About The Author

David Grabitske

David Grabitske is the manager of outreach services at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Minnesota has roughly 1,800 townships, the most local unit of government. Each of those townships over time has kept record of its proceedings and details that describe the history of each one. They often contain genealogical data useful to family history researchers, and information about roads and bridges that consultants need to complete reports for state and federal projects. These records have a tremendous potential for researchers on numerous projects.

However, these records are often the most endangered in the state. Many local historical museums report finding township records in haymows, under kitchen sinks, buried in the back of closets, in remote township halls subject to arson, and even sent to the dump. The large number of records would require much work for one organization to preserve them all. Therefore, several local historical organizations are helping to preserve township records.

The Renville County Historical Society in Morton has undertaken a project that could serve as a model to many organizations. It applied for and received a grant from the Minnesota State Grants-in-Aid program for the first phase of a project to microfilm all township records in the county through the year 2000. This way the information contained in the township records will be available to the public during regular hours in its research library. RCHS followed the example of the Milaca Area Historical Society that microfilmed several township record sets in its area. When RCHS is complete, it may be the first county with a complete set of microfilm records for its townships.

Another way that local history museums have preserved township records is to enter into an agreement with the State Archives to be the repository for local government records. For more information about these agreements, contact Charlie Rodgers at the State Archives.

In what ways are you working with township supervisors to promote the preservation of their official records?

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2 Responses to The most local record

  1. Mary Warner says:

    One of our county commissioners recently asked me to write an article for the Region 5 newsletter. My topic? How townships can store and preserve their records.


  2. In the last four years, we approached three townships in our immediate area to microfilm their birth and death records to start with. None of them turned us down, esp when we said we would pay. Our pitch was simple: those records are a tremendous research resource, and that those microfilms will provide a back-up for their original records. One later agreed to sign a long-term loan arrangement for their books. It was a start. Hopefully more will be done later.


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