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The Red River Valley Genealogical Society

Pioneer Certificate Program

Pioneer Certificate Application (will open new window)

What is the Pioneer Certificate Program and Why Was it Started?

Because many of the earliest residents of our state have gone unheralded in the history of North Dakota, the Red River Valley Genealogical Society began this program as a way to gather information and to preserve documentation about them. Following an application process, the Society issues certificates to people whose ancestors are proven to be residents prior to statehood.


Who Qualifies for a Pioneer Certificate?

A pioneer ancestor is a person who lived in the portion of Dakota Territory which became North Dakota before 2 November 1889, the date statehood was attained. An applicant must be a direct descendant of a pioneer ancestor. Anyone may apply. Applicant need not be a resident of North Dakota nor have ever lived in the state.


How to Apply for a Pioneer Certificate:

First, fill out the Pioneer Certificate Application found on this site or write to the society at the address below for a copy. Complete the form with information about the applicant, the pioneer ancestor and the names of the intervening generations between the applicant and the pioneer ancestor. The application allows for one applicant and one pioneer ancestor. A separate application is required for additional applicants or additional pioneer ancestors.

Second, copy and cite the records which prove your ancestor was a resident prior to 2 November 1889. A complete citation of a record would include such things as book title, author, publication date, page number; microfilm number, county name, township name, supervisor's and enumeration district numbers, basically every piece of information which allows the record to be verified.

Third, submit your completed application together with the copies of proofs and the Ten Dollar $10.00 fee/application + $1.00 for Postage to the Society at the address below.


What Records may be used to Prove Residency?

Any record, copied and properly cited, which establishes residency before 2 November 1889 may be used. Following are some suggestions:

  • 1880 Federal Census schedules; 1885 Dakota Territorial Census schedules

  • Homestead records

  • Naturalization records: declaration of intention and the citizenship paper

  • Church records: membership, baptism, confirmation

  • Marriage records

  • Bible records

  • Newspaper articles and or obituaries

  • Published county, community or family histories

  • Will/probate records

  • City directories/ Plat maps


What are the Benefits of the Pioneer Certificate Program?

The Pioneer Certificate is 8.5 x 10.5 inches, made of parchment paper, individually hand lettered and numbered, and affixed with an official seal. Frame is not included. They make great holiday and birthday gifts. Your proofs and application are maintained by the Society for other researchers and will be used in upcoming Society sponsored publications.

Pioneer Certificate Application (will open new window)

If not submitting online, then send the completed application, copies of proofs, and $10/application fee to:

       Red River Valley Genealogical Society
      PO Box 9284
      Fargo ND 58106-9284

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