Historic Business Research

Civil Court Cases

Crow Wing Co. Court House, Brainerd, Minn., 1910Civil Court cases can provide varying types of information about a business, including details of their goods/services; information about their location(s), finances, and holdings; and insight into customer and/or labor relations.  Business-related cases may name the business and/or owner as a plaintiff or defendant.  These include:

  • Debts to or from the company
  • Contract disputes
  • Environmental, labor, or other regulatory cases
  • Dissatisfied customers suing about goods or services rendered
  • Tax cases
  • Property claims

Other types of civil cases that could provide information on a business include:

  • Divorces
  • Personal debt/tax cases

 For more information on Civil Court records and how to find them, please visit the District Court page of our Court Records guide. 

Probate Court Records

The main responsibility of the probate courts was to oversee the orderly disposition of a decedent’s real and personal property after his/her death.  For businesses, this could mean shifting ownership to heir(s), liquidating and/or distributing the assets of a company, etc. The two main types of records available are:

  • Case files
  • Will Books

Probate courts also handled insanity/commitment and guardianship cases.  These cases generally do not involve businesses, but it in some cases the probate court would make determinations on guardians who could oversee the business interests of minors or those determined to be legally without the sanity or mental capacity to handle their own affairs.

 For more information on Probate Court records and how to find them, please visit the Probate Court page of our Court Records guide. 

Criminal Court Cases

Hennepin County District Court, 1961Criminal cases may provide information about a business, particularly in cases related to:

  • Financial crimes like fraud, embezzlement, money laundering
  • Illegal goods, services, and activities
  • Criminal violations of government regulations or local ordinances 

 For more information on Criminal Court records and how to find them, please visit the District Court page of our Court Records guide. 

Federal Court Records

Federal Courts have jurisdiction over several types of cases that may provide information about a business, including:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Certain civil cases (law, equity, and admiralty)
  • Certain criminal cases, including violations of Prohibition laws

 For more information on Federal Court records and how to find them, please visit the Federal Court page of our Court Records guide. 

Other Court Records

Business name registers, records, or certificates
Recorded at the county-level District Courts these records' entries generally give the name of the business, address, owners' names, and date of filing.  
Search the catalog for "business name" and the county

Municipal Courts -  Many cities and towns had their own local court which handled a variety of cases, including traffic offenses, violation of local ordinances, and small claims. 
Search the catalog for "municipal court" and the municipality.

Tax Court -  Originally established as a Board of Tax Appeals in 1939, the Tax Court is an independent agency within the Department of Revenue.  The court has the power to review and revise/reverse orders or decisions of the commissioner upon appeal.  Appeals may be made with respect to taxes, fees, or assessments by an affected person, political subdivision of the state, or by the Attorney General on behalf of the State.
Search the catalog for "tax court"

Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals - Minnesota passed its first Workmen’s Compensation Law in 1913.  Over the years jurisdiction for implementing the law fell to several agencies, including the Compensation Insurance Board, the Workmen’s Compensation Division/Commission, and the Division of Labor Conciliation.  The Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals exercises appellate jurisdiction not only in all cases and matters under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Law, but also for cases under the laws governing employees who contract tuberculosis and the Peace Officers Killed in Line of Duty Law. Appeals to the court are filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings or with the Department of Labor and Industry, as appropriate. The decisions of the court are subject to review only by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

MNHS Reference Staff

reading room bookshelves


Gale Family Library
Minnesota Historical Society Library

Located on the Second Floor of the Minnesota History Center
345 West Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Library Hours:
Thursday to Saturday: 10am to 4pm
Sunday to Wednesday: Closed

More Information on Visiting the Library


Contact Us:


Email Us

Visit our Main Website

Gale Family Library • Minnesota Historical Society • 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102-1906 • 651-259-3300
Hours and More InformationEmail us