If you have ancestors from Nebraska or an interest in the history of Nebraska, we are excited to share our big news. We’ve recently added more than four million new pages to our Nebraska archives, for a total of almost nine million pages of content from 1,616 papers – and there’s more to come! We have partnered with History Nebraska, a state agency tasked with preserving the history of Nebraska, to make this important archive easily accessible for all. Many of these papers are short-run titles from small towns, and they contain a goldmine of information!
Our papers in this archive date back to 1854, more than a decade before Nebraska achieved statehood. As the American frontier expanded westward, settlers moved to, and through, Nebraska. Emigrant trails, including the Mormon Trail and the Oregon Trail, opened up the Western United States to settlement. Chimney Rock became a prominent landmark mentioned in many journals as travelers crossed the plains.
In 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, bringing a wave of settlers to Nebraska. The first homestead claim was filed in Nebraska in 1863. That claimant, Daniel Freeman, became the sheriff of Gage County, and his original homestead became Nebraska’s first National Park, and later Homestead National Monument.
The farmland of Nebraska proved rich, and farmers successfully grew healthy crops including fields of corn. That corn was the inspiration for the University of Nebraska’s mascot, the Cornhuskers. A sportswriter from the Nebraska State Journal coined the term in 1899, and the school officially adopted it the following year.
The pages of these papers contain fun Nebraska trivia. For example, did you know that SPAM was invented in Nebraska in 1937? Hormel created a spiced canned ham product and then sponsored a contest to come up with a catchy name. The winning entry was SPAM – short for spiced ham. The meat became a favorite of soldiers during WWII because of its indefinite shelf life. Another nostalgic American favorite, Kool-Aid, was invented in Hastings in 1927 and is the official state soft drink.
You’ll also learn about famous Nebraskans like legendary dancer Fred Astaire. He was born Frederick Austerlitz in Omaha in 1899. As a child, Astaire performed in a vaudeville act along with his sister Adele. Their popularity grew, and by 1908, the Austerlitz siblings were performing on tour. Other famous Nebraskans include Johnny Carson and President Gerald Ford.
Though it’s fun to search for famous Nebraskans, we know that it pales in comparison to finding the names of your ancestors. When searching for your family, check the social news, obituaries, wedding announcements, and birth announcements.