Posted by Ancestry Team on March 21, 2014 in Research

If Indiana is the “Crossroads of America,” Nebraska could be “America’s Main Thoroughfare.” The Platte River and its tributaries have been a natural east-west trail for ages. As the United States pushed westward, railroads began to look at Nebraska as a desirable route for a transcontinental railroad. If your ancestors ended up in the West, chances are good that they passed through Nebraska.

Though Nebraska was formed as a territory in 1854 as part of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, it wasn’t until after the Civil War that its population really began to grow. Nebraska went from a population of 122,993 in 1870 to more than one million in 1890. This explosive growth came from a variety of factors. Businessmen saw opportunities in Omaha and in towns that sprang up along the railroad. There was also in influx of immigrants from Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Russia.

Advancements in agricultural tools made a huge impact on the appeal of Nebraska as a land to settle in. With better implements, the tough prairie soil was much easier to cultivate.

If you have Cornhusker ancestors, be sure to check out our new free guide, “Nebraska Resources: Family History Sources in the Cornhusker State.” It is filled with resources to help you discover that part of your family tree. It’s one of many state guides that are available.



  1. Catherine Meehan Blount

    Excellent resource – thank you so much. I’m familiar with some of these sources and others are new to me. Would be great to see some specific sources for researching African American families in Nebraska, especially late-1800’s Homesteaders. The Nebraska Historical Society has some items of interest and the Great Plains Black History Museum in Omaha is making amazing progress in preserving and sharing Nebraska’s African American presence. Unfortunately, so many folks think past Nebraska when looking for African American ancestors.

    Thanks again for this excellent resource.

  2. Cheryl Moran

    @Catherine, have you looked into Fort Robinson at Crawford, NE? The Buffalo soldiers were stationed there. Interesting fort and great vacation spot.

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