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Dakota Family History Research Guide: Getting Started

Getting Started

Woman holding infant, ca. 1930.

Family history research involves finding names, locations, dates and stories, beginning with you and working back through time.  The best way to proceed is, as the popular saying in genealogy goes: Start with what you know

Start with yourself, your father, and your mother. Gather together the information you have, such as names, dates/places of birth and/or death, and dates/places of marriagePlace the information that you have on a pedigree chart.

Search your own records—talk to other family members, review deeds, look at Bibles, scrapbooks and photo albums, etc. Who are the 'keepers' in the family?  See what information you can find about your family before heading to the Library or going online. Remember that while many records are online, many others are only available at libraries, including the Minnesota Historical Society Library.

Using a Pedigree Chart

A basic pedigree chart will look something like the one below. A "family group record" brings together the parents and siblings in a particular family on one sheet. Pre-printed charts can be purchased or found online.

pedigree chart

Research Tips

  1. Start with useful documents such as census records and annuity rolls.
  2. Do not focus just on American Indian records; use everything available from the time period.
  3. Be prepared for variation in names and spellings.
  4. Fur trade records could be helpful.  See Manuscripts Tab for listings of these materials.  
  5. For members of tribes that are not federally-recognized, try the non-Indian census.  The people may be listed, but a tribal affiliation will not be included.  
  6. Use military records since American Indians served in the military in many different wars.

Getting Started Links

Gale Family Library • Minnesota Historical Society • 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102-1906 • 651-259-3300
Currently open by appointment only.