Resources for Genealogy Research in North Dakota

Germans from Russia Heritage Society Convention
Fargo, North Dakota
July, 1993

Presentation by John E. Bye, Archivist, Institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo, ND

JB: My name is John Bye. I am out at NDSU here in Fargo, working at the archives, the institution for regional studies, which also holds the German Russian Collection that is out at NDSU. Have any of you been out there? Oh, you have been out there. Michael Miller is in charge of that collection that is in our area, and we try to reference, but I do not read or speak German, and there is a lot of German stuff in there. So, we try to help you as best as we can. But today I am going to talk about other types of sources. This is not beginning or advanced genealogy that is the other sessions.

This is going to talk more about sources, and some things that apply, that I am familiar with in North Dakota, but in many cases it will apply to anywhere in the country. Whether it is South Dakota, or whatever state you may be researching. We are kind of going to go through a variety of sources, and some problems. If you have problems, be sure to raise your hand and we will see if we can help you out a little bit during this next hour. I don’t want to wait for questions until the end of the sessions. If you have questions, please ask them as you think of them.

If you have help for other people, if someone asks a question, and you may have advice for that person, feel free to just start talking. Because there are many times where I will hardly not know all the answers, and there are a lot of problems that you may have with your lines. I know a few this mornings’ in the session, they just had those lines and they couldn’t get any further, with their grandmother, or great grandmother died and that’s it. They don’t know how to get any further back.

Sometimes when you get too far back, the records aren’t too good, and it is difficult to get the leap even back to Russia. I won’t really talk about Russia or records there. Glen Pridzchow is much better knowledgeable in that, and I haven’t really gotten into that myself. My emphasis is mainly here in this country, on once they got here, and what records there might be. How many of you are working on your family history and have gotten far in and aren’t just beginning in?

Ok, there are a few of you that are really getting going on this. Maybe you have a few problems, and I hope I don’t repeat, Census’s or repeat, tell me that you have already gone through all of that, or those types of records. Let me start with a few handouts. Yes?

Crowd: My mom was naturalized here in the 40s and 50s, what does that show in the records? Would there be anything on her papers? That she was from Fargo or anything?

JB: And she was naturalized here? And that late? Oh, and as a woman?? Woman naturalized amazing.

Crowd: Well she came over here in the 20s, but she was not naturalized until the 40s or 50s.

JB: Well, usually women, if they were married got naturalized with their husbands. It was kind of an automatic deal. Especially, the farther back you go.

Crowd: Well, see she always wanted her citizenship.

JB: But then the records? Was it a county court?

Crowd: Yes in Fargo, at the court house. Would that be filed there or would it be filed somewhere else?

JB: No, that would be filed in Bismarck, and I’ll talk about naturalization records. Let me, maybe we don’t have enough here, but there are from the State Historical Society. They are some basic records that they have there. This one is on Census’s.

Crowd: My mother voted for 13 years before she found out that she wasn’t a citizen.

JB: I hope that there will be enough here. There are quite a few people. But they are all from the State Historical Society, and this place is the holder of a lot of the key records that you will want.

Crowd: What determines what you put in there?

JB: Oh, We only collect published records. In other words, we do not collect raw genealogical data.

Crowd: How about news papers?

JB: Oh, I will talk about newspapers. Again that is at the state historical society. Now, why don’t you let me.

Crowd: Let me tell you what triggered my question.

JB: ok

Crowd: I am from Mott, ND, and I went down there to some information, and the place had a leaking roof, and all these old newspapers laid there. I spent a lot of time reading them, and there are all kinds of fancy stuff in there. And I said who else has these newspapers, and as far as we know nobody. And this kind of concerns me, because I look around at all this information and stuff, and I say. My goodness, all of this stuff is going to disappear.

JB: Ok, lets just talk about newspapers then, and since 1905, the State Historical Society in Bismarck North Dakota, as been the official repository for all newspapers. All newspapers had to be deposited there by law. And so many times in 1905 and on, they are there. Now they have just completed about one year ago microfilming all North Dakota newspapers they had.

And even if they didn’t have it, they would try to track it down within the community or the publisher, because sometimes they did not have the older portions. They have also cataloged them all. And they are all listed in this inventory of North Dakota newspapers. And it is just like towns, you could look up Mott, and you would find all the newspapers that were published in Mott. And also, good example, lets see.

And in many towns, you would be surprised, they had two, three, four newspapers at this time, that you may not be aware of, and many times, and it was not long lived, but if it covers the years that you need, well that’s all your really interested in then. Well Mott, here has the Hettinger County Dinamo, it was a newspaper in 1905.

Crowd: Mott Pioneer Press.

JB: But this is another one that is present at that same time.

Crowd: Well, that is interesting. I wonder where that would be.

JB: And that’s all on microfilm at the State Historical Society.

Crowd: And that’s all in 1905.

JB: Yes, and it is missing some issues here though. There was the Mott Pioneer Press, Mott Spotlight (1912-1917), The Sun Beam (1937).

Crowd: Now are all towns in North Dakota listed?

JB: Yes, I will pass this book around. And we will just look at it. And all of these are available on interlibrary loan. So whether you live in North Dakota or anywhere in the country, you can get them on loan. And basically all you have to say is I want the Mott, you can get this from the finding aid, just say you want the Mott newspaper.

Or if you know what it is, say you want the Mott newspaper for that year. Usually, you are looking up an obituary or a wedding, or whatever you are looking up. Then you can just request that year, and that town, and they send it out free. But maybe in Canada is might be a little charge, because of the postage fees when sending anything across the border.

Crowd: I just want to affirm what you are saying. I have used interlibrary loan. Not really often, but I have used it. And it is really valuable, and so far I have not been charged for Canada.

JB: Oh, really. And you live in Canada. Where are you from?

Crowd: Oh no, I am from Valley City here.

JB: Oh, but you take things from Canada. No, I mean that the State Historical Society in North Dakota is going to start charging to Canada. Because they are getting a lot of stuff from Canada. My guess is that they are a lot of German Russians that lived here for a while, and maybe somebody died or got married there. And now people from Saskatchewan, Albert, or British Columbia use these services. And usually it doesn’t take long.

Crowd: So, can we go to the Fargo library and ask for that book there.

JB: Yes, sure. They probably have a copy of that book there as well. And I might as start out about newspapers. And I would recommend that when doing your research, track down your obituaries right away on people. If it falls within the time period when there was an obituary. And by 1900 there is something in newspapers.

They had to be pretty prominent before then to get in. It is kind of sketchy. Sometimes they can be short little notices for people. But by 1910, or the teens you are getting better and better on these obituaries, and by the 20s you have some pretty good obituaries going. I would really get them for a couple of reasons. They my list the survivors, people who would survive that person, including maybe brothers from far away that you may not know anything about.

Crowd: And you can get them from the newspapers?

JB: Yes, and at Bismarck, you do not have to get the newspaper on Microfilm. You can write to them and say, this person died on this place at this date, and they will search the newspapers for you and find the obituary, and send it to you. And last time I heard they charged you a dollar.

Crowd: Who did you say did this?

JB: That would be the State Historical Society in Bismarck. And again, this may apply to every state. Every state has a keeper for the newspapers for their state. So if you are talking about South Dakota, you may want to write to Pierre. Whether they are microfilm, or what services or what charges, you will have to find out. Every state does things a little bit differently.

Crowd: What will they send you then? Their guess?

JB: They will send you the obituary, the actual copy. But one thing about that, but that’s all you will get. But if you go through interlibrary loan or microfilm, you might want to search the next issue, because there may be other things. Sometimes I have seen in papers they have listed everyone who had came from afar for the funeral, or in the news notes you will see so and so stayed and brought this person from far away. That might be a clue that will not be present in the obituary.

Or they might be a thank-you notice or something like that. And see when you write for an obituary, they will just look for the obituary and just that. They will not look for the other things. But even in that same issue of the obituary, their might be something. It all depends on when they died in relation to the date of the funeral. See if they died right after the last issue, the funeral was right away and there is three, four, five days before the next issue. They are usually weekly’s.

They might have everything in one issue. And it might take a few weeks yah know beyond the time to get it in. There is the North Dakota Herald, that was published in German, and there are a lot of obituaries in there as well, and we have it on microfilm at NDSU. There was a newspaper out of Aberdeen, South Dakota, another newspaper that is written in German.

There is also the Dakota Flyer Press, and I think there is another one similar to that title out of Bismarck Mandan that is printed in German as well at that time. And this book will tell you what years to that extent. And we do have that Dakota Flyer Press here at NDSU. And this is all in German. The whole gothic strip is even in German which makes it even harder to read than just plain script today. Yes.

Crowd: I am interested in this as well, but when I got film from here, it was for like two years. And so you can look at a lot of stuff, but when I went to Mobridge to try to copy some stuff off of a newspaper, they wanted five dollars a page which actually it would be easier to look up film and you can look at more things than to get paid five dollars to just look at one page.

JB: See, publishers and business’s are not in the business to have people come back and look at old issues. I think to them it is a bother and an interruption in their business. And so they would rather you go to the Historical Society.

Crowd: Yes, itwould be cheaper to have two years worth than have one page.

JB: Yes, because film, they fill up a whole roll of film so you can get a two three years depending on. And actually this book gives you a general overview of every town, and what holdings. We have three volumes than at work which is not quite as new or up to date, but this tells us the real numbers for every newspaper, and the town, and what years it covers.

You could even know a head of time that that reel is going to give you two years of a newspaper. And that’s a possibility that it could help you. So get your obituaries, not only your direct line, but if theirs brother’s and sisters going back get those as well. Because the obituary may not be answering your questions in your direct line, but it may answer to an uncle or a great uncle or great aunts obituary might give the clue that yours doesn’t. Yes.

Crowd: Another thing with the obituaries, generally list on older ones, the pall bearers, they are a good source. They must have been close to the family other words they wouldn’t have been honored to be a pall bearer. These are people that you could contact that could maybe give you another lead in. And also when you are looking for addresses through the historical society, the publications of source have a complete listing in there, and that was just recovered now, and those are available at most public libraries.

JB: Yes, Every public library will have a source or section on genealogy for addresses and such as that. A few things that we do have handy are a directory of historical agencies in North America. This is a little older issue, but most libraries will have this and it is basically all the historical societies that have submitted information that is most of Canada and all of United States. It is listed by state and then by town. So if you wanted something in Nebraska, and you know the county.

Your wondering is there a historical society for that county. So you would get in here and you would get an address when they were founded and what their holdings are things like that. You can even get a telephone number. I will start to pass this around so you people can start looking at it. If you want it or you can pass it around. But I think most public libraries will have that directory there.

And I might mention, I saw a new one in the library here on Diana Wandler. She was here on the last session, but it is kind of a handbook she has book together recently. It sells for fifteen dollars. And this is about various things. And even in the handouts I have given you, she has reproduced them inside here with all kinds of things like addresses. Maybe it is for sale. Does anyone know if it is for sale?

Crowd: Yes

JB: Oh ok, well it’s a handy little thing to have along. She includes not only in North Dakota, but the surrounding states as well and this gives you various resources. This is a good little book to consider if you want to seriously start researching.

And you need to reference different types of records, resources, addresses, and forms and all kinds of things. And this is more geared for German Russian and the upper mid west here. It may help you particularly well. Where as some other helping guides may not be as helpful to you in your particular situation. Yes.

Crowd: It is fine if you know where you address is from. I have been checking many books from the library on the centennial, and I have found a lot of information. They have many pictures, and a lot of history. This has helped me out a lot.

JB: Ok, That is one source like county and community histories. And I am assuming that South Dakota, just like North Dakota, all centennials have to have a book of some kind. Although they do vary on quality and size and some are more ambitious than others. Also check online, like we are an online catalog here at NDSU, but we catalog everything.

All our records in for example whatever we have on any given town in North Dakota. Whether it would be a church history, a family history, a community history, or even a county history. And now days if you are computer literate, you can start cruising the online catalogs. From our catalog bases, you can search all of North Dakota, all of Minnesota, all of South Dakota. We can go to California.

We can do Pennsylvania. We can do Georgia. We can go to the Library of Congress direct and search their catalog in one swoop for all their books. It is getting to be that, with computer we can find out what other places have. And in many times, the things you may want may not circulate from historical societies, but at least you may have a citation to a book that might help you.

Crowd: I don’t know anything about computers, but there is one that the LDS sells for good environment. Can you do that with that?

JB: No, I think that is a program to dump you, I am assuming that is a program to submit your information, because eventually, they will want you to submit the information to them. And then it goes out into their big computer and then it comes out.

Crowd: Oh ok. Well see I know nothing about computers.

JB: Well, that would give you a good source for tracking down books. I might mention for North Dakota, we have at the institute. We actually purchased in 1980, and we have been keeping it while trying to refine it. We have a biography index, and a person here in Fargo indexed all the books. He indexed 314 books for the biography in them. He went through all the county histories, the community histories.

He went through atlas’s. Anything that had biographical sketches in them for North Dakota people, he went through them and indexed them. They are all on cards. And then we took in and went through it in 1980, and then we went to index more stuff, because he didn’t get it all. We went through 1980, in every book. See we haven’t indexed from 1980 on like new community histories.

And now we are up to 500 books, that we have done. See that’s a lot of books. So we are getting to have about 175,000 names in this index. There’s a small number compared to the number of people that have lived in North Dakota. But it is a beginning. In some ways, it eliminates almost 500 books. And it is a biographical sketch, not just a mention of the name, but it had to be a biographical sketch. So feel free.

And this is one of a kind. He did it out of labor for love, and there is no other copy. I mean it’s on cards. We are slowly automating it. We want to get it so it is computer searchable. Then we are including the wife, and their home, place of birth, occupation, where they lived in North Dakota, other data elements, but it is a long term. It will be in the 21st century before we finish that.

But that is a unique resource that we have there. We have had people write to us and say, will you search for this name in your biography index. So that is a possibility for yourself as well. One other book that I do want to mention is Tracing your Roots in North Dakota. This is articles that were published in the REC magazine, and then they complied them all together. I mean this has a lot of different things. This has even family reunions.

Crowd: Do you have that here?

JB: Yes, we do have that here. I would guess that a lot of libraries in North Dakota would have this little book lit, and this is heavy reading. It has a lot of addressing for the county historical societies in North Dakota, and contact persons, meetings, dues, projects, books they have published.

There is a lot of information held in one place, and it is kind of handy. It even talks about the Mormon library, oral interviewing. Family History a fun and interesting project. Well if you want to pass that around if you want to copy it or check it out in a public library if you want.

Crowd: Is there one for South Dakota?

JB: That I don’t know if there is. I think that bright colored book corresponds with South Dakota, and I know she corresponded with all the surround states and tried to get data and try to put it all together. I know there is stuff from Pierre, in the state historical society.

Crowd: It is just South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, and a little bit of Canada in here. They are relatively inexpensive also.

JB: Ok, That is the kind of stuff that you need to have around. It will help and aid you. It doesn’t have something directly about your family, but it will at least give you sources and where to go. I think we kind of talked about newspapers unless there is some more questions on newspapers. Plus you need to check. Not every state has done what North Dakota has done with microfilming all their newspapers, and cataloging everything. I know Minnesota did, but I am not sure about South Dakota.

Crowd: They have microfilm down in Springfield, but you might have to wait awhile to get it. It might take a long time to get it because they only microfilm every once in a while. This is located in Pierre.

JB: But they do not film in Pierre? That is strange.

Crowd: No, just Springfield.

JB: Is this Springfield, South Dakota.

Crowd: Yes,

JB: Oh, I was thinking Springfield, Missouri. That is very unusual. I am not too familiar with South Dakota.

Crowd: They hired prisoners to do it.

JB: Oh, prisoners. I don’t think North Dakota did that. I think they hired staff and extra people and did a lot of filming. Ok on to naturalization records. I think I should talk about that because someone brought it up earlier. And if you haven’t pursued naturalization records, I would do that as well for your ancestors to see if they actually took up citizenship records for North Dakota.

And for North Dakota that is very easy, because about seven or eight years ago, they passed a law where they pulled all the records in from each county seat from all over the State. Because see that was done at the county level. They pulled them in, and they have just finished within the last year, indexing all of it in one great big alphabetical index. It is A through Z for the whole state of North Dakota in one grand, computerized index. And they list both the declaration of intention, the first papers as they called it, and the second papers, which are when they actually became a citizen. So this all has been done, and is all available at Bismarck, automated.

They have offered us automated, but we would almost have to buy a computer, because it is a lot of memory just to keep it on file at NDSU because it is just too big to print out. We did by Cass County and I will just show you what it looks like. We also have the index for Cass County. This is what the index for Cass County. So this is just the index for Cass County in North Dakota. Now, you can imagine what it is like getting 53 counties. Course Cass County, is one of the bigger ones and the older ones, but still, and it lists first papers. See it gives the name, the country where they emigrated from, the year of the transaction at the court house, the page, the book, and if it is first of second papers, and the index by counties, and this is Cass County in this case.

Just to look at that, and that is available at Bismarck. Again, you can just write and they will take care of that for you. Is anyone used the service by mail? At the state historical society in Bismarck yes. They have volunteers do that. That is all a volunteers do that project. That was all done by them, and in some counties there was no index to the volumes. They had to compile those indexes, and verify each entry.

They actually went back to the actual sheet, and they were surprised at the errors they have found. Some were spelled wrong, the indexes were incorrect, they had misspelled the names. And I guess that brings a side. For your researching there are a lot of people doing a lot of work, doing a lot of indexing, and finding records. This may be something you want consider as well, doing some indexing, some compiling, some volunteering somewhere near your home to help further on the process. Some people go out and copy stones on cemeteries. They copy out marriage records. They are doing all kinds of things.

Crowd: If someone received in South Dakota, and we are living in North Dakota. Where would we find them?

JB: Ok, Each set or whatever transaction. Is located, well in North Dakota it is located at the State historical society, but most other states it is at the county level, and you would have to go back there. And many times, say they took out there declaration of attention in North Dakota, then moved to North Dakota, they would then get their citizenship in the county in North Dakota.

And sometimes that record would tell you where they took out their declaration of attention in South Dakota. And then it would say well that’s in McFearson County, South Dakota. Well then you know exactly where to go, and you could find the information there. So sometimes you need to look in the index, and you will see that there is only a second papers. Then you know that their first papers were taken out somewhere else. They did not take out their first papers in North Dakota, they did it some where else. And it could be anywhere, but by just knowing their travel route.

Crowd: Camble County, South Dakota, still has the papers at the county seat. I think maybe McFearson does too, but I am not sure about that. But all the rest of the counties records are held in Pierre. Except the south eastern records, are held somewhere else. The homestead records are held in Yankton.

JB: Oh, So South Dakota is different. and that complicates it. Some things are here and some things are there. That’s why it is kind of handy when everything is at the same place like North Dakota has done with their citizenship records. But I might warn you, you can also take out declaration at the federal level, at the court house.

Like in Fargo here, some went to the court house here, and these records are federal, they are not state records and therefore were not included in this project. But they are trying to negotiate with the records holders in Kansas City, because that is where North Dakota’s are way back, that’s where they went. And those records are there, and they want them to microfilm the records there and index them, and include them in their own records. And I don’t know if that is also applied to the records held in Bismarck at the federal court house, Minot, Grand Forks, or etc.

But not everything was done at the county level. But usually after 1906, I think was the magic date. There was a change in the law and the administration, and the forms get better and better as time goes on. And maybe for many of you, some of them are very detailed. It is a very busy form, because see the older ones were very skimpy. They don’t tell you much at all. They won’t even tell what port or anything. They will just tell you what country they came from and maybe the year and that’s about all. But the newer ones are much better.

They will tell you what ship they came in on, what port they came into, maybe what day the landed at the port. All kinds of details. The more recent details. There may be other sources that can help you, Maybe. It is a little hard. Especially, what port they came from, if the family doesn’t know it is hard because port records are not indexed. And again some came through New York, some came through Baltimore.

I head a lot came through Texas, Galveston. And I guess some have been found, have been filmed, and someone mentioned that they have been indexed. Someone said there is an index to that. I am not familiar with that as much. But for instance, New York, I think they have started indexing the early years, and then they stopped, and they didn’t complete the later part of the 19th century. And then they picked up in 1900 I think.

Crowd: I think it was 1902.

JB: Ok, 1902, then they started indexing.

Crowd: So what would that be like again?

JB: That again, I think the Mormon Library would have it on microfilm so you could get it on loan. There is a book, or a finding aid that is on Immigration and Passenger Arrivals. This is a little out dated, and I am sure there are others that are a little more recent. But this is 1983, yah its ten years old.

Crowd: So this is what you all have at the library.

JB: No, this is. We have the finding aid. We never collected passenger lists. See, this is major money to buy this. I have no idea what it would cost to buy a set or everything. You may, your talking half a million dollars perhaps. I think the US census, the 1920 census, the last one on microfilm with index, for the whole United States, was a half a million dollars. North Dakota cost us $1,100 to buy it, and we are just a small state compared to New York or even Minnesota.

Ok, I’ll pass those around. But again, those are available through lending agencies and I think your public library can tell you how to go about that. The national archives got out of the business of loaning stuff, and they turned it over to a private vendor, and then they kind of contract with the public library. And I think you still have to pay. I think it is like two - three dollars per reel. But again with passenger lists, you almost have to know exact to get in. The ship.

Crowd: Would you have enough if you had the ship and the month?

JB: Well, the month can be hard too. Unless you have the ship.

Crowd: Now, I just have one month, and I know within two months of one year when my grandmother came. The one month has over 35 tapes, and each tape takes a little over 2 hours to read.

Crowd: Do you have the name of the ship that she came over on?

Crowd: No.

Crowd: But do you have the name of the ship?

Crowd: No, but that would help a little bit.

JB: That will help a little bit, possibly.

Crowd: Ok, now you only have 30 hours of reading.

JB: Some people, and I don’t know if it applies to German Russian as much. I don’t know all the migration routes, but a lot of people came, especially from England, and they landed in Canada, because it was cheaper in Canada. And then they went over land and came through Detroit, and we see a lot of people who said they came into the United States through Detroit, Michigan.

There were no customs or anything there, they just came in and walked across the border. So there is no ship passenger list there, except for the ones in Canada. And those are on microfilm. And again you can get those on loan as well.

Crowd: Those are indexed too.

JB: Are they? all of them are.

Crowd: Have you used them?

JB: Yes, I have used them. That was about 15 years ago, and they were not indexed and poor quality, the film was awful, and I just gave up. I mean I had a year, and I just gave up. I think some of that, they are slowly working on. There is an institute in Philadelphia that is working on Germans. And I know they have done a multi-volume set, which is very expensive.

Crowd: The archives follows it very briefly, and they are connected with the institute. They are supposed to get a project related to Ellis Island. Soon enough you will be able to go to Ellis Island, and put your name in the computer and you will be there. But that is only true if they came through Ellis Island.

JB: Yes, True, only through Ellis Island. I do not know about that institute. It may be all ports, and just Germans. But someone was talking about that some of the ships were predominately German, and so then they took everyone. They took everyone on the ship passenger manifest. But if they came on a ship that was mainly English or French, then I guess you will never find them, they said, because they are not doing those.

So it is not totally accurate. I think the UND, Chester Fritz Library in Grand Forks bought the early volumes. I don’t know if they have kept it up but they splurged and spend big money for those indexes, and they have them. Getting back to declarations. I think we talked about that.

Crowd: Just one questions, You might have to guess on this one. If I write to Canada and write for naturalization, would it most likely be filed by the year or would I have to know the year?

JB: I don’t know, I have never dealt with Canada, and naturalization records. Has anyone? I don’t know if it is kept at the prudential level, the federal level or national level, was it kept in Virginia? Well maybe, there are books that can tell you about.

There are books about how to do genealogy, and I would maybe see if in the Canada section, and maybe it will tell. Canada is sometimes kind of restricted on some of their stuff. Census is always later, I don’t know what they allow, or what they open up. But they maybe be still back to 1880. Where as we are up to 1920 or something like that. Yes?

Crowd: We have ancestors, everywhere in the United States, and then they all moved to Canada. And then they got their citizenship papers there in Canada, and became a Canadian citizen. So I went to Saskatuchan to get their papers and then they came back to the United States and had to do the process all over again.

JB: But those were found at the prudential level, so maybe those are at the prudential. But if it breaks down to a municipality I don’t know how they work that on those kinds of records. They might work those at the prudential level, where as the United States would work at the county level. This is done in Alberta. That is a big city.

I have many relatives there. It may also be the county seat. Homesteader records, I think we should talk about. If your ancestors actually homesteaded, those are available, the file the paper work that was dealt with it, but you have to know where. Basically, you have to have the township and range, the legal description of the land, and you can get those at the court house, wherever it is. And then you can say this name and this township.

Then I have heard on my own, gone to the national archives in Washington and got those files there, but people have said that, in one of the handouts that people have gone to Billings, MT, where the national bureau of land management is, and evidently they have the same files there.

Crowd: That has just recently changed. We wrote and they sent a letter back, and they gave us an address on where to write to. This is in Montana, and we have got the whole nine yards. There’s a handout on top of the fire place, there.

JB: Oh ok, You may want to, check into that so you know how far they are up to date on that. So they have a new address. Have you ordered stuff from there?

Crowd: Yes

JB: And you get the whole paperwork file there. And every place varies, some of mine are very thin, others are very thick, but they do include the declaration of intention or the naturalization if they were foreigner.

Crowd: And also, if they were approved, many of the people that applied to homestead did not get it.

JB: Did you get an incomplete record if someone dropped it, Because someone had asked in the last session and I said I did not know if they kept the paper work for one that never got that far.

Crowd: They still do, and they have it there. If the particular claim was contested, and so we have paperwork on that part of it, because where he homesteaded there was no water. And so he wanted to let the quarter go back and go on to another one, and that was contested and we have all the paper work that contributes to that. And we are still reading.

JB: Oh ok, And for a person who went to the final approval, there had to be two witnesses that sponsored that had to fill out a form that says that they did do this and they have built this and they have lived here. And their own form usually tell us usually, when did you move onto this claim and what dimensions are you buildings, what buildings have you built, have you put in a few crops, what animals, and I think I have seen one where it says the family came at this time a little later.

He came first and then the rest of the family came on this date. So you get a little bits and pieces of information there that might help you. Plus you get the declaration, and I have also seen them with name changes, because sometimes they will apply for a homestead with one name and then they change their name through naturalization processes, and then they get their homestead and they have changed their name in the process.

So then there had to be an affidavit that says that this name is really the same person with this name. And sometimes it was just like a –sen or –son. Just a minor change. But sometimes you get a major change, maybe an earlier name that they were known as. But that was usually common with Scandinavian which really didn’t have last names.

Crowd: So do they charge by the page then?

JB: Yes, by the page, and what I have had with the national archives is that they will write back and say its going to cost you this much with this file because it is this many pages, and then you send the money in and then you have to wait a while, and then the packet comes in the mail with all the documentations.

Crowd: Ours only too two weeks.

JB: Two weeks, oh maybe they are faster there than they are at the national archives.

Crowd: I think it is about two dollars a page.

JB: Oh, two dollars a page, Then they have gone up since I have ordered. Yes, they want the money in advance.

Crowd: We did go one place, and they gave us a few records, and then they told us to write to another place to get additional information.

JB: So it is worth to search for social history. You might get some valuable information and basic dates as well, but you get some kind of social feeling for the time. When did they apply, you get vary precise, like when they signed the papers, you get their signatures, which maybe of some interest as well, those kind of things. Yes?

Crowd: This may not be very universal, but I have some papers that I found from 1905 in some South Dakota newspapers, they had some notices, public notices that were filed for about four weeks straight when they were doing some final filing on their homesteads, which includes the person that was getting the homestead, the legal location, and two witnesses, which basically says that those people were there.

JB: I think they had to do that. They had to put a public notice, before they got the final papers, and when your packet comes you will get a copy of the final notice as well. I have at least for all my records, and that is kept on file as well. And sometimes it is earlier than they had newspapers. Back in the early 1870s, or 80s, those copies do not exist for those newspapers, but they did have to publish it into a newspaper.

But also, I guess North Dakota is no problem, but I found that people take their declaration of intention and then go on and homestead. They did it in this county and then they walked over to the land office and then took out their homestead. So it might not be in the county that you would think it would be in. I know on ancestor of mine that was in the Valley here, they homesteaded up in Steele County but they took their declaration out at Cass County here in Fargo, because evidently the land office for that part of the country was here in Fargo.

And so I suppose they did all their business at one time. They did their declaration, got their land and then went back. A few other types or records. The WPA for North Dakota, did do a biographical collection of records back in the 1930s, when there were a lot of public work projects going around, and those have all been microfilmed, those are saved, and the originals are all at the state historical society.

We have printed an index off of all the microfilm, and again there isn’t a lot compared to how many living here at the time, but it is well worth checking it out. The film itself is organized by county, but this is a straight alphabetical index here, and we get some very good information here, even in the index itself. And the WPA, what they wanted to get was pioneers. And so they had a form to fill out, and if you got one that filled out their form correctly, you have a gold mine of information.

And some even submitted pioneer memories, and that is all filmed. The index doesn’t tell you how much there is, for some there is only a sheet of paper, so it really varies. And it is by name and we have it on microfilm in the library at NDSU. And that there it is organized by county, so everyone is in the same county there alphabetical A-Z in the county.

And I know Mike Miller at NDSU is now working on extracting the German/Russian entries like for Emmons County and McIntosh, the more heavily concentrated counties, finding the ones that are German/Russian, and pulling all the information out. Maybe someday it will end up in a book format. It would make it a lot easier then, if you knew it was in Emmons County, did they get into the WPA material. Yes?

Crowd: Sorry, I wasn’t completely listening. Did you say you just have the indexes here of the WPA or do you have all of it?

JB: No, we have it all. And it is all microfilmed. And the film itself is all organized by county. And then the very last role is the index A-Z of the whole state. And that is what we printed out here, in these two black binders.

Crowd: Are they organized by county or by name?

JB: In the film they are organized by county, but the book they are organized by name. You kind of have to work with what they give you. Also the federation of Women’s Club, a private club or organization, they did pioneers mothers’ project records, and again this is an index of all the women that submitted and all their children biographical sketches of these pioneer women. And it is A-Z and the hometown.

As you can see there isn’t a lot of people, but it just gives you an idea and could be a possibility, and of course it covers the whole state. And this goes from 1938-1953, this just North Dakota. And again maybe they did this sort of thing in South Dakota. Other states may have done these types of projects of pulling in all sorts of biographical information, and again you want to check these counties for this type of information.

---end of side 1---

JB: If he worked for it, he wasn’t interviewed, because he might have been the one interviewing. See, they usually just try to get the old timers, pioneers, in here. And that is what they were trying to collect is that type of data. A few other things that I should mention. If anyone was in World War 1 from North Dakota, there is a four volume book of everyone who registered of everyone who served from North Dakota who was in World War One. And again check other states, if they did the same things. This is the volume A-F, and again this is amazing that there were that many people serving in World War 1, there were that many people serving.

And you can see, it gives little descriptions here. It gives the name, whether they were inducted, where they were born, when they were born, what their nationality was, where they served, where their training camp was, every campaign, and where and when they were discharged. Yes, and this is only one volume, so it is a possibility. And I don’t know if other states have done the same or not, but that is the first war that was done. And maybe some ancestors were, and maybe in North Dakota, and again that is a four volume set, and that set is common all over the state.

I know that they have complied of a list of everyone that has died in the war serving in the Spanish American war, but I don’t think they have created a book. There is a World War Two book, but it is not much information. It has maybe a name and a rank and maybe a few things. They have done the Korean War, Vietnam War, they have done all of those since World War I. I might mention, I just will pass this one around. Ancestry Red Book is another resource book, it gives a lot of addresses, it talks about various county records, it gives you access to all the addresses at the county level for every county in every state in the United States.

And again, check it out at the public library, you go to their genealogy section, ask where it is, and spend some time getting acquainted with the books that are in the section there. That is something that will help you, or to just be aware of it. You may not need it now, but maybe a year from now, you will need to know that county down in Nebraska, and I should maybe write there. And it will tell you what records are available at the county level, as far as vital statistics.

And vital statistics are usually kept at a vital statistical department at the county or state level. Sometimes such records are kept at the county level, but in North Dakota, they have in theory have pulled in all the records at the county level, and dumped them all into the main index for births and deaths, and so that there is just one place.

The records went back to the counties and told them to not let anyone open them up, do not let anyone see them, because they are closed records in North Dakota. Every state is a little different in what they open out. And I think even in North Dakota, in the counties they say No way! You can’t see these go to Bismarck. And then there are other counties that say sure I’ll look it up for you. So it just depends on the person behind the desk. Yes?

Crowd: Marriage and divorce records though, aren’t those kept at the county level?

JB: Yes, those are at the county level, and they are public, those are wide open. And again, a few but not many have been indexed that I know of in North Dakota. Not many, maybe that is the next big project, to try to index all those marriage records. Every state is a little different. In theory, usually North Dakota’s birth records are all closed, all the way back to the beginning of records. It is just confidentiality of records. And other states say that it should open up after 70 years. Death records, in theory are closed, but they have opened them much more.

And I think those are 1926, which is the beginning of good records in North Dakota for death, up through 1947, which the index has been computerized and is available at the historical society, and can be searched there. I would assume if you wrote they would search for you as well. So you have from 26-47 to work with. And I think they are working on getting that older stuff pulled in, you know the 20s the teens, but they haven’t got that automated. But it is very spotty.

Because North Dakota had a on and off again law that had to do with vital statistics. It started up in 1893, and then they repealed it, they didn’t want it. I don’t know maybe they thought it was too much government at that time. And then they started it up again, and then the physicians didn’t quite corporate, and the records, not until the late 20s, do you have permanent good records. It all depends on the doctor or even if there was a doctor.

Crowd: South Dakota passes a similar law in July 1, 1905, said that all birth and marriage records be recorded if possibly can be. But that doesn’t mean that they were recorded until later on. But one thing about it, the do have indexes for these records, but don’t rely on just the indexes, because once you see the records, once you look at the real indexes, your talking about a big book.

JB: And like you said, they have found errors in the naturalization records. There are going to errors in the marriage records, they are going to find errors in all of that. And sometimes the death records, if someone who is living knew, they can tell you where they were born, who their parents were.

Sometimes you will see it say unknown or it is just left blank, because they do not know who the father of that immigrant person was. Especially that second one that died, husband and wife. They knew the first one because the other spouses are living to tell it. The second one died and nobody knew, and they didn’t know, the kids wouldn’t know, and maybe there were no brothers or sisters, etc, to help on that type of information.

Crowd: And this is from Grant county, and this is where my mom was naturalized. Why wouldn’t her name be here? She should be three.

JB: Oh it should be, unless at that time it was at the federal level. I don’t know, it could have been at the federal court house. It may have been at the court house, which means those records may be in Kansas City at a federal record center.

Crowd: If I would contact the court house here in Fargo, will the help me?

JB: Yes, they may help you, but you may want to check how late the Cass County records are.

Crowd: The main thing is that I get her records.

JB: Oh ok, Yes Question?

Crowd: Who should I contact to get a copy of the naturalization records?

JB: At the state historical society in Bismarck, for North Dakota. Yes, you can just write to them and say...

Crowd: I live in Bismarck,

JB: Ok, then you can just walk over there, and check it out, because again they have this on computer, the index. So you just look up the name, but they say you have problems because we have such common names and there are so many. I think there is an article this spring I think, in the Bismarck paper, they had a little press release about this new index, and they said there is a little problem when you get into the more common names.

I think the most common name was I think Johnson, and if you name was John Johnson there were how many ump-teen John Johnson’s. So you kind of have to know which one was yours, and what county. But sometimes by the county, you can get an idea which one is yours, and by ethnicity as well. So, Yes?

Crowd: In Montana, for death records, there are only, they have to be passed away ten years before the register will release them. We just dealt with that. Last September we wrote them asking for some records about our great uncle. They wouldn’t release them until January of 1993. I don’t know what two months difference means, but it’s the law.

JB: Yes, this is a good example. Every state is different on what they do and what they charge, and what they think the traffic will bare as far as cost. Some states I think are much more expensive than other ones. And so..

Crowd: And you can kind of figure this out by mail. You are going to have to pay for the certified copy whether you need it or not which can be ten bucks.

JB: Yes, sure I think North Dakota maybe be seven or so.

Crowd: You can go to the place and they might let you copy the information down for free or charge you 25 cents for a zerox copy.

JB: That’s what I mean, everyone is different. One thing that you may want to consider is church records. That’s another source. And I have heard so many problems dealing with churches, because they do not know where the records are anymore, they don’t know where they really belong to a church. Especially in the early times, it sometimes is quite difficult, and sometimes you may find things there, even if you just have the marriage record at the county level, you may still want to go get the churches version of that marriage if you can find it.

It may give you a little bit more information in there than it does in the other. And again every denomination is different on how they kept records, and how they good they kept records, and also where are the records for the closed churches. I think sometimes, I mean that is another problem. I think sometimes they get to where they merged with and sometimes where they went to diatheses or a central region head quarters.

And I know sometimes they go to the national head quarters, which can be far away from you, and who knows if they are even there. Sometimes they get shipped out because that was the rule, and then they tracked them down. And I am sure some denominations are not so good at keeping records.

Crowd: Sometimes the local pastor is just not interested in doing it for you.

JB: Yes, and then that maybe another reason why you may want to reconsider, and like I said last time if you belong to a church, get on the church history committee, and publish some history and get some stuff in there, and to be able to have access to the records at least. I just brought two examples of, church histories; you know we collect them for North Dakota.

We get a hold of everything we can for North Dakota, and we catalog them all. But here’s one and church histories are not just church histories sometimes. In the case of this one at Raleigh, ND, St. Gertrude, there are biographical sketches, and this is 1963. And this is full of biographical information on all families that belong here.

Crowd: And you have them here?

JB: Oh yes, we collect them, we catalog them all. And here’s one like Flasher, ND, St. Lawerence Catholic in 1987. Again, just full of family history information. Again this is secondary, but it is a help, and also I have seen more common today, in church histories a little more common, is church histories that have published, complied all the baptisms, the marriages, and the deaths, and published them right in the church history itself right in the back.

They list it, and some are a little more cryptic, they say year and these are the births. They don’t tell you the exact day. And but then some of them give you the exactly and I have seen some of them that even give you the sponsors for baptisms. The give the child, the date of baptism, the names of the parents, and who were the sponsors. And I mean they really took the whole church record and published it. And bring it right up to date. And when we find those in church histories, we index them special. And we make special subject headings to pull that detailed information out. So that is there.

Crowd: Is there a place that we can find a list, like a list of Catholic churches in a certain county? Or how would you know what church is in what county?

JB: You would have to check with the diathesis. And we’re talking historically, if you are looking all the way back.

Crowd: No, just in a couple counties. Would they have a record of the Catholic churches in the area at the time?

JB: Yes, oh yes. They will have big red books.

Crowd: Well I was just trying to figure them out, but their Latin.

JB: And I think early records are in Latin as far as the Catholic church. I have never used them, but they are Latin. And of course there will be a lot of German records as well, so you have to be prepared to read that in the script. Especially Latin, that would be a little more difficult I would think. You can kind of see it, and I do not know how they are formulated, if they are columns, that makes it very easy to read.

Any other questions? And I don’t know how many of you are, the American Lutheran Church, which really was German, but a lot Scandinavian that came also, but for North Dakota. All the American Lutheran Church records for North Dakota that were microfilmed, because they had a free microfilm program for many years until the merged, are all at UND at Chesterfield Library. And this is the finding aid for everything that they would have on microfilm. Again predominately this is a listing for Scandinavian churches. But there are some German, if you know it was American Lutheran Church, not Missouri Synod.

Crowd: What is the name of this?

JB: I guess this doesn’t have a title. Let’s see what the first one is. Its basically congregations on microfilm, lets see. It’s ALC, American Lutheran Church, congregations for North Dakota that are on microfilm. They do not loan them, so you’ll have to go there, but maybe they will look at them. But I’ll pass that around if you want to look at it and see.

Its by town, so you can look up Wishek, ND and see what records they may have there, because all the master films and everything is in Chicago, and the church archives there. But they do charge I know, quite a bit to search. And they did this for the whole country; this is not just for North Dakota. But this is only North Dakota that got copies out of the national archives. But other states you have to go there, but I guess you can buy the film as well. I guess you can buy the church film as well, they will check that for you.

And I guess someone said, I do not know much about the Missouri Synod Lutheran which I think most German Russians are, but I guess they do have a microfilming program as well. They have a very good archives in St. Louis, the Concordia historical institute, and they said they do have a microfilming program for church records as well. So I do think in time, all this will develop but its going to take a lot of time. Well I guess we have passed the 5:30 mark, I guess if you have questions feel free to ask me afterwards. Hopefully, it will help, I know its helped a little bit, but I hope it hasn’t duplicated.

Crowd: But this is really sad though, when I read this book, and I have the name, its Mr. Steve Bernhardt, and I am looking in there, and he married my aunt, his second wife. And I am always looking through these records, and I could never get that, and she had two children.

JB: This was written from the family from the first marriage evidently.

Crowd: Yes, because it doesn’t say a thing about me.

JB: No

Crowd: I feel very unfortunate, because where would you find information on the second marriage, because it has to be written down someplace.

JB: County Courhouse where it would have taken place, and maybe the church record as well.

Crowd: And then she died in Minnesota.

JB: Oh ok, then you just have to check the official records in each place. Yah those biography’s or those secondary sources are written many years after the fact. Those people didn’t know. You also have to take those with a grain of salt. All or any secondary histories, county, community histories. Yes?

Crowd: What burned in the Capital fire in Bismarck?

JB: No vital records were destroyed. Vital records were down town, in an office down town. And they its common, its folklore. Everyone says my birth certificate burned up in the Capital fire in Bismarck. No it didn’t. They were not there to be burned. So if they don’t find it, then that means one was not filed by the physician or the family. Because many people have been born without a physician, I’m sure, so how would they even know to record it.

-questions can not be understood, because there is too much talking in the room-

End of Session-

End of Tape-


Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller