Research in Nevada

Cover of Research in NevadaNative Americans have lived in present-day Nevada for at least seven thousand years. Today Nevada’s major tribes include Northern and Southern Paiute, Western Shoshone, and Washoe. Though Spain claimed the region in the sixteenth century and ceded control to Mexico in 1821, non-indigenous people did not settle the territory until the mid-1800s. In 1848, the United States assumed control of the region it called the Utah Territory, which included most of present-day Nevada. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints established missions beginning in 1848 to populate its proposed State of Deseret but closed its missions and recalled its members in 1857. By 1860, only 6,857 settlers were enumerated in Nevada. The US government established the Territory of Nevada a year later and granted statehood in 1864.

Among Nevada’s earliest non-indigenous settlers were African Americans who arrived in the Great Basin in the 1850s. Miners rushed into the territory when gold was discovered in 1859. Among them were Chinese immigrants whose numbers were augmented during the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad in the late 1860s. Others included Basques sheepherders from the Spanish and French Pyrenees, Jews, Latinos, and settlers of European descent who migrated from other US states. Even so, Nevada’s population grew slowly. During the 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression, 24,000 men from the East and Midwest and were employed by the Federal government’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to work in Nevada. The construction of Boulder (later named Hoover) Dam, also in the 1930s, drew additional workers and their families. Still, by 1940, Nevada’s population totaled only 110,247.

Research in Nevada reviews the resources available throughout the state for family historians seeking to trace their ancestors, including:

  • Archives, Libraries, and Societies
  • Atlas, Gazetteers, and Maps
  • Records of Brands, Railroads, Water, and Women
  • Business and Organizational Records
  • County, Courts, and other Jurisdictional Records
  • Directories and Newspapers
  • Ethnic, Institutional, Military, Probate, Religious, and School Records
  • Naturalization, State, Tax, Vital Records, US Censuses, and more

The guidebook includes the website address, physical address, and telephone number for each resource.

The author discusses in detail Nevada’s land records and explains how the Desert Land Acts, the Homestead Acts, and the Taylor Grazing Act applied to the state. Other noteworthy resources for genealogists are Nevada’s water records, especially water permits and well applications; mining claims and records; and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Enrollee Records. Also of interest are works created by the Works Progress Administration (WPA)—later, the Work Projects Administration—during the Great Depression, for example, the WPA Historical Records Survey, which included six volumes of the Inventory of the County Archives of Nevada and a 1941 Guide to Public Vital Statistics Records in Nevada.

Research in Nevada is a comprehensive guidebook for anyone seeking to trace ancestors who lived or did business in the Battle Born State.

Published by NGS, Research in Nevada is one volume in the Research in the States series edited by Barbara Vines Little, CG, FNGS, FUGA, FVGS. It is available for purchase in the NGS online store in both PDF and print versions.


Author Stefani Evans Stefani Evans, CG, has served as an NGS director, Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) trustee, BCG Education Fund trustee, and Nevada Delegate for the Southwest Oral History Association. She chaired the NGS 2013 Family History Conference in Las Vegas and has written for the NGS Quarterly, NGS Magazine, and the NYG&B Record.