By Family Tree Editors Premium

Thaw out your Scandinavian and frontier heritage with a trip to the Twin Cities.

Despite what you may have seen in the movie Fargo, there’s more to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul than ice, snow and the Mall of America. And not everyone here has roots in Scandinavia, dontcha know, though the “Cities” are indeed a rich resource for Viking genealogists (and home to the Sons of Norway fraternal order <>).


The handsome, still relatively new Minnesota History Center (345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, 651-296-6126, <>) is a good place to start, whatever your ethnic roots. From Minnesota’s voyageur days, recaptured in a huge birch-bark canoe, to a 24-ton boxcar recalling railroad history, to Prince’s Purple Rain costume, exhibits trace the state’s historic highpoints. Don’t miss the extensive library <>, the world’s largest repository of Minnesota materials. The collection of the state’s newspapers here is unmatched (including the archives of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minnesota’s oldest newspaper). You’ll also find civil case files, tax and poll lists, school lists, all of Minnesota’s censuses (both state and federal) and local and church histories. New England researchers will want to check this surprising source, too, since the early founders of the Minnesota Historical Society were Yankees who left it their papers and books.

If you get hungry while digging into the past, Cafe Minnesota (651-297-4859, <>) inside the History Center is a stylish restaurant several cuts above standard cafeteria fare.

Across the river in Minneapolis, the American Swedish Institute (2600 Park Ave., 612-871-4907, <>) celebrates the region’s Swedish immigrant heritage in a style far grander than most Swedish newcomers ever knew. It’s housed in a 33-room mansion that once belonged to Swedish self-made millionaire Swan J. Tumblad. Exhibits range from immigrants’ trunks to more than 600 pieces of Swedish art glass. The institute’s archives and library, which include records from Swedish ports, are open to the public by appointment; see <> for more on the collection.

For a look at how the other — richer — half lived, visit the house of railroad baron James J. Hill (240 Summit Ave., St. Paul, 651-297-2555, <>), who once boasted that if you gave him enough Swedish workers he could build a railroad straight to hell. His house, which cost nearly $1 million in 1891, is now open for tours and doubles as a museum. (While you’re on Summit Avenue, drive up and down to admire the mansions, and pause at the more modest house, number 599, where F. Scott Fitzgerald lived.)

Other museums of interest include: the Hennepin History Museum (2303 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-870-1329, <>), strong on local history as well as Indian artifacts; the Bakken Museum (3537 Zenith Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-926-3878, <>), an unusual tribute to the history of electricity; and the equally unusual Museum of Questionable Medical Devices (201 Main St. SE, Minneapolis, 612-379-4046, <>), where you can see the dubious treatments your ancestors endured, in the historic area where the city was founded.

You can relive Minnesota’s fur trading days at the 1836 Sibley House Historic Site, on Highway 13 in Mendota (651-452-1596, <>), and see what it was like to guard the frontier at the 1820s Fort Snelling, just across the river in St. Paul (612-726-1171, <>). Both are closed November through April. Farther to the south, in suburban Shakopee, Murphy’s Landing is a living history museum that re-creates life along the Minnesota River in the 1840s to 1890s (2187 E. Highway 101, 952-445-6901, <>).

For less wild and woolly exploration of the past, you can tap the Minneapolis Public Library’s main branch downtown (300 Nicollet Mall, 612-630-6000, <>). The St. Paul Public Library’s main branch is closed for a two-year renovation. The library of the Minnesota Genealogical Society (5768 Olson Memorial Highway, Golden Valley, 763-595-9347, <>) is open to the public; nonmembers are charged $5.

Because of the History Center, visiting genealogists will probably want to stay in downtown St. Paul. The historic, handsomely renovated St Paul Hotel (350 Market St., 651-292-9292) is the clear choice here if your budget can bear it; likewise, for dining, opt for the hotel’s St Paul Grill (651-224-7455). The Radisson Hotel (11 E. Kellogg Blvd., 651-292-1900) is another solid choice, and its revolving rooftop Carousel Restaurant offers a panoramic view of the Mississippi Riven Also consider the newer Radisson City Center (411 Minnesota St., 651-291-8800) and the more budget-minded Best Western Kelly Inn (161 St. Anthony Ave., 651-227-8711), which is closest to the History Center and to the Minnesota State Capitol.

Other St. Paul restaurants worth noting include W.A. Frost & Company (374 Selby Ave., 651-224-5715), in the 19th-century Dacotah Building near the magnificent St Paul Cathedral, and, if the season permits, the No Wake Cafe (Pier 1, Harriet Island, 651-292-1411), a floating restaurant with a lovely view.

Or there’s always the Mall of America (952-883-8800, <>), just a few minutes away in Bloomington, near the airport, which has 49 restaurants as well as 520 shops, an aquarium and an indoor amusement park. (So you can have fun even in the infamous Minnesota ice and snow — you betcha.)

– David A. Fryxell

“Tracing Your Family Tree in Missouri”

lecture by Robert Parkin Jr. (, $8.50)


Afro-Americans in Missouri

<>: Links to slave schedules, Underground Railroad info, black history.

Cone But Not Forgotten, Missouri Pioneers

<>: Compilation of settlers in Missouri by 1890.

A Guide to Missouri Genealogy

<>: Census and death indexes, research helps.

Index of the Civil War in Missouri

<>: Battles, regiments, historic sites.

Missouri GenWeb Project

<>: Archive, tombstone and census projects; county resources.

Missouri Mailing Lists

<>: Subscribe to county and state mailing lists.

Missouri Resources at RootsWeb

<>: Database and archive search engines, plus Missouri-related personal Web sites.

Suggestions for Tracing Family History

<>: Tips from the State Historical Society of Missouri.

Vital Records Information

<>: Birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.


• Hermann


MAY 18-19

German folklore, songs, music and food greet the blossoming of spring in this historic town.

(800) 932-8687 <>

Meet your ancestors in St. Louis.

If your ancestors were lured west by the notion of abundant land and riverfront trade, chances are they settled in or near St. Louis or at least passed through here. Known as “The Gateway to the West,” St. Louis is a city rich in genealogical treasures. With so many historical resources, deciding where to look can be a tricky task. So grab your city map, gather your research materials, and don’t forget to take this handy guide on your pilgrimage.

First on your trip, explore the archives of the St. Louis Mercantile Library at 8001 Natural Bridge Road in the Thomas Jefferson Library Building (314-516-7240, <>). Located on the north campus of University of Missouri-St. Louis, the library is the oldest west of the Mississippi River. Mercantile Library has one of the largest transportation collections in the region, with information such as passenger lists pertaining to waterways, railroads and airlines. Original clippings from early 1900s issues of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, as well as other historical newspapers on hard copy and film, add to the library’s genealogy resources.

Check Mercantile Library files to see if your ancestors were members. Membership is not mandatory in order to do research but does have its perks. Copies cost 30 cents for nonmembers, only 15 cents for members. Members are also allowed to check out materials. When you visit Mercantile Library, keep in mind that parking on campus can be tricky. If you plan to do extensive research, call the campus police department ahead of time (314-516-5155) to obtain a one-day parking permit.

Next, stop by the Missouri Historical Society Library and Research Center (225 S. Skinker Blvd., 314-746-4500, <>). Here you’ll find extensive collections documenting the history of St. Louis, the state of Missouri, the Mississippi and Missouri valleys, the Louisiana Purchase territory and the American West.

The Research Center is divided into six collections. No appointment is necessary to use the general library and manuscript collections. Library collections include books, periodicals, newspapers, maps and microfilms on topics such as American fur trade and the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair (immortalized in the movie and musical Meet Me in St. Louis). Among the Manuscript Collections, you’ll find papers relating to Lewis and Clark’s 1804-1806 expedition, as well as records of free African-Americans in St. Louis and Missouri.

To access the photographs and prints collections, broadcast media archives, architecture collections or museum collections, call ahead to schedule an appointment. When you arrive, speak to one of the professional librarians or archivists for help accessing records. They can also assist you with photocopying, which costs 25 cents per page. The Library and Research Center is closed on Sunday and Monday, so you might want to reserve those days for traveling.

For more genealogical resources, visit the St. Louis County Library (1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd., 314-994-3300, <>). Tier 5 is home to the library’s special collections. Research tools include six microfilm readers with printers, microfiche readers, two photocopiers and five computers. The price for copies ranges from 10 cents to 25 cents. Three-ring binders, purses, briefcases, bags, personal or library books are prohibited.

You can search the Freedman’s Bank records on CD-ROM, World War I draft registration cards, city directories and census, church and cemetery records. The special collections department is also home to the Julius K. Hunter & Friends African American Research Collection and the holdings of the St. Louis Genealogical Society (314-647-8547, <>). For an in-depth look at tracing your roots in St. Louis, Guide to Genealogical Research in St. Louis, published by the society, is available for sale on its Web site or at the county library.

Finally, dig in to one of the most comprehensive genealogy collections in St. Louis at the St Louis Public Library downtown (1301 Olive St., 314-241-2288, <>). Park at one of the many metered spaces, and don’t worry about what you take into the library — there are no restrictions. The history and genealogy department is on the second floor of the library. The department has census information available on microfilm and Soundex, plus city directories for the city of St. Louis from 1821 to 1980 and for St. Louis County from 1893 to 1979.

One of the most significant research resources the library has to offer is an electronic database called MapFind. The staff uses this program to access the library’s enormous map collection. Find the information you need from the large-scale topographic maps of Missouri and Illinois, the historical St. Louis maps and the medium-scale European maps. If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, ask the staff to retrieve one of the 100,000 maps from the basement.

Of course, while you’re here you’ll also want to visit the St. Louis Gateway Arch (314-982-1410), located in the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park on the banks of the Mississippi. Designed by Eero Saarinen and dedicated in 1966, the stainless steel arch rises 630 feet high from a 60-foot foundation — making it the nation’s tallest memorial. An underground visitor center features galleries celebrating America’s westward expansion. Trams take you to an observation room at the top of the arch ($7 adults, $3 for children ages 3 to 12).

And you’ll need to eat. Try these centrally located restaurants:

Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant (116 N. Sixth St., 314-621-1214)

Lorenzo’s Trattoria on the Hill (1933 Edwards St., 314-773-2223)

China Royal Restaurant (5911 N. Lindbergh Blvd., 314-731-1313)

For lodging, try these hotels:

Drury Inn (201 S. 20th St., 314-231-3900)

Holiday Inn (811 N. Ninth St., 314-421-4000)

Marriott Hotels & Resorts (1 S. Broadway, 314-421-1776)

Travelodge (9645 Natural Bridge Road, 314-890-9000)

You can find more information on St. Louis travel and tourism online at Explore St. Louis <>. Also, check out the St. Louis Attractions site <>. For restaurant and entertainment guides, see <>.

– Crystal Conde

• Saint Charles

Lewis & Clark Heritage Days

MAY 18-19

Re-enactment of the Lewis and Clark encampment in 1804, where exploration of the Louisiana Purchase started.

(800) 366-2427 <>



Nebraska State Genealogical Society

Box 5608 Lincoln, NE 68505 <>

Nebraska State Historical Society

Box 82554 1500 R St. Lincoln, NE 68501 <>: Links to preservation, genealogy, archives and newspapers.


Nebraska HistoryandRecord of Pioneer Days

<>: Issues from 1918 to 1923 are online, with an alphabetical topic index and a photo index for volumes 1-5.


Nebraska GenWeb Project <>: Online library, census projects, county resources and queries.

Nebraska History

<>: Learn about the Mormon Trail, military history, cattle ranching and Fort Robinson.

Nebraska History Resources

<>: Links to trails, historic sites, notable Nebraskans.

Nebraska Mailing Lists

<>: Free subscriptions to county and state mailing lists.

Nebraska Pioneers

<>: Resource center on early Nebraska settlers.

Nebraska Resources at RootsWeb

<>: Queries, RootsWeb database search engines and transcription projects.

Nebraska School Records

<>: Links to county school records.

Vital Records Information

<>: Where to obtain copies of birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.


• North Platte


JUNE 14-25

Celebrate Nebraska’s Western heritage with events including the “Frontier Revue,” which showcases the West in song and dance.

(888) 313-5606 <>

• Wither

National Czech Festival

AUG. 2-4

This festival celebrates Czech culture and immigrants’ contributions with polka, costumes, food and a gathering of relatives of the town founder, Professor C.D. Wilber.

(888)4-WILBER <>

North Dakota


Bismarck-Mandan Historical and

Genealogy Society

Box 485 Bismarck, ND 58502

State Historical Society of North Dakota

North Dakota Heritage Center 612 E. Boulevard Ave. Bismarck, ND 58505 <>: Learn about Lewis and Clark in North Dakota and the society’s traveling exhibits.


“Research in the Dakotas” lecture by Paula Stuart Warren (, $8.50)

Tracing Your Dakota Roots: A Guide to Genealogical Research in the Dakotas by Cathy A. Langemo (Dakota Roots, $19.99)


Cemeteries of North Dakota

<>: The searchable database has a link to find a lost burial. You can also shop at the cemetery bookstore.

North Dakota Chronology

<>: Important events in North Dakota history.

North Dakota Genealogy Forum

<>: Post queries and search the forum’s contents using keywords.

North Dakota Genealogy Resource Center

<>: Links to military records, plat maps indexes.

North Dakota GenWeb Project

<>: Research helps, county queries, 1890 map.

North Dakota History

<>: An overview, beginning with pre-European contact.

North Dakota Mailing Lists

<>: Subscribe to free state and county mailing lists.

North Dakota Resources at RootsWeb

<>: Search RootsWeb-based archives and queries.

Vital Records Information

<>: Where to obtain copies of birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.


• Mountain

Icelandic Celebration

AUG. 2-4

Celebrate Icelandic culture and heritage with food, music and cultural exchanges.

(701) 993-8282 <>

South Dakota


South Dakota Historical Society

900 Governor’s Drive Pierre, SD 57501 <>


“Research in the Dakotas” lecture by Paula Stuart Warren (,$8.50)

Tracing Your Dakota Roots: A Guide to Genealogical Research in the Dakotas by Cathy A. Langemo (Dakota Roots, $19.99)


Chronology of South Dakota History

<>: Timeline of important events, such as the Lewis and Clark expedition from St. Louis to the Pacific and the formal establishment of the Dakota Territory.

History of South Dakota

<>: Early history of the state, including information about the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark expedition and the importance of the fur industry.

MayflowerDescendants in South Dakota

<>: Information about South Dakota Mayflower descendants.

South Dakota Birth Records

<>: Birth records for people who died more than 100 years ago.

South Dakota Genealogy Forum

<>: Post queries and search the forum.

South Dakota GenWeb Project

<>: The South Dakota Bureau of Land Management database contains all homestead, mining and timber claims, as well as cash sales and Indian allotments from 1859 to 1995. You’ll also find birth records and various county resources.

South Dakota Mailing Lists

< states-sd.html>: Free subscriptions to county and state mailing lists.

South Dakota Resources at RootsWeb

<>: Search RootsWeb databases and look for personal Web sites about your South Dakota family.

Vital Records Information

<>: Birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.


• Sioux Falls

Nordland Fest


Augustana College hosts a celebration of Norwegian heritage; come prepared to eat lutefisk (lye-cured cod).

(605) 274-4613 <>

• Custer

Gold Discovery Days

JULY 25-28

This festival includes a carnival, arts and crafts show, parade and more.

(605) 673-2244

• Geddes

Fur Trader Days and Antique Tractor Pull

AUG. 9-11

This celebration revolves around an 1857 log cabin located in a historic village with activities such as an 1880s-era parade, black-powder demonstration, food, crafts, pedal pull, antique tractor pull, ranch rodeo, go-cart races and more.

(605) 337-2501

state stats


Statehood: 1846

First mostly extant federal census: 1850

Statewide birth, death and marriage records begin: 1880

Public-land state


Statehood: 1861

First mostly extant federal census: 1860

Statewide birth and death records begin: 1911

Statewide marriage records begin: 1913

Public-land state


Statehood: 1858

First mostly extant federal census: 1850

Statewide birth and death records begin: 1900

Statewide marriage records begin: 1958

Public-land state


Statehood: 1821

First mostly extant federal census: 1830

Statewide birth and death records begin: 1910

Statewide marriage records begin: 1948

Public-land state


Statehood: 1867

First mostly extant federal census: 1860

Statewide birth and death records begin: 1905

Statewide marriage records begin: 1909

Public-land state

North Dakota

Statehood: 1889

First mostly extant federal census: 1870

Statewide birth and death records begin: 1893

Statewide marriage records begin: 1925

Public-land state

South Dakota

Statehood: 1889

First mostly extant federal census: 1900


Statewide birth and death records begin: 1905

Statewide marriage records begin: 1905

Public-land state

From the Winter 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine

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