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Genealogical Research in Nevada

Genealogy Research Nevada

There are many genealogical records and resources available for tracing your family history in Nevada. Because there are so many records held at many different locations, tracking down the records for your ancestor can be an ominous task. Don’t worry though, we know just where they are, and we’ll show you which records you’ll need, while helping you to understand:

  • What they are
  • Where to find them
  • How to use them

These records can be found both online and off, so we’ll introduce you to online websites, indexes and databases, as well as brick-and-mortar repositories and other institutions that will help with your research in Nevada. So that you will have a more comprehensive understanding of these records, we have provided a brief history of the “Silver State” to illustrate what type of records may have been generated during specific time periods. That information will assist you in pinpointing times and locations on which to focus the search for your Nevada ancestors and their records.

A Brief History of Nevada

Native Americans have inhabited Nevada for 12,000 years or so. The major tribes living there today are the Northern and Southern Paiute, Shoshoni, and the Washo. It is believed the first white European to visit the region was Spanish priest Francisco Garces, who it is thought penetrated extreme southern Nevada in 1776. In 1826 Peter Skene Ogden of the British Hudson's Bay Company entered the northeast and later explored the Humboldt River. Rival American trapper Jedediah Smith traversed the state in 1826–27, followed by John C. Frémont in 1843.

The Mormons founded the first permanent white settlement at Mormon Station (later Genoa), in 1850, and other settlements soon followed, especially in Las Vegas Valley. When large deposits of silver were discovered in 1859, hoards of prospectors from California flocked to the area. Nevada became a separate territory in 1861, and achieved statehood three years later. The gold and silver deposits at the Comstock Lode accelerated the economic prosperity of Nevada until the late 1870’s when the ore deposits were exhausted.

After a more than twenty year slump, Nevada’s economy was revived when silver and gold were discovered at Tonopah and Goldfield respectively. Copper discoveries in eastern Nevada further bolstered the revival, until the 1920’s when mining fell off. During this period Nevada established itself as a divorce destination, but the economy didn’t fully recover until the gaming became the state’s principal industry in the 1950’s.

  • Important Dates in Nevada History
    • 1776 – Claimed by France
    • 1821 – Claimed by Mexico
    • 1848 – Acquired by the United States from Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe- Hidalgo
    • 1850 – First permanent settlement established by Mormons
    • 1858 – Carson City established
    • 1859 – Silver discovered at Comstock Lode
    • 1860 – Over 10,000 settlers come from California to prospect for gold and silver
    • 1861 – Created as separate territory
    • 1864 – Statehood
    • 1906 – Copper discovered
    • 1931 – Gambling legalized, first casino the Pair-O-Dice Club built

Famous Battles Fought in Nevada

White settlers in Nevada had their share of conflict with the Native American Tribes which eventually culminated in the Paiute War in 1860.

These battle accounts that exist can be very effective in uncovering the military records of your ancestor. They can tell you what regiments fought in which battles, and often include the names and ranks of many officers and enlisted men.

Common Nevada Genealogical Issues and Resources to Overcome Them

Boundary Changes: Boundary changes are a common obstacle when researching Nevada ancestors. You could be searching for an ancestor’s record in one county when in fact it is stored in a different one due to historical county boundary changes. The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries can help you to overcome that problem. It provides a chronological listing of every boundary change that has occurred in the history of Nevada.

Name Changes: Surname changes, variations, and misspellings can complicate genealogical research. It is important to check all spelling variations. Soundex, a program that indexes names by sound, is a useful first step, but you can't rely on it completely as some name variations result in different Soundex codes. The surnames could be different, but the first name may be different too. You can also find records filed under initials, middle names, and nicknames as well, so you will need to get creative with surname variations and spellings in order to cover all the possibilities. For help with surname variations read our instructional article on How to Use Soundex.

Nevada Genealogical Organizations and Archives

Genealogical resources include not only records, but the organizations that house them, or can direct you to them. These institutions include: Archives, Libraries, Genealogical Societies, Family History Centers, Universities, Churches, and Museums.

Nevada Archives

  • Following are links to their websites, and a summary of the records.
    • Kansas Historical Society (State Archives) – county records, census, manuscripts, historical newspapers, maps, photographs, Native American index, surname list, military name index

      6425 SW 6th Avenue
      Topeka, KS 66615-1099
      Tel: 785-272-8681

    • Kansas State University – manuscript collections, literary papers, diaries and journals, photographs, broadsides, maps, audio visual items, oral histories, and printed material.

      University Archives
      Farrell Library
      Manhattan, KS 66506
      Tel: (913) 532-7456

Additional Nevada Genealogical Resources

Nevada Mailing Lists

Mailing lists are internet based facilities that use email to distribute a single message to all who subscribe to it. When information on a particular surname, new records, or any other important genealogy information related to the mailing list topic becomes available, the subscribers are alerted to it. Joining a mailing list is an excellent way to stay up to date on Nevada genealogy research topics. Rootsweb have an extensive listing of Nevada Mailing Lists on a variety of topics.

Nevada Message Boards

A message board is another internet based facility where people can post questions about a specific genealogy topic and have it answered by other genealogists. If you have questions about a surname, record type, or research topic, you can post your question and other researchers and genealogists will help you with the answer. Be sure to check back regularly, as the answers are not emailed to you. The message boards at the Nevada Genealogy Forum are completely free to use.

Nevada Newspapers and Periodicals

Many genealogy periodicals and historical newspapers contain reprinted copies of family genealogies, transcripts of family Bible records, information about local records and archives, census indexes, church records, queries, land records, obituaries, court records, cemetery records, and wills.

  • Nevada newspapers and periodicals that you can search online or on-site.
    • Kansas Historical Society (State Archives) – African American publications, Civilian Conservation Corps, Labour Populist publications, Socialist publications, Territorial period newspapers, History of Kansas newspapers from1916

      6425 SW 6th Avenue
      Topeka, KS 66615-1099
      Tel: 785-272-8681

    • Kansas Heritage Center – most of the newspapers published in Dodge City from 1876 to the present and newspapers from several other Kansas towns.

      PO Box 1207
      Dodge City KS 67801-1207
      Tel: 620-227-1616
      Fax: 620-227-1701

    • – free searchable database of Kansas newspaper archives, 1841-1981
    • Library of Congress Digital Newspaper Directory – free searchable database of historical U.S. newspapers dating from 1690-present
    • The Online Books Page – links to historical books and periodicals available for viewing online, dating from mid-16th century
    • – largest online database of historical newspapers in the world.

Historical Nevada Maps and Gazetteers

Maps are an integral part of genealogical research. They help us to locate landmarks, towns, cities, parishes, states, provinces, waterways and roads and streets. They also help us to determine when and where boundary changes might have taken place, and give us a visualization of the area we’re researching in.

For locating place names, a gazetteer is the best possible resource for any genealogist. Gazetteers are also sometimes called “place name dictionaries”, and can help you to locate the area in which you need to conduct research.

Nevada City Directories

City directories are similar to telephone directories in that they list the residents of a particular area. The difference though is what is important to genealogists, and that is they pre-date telephone directories. You can find an ancestor’s information such as their street address, place of employment, occupation, or the name of their spouse. A one-stop-shop for finding city directories in Nevada is the Nevada Online Historical Directories which contains a listing of every available historical directory related to Nevada.

Nevada Genealogical Records

Birth, Death, Marriage and Divorce Records – Also known as vital records, birth, death, and marriage certificates are the most basic, yet most important records attached to your ancestor. The reason for their importance is that they not only place your ancestor in a specific place at a definite time, but potentially connect the individual to other relatives. Below is a list of repositories and websites where you can find Nevada vital records

Nevada began recording official records of births and deaths in 1911. Marriage licenses were required starting in 1867, but not filed at state level until 1913.

  • Copies of vital records after those dates must be requested from the:
    • Kansas Office of Vital Statistics

      Charles B. Curtis State Office Building
      1000 SW Jackson Street
      Suite 120
      Topeka, KS 66612-1221
      Tel: 785-296-1400.

    • Kansas Genealogical Society – various historical vital records

      KGS, PO Box 103
      Dodge City, KS 67801-0103
      Tel: (620) 225 - 1951

    • Kansas Historical Society (State Archives) – extensive collection of vital records dating from pre-territorial times

      6425 SW 6th Avenue
      Topeka, KS 66615-1099
      Tel: 785-272-8681

Marriage and Divorce Records

Marriages prior to May 1913 were recorded in the district county courts where the marriage took place. Nevada marriage licenses did not include the names of the parents unless the bride or groom was underage. Records can be found at:

Divorce records from 1861 until July 1951 were recorded in the Nevada District Courts.

Copies of official divorce records after July 1951 can be ordered from the Nevada Office of Vital Statistics.

Census Reports

Census records are among the most important genealogical documents for placing your ancestor in a particular place at a specific time. Like BDM records, they can also lead you to other ancestors, particularly those who were living under the authority of the head of household.

Nevada Church Records

Church and synagogue records are a valuable resource, especially for baptisms, marriages, and burials that took place before 1900. You will need to at least have an idea of your ancestor’s religious denomination, and in most cases you will have to visit a brick and mortar establishment to view them.

Most church records are kept by the individual church, although in some denominations, records are placed in a regional archive or maintained at the diocesan level. Local Historical Societies are sometimes the repository for the state’s older church records.

Central Repositories for Denominational Records

Most of the records of individual denominations are kept in central repositories.

Nevada Military Records

More than 40 million Americans have participated in some time of war service since America was colonized. The chance of finding your ancestor amongst those records is exceptionally high. Military records can even reveal individuals who never actually served, such as those who registered for the two World Wars but were never called to duty.

Nevada Cemetery Records

As convenient as it is to search cemetery records online, keep in mind that there are a few disadvantages over visiting a cemetery in person. They are:

  • Tombstone information is not always accurately transcribed
  • The arrangement of the graves in a cemetery can be crucial as family members are often buried next to each other or in the same grave. This arrangement is not always preserved in the alphabetical indexes that are found online.
  • Databases that can be searched online for Nevada Cemetery records
    • African American Cemeteries Online – African American, slave, and Native American cemetery records
    • Access Genealogy – huge database of Nevada cemetery record transcriptions
    • Find a Grave – over 100 million grave records can be searched on this site. Search can be conducted by name, location, or cemetery name.
    • - A free online database containing approximately 4 million cemetery records from around the world.
    • Billion Graves – as the name implies, you can search a billion records including headstone photos, transcriptions, cemetery records, and grave locations.

Nevada Obituaries

Obituaries can reveal a wealth about our ancestor and other relatives. You can search our Nevada Newspaper Obituaries Listings from hundreds of Nevada newspapers online for free.

Nevada Wills and Probate Records

The documents found in a probate packet may include a complete inventory of a person’s estate, newspaper entries, witness testimony, a copy of a will, list of debtors and creditors, names of executors or trustees, names of heirs. They can not only tell you about the ancestor you’re currently researching, but lead to other ancestors.

Most of these records must be accessed at a county court or clerk’s office, but some can be found online as well. You can obtain copies of the original probate records by writing to the county clerk.

Nevada probate records have been recorded by the probate division clerks of the Nevada District Courts and include dockets, wills, oaths, inventories, letters, bonds, appraisements, accounts, court orders, claims, and final settlements.

Nevada Immigration and Naturalization Records

The naturalization process generated many types of records, including petitions, declarations of intention, and oaths of allegiance. These records can provide family historians with information such as a person's birth date and place of birth, immigration year, marital status, spouse information, occupation, witnesses' names and addresses, and more.

Most overseas immigrants came to Nevada through east coast ports such as New, and then traveled by railway to Nevada. Earlier immigrants landed at New Orleans and then traveled by steamboats upriver to Nevada. The U.S. National Archives has passenger lists or indexes of American ports for 1820 to 1940, as well as immigration and naturalization records for the entire United States. These records can also be accessed at the National Archives Regional Branch in Nevada City

Nevada Native American Records

Missing Matriarchs – Resources for Researching Female Nevada Ancestors

Looking for female ancestors requires an adjustment of how we view traditional records sources. A woman’s identity was often under that of her husband, and often individual records for them can be difficult to locate. The following resources are effective in locating female ancestors in Nevada where traditional records may not reveal them.


  • A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier, Marjorie and Hugh Brown (University of Nevada Press, 1991)
  • To Clothe Nevada Women, 1860-1920, Janet I. Loverin (Nevada State Museum, 1990)
  • Quilts in Nevada, Nevada Historical Society (The Society, 1994)
  • Women of the Sierra, Anne Seagraves (Wesanne Publications, 1990)

Selected Resources for Nevada Women’s History

Nevada Women’s Archives
James R. Dickinson Library
University of Nevada – Las Vegas
4504 Maryland Parkway
Box 457010
Las Vegas, NV 89154-7010

Nevada Women’s Archives
University Library
University of Nevada – Reno
Reno, NV 89557-0044

Nevada Women’s History Project
1048 N. Sierra, #A
Reno, NV 89503

Common Nevada Surnames

The following surnames are among the most common in Nevada and are also being currently researched by other genealogists. If you find your surname here, there is a chance that some research has already been performed on your ancestor.

Agee, Agmata, Allen, Allen, Austin, Baker, Barries, Batiste, Bell, Bennett, Blake, Bradley, Broadnax, Brock, Brown, Burke, Butler, Campbell, Campbell, Carr, Carroll, Carter, Chata, Christian, Clark, Clayton, Cole, Coleman, Cooper, Crutchfield, Daugherty, Davis, Dennis, Dieudenne, Diggs, Downer, Dozier, Dumas, Enette, Ennis, Fallon, Ficklin, Furnace, Gaston, Gibson, Glass, Golden, Grant, Gray, Green, Greene, Grigsby, Hall, Hamilton, Harper, Harris, Hartwell, Hawkins, Hayes, Heck, Hicks, Hirsch, Hobbs, Hodges, Howard, Ishmael, Jack, Jacks, Jackson, Jacobs, Johanson, Johnson, Jones, Knutson, Lafayette, LaGarde, Thompson, Lamb, Latham, Lea, Lee, Lynch, Mack, Madden, Maddox, Magee, Maranville, Marks, Marshall, Maxwell, McClain, McCord, McGee, McIntyre, Melendez, Meza, Mitchell, Moore, Murray, Owens, Page, Pantin, Parker, Pitts, Presiado, Prichard, Pugh, Ramos, Ree, Reed, Reese, Richardson, Richey, Ritz, Ritz, Robinson, Rosenberg, Sayles, Shepard, Simon, Slack, Sledge, Smart, Smith, Snowden, Sowels, Stevens, Sweat, Taylor, Thierry, Thomas, Thompson, Thrower, Tootle, Tulluo, Turner, Vargas, Virgil, Walker, Wallace, Ware, Washington, Watkins, Watts, Wayerski, Wayne, White, Wier, Wiley, Wilkins, Wilks, Williams, Williford, Willis, Wilson, Wright, Yancy, Young

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