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Effective family history research requires some understanding of the historical events that affected your family and the records about them. Learning about wars, governments, laws, migrations, and religious trends can help you understand political boundaries, family movements, and settlement patterns.
State, county, and local histories often contain biographical sketches of local citizens, including important genealogical information. This may be one of the best sources of information for some families.
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
- Military service
The following important events in the history of Minnesota affected political jurisdictions, family movements, and record keeping.
- 1686– 1762: The French established a chain of forts and small settlements in the area of Minnesota.
- 1763–1819: The area was controlled by British fur traders of the Northwest Company.
- 1783: Great Britain grants eastern portions of Minnesota to the United States.
- 1787–1800: Part of Northwest Territory
- 1800– 1809: Part of Indiana Territory
- 1803: The United States obtains the western portion of the area through the Louisiana Purchase.
- 1805: The U.S. purchased land for Fort Snelling
- 1809–1818: Part of Illinois Territory
- 1818: The northern part of Minnesota ceded by British
- 1820: The U.S. Army establishes Fort Snelling at its permanent location near the future site of St. Paul. It becomes a nucleus of settlement. Mississippi River steamboats reach Fort Snelling in 1823.
- 1818–1836: The area that is now Minnesota is in Michigan Territory.
- 1836: All of Minnesota is in Wisconsin Territory.
- 1837: Sioux and Chippewa Indians sell their claim to the St. Croix Valley, opening the way to major white settlements in eastern Minnesota.
- 1840: Some Minnesota residents are listed in the 1840 territorial censuses of Wisconsin and Iowa.
- 1847: Chippewa Indians cede land
- 1849: (March 3,) Congress creates Minnesota Territory.
- 1852: (July 23,) Sioux Indians turned over all their land in Iowa and most of their land in Minnesota to U.S.
- 1851–1855: The Indians give up their rights to millions of acres of land west of the Mississippi River.
- 1854-1855: Chippewa Indians cede land
- 1857: Spirit Lake Massacre (Iowa)
- 1854: Large scale immigration begins when the railroad reaches the Mississippi River.
- 1858: (May 11,) Minnesota gains statehood.
- 1861–1865: The Civil War and Indian wars involve 22,000 men.
- 1862: Sioux Indians led by Chief Little Crow killed about one thousand white settlers. The Sioux were subdued and forced to give up their lands and move into the Dakotas.
- 1862: Dakota Conflict (See Minnesota Military Records for details.)
- 1863: (August 18,) Chief Little Crow led Sioux uprising in Minnesota. Indians defeated by Henry Sibley at Wood Lake September 23rd.
- 1863: Chippewa Indians cede land
- 1866: Chippewa Indians cede land
- 1889: Indians ceded land
- 1870–1890: Rapid settlement as homesteaders— many immigrants from Germany, Sweden, and Norway—move into western and southwestern Minnesota.
- 1898: Over 300,000 men were involved in the Spanish-American War which was fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines.
- 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.
- 1930s: Many Mexican Americans arrive.
- 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. More than 6,000 Minnesota soldiers lose their lives in 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.
- 1970s: Arrival of refugees from southeast Asia
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.
- Reference Guide to Minnesota History: A Subject Bibliography of Books, Pamphlets, and Articles in English 
- 'A Supplement to Reference Guide to Minnesota History: A Subject Bibliography, 1970–1980The original bibliography and this supplement are arranged by subjects. There is an index to authors and subjects but not to titles.
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 Minnesota:
- A History of Minnesota This is a concise history with an extensive bibliography and index.
United States History
The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:
- The Almanac of American History, This provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
- Dictionary of American History, Revised ed  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 This includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.
To find more books and articles about Minnesota 's history use the Internet Google search for phases like "Minnesota history." FamilySearch Catalog Surname Search lists many more histories under topics like:
- MINNESOTA - HISTORY
- MINNESOTA, [COUNTY] - HISTORY
- MINNESOTA, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - HISTORY
- MINNESOTA, BIBLIOGRAPHY
Wiki articles describing onliine collections are found at:
- Minnesota, Clay County School Census Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Minnesota Divorce Index (FamilySearch Historicl Records)
- Minnesota, Birth Index (FamilySearch Historical Recorsd)
- Minnesota, Marriage Index (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Brook, Michael. Reference Guide to Minnesota History: A Subject Bibliography of Books, Pamphlets, and Articles in English. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society, 1974. (Family History Library book 977.6 A3b.)
- Brook, Michael. A Supplement to Reference Guide to Minnesota History: A Subject Bibliography, 1970–1980. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1983. (Family History Library book 977.6 A3b supp..)
- Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. (FHL book 973 H23bi)
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- Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Book, 1975-76. (FHL book 973 A3ka.)
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- Folwell, William Watts. A History of Minnesota. Four Volumes. Saint Paul, Minneota: Minnesota Historical Society, 1921–1930. (Family History Library book 977.6 H2f; film 1036196 items2–5.) This history focuses on firsts in the state: first white men, first commerce, and so on. Volume 4 has a cumulative index. *Blegen, Theodore C. Minnesota: A History of the State. 2d ed. [Minneapolis, Minnesota]: University of Minnesota Press, 1975. ( Family History Library book 977.6 H2bt.)
- Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983. (FHL book 973 H2alm)
- referer=brief_results Worldcat
- Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. (FHL book 973 H2ad.)
- referer=brief_results Worldcat
- Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Springfield, Mass.: G C Merriam, 1971. (FHL book 973 H2v)
- Limited view at printsec=frontcover dq=Webster%27s+Guide+to+American+History:+A+Chronological,+Geographical,+and+Biographical+Survey+and+Compendium%27 ei=Vn-xSeS6FJDUlQSby81v#PPP13,M1 Google Books
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- 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
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