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Looking into Minnesota genealogy can take you back to at least 1900 for government records, and farther than that for other sources (such as church records). These are the best places to start your research.
Minnesota Vital Records
Getting copies of birth, death or marriage records is usually the first step in any Minnesota genealogy studies and you can make these requests if you know the procedure. The rules in Minnesota are quite strict and it is not as easy to get copies as in other states.
All vital records are kept private, with no time limits. So even a birth record that is more than 100 years old is still private. This will present a problem when researching older ancestors. The only exceptions are when requesting your own records, or records for a child, parent, spouse, grandparent or grandchild. You will have to provide documentation to your relationship when you send in your application.
Forms are available on the Department of Health website, in the Vital Records section (you can print them out directly). Then the completed forms are sent to the office in St. Paul. You have to supply personal identification with your application and that includes a notarized statement to your relationship to the person on the record. The fees for a birth record are currently $26, and $13 for a death record.
The Vital Records office does accept credit cards, so you can fax your forms in if you wish (along with your credit information). Otherwise, you have to mail it in with a check or money order. Processing takes about 4 to 6 weeks. You won't get any money back either if they can't find the record you are after.
Marriage records are not available through the Vital Records office, so you will have to make requests through the county clerk office where the marriage took place. The same restrictions will apply, and their fees may vary by office. You can also contact the county office for birth and death records prior to 1900.
Minnesota Historical Society
If your Minnesota genealogy needs are not met by the vital records collection, you can kept on looking at the Historical Society. Their library is free to access and has a huge number of documents that can further your search. Most days they are open at noon but they are open 7 days a week for most of the year.
Their holdings include archived obituaries, court records, naturalization documents, census records, Civil War material and more. You can search through some of their indexes from their webpage as well. If you can't come to the St.Paul location you can make a request with staff for some research services, or access spools of microfilmed documents at your own library (once requested through the Inter-Library Loan service).
These are both great places to look for documents, but you can also turn to the local historical groups for additional help. The Minnesota Genealogy Society and the Minnesota Historical Society are two worth contacting, or even joining.
You can find these groups have their own historical material collections, and you can get more leads just meeting with other members.
Minnesota Genealogy Databases
Find Minnesota Societies & Biographies
Minnesota Genealogy Links