Background Sources for Minnesota

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This entry was originally written by Carol L. Maki and Michael John Neill for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Minnesota Family History Research series.
History of Minnesota
Minnesota Vital Records
Census Records for Minnesota
Background Sources for Minnesota
Minnesota Maps
Minnesota Land Records
Minnesota Probate Records
Minnesota Court Records
Minnesota Tax Records
Minnesota Cemetery Records
Minnesota Church Records
Minnesota Military Records
Minnesota Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Minnesota Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Minnesota Immigration
Minnesota Naturalization
Ethnic Groups of Minnesota
Minnesota County Resources
Map of Minnesota


Local history resources in Minnesota include the printed and archival collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, the library of the Minnesota Genealogical Society, other private and public libraries, and county and local historical and genealogical societies. Each of these has unique material for research. The following sources are recommended:

  • Brook, Michael. Reference Guide to Minnesota History: A Subject Bibliography of Books, Pamphlets and Articles in English. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1974. Arranged by subject and indexed.
  • ———, and Sarah P. Rubenstein. A Supplement to Reference Guide to Minnesota History: A Subject Bibliography, 1970–80. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1983. Arranged by subject and indexed.
  • Folwell, William Watts. A History of Minnesota. 4 vols. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1921–30.
  • Kirkeby, Lucille L. Holdings of Genealogical Value in Minnesota’s County Museums. Brainerd, Minn.: the author, 1986. This organizes the local historical societies by county, lists their hours, and gives descriptions of collections that would be of interest to a family researcher.
  • Minnesota Historical Society. Genealogical Resources of the Minnesota Historical Society: A Guide. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1989.
  • Pope, Wiley R. Tracing Your Ancestors in Minnesota: A Guide to Sources. St. Paul: Minnesota Family Trees, various years. This is a series of research guides for Minnesota genealogical research. The first volume is a general statewide guide, but other volumes cover specific sections of the state. The sectional guides list resources in the county government centers, the Minnesota Historical Society, regional research centers, and county historical repositories.
  • Upham, Warren, and Rose Barteaw Dunlap, comps. Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society. Vol. 14. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1912. This is an 892-page index of Minnesota biographies (1655–1912). The sources include 250 national and state printed biographical collections, Minnesota pamphlets, histories and military records of the state, magazines and journals, personal memoirs, scrapbooks, and state newspapers. A brief biographical sketch plus the reference from which the data was extracted is provided for each individual.
  • Warren, Paula Stuart. Minnesota Genealogical Reference Guide, 3d ed. St. Paul: Warren Research and Publishing, 1997.
  • Warren, Paula Stuart, and Ann H. Peterson. An Introduction to Minnesota Research Sources. St. Paul: Minnesota Genealogical Society, 1988.
  • Warren, Paula Stuart. “Genealogical Research in Minnesota,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 77 (March 1989): 22-42. A valuable, concise Minnesota guide to research.
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