Trailblazers who helped to clear the way for Nevada settlers by first exploring the area in the 1820s included: Jedediah S. Smith, Peter Skene Ogden, Kit Carson and Gen. John C. Fremont.
In the 1820s, trading and trapping started to become more popular in Nevada. Peter Skene Ogden, Jedediah Smith, and other traders and trappers came to the area around that time. Sierra Nevada and the Great Basin were explored by John C. Fremont and Kit Carson in 1845. After the Mexican War ended, the United States gained control of the area, which was in 1848. Then the Mormons established a trading post and settlement near what is now Genoa.
The Donner Party, which met a tragic fate in the Sierras eventually, made their historic trek along the Truckee River and Humboldt River in 1846. Mexico ceded lands, which included what is now Nevada, to the United States in 1848. In 1850, Utah Territory, which encompassed Nevada, was formed. That same year, the Mormons established their first settlement in the Carson Valley, where Genoa is today.
In addition to including all of Nevada except the southern tip, which was considered to be in New Mexico Territory, Utah Territory also contained all of what is now Utah, as well as a small piece of Wyoming’s southwest corner, and the western third of the state of Colorado.
Both silver and gold were discovered in Nevada during the 1850s. Perhaps the most famous mine in all of Nevada was Virginia City’s Comstock Mine, which opened in 1859. 1859 was also the year of the founding of Carson City, which mainly came about because so many Europeans and settlers from various places, including California, were coming to Nevada to search for gold.
Thanks tot he Comstock Mine, Nevada was quickly settled and began to expand economically. In 1861 it became Nevada Territory and then, in 1861, it became a state, making it the 36th state to enter the Union. Eventually, the Comstock Mine’s lode was completely depleted and Nevada experienced a major economic depression, which wasn’t turned around until mineral discoveries in 1900 at Tonopah.
In the early 1900s, Nevada residents made an attempt to expand sheep farming in the state. It was an attempt to improve the state of Nevada’s economy at the time. Instead, that attempt wound up creating many conflicts between sheepmen and cattlemen. Multiple movies have been made about those conflicts over the years. In 1934, the open range was divided by the Taylor Grazing Act, settling the conflicts. The introduction of the sheep industry in Nevada also caused an influx of people from multiple ethnic backgrounds. Some of the groups represented included: English, Scots, Mexicans, Irish, Chinese, Basques.
Three continental railroads have traversed modern-day Nevada. Several airline companies also service the state. In 1931, Nevada legalized gambling. Soon after that, both Las Vegas and Reno became major gambling hot spots. People from all over the United States started to either move to or visit the state of Nevada in order to try their luck at the various casinos. Nevada is also known for being a marriage hot spot, thanks to the many quickie wedding chapels in the state, especially in and around Las Vegas.
Modern-day Nevada, in addition to being a gambling mecca, is still a hot spot for various mining industries. Ski lodges and mountain resorts have also flourished in the state. Boulder Dam and Lake Mead are also popular tourist attractions.
Nevada has a rich history of irrigated farming, has been a nuclear testing site on multiple occasions (including for the World War II atomic bomb), and has contributed many servicemen to various wars.
Nevada Ethnic Group Research
Historically, there have been four major tribes occupying lands in present-day Nevada: Northern and Southern Paiute, the Shoshone, and the Washo. Today, there are twenty-three reservations although most of the state’s native people have never lived on one. The reservations and small colonies scattered throughout Nevada often make research somewhat difficult.
The Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada represents twenty-six tribes, communities, and organizations in the Nevada and Great Basin region, including Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone (in four bands); the Washoe Tribe of Nevada/California; various Paiute tribes, reservations, and colonies; and the Goshutes of Nevada and Utah. The Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada does not conduct genealogical research; however, their member links provide important contact information. It should be noted that many of Nevada’s Native Americans lived on state boundaries. Consequently, records may be in government agencies and in censuses outside Nevada.
The Yugoslavians and the Basques are two important ethnic groups in the history of Nevada. The Basque Studies Library at the University of Nevada, Reno, holds a large collection of Basque-related material for Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho. It maintains the most comprehensive collection for Basque Studies outside of Europe.
Nevada History Databases and other Helpful Links
The websites below will provide state-specific details to those in search of information for Nevada genealogy work.