A biography is a history of a person’s life. In a biography you may find the individual’s birth, marriage, and death information, and the names of his or her parents, children, or other family members. Biographies often include photographs, family traditions and stories, clues about an ancestor’s place of origin, places where he or she has lived, church affiliation, military service, and activities within the community. The information must be used carefully, however, because there may be inaccuracies. Biographies are often included in county and local histories.
The best collections of published biographies in Minnesota are at the Minnesota Historical Society Library, the University of Minnesota, and the Minneapolis Public Library. The state historical society has published an index to biographical sketches:
- Upham, Warren, and Dunlap, Rose Barteau. Minnesota Biographies, 1655–1912. Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society. Volume 14. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society, 1912. (Family History Library book 977.6 B4m Volume 14; film 1697445 item 4.) Indexes about 100,000 individuals. The references came from newspapers, periodicals, and books within the Minnesota Historical Society Libraries collection.
The Minnesota Biographies project began in 1976 and added another 50,000 names updating and enhancing the book Minnesota Biographies listed above. These are on 5" x 7" cards at the Minnesota Historical Society Library.
The Minnesota Historical Society Library also has:
- Nielsen, Steven. Diaries in the Minnesota Historical Manuscript Collections. Typescript, 1979. This 61-page typescript is an alphabetical list with a brief description of each diary’s contents including dates covered. Also included is a 12-page addendum Women’s Diaries and Letters. (Not available at the Family History Library.)
For a list of some oral interviews of Minnesota individuals see:
Minnesota Historical Society. The Oral History Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1984. (Family History Library book 977.6 H2mh.) This lists oral histories on tape at the Minnesota Historical Society and the regional research centers. The listings give the length of the interview and a brief description of the individual. Some oral histories are restricted while others may be checked out or copied at your request.
The Family History Library also has a major collection of biographical sources. Search statewide, regional, and county histories and atlases for biographical information. Some representative biographical works are:
Andreas, A. T.,Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Minnesota. Chicago, Illinois, 1874. (Family History Library book 977.6 E7i; microfilm 896864.) This atlas has about 15,000 names of persons, by town, frequently giving their place of birth and occupation. A published index is:
- Bakeman, Mary Hawker. A Comprehensive Index to A. T. Andreas’ Illustrated Historical Atlas of Minnesota–1874. Brooklyn Park, Minnesota: Park Genealogical Books, 1992. (Family History Library book 977.6 E7iL index.) This is arranged alphabetically and gives the place of birth for most persons listed.
Burnquist, Joseph Alfred Arner, ed. Minnesota and Its People. Four Volumes. Chicago, Illinois S.J. Clarke, 1924. (On 2 Family History Library microfilms. Volumes 1–3 are on microfilm 928372; Volume 4 is on microfilm 928374 item1; Volumes 1–4 are on microfiche 6051360.) Volumes 3 and 4 are biographical. This contains 700–800 biographies of men who helped build the state, up to and including World War I. Each volume has its own index.
Castle, Henry Anson. Minnesota, Its Story and Biography. Three Volumes. Chicago: Lewis Publishing, 1915. (Family History Library book 977.6 H2ch; film 1000251.) Volumes 2 and 3 contain biographies. An index to the biographies is near the beginning of volume 1.
Marquis, Albert Nelson. The Book of Minnesotans: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of the State of Minnesota. Chicago, Illinois: A.N. Marquis, 1907. (Family History Library microfilm 459633.) This book contains over 4,000 short biographical sketches of prominent men from business, politics, religion, and the arts. Patterned after the Who’s Who books.
Toensing, W. F. Minnesota Congressmen, Legislators and Other Elected Officials: An Alphabetical Checklist, 1849–1971. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society, 1971. (Family History Library book 977.6 N2t.) Gives birth and death dates, county and post office of residence, office to which elected, and year(s) of service.
The Family History Library has Who’s Who in Minnesota for 1941, 1958, and 1964. An example is:
- Cornwall, C. N. Who’s Who in Minnesota: 1941. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Minnesota Editorial Association, 1942. (Family History Library book 977.6 D3w.) This contains birth dates and places, and names of parents and spouse. Arranged alphabetically by name within each county.
The Family History Library has many publications and histories with biographical information. They are generally listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
MINNESOTA – BIOGRAPHY
MINNESOTA, [COUNTY] – BIOGRAPHY
For a statewide search of people in books, see the Dalby Database.