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State Agency Records - Historical Data Project Pioneer Biography #30529

Title: Historical Society. Historical Data Project, Pioneer Biography Files

Dates: ca. 1936-1940

Series: 30529

Quantity:  28 feet/1r. (#02399)

Abstract: Series consists of more than 5,000 brief biographies of North Dakotans, and consist of forms and personal reminiscences of pioneers in North Dakota. In addition, they provide information on many ethnic cultures in North Dakota, customs, and the challenges that pioneers encountered. Most Pioneer Biography Files contain either a "Pioneer Data Form" or an "Old Settlers Questionnaire Form" which was completed by the Pioneer or by a survey worker. The questionnaire, which includes the family history section of either a "Pioneer Data Form" or an "Old Settler Questionnaire," includes the name of the pioneer, birth and death dates, nationality, name of spouse, parents, children, and other relatives, date of marriage, occupation, date of immigration to the United States, date of migration to Dakota Territory, mode of transportation, education, religion, political affiliation, family history, etc. To show the precise homestead location, the form includes a small township map and indicates locations of schools, churches, neighbor's farms, post offices, villages, groves, cemeteries and other landmarks.
The files are on microfilm arranged alphabetically by county and therein by the name of the pioneer.

Provenance: These records were collected as a joint project of the Historical Data Project, Professional and Service Division of the Work Projects Administration and the State Historical Society of North Dakota. At the end of the project the records were deposited with the State Historical Society.

Public records are not subject to copyright restrictions, although record series may contain copyrighted material. Consideration of such copyrights is the responsibility of the researcher.

This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Researchers are requested to cite the collection title, collection name, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota in all footnote and bibliographic references.

Photographs were transferred to the photograph collection. Publications were transferred to the library collection.


Established in April 1936, the Historical Data Project was sponsored by the Division of Women' and Professional Projects, Work Progress Administration and the State Historical Society of North Dakota. The purpose of the Historical Data Project was to gather biographical and historical information on early settlers in North Dakota. To limit the scope of the survey, a "pioneer" was "defined as a person who was born before 1870 and who lived in Dakota Territory prior to the division into North and South Dakota, or as the first settler in a township." In addition, Historical Data Project personnel prepared historical sketches of North Dakota counties, cities, townships, agriculture, fraternal organizations, political parties, population, railroads, climate, natural resources, prominent citizens, etc., and prepared transcripts of early North Dakota county and township records having genealogical and historical value. The survey work of the Historical Data Project ceased in 1940.


The records of the Historical Data Project date from 1936 to 1940 and occupy 57.5 feet. The records consist of three record series: Pioneer Biography Files (Series 30529), Local Histories (Series 30548), and Transcripts of Local Government Records (Series 30549).

The Pioneer Biography Files, Series 30529, are arranged alphabetically by the pioneer's last name. There are over 5,000 Pioneer Biography Files occupying 42 feet. Some of the files were formerly designated as "incomplete" or "dropped." To simplify use of this series, the "incomplete" files were merged with the "complete" files. An INDEX to the merged series is available to researchers here and in the Reading Room. Most Pioneer Biography Files contain either a "Pioneer Data Form" or an "Old Settler Questionnaire." Forms were completed by an Historical Data Project survey worker or by the pioneer. Information contained on each form includes the name of the pioneer, birth and death dates, nationality, names of spouse, parents, children, and other relatives, date of marriage, occupation, date of immigration to the United States, date of migration to Dakota Territory, mode of transportation used, education, religion, political affiliation, family history, family heirlooms and relics, and information concerning "firsts" in the community, i.e., the first birth, death, school, church, doctor, lawyer, etc. The forms usually include a small township map providing the precise location of the family homestead, schools, churches, neighbor's farms, post offices, villages, groves, cemeteries, land marks, forts and posts, Indian sites, and stage lines. Some files contain information concerning the pioneer's experiences or knowledge of buffalo hunting, Indians, early settlers, land companies, colonies, mail service, shipping, railroads, land transfers, politics, citizen's organizations, organization of political subdivisions, natural catastrophes, epidemics, farming, vigilantism, military activities, popular entertainment, industry, newspapers, churches, schools, post offices, and landmarks. An occasional "Archaeological and Historical Survey Form" appears in the Pioneer Biography Files. These forms provide information concerning the location and characteristics of land marks, Indian sites, artifacts, historic sites, first settlers in a township, trading posts, trails, first schools, churches, births, deaths, marriages, etc. Many files include pioneer biographical sketches, reminiscences, notes, correspondence concerning interviews and collection of data, newspaper clippings, and photographs. Most newspaper clippings were photocopied and destroyed. All photographs were photocopied and transferred to the Photograph Collection. Photocopies and notes identifying the photographs were placed in each file.

Box Inventory See INDEX of Pioneer names

Box 1  Adams County and Barnes County (A-Warrior) (Microfilm rolls 01-02)
Box 2  Barnes County (Weber-Z), Benson County, and Billings County (Microfilm rolls 02-03)
Box 3  Bottineau County, Bowman County, and Burke County (Microfilm rolls 03-04)
Box 4  Burleigh County and Cass County (A-Monson) (Microfilm rolls 04-05)
Box 5  Cass County (Moore-Z), Cavalier County, Dickey County (A-Marsh) (Microfilm rolls 05-06)
Box 6  Dickey County (Marshall-Z), Divide County, Dunn County, and Eddy County
(Microfilm rolls 06-08)
Box 7  Emmons County, Foster County, Golden Valley County, and Grand Forks County (A-Borden)  (Microfilm rolls 08-09)
Box 8  Grand Forks County (Bourque- Rafter) (Microfilm rolls 09-10)
Box 9  Grand Forks County (Rasmussen-Z), Grant County, and Griggs County (A-P) (Microfilm rolls 10-11)
Box 10  Griggs County (R-W), Hettinger County, Kidder County, LaMoure County, Logan County, and McHenry County (A-J) (Microfilm rolls 11-12)
Box 11  McHenry County (K-W), McIntosh County, McKenzie County, and McLean County (Microfilm rolls 12-14)
Box 12  Mercer County (Microfilm rolls 14-15)
Box 13  Morton County (A-S) (Microfilm rolls 15-16)
Box 14  Morton County (T-Z), Mountrail County, and Nelson County (Microfilm rolls 16-17)
Box 15  Oliver County and Pembina County (A-M) (Microfilm rolls 17-18)
Box 16  Pembina County (N-W), Pierce County, and Ramsey County (A-N) (Microfilm rolls 18-20)
Box 17  Ramsey County (O-Z), Ransom County, and Renville County (Microfilm rolls 20-21)
Box 18  Richland County (A-L) (Microfilm rolls 21-22)
Box 19  Richland County (R-Z) and Rolette County (A-L) (Microfilm rolls 22-24)
Box 20  Rolette County (M-Z) and Sargent County (Microfilm rolls 24-25)
Box 21  Sheridan County, Sioux County, Slope County, Stark County, and Steele County (A-O) (Microfilm rolls 25-26)
Box 22  Steele County (P-Z), Stutsman County, and Towner County (Microfilm rolls 26-27)
Box 23  Traill County (Microfilm rolls 27-28)
Box 24  Walsh County and Ward County (A-C) (Microfilm rolls 28-30)
Box 25  Ward County (D-S) (Microfilm rolls 30-31)
Box 26  Ward County (T-Z), Wells County, and Williams County (A-Haustvedt) (Microfilm rolls 31-32)
Box 27  Williams County (Heaslet-Z) (Microfilm rolls32-33)
Box 28  South Dakota (Microfilm rolls 33)
Box 29  California, Minnesota, Montana, Washington, and Wisconsin (Microfilm rolls 33)
Box 30  Native American biographies (Microfilm roll #2399)

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