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Family Farm Research

Researching People: Getting Started

Farm house on the Tryggeseth farm, Dawson, 1910.
Researching people associated with your farm:
 
County histories were published during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Most county histories contain biographical sketches and photographs of notable residents as well as family histories.  They can also provide you with a context for agricultural practices at the time.  You can search for county histories in the library catalog by typing in the name of the county as well as the term "history" into the search bar
(i.e. "Brown county history")
 
If you are the current owner of the farm, you can look at your abstract and note the names of previous owners.  An abstract is a written history of all recorded documents and proceedings related to a property, kept in a single large document  (sales, mortgages, liens, and court proceedings, etc).  If you do not currently hold a copy of the abstract, you can access abstract records at the county recorder’s office.  
 
Plat maps, created during the late 19th and early 20th century, usually contain property owner indexes, photographs of notable residents and buildings, and advertisements related to local communities and businesses.
 
You can also access a wealth of general information about people--such as census, vital (birth, marriage, and death), and court records--at the MNHS Library.  Visit our Family History Research Guides landing page for information on how to access these records.

Collections related to specific farmers and family farms

Edwin H. Atwood and Family Papers, 1800, 1838-1954
Correspondence (undated and 1861-1899), diaries (1868, 1874-1877, 1892), legal and financial documents (1938, 1856-1899), newspaper clippings (1800, 1886-1887), scrapbook (1950-1954), real estate records (1893-1899), and miscellaneous printed matter primarily related to the life and family of a Minnesota farmer and activist in the Farmers' Alliance.
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (P1806).

Sarah G. and George W. Baird Diaries and Account Books, 1862,1870-1918
Diaries, account books, and memorabilia of an Edina (Hennepin County) farm couple. Sarah's 26 diaries (1883, 1886-1918) describe their farm life and social, political, and church activities, including their involvement in the Grange and attendance at its annual national meetings (1895-1902), and trips to the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition (1893), California (1892-1893, 1913), Pennsylvania (several times), and Florida (1914). George's two account books detail farm accounts (1870-1880) and the 1913 California trip.
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (P1396).

David B. Christie and Family Correspondence, 1871-1933
Correspondence of the David Christie family who farmed in Rapidan Township, Blue Earth County, Minn. (1868-1886) and later raised sheep near Bozeman, Montana (1886-1920).
MNHS call numberDigital Finding Aid

Allen W. Dawley Diaries, 1865-1925
Diaries of this Minnesota farmer who lived in Highland Township, Wabasha County (1865-1898), and Waterford Township, Dakota County (1898-1925). 
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (Dawley, Allen Webster).

The Farmer Collection of Reminiscences, 1949, 1958
Reminiscent letters written by farmers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota for the Minnesota Territorial Centennial and Statehood Centennial editions of The Farmer, a magazine published at St. Paul, Minnesota. The letters deal with agricultural methods and machinery, buildings, social life, education, homesteading, the 1862 Dakota Conflict, and grasshopper invasions.
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (P2081).

Feeders, Inc. (Heron Lake, Minn.). Corporation Records, 1883-1990 (bulk 1937-1980)
Financial records and subject files of a Jackson County family farm corporation owned by agribusiness executive Arthur D. Hyde. Feeders' major subsidiary, Wilder Farms, was located east of Heron Lake (Minn.) and was developed by Hyde into a large farming and cattle feeding operation and a showcase for Harvestore brand silos.
MNHS call numberDigital Finding Aid

James Godward and Family Papers, 1951-1992
Papers documenting Godward's development (1953-), in partnership with his brother Gerald, of paddy-grown wild rice production in Atkin County, Minnesota.
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (P2067).

Thomas H. Griffin Papers, 1878-1883, 1899-1909
Account books kept by this farmer near Clinton Falls, Steele County (Minn.), listing receipts and expenditures for his farm and home; the prices of food, clothing, wood and livestock; wages paid to hired help; and the amount of milk furnished to a cheese factory. A diary (1878-1883) begins at the rear of the first volume and records the weather, dates for planting, and other aspects of his farming operations.
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the Library (M272).

Anna M. Kurtz Diaries, 1949-1981
Diaries of an Eden Prairie (Minn.) farm wife, detailing daily life, social and church activities, raising and selling poultry and truck farm produce, family finances, canning and preserving food, automobile trips throughout the United States, current events and other aspects of rural life.
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (P1477).

John H. Lawrence Papers, 1889-1934
An account book (1889-1934) kept by this farmer near Litchfield (Minn.), recording prices of farm machinery, dates of planting crops, yields per acre, income from farm produce, and wages paid to farm laborers; and a diary (1919-1929) mentioning farming activities and meetings of the local farm bureau and the cooperative livestock shipping association.
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (M555).

James P. Newell Diaries, 1868-1916
Manuscript diaries (March 3, 1868-Dec. 31, 1916) documenting the daily activities of a farmer who lived near Plainview in Wabasha County (Minn.) (1868-1909) and later (1909-1916) in Albert Lea (Minn.).
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (P1936).

Irvin Washington Rollins Papers, 1848-1895
Diaries (1848, 1855-1895), two account books (1861-1893), and miscellaneous correspondence and memorabilia of Rollins, a farmer near Elgin, Wabasha County (Minn.). His diaries comment on farm and social life, agricultural products, prices, meetings of local organizations, local and national elections, land claims, attitudes toward the Dakota Conflict (1862) and the Civil War, local government, and other aspects of Wabasha County life.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Fred Shadduck diary, 1912 Jan. 1-1921 March 31.
A photocopied typed transcription of a diary kept by a farmer and resort owner near Annandale (Minn.). The entries are brief and cover only the winter months (Jan.-March) for each year (1912-1921), but do contain a substantial amount of information related to farming and rural life during the first part of the 20th century.
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (P2039).

John D. Scofield and Family Papers, 1875-1968
Includes correspondence (undated and 1882-1920, 1945); diaries (1881-1886); ledgers (1877, 1881-1956); minutes (1882-1887, 1895-1904); Sunday school lessons (1903); a property appraisal (1962); a land contract and deeds (1855, 1857, 1912); photographs; newspaper clippings (undated and 1898-1935, 1965-1968); family register; and miscellaneous papers (undated and 1875-1882, 1904, 1912-1918, 1966) related to John D. Scofield, an early settler of Bloomington (Minn.); his farm and family; the Bloomington Woman's Club; and the prominent role Scofield and his wife Caroline played in the Minnesota Grange and the founding of the University of Minnesota School of Agriculture.
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (Scofield, John Darius).

George W. Smith Letters, 1857-1858
Letters from Smith, St. Paul and Minneapolis, to his parents in Maine, commenting on the purchase of land; growing and marketing agricultural products; the weather; grasshoppers; and impressions of life in Minnesota.
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (P2179).

Magnus Wefald Papers, 1852-1991 (bulk 1929-1991)
Personal correspondence, farm records, legal case files, personal and farm accounting records, personal and client tax returns, and legislative files of a country lawyer (1929-1983), farm owner (1938-1969), and state senator (1947-1958) from Hawley, Clay County (Minn.)
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

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