South Dakota Biography

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Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Biographies provide useful genealogical information such as a person’s birth date and place; names of family members, including maiden names; education; occupation; and social, political, and religious affiliation. They may also contain a physical description of the person, previous residences, and immigration information. Biographies are the product of family knowledge or previous research about early settlers and prominent citizens of a state, county, or town. Local histories may contain biographical sketches of lesser-known people.

Biographies in Local Histories[edit | edit source]

  • Biographical information is often found in state, county, and town histories.
  • Towards the end of the 19th century, began publishers soliciting short biographical/family histories from local founding families, offering to publish them in an upcoming local history. This then became an incentive for family members to buy a copy of the book.
  • Families represented were not necessarily prominent. Practically everyone living there, especially in the Midwest, counted as an early settler.
  • These biographies often start with the first member of the family to settle in the area, and detail their descendants at the time of publishing. They may tell where the family moved in from. Children's marriages often are given, with maiden names included.

Finding Biographies[edit | edit source]

  • The county Wiki page lists several county histories. It also lists local libraries, and societies which probably have copies of local histories.
  • Many histories are no longer under copyright and can be found in the following online, digitized book collections. Search with keywords "History" and "the name of your locality" (state, county, or town).
  • The FamilySearch library has extensive collections of these local histories. Many are digitized. Search the FamilySearch Catalog under your locality for the topics "Biography" and "History".

The best collection of published biographies in South Dakota is at the South Dakota Office of History in the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Building, East Capitol Avenue, Pierre, South Dakota. Another biographical collection is found at the University of South Dakota at Vermillion.


There is no statewide biographical index or major manuscript collection. Many statewide, regional, and county histories have biographical sections which can be searched. Examples of such books are:

  • Memorial and Biographical Record: An Illustrated Compendium of Biography Containing a Compendium of Local Biography. Chicago, Illinois: G.A. Ogle Co., 1897. (Family History Library film1000587 item 2.)
  • Fox's Who's Who Among South Dakotans: A Biographical Directory of Citizens Who Are Prominent in Professional, Political, Business and Civic Affairs of the State. Two Volumes. Pierre, South Dakota: Fox Kindley, 1929. (Family History Library film 1000589 items 6-7.)
  • Kingsbury, George Washington. History of Dakota Territory and South Dakota: Its History and Its People By George Martin Smith. Five Volumes. Chicago, Illinois: S.J. Clarke Co., 1915. (Family History Library book 978.3 H2k; films 1000584-86.) Volumes 4 and 5 contain biographical sketches.
  • Holley, Frances Chamberlain. Once Their Home: or Our Legacy From the Dahkotahs. Chicago, Illinois: Donohue & Henneberry, 1892. (Family History Library film 1000589 item 5.)


See United States Biography for information on nationwide biographical collections. See United States History and United States Compiled Genealogies for additional sources.

To find biographies and published family histories on specific surnames in the FamilySearch Catalog, use a surname search.

Typing "South Dakota" in the Keyword Search will limit the search to families in South Dakota.



The Family History Library has many collected biographies and local or county histories with biographical sketches on residents. These can be found in the FamilySearch Catalog by using a Locality Search under any of the following:

  • SOUTH DAKOTA - BIOGRAPHY
  • SOUTH DAKOTA, [COUNTY]- BIOGRAPHY
  • SOUTH DAKOTA, [COUNTY]- HISTORY
  • SOUTH DAKOTA, [COUNTY], [TOWN]- HISTORY