Minnesota Archives and Libraries
Many archives and libraries have resources such as maps, gazetteers, and other place-finding aids to help you locate information about Minnesota. They may have collections of previous research, such as family and local histories and biographies. Many have record-finding aids such as guides to their own collections or inventories of records housed elsewhere in the state.
Besides the Family History Library, other record repositories that have major collections and services for genealogical research are described below. The Family History Library has copies of some records of these archives, but all will have additional sources.
Before you visit an archive or library, contact the organization and ask for information on the collection, hours, services, and fees. The Minnesota Historical Society’s Internet site has their catalog on-line, many genealogical research helps, and locations of other genealogical sites.
Minnesota Historical Society
Minnesota Historical Society Library
345 Kellogg Boulevard W.
St. Paul, MN 55102-1906
The Minnesota Historical Society Library has the State Archives collection, including local, county, school district, city, and state government records. The library has printed materials relating to the history of Minnesota, copies of the majority of newspapers published in Minnesota, and other historical documents. A guide to genealogical materials in their collection is:
- Minnesota Historical Society. Genealogical Resources of the Minnesota Historical Society: A Guide. 2nd ed. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1993. (Family History Library book 977.6 A3mh 1993.)
Much of the society’s collection is unpublished. Of interest to genealogists are the personal papers in these collections. To find out if the society has a manuscript on your family see:
- Minnesota Historical Society. Guide to the Personal Papers in the Manuscript Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society. Three Volumes. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1935, 1955, 1977. (Family History Library book 977.6 A3m.) Lists the time period covered and a brief description of what is included, such as newspaper clippings, diaries, scrapbooks, and genealogical data.
Access to information about cataloged collections (printed, manuscripts, and archives holdings) of the Minnesota Historical Society is available on the Internet.
The Minnesota Historical Society has established regional research centers that find and preserve local records of historical value. Some regional centers have a large collection of genealogy while others have more historical documents. These centers may have family papers, manuscripts, oral history interviews, photographs, maps, drawings of homes, and business and organizational records. Some centers may hold local government records. Some centers have published guides to their holdings. The society has published guides to some centers. The following books list some of the regional research centers’ collections and their location:
Fogerty, James E., comp. Preliminary Guide to the Holdings of the Minnesota Regional Research Centers. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society, 1975. (Family History Library book 977.6 A3f no.1.) This guide is divided into two sections: "Manuscripts" and "Oral History Interviews." Listed alphabetically, these include title of collection, person or organization, time frame, collection size, reference number, and an abbreviation that indicates which research center holds the collection.
- Fogerty, James E., comp. Manuscripts Collections of the Minnesota Regional Research Centers: Guide Number 2. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society, 1980. (Family History Library book 977.6 A3f no.2.) This follows the same format as the Preliminary Guide cited above. It includes new holdings and collections that may have been moved.
The centers are listed below with the counties they cover. Call them for their hours, which vary from center to center, and to see what collections they may have.
Central Minnesota Historical Center
Centennial Hall, Room 31
St. Cloud State University
St. Cloud, MN 56301
Internet e-mail: email@example.com
This center serves the counties of Aitkin, Benton, Chisago, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec. Mille Lacs, Pine, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, and Wright.
North Central Minnesota Historical Center
Although this center has been discontinued, it is important to know that its collection was divided between Beltrami County Historical Society and the Minnesota Historical Society. While in existence it served the counties of Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, and Lake of the Woods.
Northeast Minnesota Historical Center
University of Minnesota-Duluth
Duluth, MN 55812
Internet e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This center serves the counties of Carlton, Cook, Lake, and St. Louis. It is a manuscript repository with organizational, business, and family papers and records; maps; architectural drawings; and photo collections. It is also a publication library with at least 10,000 books and pamphlets, many of which are out of print. The center is not rich in genealogical material but works as a network with other repositories in the area that have genealogical material. For a guide to their collection see:
Northeast Minnesota Historical Center (Duluth, Minnesota). Guide to the Collections of the Northeast Minnesota Historical Center. Duluth, Minnesota: University of Minnesota and St. Louis County Historical Society, 1988. (Family History Library book 977.6 A1 no.57.)
Northwest Minnesota Historical Center
Livingston Lord Library
Moorhead State University
Moorhead, MN 56563
This center serves the counties of Becker, Clay, Kittson, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Otter Tail, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, Roseau, and Wilkin. For a guide to their collection see:
Northwest Minnesota Historical Center (Moorhead, Minnesota). Guide to the Northwest Minnesota Historical Center Collections. Moorhead, Minnesota: Livingston Lord Library, Moorhead State University, 1988. (Family History Library book 977.6 A1 no.58.)
Southeast Minnesota Historical Center (Winona)
The collection of this discontinued center was divided among the historical societies of the counties it served and the Minnesota Historical Society. The collection included materials about the counties of Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Wabasha, and Winona.
Southern Minnesota Historical Center
Minnesota State University, Mankato
Mankato, MN 56001
This center serves the counties of Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Freeborn, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Rice, Sibley, Steele, Waseca, and Watonwan.
Southwest Minnesota Historical Center
Southwest State University
Social Science 141
Marshall, MN 56258
This center is very active in the genealogical community and has a great genealogical collection. It has some county and local government records that would normally go to the Minnesota Historical Society. It serves the counties of Cottonwood, Jackson, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, McLeod, Meeker, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Renville, Rock, and Yellow Medicine.
West Central Minnesota Historical Center
University of Minnesota–Morris
600 East 4th Street
Morris, MN 56267
E-mail Address: email@example.com
This center serves the counties of Big Stone, Chippewa, Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens, Swift, and Traverse.
WebPals is an Internet site that provides access to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Statewide Automated Library System (MnSCU/PALS). Scores of academic and special libraries throughout the state are part of this system. Library catalogs identifying artifacts and printed materials may be searched at no charge. Additional resources in the catalog include: Civil War veteran card index, Minnesota alien registration card index, Minnesota biography file, photographs, and a Minneapolis newspaper index. There are also several subscription databases on the system. Not all materials are indexed online.
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Statewide Automated Library System. "MnPals." [Internet online catalog]. St. Paul, Minnesota: MSCU/PALS, 23 July 1998 [cited 16 November 1999]. The catalog can be searched at www.mnhs.org/library/search/index.html .
Minnesota Discovery Center
Highway 169 West
P. O. Box 392
Chisholm, MN 55719
This center has an extensive collection of records dealing with the string of towns that extends about 200 miles east to west across St. Louis County and other counties. This was a mining area where many immigrants were employed.
Immigration History Research Center
826 Berry Street
University of Minnesota
St. Paul, MN 55114
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Immigration History Research Center’s collection is national in scope but includes immigration to Minnesota. The immigrants are from central, eastern, and southern European countries. A majority of their records are in a foreign language. For a guide to their collection see:
University of Minnesota. Immigration History Research Center. The Immigration History Research Center: A Guide to Collections. New York, NY: Greenwood Press, 1991. (Family History Library book 977.658 A3i.) Summary of the archival and library holdings. The purpose of this guide is to assist researchers in determining the usefulness of the collection and to explain the procedure for gaining access to records.
National Archives Central Plains Region (Kansas City)
2306 East Bannister Road
Kansas City, MO 64131
(Call in advance to reserve microfilm reader.)
Minnesota Genealogical Society
5768 Olson Memorial Highway
Golden Valley, MN 55422-5014
Inventories of County Archives
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the Historical Records Survey produced 40 inventories of Minnesota county archives. Though the inventories are outdated in many ways, you can use them to learn more about the history, record-keeping systems, and available records of Minnesota counties. The inventories are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
MINNESOTA, [COUNTY] – ARCHIVES AND LIBRARY – INVENTORIES, REGISTERS, CATALOGS
Minnesota Digital Collections
has statewide online database links which may include vital records, biographies, cemeteries, censuses, histories, immigration records, land records, maps, military records, naturalizations, newspapers, obituaries, or probate records.
You can find computerized research tips and information about ancestors from Minnesota in a variety of sources at local, state, national, and international levels, and the list of sources is growing rapidly. Most of the information is available at no cost. Addresses on the Internet change frequently. The following sites are important gateways linking you to many more sites:
- FamilySearch™ Internet Genealogy Service [Internet site]. [Salt Lake City, Utah]: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 22 March 1999 [cited 26 October 1999]. Available at www.familysearch.org . At this site you can access the Family History Library Catalog, Ancestral File, SourceGuide, lists of Family History Centers, web sites related to family history, and lists of researchers interested in similar genealogical topics. Many records have been indexed and images are searchable on this site.
- You can also learn about and order Family History Library publications.
- Howells, Cyndi. U.S.– Minnesota– MN. In Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet [Internet site]. Puyallup, Washington: Cyndi Howells, 6 August 1999 [cited 26 October 1999]. Available at: www.cyndislist.com/mn.htm . This list has more links to other Minnesota genealogical sites and describes more resources than any other site on the Internet.
- "Minnesota USGenWeb." In the USGenWeb Project [Internet site]. N.p., 1999 [cited 26 October 1999]. Available at www.rootsweb.com/~mngenweb/ . This is a cooperative effort by many volunteers to list genealogical databases, libraries, bulletin boards, and other resources available on the Internet, for each county, state, and country.
- United States Resources: Minnesota. In RootsWeb [Internet site]. N.p., 12 July 1999 [cited 26 October 1999]. Available at: www.rootsweb.com/roots-l/usa/mn.html . This list of sites and resources includes a large, regularly updated research coordination list.
- "MnGenExchange." In Genealogical Exchange and Surname Registry [Internet site]. N.p., 1996–1999 [cited 26 October 1999]. Available at:
This site brings searchable data to genealogists, including databases (church, cemetery, census, land, immigration, naturalization, and vital records), directories, historical accounts, mailing lists, queries, local surname researchers, and look-up volunteers.