the Missouri Territory.

1828 – Fort Union is established by the American Fur Company.

1837 – The majority of the Mandan Indians are killed by a smallpox outbreak.

1861 – The Dakota Territory is established.

1863 – Homesteading is opened up for much of the land.

1871 – The city of Fargo is founded.

1883 – Bismark becomes the capital of the territory.

1885 – The American Bison is nearly extinct.

1889 – North Dakota becomes the 39th state.

1915 – The Nonpartisan League (NPL) is formed by Arthur Townley to help small farmers.

1951 – Oil is discovered near Tioga.

1960 – Lake Sakakawea is formed when the Garrison Dam is completed.

1997 – The Red River Valley is flooded destroying much of the city of Grand Forks.

North Dakota Vital Records

A state law passed in 1893 made it mandatory to file vital records with township clerks. It was repealed in 1895 but reenacted in 1899.

The State Department of Vital Records was formed in 1923; all copies of prior birth and death information were required to be sent there.

Marriage records generally date from county organization and can be obtained from the county judge of the county where the license was issued. Only marriage records after 1 July 1925 are on file at the Division of Vital Records in Bismarck.

All divorce proceedings are recorded by the clerk of the district court in each county. and has a variety of online collections. I’ve included many of them in the links below.

North Dakota Census Records


Population Schedules

  • Indexed – 1850 as Pembina County, Minnesota Territory; 1860, as unorganized Dakota; 1870, as Dakota Territory; special 1885 (see below), 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940
  • Soundex – 1900, 1920

Industry and Agriculture Schedules

  • Agriculture – 1870, 1880

Mortality Schedules

  • 1860, 1870, 1880 Indexed as Dakota Territory; 1885

Union Veterans Schedules

  •  1890

The first federal census records available for this area can be found with the 1836 Iowa Territory census.


The 1857 census for Pembina County, then part of Minnesota Territory, is located at the State Archives and Historical Research Library.

Native American

Several series of censuses were taken at the different reservations. Indexing is variable. Unless otherwise indicated, the State Archives and Historical Research Library retains these censuses:

  • Fort Totten Reservation: 1885-1905, 1910-39
  • Fort Berthold Reservation: 1889-93, 1895-1939
  • Standing Rock Reservation: 1885-1913, 1915-39 (located at National Archives’Central Plains Region in Kansas City)
  • Turtle Mountain Reservation: 1885’1905 (with Fort Totten Reservation), 1910’39
  • Digger Indians: 1899-1904, 1915-20

For more information, see North Dakota Census at

North Dakota Counties

North Dakota Counties Map
North Dakota Counties Map

Also see North Dakota County Resources for more information on the counties, including County name, address, date formed, parent county(ies), and when first records for birth, marriage death, land, probate and court was first recorded.

North Dakota Genealogy and Ancestry Links has a variety of online collections. Membership may be required. has a variety of free online collections.

NDGenWeb – North Dakota GenWeb

Genealogy Trails – North Dakota

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness -North Dakota

GenealogySpot – North Dakota – North Dakota – North Dakota

North Dakota State Genealogical Society


North Dakota History Timeline Links

Ducksters – North Dakota State History

Legends of America – Timeline of North Dakota

eReference Desk – North Dakota History Timeline

Timelines of History – Timeline North Dakota

GenealogyBlog – North Dakota Timeline, 1738-1925 – North Dakota History Timeline