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  • Resources at NEHGS for the Great Plains, Upper Midwest, and Border States

    Jane Bramwell

    Published Date : October-November 1991
    After the Revolution and Civil War, the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 must be counted one of the most far-reaching events in American history.  By this transaction, which doubled its size, the youthful United States purchased from Napoleon approximately 1,000,000 acres. including all of what is now Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota, and parts of the present states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota and North Dakota.  At the time, the United States was most interested in acquiring the port of New Orleans and control of the Mississippi River; but possession of the rich Mississippi Valley and the fertile soil under “the Great American Desert” gave the young nation new importance on the world stage.

    In 1803, the number of white settlers (mainly French) in the entire area was estimated at 80,000; their settlements along the Mississippi constituted part of the long route from Québec to New Orleans.  A much larger population of Native Americans were “squeezed out” of their lands, little by little, until the early twentieth century, when they were left only reservations.  In any of the current states that constitute this area, the researcher must always keep the “Indian problem” in mind.

    In the last issue, “Acquisitions News” emphasized the importance of boundary changes in “Old Northwest” genealogy.  The same is true in the area now under review.  Almost without exception, every current state created from the Louisiana Purchase went through several changes of jurisdiction before statehood.  As a result the researcher must become familiar with the resources of more than one state.  The southern part of the Louisiana Purchase will be treated in a later column, as part of the states of the Confederacy.  We will here cover the area north and west of the present states of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas.

    The entire region north and west of the present state of Louisiana (as far as parts of Montana) was known as the Louisiana Territory from 1805 to 1812, when it was renamed the Missouri Territory.  In 1819 the Arkansas Territory was formed from part of the Missouri Territory; two years later, the northern part of Arkansas Territory became the state of Missouri.

    NEHGS owns the Missouri Historical Review, vols. 1-73 (1906-78); Missouri Historical Society Bulletin, vols. 1-36 (1944-.1980); and an incomplete run of the Missouri Historical Society Collections, vols. 1-6 (1880-1931). As noted  before, historical periodicals often contain articles of genealogical interest, such as “The French Émigrés from Guadeloupe” in vol. 2, no. 6 of the Collections.  The Society currently receives a number of Missouri-area genealogical periodicals:  The Prairie Gleaner from the West Central Missouri Genealogical Society & Library, Inc.; Ozar’Kin, from the Ozarks Genealogical Society; and the St. Louis Genealogical Society Quarterly.  Two source-record publications are Missouri Pioneers: County and Genealogical Records, vols. 1-30 (1967-76) and Missouri Miscellany: State-Wide Missouri Genealogical Records, vols. 1-16 (1976-83). More specific is Springfield, Missouri Newspaper Abstracts, 1865-1910 (18 vols).

    The next state carved from the Louisiana Purchase was Iowa. It was part of the Missouri Territory (1812-21), unorganized territory (1821-34), Michigan Territory (1834-36), Wisconsin Territory (1836-38), Iowa Territory (1838-46), and became a state in 1846.  As in all of these states, the dates when any one piece of land might be in any one territory may be unclear, as there were many boundary disputes.  NEHGS owns several Iowa historical journals - the immense Annals of Iowa (vol. 1-3rd -series, vol.36 [1863-19611); Iowa Historical Record, 18 vols. (1885-1902); and Iowa Journal of History (formerly Iowa Journal of History and Politics), vols. 1-59 (1903-61).  We also carry Hawkeye Heritage, published by the state genealogical society.  Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa, a reprint of an 1875 atlas, contains not only plat maps of all Iowa counties, but also (in a section listing “patrons” of the atlas) the names, business, place of birth, year of arrival in Iowa, and post-office addresses of persons supporting publication.  Two more books of interest are Elsie L. Sopp, Personal Name Index to the 1856 City Directories of Iowa (c.1980) and List of Ex-Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines Living in Iowa (1886). This last title lists every pensioner (beginning with the War of 1812) living in Iowa in 1886, no matter where he served.

    Minnesota became a Territory in 1849 and a state in 1858.  Unfortunately, other than census indexes and mug-books we have little on this state.  Some early settlers may be covered in French-Canadian Families of the North Central States, a title mentioned at the end of the last column.

    Kansas and Nebraska he further west, on the other side of the Missouri River.  Both were part of the Louisiana (1805-12) and Missouri (1812-21) Territories, and formed part of the unorganized territory until the Kansas and Nebraska Territories were created in 1854.  In 1861 Kansas became a state. The Treesearcher is published by the Kansas Genealogical Society.  We also receive Kansas Kin from the Riley County Genealogical Society. C.H. Robertson, Kansas Territorial Settlers of 1860 Who Were Born in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina (1976) abstracts and indexes much census data.

    Nebraska became a state in 1867; we own scattered volumes of the Transactions (later Collections) of the Nebraska State Historical Society, beginning in 1885.  Roots and Leaves, published by the Eastern Nebraska Genealogical Society is the only current genealogical magazine we receive from Nebraska.  The Nebraska and Midwest Genealogical Record, vols. 1-22 (1923-44), in its [137] early years published an eclectic mix; later it became a true Nebraska journal.

    The evolution of the Dakotas was complicated, as the Missouri River cuts South Dakota in half and divides the southern half of North Dakota.  The eastern side of the Dakotas evolved with Iowa and Minnesota, and composed part of at least seven different territories.  The western half of these states can be grouped with Kansas and Nebraska as parts of the Louisiana and Missouri Territories and then as unorganized area until formation of the Nebraska Territory in 1854.  A separate Dakota Territory was created in 1861, from which Montana and Wyoming were set off as Montana Territory in 1864; North and South Dakota became states in 1889.  NEHGS has the North Dakota Historical Collections, vols. 1-7(1905-24) and a complete run of North Dakota Historical Quarterly (1926- ).  The only genealogical periodical we receive is The Dakota Homestead and Historical Newsletter, published by the Bismarck-Mandan Genealogical Society.  Another title of interest is M.J. Hadler, Towner County, North Dakota Families in 6 vols. (1958-62).  At present we unfortunately have virtually nothing on South Dakota; gifts and suggestions would be welcome.

    Oklahoma did not become a state until 1907.  It was part of the Louisiana (1805-12), Missouri (1812-19), and Arkansas Territories, and was unorganized after 1821, until part of it a became the Oklahoma Territory in 1890.  Bits more were added until Oklahoma took its present form in 1907.  NEHGS owns a complete run of the Oklahoma Genealogical Society Quarterly (1955-).

    In the last issue we mentioned states created from the Northwest Territory, and here those formed from the Louisiana Purchase.  Before we treat the Confederate region, there are still two states to cover.  Kentucky and West Virginia are border states, a mix of north and south, more frontier than anything else.  Both were part of Virginia, but consist essentially of the land between the Alleghany mountains and the Ohio River.  Settled largely by Scots-Irish, this backwoods area had little in common with eastern Virginia lowlands.  White settlers began moving into it in the mid-eighteenth century, and emerged from the Revolution with such legendary figures as Daniel Boone and George Rogers Clark. Kentucky became a state in 1792.

    Kentucky research can be confusing not only because one must also deal with Virginia records, but because Kentucky boundary changes are notoriously complex.  The area of just one of the original three counties of Kentucky covers 46 of the current 54 counties.  Fortunately there is considerable Kentucky material in print, and several excellent periodicals.  The Society has complete runs of Kentucky Historical Society Register (1903- ); Filson Club History Quarterly (journal of a private society devoted to history, 1926-91); Kentucky Ancestors (1965-); and The Kentucky Genealogist, vols. 1-28 (1959-86).

    Land records are key to Kentucky research, since so many early settlers were Revolutionary War veterans receiving bounty lands.  Useful printed works include W.R. Jillson, Kentucky Land Grants (1925), and Old Kentucky Entries and Deeds (1926); J.E. Brookes-Smith, Master Index Virginia Surreys and Grants, 1774-1791 (1976) covers a narrower time frame. J.F. Sutherland, Early Kentucky Landholders, 1787-1811 (1986) and Early Kentucky Householders, 1787-1811 (1986) were derived from tax records of early Lincoln County.  Other titles of interest are R.V. Jackson, Index of Kentucky Wills to 1851: The Testators (1977), History of Kentucky Illustrated (a ten-volume mug-book), M.L Cook, Kentucky Index of Biographical Sketches in State, Regional, and County Histories (1986), and ten volumes of source-record abstracts by Annie Walker Burns.  A Guide to the Draper Manuscripts mentioned in the last column under Ohio is very useful for Kentucky and West Virginia also, as is M.C. Weaks, Calendar of the Kentucky Papers of the Draper Collection of Manuscripts (1925).

    From an historical and genealogical point of view, West Virginia has much in common with Kentucky.  It became a state in 1863 as a result of the Civil War, since the people west of the Alleghenies overwhelmingly opposed Virginia’s secession from the Union, and with the help of the federal government broke away from the mother state. Researchers use many of the same Virginia sources for Kentucky and West Virginia.  Journals include West Virginia Historical Magazine Quarterly (5 vols., 1901-5) and West Virginia History (1940-), an annual since 1984).  Titles that illustrate the confused boundaries of western Virginia include Boyd Crumrine, Virginia Court Records in Southwestern Pennsylvania (1975) and P.G. Wardell, War of 1812: Virginia Bounty Land and Pension Applicants (1987), listing West Virginians as well.

    Because the border, Upper Midwest, and Great Plains areas were settled later than the eastern seaboard, there arc correspondingly fewer census records.  However, we have many census indexes from these states for 1860, 1870, and 1880, works often unavailable or prohibitively expensive for older, more populous regions. We also own some special census indexes to several state and territorial censuses for Iowa; several territorial censuses for Nebraska, one for Kansas and Nebraska, two for Minnesota, and one for South Dakota, 1860 for the area that became West Virginia; and 1870 for St. Louis, Mo.  For Oklahoma we own the 1890 territorial census for Kingfisher, Paine and Beaver Counties, plus F.J. Woods, Indian Lands West of the Arkansan (Oklahoma) Population Schedule of the United State Census 1860 (1964).

    Finally, the Society owns county histories and mug-books for many parts of states mentioned in this column. Tracking an ancestor who “went west” can be more difficult than finding European origins.  NEHGS can, however, provide researchers many useful tools for finding “ancestors with itchy feet.”

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