North Dakota Records Details and Resources

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The federal censuses for the state of North Dakota start with 1900. Territorial censuses and mortality schedules were taken in 1860, 1870, 1880 and 1885 for Dakota Territory. State censuses for 1905, 1915, and 1925 are available at the State Historical Society of North Dakota The 1915 and 1925 enumerations are on

The Division of Vital Records in Bismarck holds statewide birth certificates from 1870, death certificates from 1881, and marriages from July 1925. Online ordering is available at Earlier marriages, if registered,will be found with the county recorder in the county in which the marriage license was issued. Divorces are also in the hands of the pertinent county recorder. The legal requirement to register vital events was generally complied with by the mid-1920s.

Compared to the rest of the country, North Dakota was settled and populated relatively late, and is rather lacking in record resources. County courthouse records include land, naturalization, probate, guardianship, and civil and criminal cases. Most of these records and their indexes remain in the county, and little has been microfilmed. This makes local research key to success. While some counties are starting to put a few indexes online, in most cases you’ll need to contact the courthouse or plan to have research done on-site.

Local church and cemetery records may be important to fill the research gaps. Local or church newspapers may provide details or clues not recorded elsewhere. Newspapers that at the State Historical Society in Bismarck have largely been microfilmed.

Some church, cemetery, and newspaper abstracts and indexes have been published or posted online. Genealogical society publications may also hold clues and provide contacts to put you on the right track. Check for links to such resources at Cyndi’s List and the USGenWeb site for North Dakota The North Dakota State Genealogical Society’s Web site is another contact point

By the time the State Historical Society of North Dakota was founded in Bismarck, significant historical and genealogical resources had already been gathered at both the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and North Dakota State University (NDSU) in Fargo. All three facilities have excellent published genealogy and manuscript collections, much of which is not duplicated by the other institutions. None of these repositories should be overlooked when researching North Dakota ancestors.

The State Historical Society of North Dakota’s website includes information about the society’s holdings, which includes library, newspaper, and manuscript collections, as well as the State Archives. The society also holds important collections of oral history interviews. Also available online is the North Dakota Naturalization Records Database. It lists the 212,000 name entries for the first and second naturalization papers recorded at the county level and is complete for all North Dakota counties. The records themselves have all been transferred from the counties to the historical society.

The University of North Dakota’s Department of Special Collections at the Chester Fritz Library holds the genealogy and history collections. Online information and some useful indexes are available at For example, recently added databases include an index to the Grand Forks County Coroner Records, 1881-1989, and a keyword-searchable index to the student newspaper covering 1888 to the present.

The North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies collection at NDSU in Fargo has North Dakota county, town, and church histories. All those volumes acquired prior to 1980 are indexed by every name, and available online at the North Dakota Biography Index The collection also focuses on Germans from Russia, an active historical and genealogical society for descendants of an important portion of the North Dakota settlers.


  • Declarations of Intention, 1890-1924 by the US Circuit Court, Southeastern Division (filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1991)
  • Ethnic Group Files, ca. 1935-1942 by the Writers’ Program, North Dakota (State Historical Society of North Dakota, 1989)
  • Naturalization Records, 1906-1924 by the US District Court and the US Circuit Court, Southeastern Division, (filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1991)
  • North Dakota Pioneers From the Banat by John M. Michels (University of Mary Press, 1992)
  • Prairie Mosaic: An Ethnic Atlas of Rural North Dakota by William C. Sherman (North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1983)
  • Red River Trails: Oxcart Routes Between St. Paul and the Selkirk Settlement, 1820-1870 by Rhoda R. Gilman, et al. (Minnesota Historical Society, 1979)


  • Land in Her Own Name: Women as Homesteaders in North Dakota by H. Elaine Lindgren (North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1991)
  • Land Records, 1906-1921 by the US Bureau of Indian Affairs, Standing Rock Agency (Federal Archives and Records Center, 1977)
  • Sioux Personal Property Claims: From the Original Ledger by Ruth Brown (Rogue Valley Genealogical Society, 1987)


  • The Atlas of North Dakota by L.R. Goodman and R.J. Eidem (North Dakota Studies, 1976)
  • North Dakota Place Names by Douglas A. Wick (Hedemarken Collectibles, 1988)
  • North Dakota Post Offices, 1850-1982 by Alan H. Patera and John S. Gallagher (The Depot, 1982)
  • Origins of North Dakota Place Names by Mary Ann Barnes Williams (Bismark Tribune, 1966)
  • Postoffices and Postmarks of Dakota Territory by George H. Phillips (J-B Pub. Co., 1973)


  • General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 by the US Veterans Administration (Veterans Administration, Publications Service, 1953)
  • Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers who Served in Organizations From the Territory of Dakota by the US General Adjutant’s Office (National Archives, 1964)
  • North Dakota, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 by the US Selective Service System (National Archives, 1987-1988)


  • Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1880-1942 [Standing Rock Agency] by the US Bureau of Indian Affairs, Standing Rock Agency (Federal Archives and Records Center, 1977)
  • Guide to Public Vital Statistics Records in North Dakota by the Historical Records Survey, North Dakota (The Survey, 1941)
  • North Dakota Cemeteries, 32 vols., by the Fargo Genealogical Society (Fargo Genealogical Society, 1972-1977, 1986-1998)

Return to the main North Dakota page

From the Family Tree Sourcebook
Also available: the State Research Guide Book, State Research Guides CD and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.