The South Dakota State Historical Society, created by the State Legislature in 1901, maintains the South Dakota State Archives and was originally housed in the State Capitol but has since moved to a Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Building across the street. They have many online and onsite records that are helpful for genealogical research.


  • South Dakota Digital Archives “There are over 70,000 items in the South Dakota Digital including photographs, manuscripts, land survey records, and finding aids to government collections.  New content is added weekly. Enjoy your virtual trip into South Dakota history!” There are 5 collections in this searchable database including:
    • Photo Collection “Photos collected in South Dakota since 1891.”
    • Government Collection “The South Dakota State Archives collects and preserves South Dakota’s historical state, county, and local government records. This collection consists mostly of finding aids for these government records, as well as selected documents, videos, and audio files.”
    • Wi-lyohi “The Wi-Iyohi (Once Each Moon) was a monthly bulletin published by the South Dakota State Historical Society from April 1947 to November 1970.
    • Manuscripts Collection “The Manuscripts Collection is a compilation of digital images from original documents held in the collections of the South Dakota State Archives. The manuscript collections were created by private individuals and organizations.”
    • GLO Land Survey Field Notes “This collection contains the original land survey field notes created by the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Field notes are searchable by township and range numbers. Books are added regularly. Survey plats are available on the BLM-GLO website (”
  • 1870 Agricultural Census – an online database of more than 1,400 names taken from the 1870 Agricultural Census. This is the 9th US Census and covers what is now southeastern South Dakota. Records include Last Name, First Name, Post Office, County, Farm Value, Livestock Value, and the owners of the Agricultural Subdivision.
  • 1885 Civil War Veterans Census Index – “After the Civil War, veterans of both the Union and Confederate armies moved to Dakota Territory. This index consists of census record sheets for a special census of Civil War veterans living in Dakota Territory (South Dakota) in 1885.”
  • 1905 South Dakota State Census Index – this index has more than 440,000 names and includes last name, first name, age, county residence, town/post office, township name, section and township and range numbers; and census card number.
  • 1915 South Dakota Census Index – currently be indexed
  • 1925, 1935, and 1945 South Dakota State Census cards are stored at the State Historical Society-Archives, Cultural Heritage Center, Pierre, South Dakota
  • American Indian Research
  • Archive-It
  • Articles of Incorporation, DT
  • Biographical Files
  • Biographical Index of SD –  a digitized list, in alphabetical order by surname, of individuals for whom the South Dakota State Historical Society has information or biographical material. There are 7,139 names in the index and a few of the biographies include a photograph of the individual. The index gives you the person’s name and the book and page number where you can find the full biography. There are 12 books in the set and they’re housed at the library of the South Dakota State Archives. The index is called “Biographical Index of South Dakotans” and has biographies of prominent South Dakotans from the 1890s to 1930s.
  • Cemetery Records – this is an online, Cemetery search database. You can search by First Name, Last Name, City, County, or Cemetery Name. “This searchable database includes records that were cataloged as part of the WPA Cemetery Project (pre-1940s) plus any cemetery updates that our office has received. It is not a complete listing of all the burials in South Dakota.”
  • County Guides
  • Country Schools
  • Fire Insurance Maps –
    • Online Sanborn Insurance Maps “The Sanborn Insurance Map Index lists specific South Dakota towns, the date of maps, the number of sheets, and map locations. There are 2,040 maps in this indexed collection covering 83 South Dakota towns with maps ranging from 1883-1941. The size of the maps is roughly 21″x 25″.”
    • Fire Underwriter Maps – “The Fire Underwriter’s Map Index includes towns, dates, map size, and map location. There are 374 towns in the Fire Underwriter map collection. The small maps are roughly 9″x13″, the large maps are roughly 22″x25″. The maps generally date to the late 1950s and early 1960s, although there are a number of maps that date from the 1920s to 1940s.”
  • Fourth SD Infantry, 1917 – an online database, searchable by Last Name, address, or press release and contains more than 1,000 names and includes Name, Rank, address, company, and any notes.
  • GFWC – Pioneer Daughters – This is a statewide collection created by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs to preserve stories of female pioneers in South Dakota. This has almost 6,000 stories and can be searched by County, Married Name, Maiden Name, or you can request a file for a fee. Various socioeconomic levels and incomes are included in this collection.
  • Gold Star Volume, WWI – this is a list compiled of 549 South Dakotans who died as a result of World War I. The list may not be complete but includes, First Name, Last Name, Town, and Death Designation (how they died).
  • Governor’s Papers
  • Library Catalog
  • Library of Congress Digitized Newspapers – All South Dakota Historical Newspapers in a digital collection at the US Library of Congress
  • Manuscript Collections
  • Military Records – where to find information on South Dakotans in every military conflict in US History, including American Indian conflicts up to Iraqi Freedom. Also on-site holdings for all military records, forts, posts, and more.
  • Missouri River
  • Monthly South Dakotan
  • Naturalization Records –  “The first naturalization law was created on March 26, 1790. This law provided that aliens to the United States could apply for citizenship provided that they were “free white persons” of “good moral character” and lived for two years in the United States plus one year in the state in which they were living. If they met those qualifications they could file for a Petition for Naturalization.  He would take an oath of allegiance and become a citizen.”
    • First Papers (searchable by Last Name, First Name, county, or birth country) “The Act of 1795 required that aliens had to live in the United States for five years and two in the state of residence.  This act now required an extra step, the Declaration of Intention. The immigrants had to go their local court and complete the declaration of intention or “first papers.” This had to be completed three years prior to the formal application for citizenship.”
    • Second Papers (searchable by Last Name, First Name, county, or country renounced) “The Naturalization Act of 1798 required that aliens had to live in the United States for fourteen years and aliens from countries that were at war with the United States were prohibited from applying for naturalization. This law was repealed in 1802 and the residency laws of 1795 were reinstated. The Act of April 14, 1802 also provided that aliens had to present two witnesses that could verify their time of residence within the United States.”
  • Newspaper Database –  an online searchable database you can search by City, County, Date, Paper Title, or Roll Number. You can leave Paper Title blank if you want to search ALL newspapers
  • Newspaper Surname Index – this is a searchable database created from “birth, marriage, death, and other notices printed in South Dakota newspapers.” It’s not complete and in general it has names from 2,000 to present.
  • Photo Resources
  • SD Brand Book Index, 1898-99 – This is an index of more than 1,500 Brand owners (Personal or Company), between 1898 and 1899 in South Dakota, and includes the Name or Company Name, address, and page number for their brand. It does not include any image or description of their brand. This index can be searched by Last Name, Address, or press release.
  • SD Farmer’s Alliance – This is an online, searchable index of more than 17,000 names of South Dakota Farmers’ Alliance dues-paying members from 1890 to 1894. The Farmers’ Alliance was a nationwide agrarian organization formed at the end of the 19th century. The information you can find in the index includes: Last Name, First Name, address, county, Organization name and number, year dues were paid.
  • SD G.A.R. Annual Journal Deaths – this site has two indexes, one searchable by last name, one searchable by town. The indexes are created from journals kept by the South Dakota GAR, at annual meetings of members of their fraternal organization, of members who had died that year. These journals date from 1884 to 1937 and include almost 1,300 Civil War veterans but is not intended as a complete database of Civil War veterans deaths.
    • Records may include Last name, First name, Post name, number and town, death date and place, the veterans regiment, rank, and company, the journal year and page number, and any remarks or notes on the deceased.
    • “Bound copies of the South Dakota Grand Army of the Republic Annual Journals are found in the South Dakota State Archives collections in boxes 3378B and 3379A.”
  • SD Legislator Historical Listing – “The historical listing contains both territorial and statehood legislators. Legislators who served the Dakota Territory from 1861-1889, are listed as “territorial.” South Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889.  Legislators who served South Dakota from 1890-present, are listed as “statehood.” “
  • SD Sons of American Revolution – South Dakota Sons of American Revolution Membership Application Forms – this is a valuable collection of membership applications from 1911-1974 for men applying to join the South Dakota Sons of the American Revolution (SAR). These records provide genealogies and include Applicant’s Name, Descendant Name (tracing the applicant’s ancestry back to an ancestor who served in the Revolutionary War), applicant acceptance date, birth town, county, state, birth date, occupation, residence, the descendant’s war record. The Date of birth has been removed from the database. This collection is searchable by Applicant’s Name and Descendant’s Name.
  • Senator James Abdnor Papers
  • South Dakota History – Index
  • Spanish American War Roster –  This is a complete roster of the 1st Regiment, South Dakota Volunteer Infantry in the Spanish American War, 1898. It can be searched by Last Name, Town, Company, or press release. Information may include: Last and First Name, Company, Rank, and Town.
  • Women’s History Collection
  • WPA Veterans Cemetery Index – WPA Veterans Cemetery Index – An index with more than 6,300 names of Veteran burials. This is not a complete listing of all Veteran burials in South Dakota. “Counties not included in the original WPA Veteran’s Census include: Brown, Buffalo, Campbell, Clark, Codington, Corson, Day, Deuel, Edmunds, Grant, Hamlin, Lawrence, Marshall, McPherson, Meade, Roberts, and Spink.” Searches can be made by Last Name, First Name, County, and/or Cemetery. The records may include: Last Name, First Name, City, County, Cemetery, Veteran of which war, Date of Birth, Date of Death.
  • Vertical File – “The Vertical File collection consists of various information collected on specific historic topics.  The file folders themselves are available only at the State Archives.”
  • Wi-Iyohi Index – Wi-lyohi “The Wi-Iyohi (Once Each Moon) was a monthly bulletin published by the South Dakota State Historical Society from April 1947 to November 1970. 
  • For Researchers – a list of online collections and online exhibits at the South Dakota State Historical Society (more collections and exhibits than listed here)


Join us today!  The South Dakota State Historical Society is the keeper of the state’s rich history. As South Dakota’s only statewide history organization, the State Historical Society collects, preserves, researches and interprets the state’s exceptional past. Your membership in the State Historical Society helps the Society to use its vast collection and resources to bring history to life through education kits, exhibits, programs, publications, and much more.”


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