NEGenWeb Project
NEGenWeb Project Resource Center

NEBRASKA RECORDS:

Guides | Statement of Standards | Census and Gazetteers | State Vitals | Cemetery | County (marriage, land, probate, adoption) | Naturalization | Church | Native American | Newspapers | Military | Oddments | Society links | Genealogy LessonsInternet helps |

 


BASIC GUIDES to NE Records available on the web:

What is available on internet from NEGenWeb Project websites?

List of Genealogy Guide brochures from NSHS(Nebraska State Historical Society)

Articles on NE Resource Center from "Genealogist's Corner", NSHS "History" Newsletter (permission granted by NSHS for reproduction by NEGenWeb Project)


Statement of Standards for Family Research and Sharing Data by William Oliver


CENSUS

 Where to find census records (why collect census records, etc.)

CENSUS Returns for NE - information on territory, state & federal census schedules. Links.

USGenWeb Census Project - Nebraska collection: Check to see if the census you are seeking has been extracted or is in production. Volunteer to do a county, yourself!

GAZETTEERS - These publications are "address books" and are available on an irregular basis for years from 1879 to 1917. Most list only businesses. The 1886 and 1890 Gazetteers listed businesses by town (with owner or manager named) and farmers by county (with post office stated, some with po's in adjacent county). Family members are NOT listed. Microfilms of NE gazetteers are available by interlibrary loan (file request form at your local library). Gazetteers indicate the presence of individuals during years when there are no census records. They are used as guides to the census for years when there is no census index. (Example - the 1886 NE Gazetteer is a guide to 1885 Census)


NEBRASKA STATE VITALS -

Birth, Death, Marriage Certificates
- formal documents issued by state registering these events at time they occurred.
See following links for mail address, fees for birth & death certificates, marriage & divorce records. See also - county records below...

     NE Birth & death records were recorded by the State starting in 1904 and are NOT complete for that year.
     NOTES:
     Births - There are some "delayed" birth records filed with the state vitals office by persons that had the necessary documents and needed official registration papers. There is no way to predict which persons followed the procedure. Some counties maintained local birth & death records at various times, the dates of record keeping are not uniform.
     Some counties began maintaining birth & death records about 1900 in anticipation of change in state law. When the law was passed, it was NOT retroactive. The county may still have the record book, but it may have been lost in the years since. Inquiring about availability at the county courthouse will cost you the letter and a SASE. Check to see what dates were included and let us know, please.
     Some other birth & death records exist, particularly for Douglas and Lancaster Counties, which required them under local laws. One article of the Genealogist's Corner (from NSHS newsletter) provides dates & locations for those records. It also provides advice about other possible sources of birth & death data.
     SUBSTITUTES for birth record - Baptismal record from church, newspaper announcement of birth, first census following the birth. Possibilities - Social Security Application, delayed birth certificate issued by NE (especially if person sought a passport).

     Deaths - During the 1930's (?) a collection of burial sites was gathered as a government project. The rumors we have heard about this vary - it was a WPA project (?) aimed at finding burial sites of veterans (?), etc. The point is - the one collection we did pursue was found in the office of Veteran Affairs (NE office, not part of Federal government) in a county courthouse. The collection included burial notes based on the recollections of old-timers for all persons in the county, regardless of military service! Here was found a brief note giving the section-township-range of burial for a woman mentioned in family lore as "buried in the corner of the pasture under a tree".
     SUBSTITUTES for death record - Cemetery record (city or church), extract of gravestone, newspaper obit or death notice, funeral "program" or church bulletin.

Vitals substitutes - "Sittler index"
     According to researchers contributing to NE Roots mail list: Melvin E. Sittler created this resource by extracting newspapers 1873-1900. It is available on microfiche through Family History Libraries (LDS). Some public libraries have a set of the fiche. It your ancestor appears, you can secure a copy of the original news article from NSHS by providing the data given in Sittler's Index.

     NE Marriage records were recorded with the State Vitals office starting in June 1909. Some counties sent records for the entire year, and others did not. (See "county records" for earlier marriage records.)

Use the following links to get vitals information (fees, snail mail address, instructions for ordering).

  

    National Center for Health Statistics

    Nebraska Vital Record Information

Order VITAL RECORDS for NEBRASKA on-line, using a credit card.  Nebraska Health and Human Services System

List of County Clerks, with mailing addresses and phone numbers.
List of addresses for Nebraska courthouses (NSHS website).

Current Marriage License info - including list of addresses for County Clerks

Old Medical Terminology may help you understand "cause of death"


CEMETERY RECORDS -

City owned cemeteries - Some cemetery records are kept by the individual towns at city hall, write to the City Clerk for a copy of plot data. Be aware, the date given may be the burial date, not the death date. Some cemetery records show both. Read carefully.


Church operated cemeteries - If the name of the cemetery indicates that it is church owned, seek the record from the church. If the church has ceased operations - they may have filed all old records with a neighboring church of the same denomination, OR with their regional or national headquarters, OR (occasionally) with a historical or genealogical society (county or state). If you have information about the location of a set of church records, please share with NEGenWeb Project via T&C Miller. (See Church Records, below)


Re-located graves - It is possible that your ancestors were originally buried on a corner of the farm, or next to a long gone church. This information will be available ONLY from the cemetery records. In more than one case - while the cemetery noted that the bodies had been moved, the original burial location was NOT given. Check the date of plot purchase, if it is after the death date by more than 2-3 days - if is likely the body was moved into the cemetery at the later time. Inquire for "plot data", in addition to specific individual data. Many plots include a person buried in very early times, without a stone.


Single graves and "plots" -
     Old cemeteries were often started because a place of burial was needed immediately. Individual plots were sold as deaths occurred, and people were buried in death date order along the fence line of the property (generally land donated by a local person).
     Most cemeteries switched to selling "plots" within a short time - pieces of land large enough for more than one burial. Cemetery plot size varies with the decision of the cemetery board - may be for 2, 4, 6, or 8. Some cemetery boards were apparently quite rigid about the plot being used for "no more than" the number it was designated to hold. Others were liberal - especially if the burials included several infants or children. You will find some cases where a married child is buried with his/her parents - and the spouse buried with his/her parents. Once a "plot" was owned - the question arose of exactly who would "fill it up"!

NO death certificate?
Burial Orders
- Persons that died elsewhere will not have Nebraska death certificates, check with cemetery for "burial orders" to determine death location. The cemetery had to sign acceptance for body transported for burial. (This info from Bill Wever).


"Nobody of that name died in that county ...." - many senior citizens of central NE have retired to Good Samaritan Village in Hastings the last few years. Be careful of wording in your request for a death certificate. The fact that a person is buried where you expected does NOT mean that they died at that place. While many counties have "retirement homes" - there were/are other "homes" run by religious groups that were the residence of people from all over the state (example: Crowell Memorial Home for Methodists at Blair, NE). There was also the "Old Soldiers Home" near Grand Island, NE.
(We are aware of a number of California residents that are buried in NE, in one case after absence of almost 60 years!)


Gravestone with death date; age at death only? Use calculator to determine the birthdate.

Cemetery extract shows "WOW" in comment column - Woodmen of the World gravestone.

NE Resource Center Cemetery page for links to information about cemetery data, symbolism, customs ...

Tombstone Project - NE Collection - Links given to some cemetery extracts that are on-line. Information appears about cemetery records that have been published and are for sale. Local societies deserve your support for their efforts to publish data. NEGenWeb Project will not infringe upon their copyright. Our efforts will be concentrated on increasing the data available overall by seeking additional cemetery data.

Tombstone Photo Project - NE Collection - Will accept a single gravestone image, or entire cemetery. Provides links to photo files on other websites if known.  Look for "County Index" in the bar near the top of the page.

Check the individual County pages of NEGenWeb Project. - Some have cemetery data files, some have made arrangements for lookups with the local genealogical or historical society. Some county pages will guide you to extracts that have already been published and are available for sale.


COUNTY RECORDS:

Court House Address list NSHS genealogy guide - or check the specific NEGenWeb Project county page.

MARRIAGE RECORDS

Article about NE Marriage Records from Genealogist's Corner of NSHS
    List - Marriage records at NSHS (microfilm).
    
Marriage records began in each county when the county government formed. Cost of a copy by mail varies from as little as twenty-five cents up to $5. Make your request to the county courthouse for search of index AFTER you check the county page on NEGenWeb Project to see if information is already posted. Some NEGenWeb counties have published full extractions, other files are just names of bride & groom - some with book & page number. A simple copy is adequate for genealogical purposes - it does NOT meet legal needs - for that, order a CERTIFIED copy, at higher cost.
     In some counties, if you go to the courthouse and heft the books yourself, copies of marriage records are fifteen cents each (1998). All is variable!
Note: At least two counties charge less per page for marriages, more for land and probate records.
     Alternative, some counties have filmed their marriage records, and a copy of the film is stored at NSHS (see link above), arrange research with that organization. If you can go to Lincoln, check through microfilm for several counties.

The earliest marriage records are not on forms and are entirely handwritten; they may be in a journal with other types of records (land or probate).
     While a form was used in most counties by the 1870's, the applicants did not necessarily supply the information requested - did not "fill in the blanks".
The information that "should" appear:
      Marriage record number (Book & page number may be followed by a county registration number).
      Name of county where application was made, and the date.
      Personal info for groom & for bride - full name, age, place of birth, place of residence, names of parents (some forms included race)
      Marriage date & place. Name of person officiating, with title (MG = Minister of God; JP = Justice of the Peace). Names of witnesses.
      Hints:
     Witnesses might be relatives &/or friends. Alternative - witnesses can simply be courthouse employees, the wife of the minister, etc. Scan adjacent records to see if same persons were witnesses to other marriages.
      Having difficulty finding the correct record? Look for them under "middle name".
Say the name to yourself as you scan the index - clerk wrote what was "heard". Have often seen "Yan" for "Jan", who was later known as "John".
     Example: Two 1905 marriage records have been posted as images. You will notice that some information has been typed. Please use your brower's back button to return to this page.

LAND RECORDS - Request from county courthouse.
Note: In some communities, the deeds to cemetery plots are considered part of permanent land records & a copy will be available for a fee. In others, county law allows for disposal of these deeds after a certain number of years.

U.S. Gov't Land Records of NE (1854-1904) - Genealogy guide from NSHS

"Public Lands" from "Nebraska as a State" Chapter of Andreas History of NE 1882 - explains the land survey; defines pre-emption, homestead, soldier's homestead, and timber claim. See also "Educational Land" from "Nebraska as a State" Chapter of Andreas History of NE 1882.

Homestead Research in NE from Genealogist's Corner of NSHS
     You must start with NE research. Determine the legal description of the land (County, township-range-section) from records located at the county seat. You will be able to learn the location of the federal land office where the first papers were filed and get the homestead certificate number.
     The final "Homestead Certificate" was issued by the federal government & bears the "President's signature" - get a copy from NARA (National Archives & Records Administration) "Land Entry Records". Order a copy of the entire file - forms that were filled out at the time of original application and for completion of the process will include name with birthdate & location; information on the family, immigration & citizenship status; a list of improvements made to the property.

Burlington Railroad Land Records from Genealogist's Corner of NSHS

"Public Lands" from Compendium of History Reminiscence and Biography of Western NE, 1909, page 113

"The O'Neill Land District" - some history of NE land offices from NE History & Record of Pioneer Days, Vol II no. 2, Apr-June 1919

Land Survey on the Great Plains by Dick Taylor applies to Kansas, but may help you with terminology of land records. Explains township, range and section.

History of the Kincaid Act (was printed in the Grand Island Independent, 19 Aug 2004. You can write to the library in Grand Island).

"Plat books" are printed in a county every two or three years, they show farm boundaries and current owners of the land. Some show the name of the resident if that person is not the owner. (Read the legend with the booklet.) They are occasionally free, otherwise are sold at the land records office. Price varies. Write for information to the county courthouse; enclose SASE.
Note: There are some collections of OLD plat books found at local libraries, historical society collections, etc. The courthouse may chose to keep only current books as many of them do not have adequate storage space.

COURT Records of NE - Guide from NSHS

Probate Records: Request from county courthouse. Provide name of deceased and date of death. The date of death provides a starting point for seeking a probate record. The final disposition of property may be delayed many years by family agreement and/or failure to file for settlement.

Naturalization (Citizenship) Papers can sometimes be found at the county courthouse. See below.

Guardianship Records: Request from county courthouse (may be located in county of child's previous residence).
If there was NO property, guardianship papers may not have been filed.

Adoption Records: Request from county courthouse. More recent records may be sealed, but earlier ones are often open.
Check the adoption websites provided by Cyndi's List.
Note: Consider newspaper researchif adoption occurred in 1880-1900 (highly variable time frame) - while seeking death & probate notices in Washington County, we found a number of court notices in newspapers for adoptions, especially for infants & toddlers. The surviving parent (almost all were male) had made the arrangements for a permanent home, and public notice was given by the court that any person objecting to the proposed adoption must file a statement by a certain date.
Make sure to check the NEGenWeb Resource Center "Orphan Trains" page.

Military Records - see below

SCHOOL CENSUS

Some info about SCHOOL records in the possession of NSHS Library, Lincoln from Genealogist's Corner

See the example of 1875 Lancaster school census extractfrom NE & Midwest Genealogical Record.
NOTE: In most counties a school census was taken every year. As the school system has been consolidated & reorganized, we hear that some have discarded their records. Should you are able to insure the preservation of these records - please do whatever you can. At minimum, they should be donated to a local historical society or NSHS. Many of the county coordinators would be delighted to extract the school census for publication on the web if they could get copies of the material.

See NEGenWeb Resource Center "Country Schools" for photos of some schools, lists of graduates. etc.

List of Colleges & Universities in NE with websites.


NATURALIZATION RECORDS -

"Index to Naturalizations in NE & some counties in Iowa, 1906 & prior" - Guide from NSHS

"Who has the Naturalization Records?" by Marge Sandlier. There is more than one place to seek these elusive papers! Check this advice from an experienced researcher.

Hint: In census records, the column regarding status of citizenship: Na = Naturalized, Al = Alien, Pa = first papers filed (citizenship not completed).

Index to Early Naturalization Papers of Dodge County (1875 - 1906, Declaration of Intention and Final Papers)
Index to Naturalization Papers of Thayer County by Brenda Busing, from Thayer Co website.
Naturalization Papers of Cedar Countyby Twila Anderson and Kristi Lam.

Declarations of Intent for Germans from Russia filed in Lancaster County, NE (on a website by Lucile Hedges and Hugh Dobler)


CHURCH Records located at NSHS

NEGenWeb Project Resource Center - Church Page.



Native American Research
- NEGenWeb Project page, includes link to Joy Fisher's transcriptions for Santee Normal Training School, tribal sites, etc.


NEWSPAPER RECORDS

Newspaper Research - two articles from Genealogist's Corner of NSHS.

To secure copies of obituaries, probate notices, weddings, and other newspaper announcements regarding your ancestors.

Provide name (s), location and date.
1. Contact the local genealogy/historical society or the local library; inquire about availability and fee for their lookup services. If there is no local society, check with the library - either in the town or the county seat.
2. Nebraska State Genealogical Society now rents microfilm by interlibrary loan.
3. Contact NSHS for research in their newspaper microfilm collection, the fee must be paid in advance via snail mail and is not refundable. It takes time to look for what isn't there, in fact it often takes MORE time!
NSHS "Reference by Mail" page

Simple truths - Many issues of the various newspapers are NOT available, especially during early history of Nebraska. The reels of microfilm have gaps. If you are fortunate enough to find the issue, the information recovered may be minimal.

Examples:
     Early birth announcements are often one-liners - "Mr. & Mrs. Wm. Smith welcomed a new son last Tuesday on their farm west of the city."
     Early wedding announcements are also brief - "Word has reached the editor that Mr. John Jones and Miss Mary Anderson were married last week in our city. We join their many friends in wishing them well."
     What constitutes a death notice or obituary is highly variable. It can be this simple: "Mr. James Brown died last night at home after a stroke of apoplexy. We extend our sympathy to the grieving family."

The weekly newspapers in small towns sometimes missed an event entirely; it was long past by the time the next issue went to press. Another possibility is a brief announcement in one issue, and a more complete report in the next - but don't count on that!

NEGenWeb Project On-Line Library Newspaper page
The NSGS/NSHS collection of newspaper EXTRACTS. Additions are made as the data is available.

Jan 2001: Two files added to the original collection - one for Platte, the other for Buffalo County.
Mar 2001: Palmer Journal file (abt 1912-1932) for Merrick County added. ...

Lists of newspapers on microfilm at Nebraska State Historical Society Library, Lincoln.  Organized by county, organization, etc. Check for dates of issues recovered and filmed. Note: On occasion a page or two of some old newspaper is found and deposited with a local genealogical/historical society or sent to NE State Historical Society.  One such page was found lining the drawer of an old chest recently, it is now framed and on the wall of the Platte County Historical Society Museum in Columbus.

Many county websites have some sort of "newspaper" page where the coordinator will post old obits, etc.  If NEGenWeb Project does not have permission to reproduce old articles from a particular publication, and the date is later than 1923 - the coordinator will post an extract. 


MILITARY Records - see NE Resource Center Military page, and the individual county websites.

     Many Nebraska Counties have a office of Veteran Affairs located in the county courthouse. The records kept are variable. Make your request for information by regular US mail. Our impression is that these offices are fading, some are staffed by a volunteer only, and open only one half-day per week.
     Most have a list of the county's "Killed in Combat"; some have lists of all residents who served in each war; some recorded deaths & burials of county veterans (including those who died elsewhere when a notice was returned). At least one county has "lost" all records and it's office is not longer staffed.

     Note: Somewhere in Nebraska, we were told it was the "fad" to file a copy of a veteran's service record in the county courthouse upon return! Cannot recall what county we were in, or whether that was for records after WW I or II. It will cost you a letter and SASE to inquire at the courthouse. Good luck with this idea!


Oddments related to other levels & types of records:

     MOVED - Search Engine for NEBRASKA data (assorted sources included) Thank you, Tom & Connie

OOPS! Notes, Corrections, Additions page - always under construction. Extractions appearing on NEGenWeb are based on "what is seen" in the original document. The extractors do not alter the spellings, etc - it's real easy to misread the handwriting. Old documents and the microfilm of them include "blemishes" - stray marks of unknown origin. Census sheets include notes made by enumeration supervisors. This "fix" page is for your imput - if a file seems erroneous, let us know. We can't "correct" the original, but can publish your statement of correction or addition. Provide your name & email address please, so other researchers can contact the correcting source person.

County Unknown, NEGenWeb - The page designed to get you started on NE research when you have minimal information. Check the Surnames List if all you know is the surname. If you have name & location, also check the Features List for current & obsolete place names. Work your way through the steps provided until you know the county location of your ancestor. Recommend using EVERY search engine you find!

NEGenWeb Project ON-LINE LIBRARY - many old books completed, some partial books, some just indexes. Some journals, links to publications (books) & a few pamphlets of NSHS, etc..

NEW - "POLISH ARMY" by Marge Sandlier, a new resource!

NEW - "Nebraskans in Kansas - 1918": Unusual resource related to those NOT naturalized! Offer from Jean, who has INDEX only.

Compiled Family History - Does your family have a "rumor" that records were collected & a history written 3-4 generations ago? For Nebraska, most of these family histories were deposited with NSHS, so check there. (NSHS Reference by Mail page)
     An alternative - some genealogies were published in "Nebraska & Midwest Genealogical Record" (1923-1944, most issues are on-line). Consider the time frame. Perhaps the compiler was the child of an immigrant and was focusing on the family's roots in place of former residence? - in which case you should be checking in the depository of that "home" state.
     Family histories are received at NSHS Library all the time. They provide lists in "Historical Newsletter - Genealogist's Corner".

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Genealogy Page has been greatly improved and provides many guides, notes, links, etc. Learn about records available (census, military, naturalization, immigration), and where the nearest branch of the Archives is located, etc.

Read the directions at these sites, please.
     Social Security Death Index from RootsWeb
      US Postal Service Zip Code lookup.

Social Security Account Application - Wendelin sample provided by Nancy (didn't fit with her research). Thank you!
      US Government page with history of Social Security, explanation of numbers, reproduction of forms, etc.

Using FBI files for genealogy research (how many people had "security clearances" during the Cold War ? ...) Page includes specifics needed.

Sanborn Insurance Maps - You'll find them at larger libraries, especially historical or university libraries. The maps are/were for larger towns, generally updated every 5 years or so, and used to rate structures for insurance. They note materials used in BUSINESS buildings in "fair-sized towns", but the name of the business occupying the building is NOT given. A very limited number of adjacent residences may be described as: "brick", "frame", "cement block", etc. There will be NO information about the residents. Check for availability, in some cases a series has been filmed for a state (as early as 1880). Some of these maps are available at NSHS for Nebraska.
(Information above extracted from messages in series of emails on NE-Roots list)

Abbreviations for organizations in Nebraska and elsewhere

Land patents for some states (Jan 2000 - recent records for NE? Earliest reported found was 1910.)
(http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/ "temporarily off line" reconnection date unknown?)

Homestead records from Broken Bow Land Office.

Abbreviations for COUNTRIES used on RootsWeb sites, may help you shorten some of the entries in your own files.

Legal Information at About.Com- adoption laws, marriage license laws

Quote from a Nebraska County Coordinator: "If they had kept better records, I could too!"


Nebraska, state-wide & local societies - check these sites for additional information about their resources, publications, etc.

Nebraska State Historical Society
     NSHS
"Reference by Mail"

Nebraska State Genealogical Society -
The NSGS Publications List - assorted extracts, guides, etc.
Catalog of NSGS Microfilm - You can rent microfilm from their collection by interlibrary loan! NEGenWeb Project has posted the list & ordering instructions for your convenience.

List (s) of Nebraska Genealogy & Historical Societies, Nebraska Librarieswith mailing address, some phone numbers - collected by NEGenWeb Project (Please inform NE State Coordinator, Connie Snyder of additions or corrections).


Virtual Nebraska by University of NE - history, maps, images


Has all the information about record types been confusing? Do you wonder why a particular record is worth finding? What it will add to the data for your family history?

From ROOTSWEB REVIEW: Genealogical Data Cooperative News Vol. 2, No. 24, 16 June 1999 -
"
ROOTSWEB'S GUIDE TO TRACING YOUR FAMILY TREE" ("RootsWeb Guide") Designed with the beginning genealogist and new RootsWeb user in mind, each lesson will include text, suggested reading list, links to some of the relevant resources hosted by RootsWeb, and links to some relevant resources found elsewhere on the Internet. Lesson One, "Where to Begin," is online now. Lesson Two is scheduled to be posted next week. Additional lessons will be posted most weeks thereafter. Even experienced genealogists and long-time RootsWeb users might learn some useful new things. Please stop by."


INTERNET HELPS - Locations help, Anti-virus, using RootsWeb message boards ...

RESEARCH AIDS - Genealogy Buff website for lists of abbreviations used in records, emblems found on gravestones, birthdate calculator, nicknames & naming traditions, all sorts of handy info ...

12 Oct 1998, Chicago Tribune, Business and Technology section - 20 percent of the entire content of the Internet is GENEALOGY - J. McCoy


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