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School Records Research

How to find historic records from Minnesota public schools

Private Schools

Records from private schools to be found at MNHS would often include school publications such as yearbooks or newspapers in addition to school histories.  We also may hold papers from alumni, teachers, or school founders in our collections.  Search the school name in our library and archives catalog to see what we may hold like the examples below: 

Anne Bosanko Green and Family Correspondence, 1944-1946. 
Paul Bosanko taught at the Blake School in Minneapolis and died in May, 1946.
MNHS call number: 146.K.9.3B

Twenty Five Years : Cathedralite ’35by Cathedral High School (Saint Cloud, Minn.). 
Class of 1935. Reunion (25th : 1960).
MNHS call number: LD7515.S2 C3789 1960

However, more often, these schools maintain their own archive, send records to the archive of a larger parent organization (e.g. a religious body), or donate them to a local historical society.  

Indian Boarding Schools

In 1891, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs was authorized by Congress to create certain legal rules that required Indian children to attend boarding schools.  These schools, also called industrial schools, were operated either by the federal government or particular Christian denominations and were in operation from the 1800s through the 1970s.  During this time there were 16 such boarding schools in Minnesota.

Many of the records from the schools themselves can be found via the National Archives given that they are federal records.  Records for the Pipestone, Vermilion Lake, and White Earth boarding schools are held by NARA in their Chicago and Kansas City repositories and explained further here: Navigating Record Group 75: BIA Schools.  

The strength of MNHS collections when it comes to Indian Boarding Schools are published books and articles, either academic histories on the topic or memoirs of students who attended the schools. Information may also be found within larger manuscript collections usually from teachers or missionaries affiliated with a particular school.  Helpful search terms to use in the library and archives catalog would be the name of the school itself or "indian school"/"industrial school."  Note that many of these holdings represent the experience of people in schools beyond the Minnesota border (such as those in South Dakota or Pennsylvania).  

Examples of these holdings include: 

"The Vermilion Lake Indian School: From Assimilation to Termination," by Linda LeGarde Grover.  
Article in Minnesota History, vol. 58.
MNHS call numberDigital Article

Oral History Interview with Rose Whipple Bluestone. 
Dakota woman, Rose Whipple Bluestone talks about her childhood in Santee, Nebraska, her grandmother's death at age 12 and her return to Minnesota. Also included in her interview are reminisces about living with her aunt and uncle, Presbyterian missionaries, and her Episcopal upbringing and education at Indian boarding schools; as well as discussions about her interest in becoming a nurse, the Great Depression and work as a laboratory assistant.
MNHS call number: Digital Oral History

Pipestone: My Life in an Indian Boarding School, by Adam Fortunate Eagle. 
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010.  
MNHS call number: E97.6.P65 E23 2010

Indian Boarding School, ca 1900.  Photograph Collection
Views at an Indian boarding school, location unknown. Includes views of students and staff, school activities, exterior and interior views of facilities.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Minnesota Public School Records Not at MNHS

If you are not able to find public school records for a particular district here at MNHS, take the following steps to attempt to locate those types of records: 

1) Contact the school itself (or if the school is no longer in existence) contact the closest school district office (who may have assumed responsibility for records of the closed school).  

2) Check with the local historical society [either county or town] or regional research center (i.e. Iron Range Research Center, Southwest Minnesota Historical Center, etc.) to see what records they may hold from that school district.  

Search Elsewhere

Gale Family Library • Minnesota Historical Society • 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102-1906 • 651-259-3300
Tuesday: 9am to 8pm • Wed. to Sat.: 9am to 4pm • Sunday & Monday: Closed • Holiday Hours