Researching at the MN Historical Society

If you have a family history connection in Minnesota, you’ll want to take a look at the resources of the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS).

Perhaps you’re planning a trip to Minneapolis for the Celtic Connections Conference (CCC ’16) on August 5-6? To make the best use of your limited time in Minnesota, you should do as much research as possible in advance.

Today’s posting, written by Tom Rice, CGSM, will help you do just that! Tom has earned a long list of genealogical credentials and will be a presenter at the August CCC conference, plus he volunteers weekly at the MNHS genealogy help desk.

The Minnesota Historical Society is located on the edge of downtown St. Paul just off Interstate 94. Besides an excellent museum, it has an outstanding library with the super added bonus of being the home for the Minnesota State Archives. The library catalog searches both collections. In addition to housing a vast collection of Minnesota-related materials, the library has been collecting from all over the country since its founding in 1849. The State Archives contains both state and county records such as early vital records, naturalization, court, probate and tax records. Another valuable resource is the library’s extensive and very complete collection of newspapers from all over the state. One of the best features of this library is the thoroughness of its finding aids, many of which can be accessed online through the catalog.

Genealogists will be especially interested in the People Finder tools which query its various online indexes such as birth certificate index (1900-1934), death certificate index (1904-2001), state censuses, veterans’ graves and special collections (e.g., photographs). Enter a name, filter your query by limiting it to a specific index, further limit your search by time period, place, etc. Choosing a filter will bring up further suggestions for limiting your search. If this list does not include the filter you want, click on more and work your way through the alphabet of additional filters. You can use your search results to locate items in the library or to order a record online.

To tell you the truth Tom wrote another paragraph about the People Finder tool – with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, and we’ve opted not to share that bit of Irish wit and wisdom. Bottom line: the People Finder was overhauled a while back, much to the dissatisfaction of library patrons. The ‘new-and-improved’ version gives you results but not as quickly and easily as we remember the old MNHS system.

Here’s the link to the MNHS website:

Click on the Research tab to find the library catalog, the (lambasted) People Finder, and the many other valuable collections.

BTW, if you haven’t heard about “Celtic Roots Across America,” the CCC ’16 theme, check it out here: You can register online and take advantage of the early registration discount until May 31.

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