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
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,
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
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
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 &
If you need to look up a zip code, return to
this page and look below for a service of the US Post
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
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
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
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
(To automatically calculate a soundex code
for a surname, use this
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
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.
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 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
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,
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
VITAL RECORDS AVAILABLE from the State of Nebraska
Birth records starting about 1904-5
Death records starting about 1904-5
Marriages from June 1909 were recorded by the
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
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
& 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
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
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.
Records on Microfilm at NSHS in Lincoln, NE
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.
Some details - information about other types of records for
Nebraska, where they are found, who to contact, etc.
for NEGenWeb Project by Ted & Carole Miller