Search billions of records on

NEGenWeb Project
County Unknown

Research Starters

Help List

Determination of a location is limited by how recently many record groups started. The newest to become available to the public is the Social Security Death Index. It is available on the web, through RootsWeb.

Social Security Death Index


The Social Security program was started in 1935. To join the program, you had to provide proof of your name, birth date & location, citizenship, etc.

Most adults at that time did NOT have birth certificates. They had to find "records" or "witnesses" to verify birth dates and places. There were no copy machines.

They secured affidavits from their birth physician and his nurse, or from the mid-wife. (Imagine the problems of those whose doctor was deceased.)

They had notarized copies made of baptism records from the church, or of a family bible (one bible might be the basis for two dozen legal documents, and the entire thing may have been "recently" filled out to fill the family's need for a "record").

Maybe 2G-Aunt Hat swore she was present and your ancestor was born - in which case her statement was filed with the SS application!

Some families wrote to the National Archives for extracts of old census records. (You may find one of those form responses among family memorabilia. The demand impacted services at the National Archives for some time).

BEFORE you CLICK to the Social Security Death Index, think about these "facts":


Almost all of the people listed were born after 1860 (most, much later).

If Grandpa died before 1937, he won't be in the SS records. That's the year when first SS taxes were collected. The first benefits were paid in 1940.

If he was part of the RR pension plan, he won't be there either. (And there are other "missing" groups.)

The SS Death Benefits List is provided by RootsWeb. It includes over 61 million names and is updated monthly. Every update includes elimination of errors, additions & deletions.



If you need to look up a zip code, return to this page and look below for a service of the US Post Office.


If you still don't have a NE location - then it is time to get away from your computer and do some research. Our first recommendation for your attention are the US Census Records. There are some bits & pieces on-line - but the simple truth is that most census records are NOT on the web. (That surname index you searched earlier included over 2800 names for one county from one census year. Getting every county extracted for every year available is the goal of the USGenWeb Census Project.)

Census Records


You need to have some sort of time frame for when your ancestor was living in NE. Can you estimate a time period?

The 1900 Census, and the 1920 Census is Soundexed for all of NEBRASKA. That means you can look for people on the basis of "how the name sounded". (All the Smiths, Smythes, Schmitts, etc will be grouped by soundex number.) The Soundex film is NOT available on the web.

Because it organized #1 by state, #2 by name - the Soundex is your best chance of finding your ancestors & locating them in a particular county. IF your ancestors were in NE in 1920, start with that one. Then proceed to the 1900 Census. (Note: the 1910 has not been soundexed for NE, many pages of that census are almost impossible to read.)

If grandpa was John Anderson, a farm laborer, single - you may find 20 that could be him! Even with a common name, if he was married by that census year and you know the given name of his wife & children, the odds will be more in your favor.

When you find your ancestor on the SOUNDEX film, make a note of the County name, the ED number (enumeration district) and the page number (usually found on the upper right corner of the soundex card). The ACTUAL Census pages were photographed on other reels of film.

You can extract the information given by hand, or have a copy made of the actual census page (usually about 25¢ if you do the copy work yourself). If you choose to have the census research done by NSHS, the minimum charge is $5.

(To automatically calculate a soundex code for a surname, use this link.)


The census records currently done and on-line for Nebraska can usually be found as part of the USGenWeb Census Project


TO LOCATE the Regional Branch of the National Archives nearest you :


TO LOCATE a Family History Library (run by LDS church)


Nebraska State Historical Society research request:



If your ancestor lived in NE only briefly (regardless of the time frame), there will be few records.

The longest "blank" in census records is 1885-1900. This is also a time period when births & death records did NOT exist. Marriage & land records are available, but ONLY if you know the county.

Unusual Census Records -


1885 - Special census of Nebraska is the most difficult for researchers to locate, and there is no statewide index to search for your surnames. You must know the county to find your family:

You can rent the 1885 film at your local Family History Center (LDS) or from Nebraska State Genealogical Society.

A full set is available at NSHS Library, Lincoln, NE & you can arrange research.

The library at the county seat MAY have a copy of the 1885, and MIGHT have someone that can look up your family, extract the data, etc. Inguire by snail mail.

If an index exists for your county in the 1885, it may be available only with the county historical or genealogy society. For SOME counties, an index for 1885 has been created, copied and sent to NSHS.

The 1885 census film includes a mortality schedule; if your ancestor died 1884-5 in Nebraska, he/she should be listed.

The 1885 rolls include "Agricultural Schedule" sheets. If your ancestor was a farmer - you will learn the type & number of animals on the farm, the number of acres planted to specific crops or existing as pasture. For microfilming - the agricultural schedules follow the regular census sheets for each county.


1890 - Only the Union veteran's list still exists for Nebraska, and it names only veterans or their widows. The remainder of the 1890 census burned, including the veteran's lists for several other states.

Vital Records

$$ Vital records are expensive. While you may want the records for your direct line, it is usually wise to "know" a lot of facts before your order. Of course, part of the problem is that if you KNEW the facts, you wouldn't be so interested in the record! (Consider this a practice toward the day when you will be seeking emigration records - because the government prefers you provide the ship name, the port and the date of arrival when you write for that record! And you thought that was what you were going to learn from them - didn't you?)

Can you give a death date? at least estimate a death year?

Think about your family stories.


Did your folks say they moved to Oregon after Grandpa Brown died? That would mean he passed away BEFORE what year?

Or maybe they said the only return trip they made to Nebraska was for Grandpa Brown's funeral? So he died AFTER what year?

Did they say that Grandpa Brown visited in Oregon once? So Grandpa was still alive, WHEN?

To "jump start" your genealogy, invest in that death record. If the informant was someone closely related, you will get birth date & location, parents' names, spouse's name, death date & cause of death, attending physician, place of burial and mortician's name.

SPECIAL NOTE: To inquire for morticians records, see the Cemetery page of
NEGenWeb Resource Center.


VITAL RECORDS AVAILABLE from the State of Nebraska (statewide search)

Birth records starting about 1904-5

Death records starting about 1904-5

Marriages from June 1909 were recorded by the state


You'll need to be as specific as you can on your request for a search. Be sure to provide the ancillary information known: spouses' name, parents, age at death, etc. They will respond with the vital record of the person who is the closest match to the information provided. 

Notes about NE vital records

BIRTHs were recorded by some counties for a brief time around 1900 (the time frame was extremely variable). Not all counties started recording births, and some that did have lost track of that record book. Otherwise, there were no official records kept of births or deaths until the state assumed that responsibility in 1904. (There are some exceptions for Douglas & Lancaster Counties, see "Birth & Death Records" article from Genealogist's Corner of NSHS newsletter.) Not all counties started sending records to the state immediately, so records do not start on a particular date. Records for 1905 are considered "complete" (they are not!).

DEATHs were recorded by the state starting in 1904. Again, the date a particular county started the record keeping is variable. Records for 1905 are considered "complete".

MARRIAGES - Each county in Nebraska recorded marriages from the time the county government was formed. If you are seeking marriages before 1909, you must know the county. After 1909, all are registered with the county AND the state. Therefore, a marriage after 1909 can be located by Nebraska Vital Records by searching statewide files located in Lincoln.

SPECIAL NOTE about marriage records -
Several counties have arranged for microfilm copies to be made of their marriage records. A copy of the film has been deposited at NSHS Library in Lincoln, NE. If you have time for research in Lincoln, you will be able to search the old records of these counties in that one place. It will cost you less than a dollar to make a copy there.

Marriage Records on Microfilm at NSHS in Lincoln, NE

What is available on county websites of NEGenWeb Project? We are all volunteers and our access to the material you are seeking varies greatly. We don't "DO" your genealogy, but may be able to help you make some progress with your research.

Nebraska Records
Some details - information about other types of records for Nebraska, where they are found, who to contact, etc.

NE Unknown logospacerNEGenWeb logospacerUSGenWeb logo

© 1997-2004 for NEGenWeb Project by Ted & Carole Miller