New Mexico History and Research Overview

By Family Tree Editors Premium


New Mexico’s is among the most recent stars on the American flag, gaining statehood in 1912. Yet New Mexico’s history, both native and European, is among the longest on the continent. Evidence of habitation by the Sandia people dates to 25,000 BC. Other native cultures there include the Mogollon, the Anasazi, and around 1130 to 1180, the Pueblo Indians, who were here when Coronado came in 1540. Don Juan de Oñate founded the first Spanish settlements in 1598. Santa Fe was founded in 1610; Albuquerque marked its tricentennial in 2006. Except for Pueblo Indian revolts in 1680 and 1696, which briefly sent colonists fleeing, the Spanish held sway in this area for centuries. For a brief period following Mexican independence in 1821, Mexico’s flag replaced Spain’s.


With the outbreak of the Mexican-American War in 1846, the Stars and Stripes arrived in New Mexico. In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war and fixed the boundaries between the US and Mexico at the Rio Grande, the Gila River, and the Colorado River. The Gadsden Purchase, signed in Mesilla, NM, in 1854, added the rest of southwestern New Mexico and southern Arizona.

The Compromise of 1850 created New Mexico Territory from today’s New Mexico plus southern Nevada and Arizona, which split off in 1863. The arrival of the telegraph in 1877 and the joining of the second transcontinental railroad at Deming, NM, in 1881, began to bring the rough-and-tumble territory into the American family. New Mexico attracted miners and ranchers. Some of the latter battled in the Lincoln County Wars, which made a legend of Billy the Kid.

New Mexico’s soldiers formed Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War. During World War II, the atomic age was born at Los Alamos and Alamogordo, beginning a new, high-tech era for this ancient land.

(click to enlarge)
New Mexico state map with county outlines


  • Many early records are in Spanish. Translations may contain inaccuracies or gaps.
  • The key to successful New Mexico research is knowing the history of the records for which you are searching. Read up on the many phases of the state’s past.
  • Rocky Mountain Online Archives is a guide to several of the state’s major archival holdings.
  • The New Mexico Genealogical Society’s site contains tons of helpful tips and tools.


  • Federal census: 1820, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • Special Census of Civil War Union veterans and widows: 1890
  • Spanish/Mexican census: 1790, 1823, 1845
  • State/territorial census: 1885


  • 20,000 Years of History: A New Mexico Bibliography by Frances Leon Swadesh (Sunstone Press, 1973)
  • Archives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, 1678-1900 by Angelico Chavez (Academy of American Franciscan History, 1957)
  • Caronado’s Land: Daily Life in Colonial New Mexico by Marc Simons (Frontier Press, 1996)
  • Directory of Churches and Religious Organizations in New Mexico, 1940 from the Historical Records Survey (Historical Records Survey, 1940)
  • Foreigners in their Native Land: Historical Roots of the Mexican Americans by David J. Weber (University of New Mexico Press, 1972)
  • A Forgotten Kingdom: The Spanish Frontier In Colorado and New Mexico 1540-1821 by, Frederic J. Athern (Bureau of Land Management, Colorado State Office, 1989)
  • Genealogical Resources in New Mexico by Robert E. Esterly (Genealogical Society, 1997)
  • Handy Genealogical Guide to New Mexico by Joyce V. Hawley Spiros (Verlene Publishing, 1981)
  • The Historical Encyclopedia of New Mexico, 2 vols. (New Mexico Historical Association, 1945)
  • A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in New Mexico, 1876-1989 by Lyle K. Porter (L.K. and W.H. Porter, 2001)
  • A History of the Italians in New Mexico by Frederick G. Bohme (Arno Press, 1975)
  • History of Mormon Settlements in Mexico and New Mexico by H. Mannie Foster (Utah State Agricultural College, 1955)
  • A History of New Mexico, 3 vols., by Charles F. Coan (American Historical Society, 1925)
  • History of New Mexico: Its Resources and People, 2 vols., (Pacific States Publishing Co., 1907)
  • An Illustrated History of New Mexico by Thomas E. Chavez (University of New Mexico Press, 2002)
  • An Illustrated History of New Mexico (Lewis Pub. Co., 1895)
  • Inventory of Federal Archives in the States, Series 03, Department of the Treasury, No. 30, New Mexico from the Historical Records Survey (Historical Records Survey 1941)
  • Leading Facts of New Mexican History, 2 vols., by Ralph Emerson Twitchell (Higginson Book Co., 1994)
  • Los Primeros Pobladores: Antecesores De Los Chicanos En Nuevo Mexico by Frances Leon Swadesh (Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1977)
  • The Missions of New Mexico, 1776 by Francisco A. Dominquez (University of New Mexico Press, 1956)
  • Mormons and Their Neighbors: an Index to Over 75,000 Biographical Sketches from 1820 to the Present, 2 vols., by Marvin E. Wiggins (Brigham Young University, 1984)
  • Navajos in the Catholic Church Records of New Mexico, 1694-1875 by David M. Brugge (Parks and Recreation Department, 1968)
  • The Navajos: The Past and Present of a Great People by John Upton Terrell (Weybright and Talley, 1970)
  • New Mexico Newspapers: A Comprehensive Guide to Bibliographical Entries and Locations by Pearce S. Grove (University of New Mexico Press, 1975)
  • New Mexico Research Outline by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (online at
  • The Old Ones of New Mexico by Robert Coles (University of New Mexico Press, 1973)
  • Origins of New Mexico Families in the Spanish Colonial Period in Two Parts: The Seventeenth (1598-1693) and the Eighteenth (1693-1821) Centuries by Fray Angelico Chavez (University of Albuquerque, 1973)
  • The Plains Indians and New Mexico, 1751-1778 by Alfred Barnaby Thomas (University Microfilms International, 1978)
  • Pobladores: Hispanic Americans of the Ute Frontier by Frances. Leon Quintant (University of Notre Dame Press, 1991)
  • Preliminary Inventory of the Pueblo Records Created by Field Offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs by Robert Svenningsen (National Archives, 1980)
  • Protestantism in the Sangre De Cristos, 1850-1920 by Randi Jones Walker (University of New Mexico Press, 1991)
  • Sanctuaries of Spanish New Mexico by Marc Treib (University of California Press, 1933)
  • Soldiers of the Cross: Notes on the Ecclesiastical History of New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado by Jean Baptiste Salpionte (St. Boniface’s Industrial School, 1898)
  • Sources for New Mexican History, 1821-1848 by Daniel Tyler (Museum of New Mexico Press, 1984)
  • The Southern Utes: A Tribal History by James Jefferson (Southern Ute Tribe, ca. 1972)
  • Southwestern Indian Tribes by Tom Bahti (KC Publications, 1968)
  • The Spanish Archives of New Mexico by Ralph Emerson Twitchell (Torch Press, 1914)
  • The Spanish Borderlands: A Chronicle of Old Florida and the Southwest by Herbert E. Bolton (Frontier Press, 1996)
  • Spanish and Mexican Records of the American Southwest: A Bibliographic Guide to Archive and Manuscript Sources by Henry P. Beers (University of Arizona Press, 1979)
  • Spanish Mission Churches of New Mexico by Le Baron Bradford Prince (Rio Grande Press, 1977)
  • The Taos Indians by Blanche Chloe Grant (Rio Grande Press, 1976)
  • The Territorial press of New Mexico, 1834-1912 by Porter A. Stratton (University of New Mexico Press, 1969)
  • The Ute Mountain Utes by Robert W. Delaney (University of New Mexico Press, 1989)
  • Victoria and the Mimbres Apaches by Dan L. Thrapp (University of Oklahoma Press, 1974)
  • Voices of the Territory of New Mexico: and Oral History of People of Spanish Descent and Early Settlers born During the Territorial Days by Alfonso Griego (Griego, 1985)
  • Women of the New Mexico Frontier; 1846-1912 by Cheryl J. Foote (University Press of Colorado, 1990)

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