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State Research Guide: North Dakota
2/1/2007
Cultivate Family History Harmony in the Peace Garden State.

The most important thing to know before starting your North Dakota family research is that two states have "Dakota" in their name. Folks in the upper Great Plains hate it when newscasters refer to "the Dakotas," as if it's one big state — perhaps because this area spent many prestatehood years being fobbed off from one territory to another. (But it's true that North Dakota legislators recently toyed with renaming the state simply "Dakota," forever consigning their southern neighbor to add-on status.)

When North Dakota first became part of the United States, it was part of one big chunk of land — the 1803 Louisiana Purchase from France, which included the southwestern half of today's state. French explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye, the first white man to reach North Dakota, arrived in 1738. Permanent white settlement didn't start until 1812, when Scottish pioneers from Canada settled in Pembina. Six years later, the United States acquired that part of northeastern North Dakota; all of North Dakota then became part of the Missouri Territory.

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