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State of North Dakota Genealogy

The State of North Dakota organized as territory on March 2, 1861 and entered the union as the 39th state on November 2, 1889. It has 53 Counties.

The State of North Dakota is bordered by Minnesota (east), Montana (west), South Dakota (south) and Canada. It has a land area of 70,704 square miles making it the 19th largest state. The capital is Bismarck and the official state website is

The state's 2010 population was 672,591 and the largest cities (2010) are Fargo, 105,549; Bismarck (Capital), 61,272; Grand Forks, 52,838; Minot, 40,888; West Fargo, 25,830; Mandan, 18,331; Dickinson, 17,787; Jamestown, 15,427; Williston, 14,716; Wahpeton, 7,766.

The State of North Dakota was named for was named for the Dakota people who lived there. The State nickname is " Peace Garden State " in reference to the International Peace Garden on the border between North Dakota and Manitoba ; " Flickertail State " referring to the flickertail ground squirrel common to central North Dakota ; "Sioux State" in reference to the Dakota people , better known as the Sioux. The State Motto is " Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable ".

Select a North Dakota County Below

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Adams County, Barnes County, Benson County, Billings County, Bottineau County, Bowman County, Burke County, Burleigh County, Cass County, Cavalier County, Dickey County, Divide County, Dunn County, Eddy County, Emmons County, Foster County, Golden Valley County, Grand Forks County, Grant County, Griggs County, Hettinger County, Kidder County, LaMoure County, Logan County, McHenry County, McIntosh County, McKenzie County, McLean County, Mercer County, Morton County, Mountrail County, Nelson County, Oliver County, Pembina County, Pierce County, Ramsey County, Ransom County, Renville County, Richland County, Rolette County, Sargent County, Sheridan County, Sioux County, Slope County, Stark County, Steele County, Stutsman County, Towner County, Traill County, Walsh County, Ward County, Wells County, Williams County

See more information about North Dakota's Counties.

North Dakota History

The Missouri Fur Company hired the first Europeans to settle in what is now North Dakota. That occurred in the late 1700s. The Pembina settlement and the Selkirk Colony, which was founded along the Assiniboine and Red rivers, were founded in 1812, fairly soon after those original fur traders came to the area. However, by 1823, nobody was residing in Pembina anymore and the Hudson Bay Company settlement had more or less absorbed Selkirk.

The Dakotas were home to several indigenous tribes, including the Arikaras and the Mandans. Several tribes were also moved to the Dakotas from the east. Those tribes included: Hidatsas, Crows, Cheyennes, Creeks, Assiniboines, Yanktonai Dakotas, Teton Dakotas, Chippewas

In both 1782 and 1786, smallpox epidemics spread throughout the Dakotas. As a result, about half of the Hidatsas died, and about three-quarters of the Mandans did as well. The Native American populations in the area were also ravaged by an epidemic in 1837, which was probably brought to the area by fur-trading white settlers.

The biggest of the Red River settlements was made up of "half breeds," or "matis." Those half breeds were people whose mothers were Native Americans (from either the Creek, Assiniboine, or Chippewa tribes) and whose fathers were from one of several European cultures, including Scottish, English or French. Some Canadian men also fathered some of those so-called half breeds. The majority of the residents in the area were Chippewa-French. As of 1850, most of the residents of Fort Garry were Canadian-born half breeds. The total number of people living at Fort Garry at the time was between 5,000 and 6,000.

When Minnesota and Iowa were settled and Minnesota Territory was organized, around 1849, more settlers began moving into the region that is now North Dakota. On March 2, 1861, Dakota Territory was formed out of parts of Minnesota Territory and Nebraska Territory. Then, several wagon trains were besieged by Indian attacks, as they were passing through Dakota Territory on the way to Montana. That caused the government to build various forts in Dakota Territory. Some of those forts included: Rice, Buford, Stevenson, Totten, Ransom. Fort Pembina followed a bit later, in 1870.

From 1871 onward, steamboats made it much easier to move in and out of North Dakota, but the railroads really helped to popularize North Dakota. The Sioux signed treaties in both 1867 and 1868. That caused settlers to be more comfortable about moving to North Dakota. In fact, between 1879 and 1886, the population jumped from 16,000 all the way up to 191,000.

Several North Dakota settlers came to the area as part of larger groups. Each group settled in certain areas. For example, McIntosh County was settled by a group from Lansing, Michigan. Morton County became home to a group of about 50 German-Russian families, while about 75 German-Russian families settled in Emmons County. Logan County was settled by a group from Iowa. Meanwhile, about 100 Polish families made Crystal Springs, which was located in Kidder County, their home. An excellent resource for information regarding these groups of settlers is Harold E. Briggs, "The Great Dakota Boom, 1879-1886," North Dakota Historical Quarterly 4 (January 1930): 78-108.

The Timber Culture Act and the Homestead Act made it possible for North Dakota land to be purchased either in government land offices or from the Northern Pacific Railroad. In 1871, a land office was opened at Pembina. The preemption law of 1841 made it possible for three million acres to be purchased by 19,500 settlers, as of 1890.

North Dakota's boom period brought a lot of speculators to the area, but it didn't lat long. Abandonment and retrenchment soon followed. Low farm prices, droughts, and general economic downturns plagued the settlers who chose to stay in the area.

There were three major themes in the history of North Dakota that were of genealogical importance. The first was that the area was very remote, which caused it to develop late and to be dependent upon resources that came from other areas. The second was that the climate was very different from that which most families who came to the area were used to. The third was that the manufacturing and farm industry incomes were consistently low.

North Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889. After that point, there was a major push to get people to move to the area and settle. That created another major boom in North Dakota's population. Around that time, there were many articles published about the religious denominations, climate, livestock, timber, land, and mineral resources in the area. As of 1892, about 30 million acres in the state were still not being used, out of 45 million acres. Those free acres were "susceptible to profitable tillage," according to various advertisements. Between 1898 and the end of World War I, about 250,000 foreign-born immigrants settled in North Dakota. The majority of those settlers made their homes around Drift Prairie, the Great Northern Railroad, or the Missouri Plateau. However, many people soon left the state, since its resources couldn't sustain such a high population.

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