The Territorial Papers of the United States

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The Territorial Papers of the United States is a 28-volume set of transcribed, indexed, and annotated documents pertaining to the administration of some of the territories of the United States.

Publication Contents[edit | edit source]

Although many important territorial documents exist in state archives, this series is limited to documents found in Washington, D.C. Documents were selected from the archives of the Departments of State, Treasury, War, Interior, and Post Office, from the Senate Library, the Library of Congress, and the General Accounting Office.[1]

In selecting among the many extant documents, the goal was to include all significant documents (excepting those previously published elsewhere) of three types:

  • Department of State documents concerning administration of the territories (since the department administered territories until 1873)
  • Documents pertaining to the establishment and management of the postal system
  • Memorials and petitions to Congress from people and legislatures[1]

The goal included selecting enough land-related documents to allow the researcher to obtain a general sense of the unfolding of land policy. In general, no attempt was made to specifically address the subject of Native Americans, since it was impossible to adequately cover the subject within the constraints of the project.[1] “In addition to governmental operations, the records relate to genealogy, economic development, Indian affairs, geographical features, and partisan politics.”[2]

Accessing the Records[edit | edit source]

The 28 volumes are indexed and annotated. A complete set is available online on and on Hathi Trust. Volumes were not published for all territories. The volumes cover the following territories and time frames:

  • v. 1. General
  • v. 2-3. The Territory northwest of the River Ohio, 1787-1803
  • v. 4. The Territory south of the River Ohio, 1790-1796
  • v. 5-6. The Territory of Mississippi, 1798-1817
  • v. 7-8. The Territory of Indiana, 1800-1816
  • v. 9. The Territory of Orleans, 1803-1812
  • v. 10-11. The Territory of Michigan, 1805-1829
  • v. 12. The Territory of Michigan, 1829-1837
  • v. 13-15. The Territory of Louisiana-Missouri, 1803-1821
  • v. 16-17. The Territory of Illinois, 1809-1818
  • v. 18. The Territory of Alabama, 1817-1819
  • v. 19-20. The Territory of Arkansas, 1819-1829
  • v. 21. The Territory of Arkansas, 1829-1836
  • v. 22-23. The Territory of Florida, 1821-1828
  • v. 24-25. The Territory of Florida, 1828-1839
  • v. 26. The Territory of Florida, 1839-1845
  • v. 27-28. The Territory of Wisconsin, 1836-1848

Using the Records[edit | edit source]

Each volume contains an index, which should be utilized in addition to computerized searching.

In a few instances, a record can provide direct or indirect evidence for an ancestor’s identity and relationships. For example, on page 17:343 Thomas Sloo gives direct evidence of a son’s name and death date: “I heretofore Stated to You the loss of our Daughter on the last day of January & on the 5th of April we lost our Son William.” He also provides indirect evidence his wife is related to someone in Cincinnati: “Mrs Sloo has been in a Delicate State of health…She will spend the Summer at Cincinnati.”

Records often establish a location of an ancestor at a particular time and place. The Sloo letter was written in “SHAWNEETOWN May 18th 1816.”

Records help researchers understand the historical and geographical context in which their ancestors lived. In the Sloo letter he wrote, “I have Explored this District from the Mouth of the Ohio to the Base line and Every principle Water Course and find the Quality of the lands far Superior to What I Expected.” (17:343-4)

Each volume contains a list of abbreviations, used to indicate the types and sources of documents. The Sloo letter is marked NA:GLO and ALS, which means National Archives, General Land Office, and autograph letter signed.

The information can possibly lead to additional records. For example, footnote 40 on page 17:268 states,

“The Whiteside family, originally from North Carolina, is discussed biographically by Philbrick (ed.), LAWS IND. TERR. (IHC, XXI), cclxi-ccxii, cclxxiv. The names of James, John, and William (Jr. and Sr. Whiteside appear in the Illinois Country as early as 1790 (Terr. Papers, N.W., II, 253). See also index, ibid., III and VII (Ind.), under ‘Whiteside’.”

“Requests for post roads, complaints about unsafe conditions because of unruly native people, the desire to establish ferries across rivers and construct mills and mill dams, the establishment of new counties and post offices…anything that could be asked from the federal government might be found in this published series.”[3]

Microfilm Supplements[edit | edit source]

It is estimated that the published documents represent just 5% of NARA documents about each of the territories. NARA has created microfilm supplements for some territories that contain original images of additional documents. The goal was to image substantially all textual and cartographic records with the exception of Native American, Military, and land records. Some of these excluded documents are imaged elsewhere.[2] Relevant microfilmed records are:

  • M236, The Territorial Papers of the United States: The Territory of Wisconsin, 1836-1848, 122 rolls
  • M325, The Territorial Papers of the United States: The Territory of Iowa, 1838-1846, 102 rolls
  • M1049, The Territorial Papers of the United States: The Territory of Oregon, 1848-1859, 12 rolls
  • M1050, The Territorial Papers of the United States: The Territory of Minnesota, 1849-1858, 19 rolls

Other microfilm publications contain territorial papers.

  • M3, State Department Territorial Papers, Colorado, 1859-1874, 1 roll
  • M12, State Department Territorial Papers, Utah, 1853-1873, 2 rolls
  • M13, State Department Territorial Papers, Nevada, 1861-1864, 2 rolls
  • M26, State Department Territorial Papers, Washington, 1854-1872, 2 rolls
  • M85, State Department Territorial Papers, Wyoming, 1868-1873, 1 roll
  • M116, State Department Territorial Papers, Florida, 1777-1824, 11 rolls
  • M189, Interior Department Territorial Papers: Washington, 1854-1902, 4 rolls
  • M191, Interior Department Territorial Papers: Idaho, 1864-1890, 3 rolls
  • M192, Interior Department Territorial Papers: Montana, 1867-1889, 2 rolls
  • M200, Territorial Papers of The U.S. Senate, 1789-1873 (various territories), 20 rolls
  • M204, Interior Department Territorial Papers: Wyoming, 1870-1890, 6 rolls
  • M218, State Department Territorial Papers, Kansas, 1854-1861, 2 rolls
  • M228, State Department Territorial Papers, Nebraska, 1854-1867, 1 roll
  • M309, State Department Territorial Papers, Dakota, 1861-1873, 1 roll
  • M310, Interior Department Territorial Papers: Dakota, 1863-1889, 3 rolls
  • M325, State Department Territorial Papers, Iowa, 1838-1852, 102 rolls
  • M342, State Department Territorial Papers, Arizona, 1864-1872, 1 roll
  • M356, State Department Territorial Papers, Montana, 1864-1872, 2 rolls
  • M364, Interior Department Territorial Papers: New Mexico, 1851-1914, 15 rolls
  • M419, State Department Territorial Papers: Oregon, 1848-1858, 1 roll
  • M428, Interior Department Territorial Papers: Utah, 1850-1902, 6 rolls
  • M429, Interior Department Territorial Papers: Arizona, 1868-1913, 8 rolls
  • M430, Interior Department Territorial Papers: Alaska, 1869-1911, 17 rolls
  • M431, Interior Department Territorial Papers: Colorado, 1861-1888, 1 roll
  • M445, State Department Territorial Papers: Idaho, 1863-1872, 1 roll
  • M470, State Department Territorial Papers, Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, 1787-1801, 1 roll
  • M471, State Department Territorial Papers, Territory Southwest of the River Ohio, 1790-1795, 1 roll
  • M827, Interior Department Territorial Papers: Hawaii, 1898-1907, 4 rolls
  • M828, Interior Department Territorial Papers: Oklahoma, 1889-1912, 5 rolls
  • M1134, State Department Territorial Papers, Missouri, 1812-1820, 1 rolls
  • T17, State Department Territorial Papers, New Mexico, 1851-1872, 4 rolls
  • T260, State Department Territorial Papers, Orleans, 1764-1823, 13 rolls<ref name="McDonald">

The published volumes, themselves, are available on microfilm:

  • M721, The Territorial Papers of the United States, 1787-1845, 16 rolls

Additional Territories[edit | edit source]

For territories not covered in the published volumes or the microfilm supplements, see The Trans-Mississippi West, 1804-1912: A Guide to Federal Records for the Territorial Period. “This multivolume guide, instead of providing transcripts of selected documents, identifies and describes significant series of records relating to the contiguous states and territories carved out of the area west of the Mississippi River.”[2]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Clarence Carter, “The Territorial Papers of The United States,” The American Archivist 8 (April 1945): 122-135; online PDF, The American Archivist ( : accessed 14 December 2018).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Anne Bruner Eales and Robert M. Kvasnicka, eds., Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States, 3rd ed. (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2000), 337.
  3. David McDonald, “Territorial Papers of the US: Inward Ho!” National Genealogical Society 2015 Family History Conference, St. Charles, Missouri, 13-16 May 2015 Syllabus (Arlington, Virginia: NGS, 2015).