The first settlers to Montana came with the discovery of gold south of Butte in 1862. Most of the new settlers came from California and Oregon as the gold rush in those states declined. There were eastern born settlers, southern Civil War veterans and Chinese who came as well.
Montana became a territory in 1864. The area was formed from Washington Territory west of the Continental Divide and Nebraska Territory east of the Continental Divide. Statehood was granted in 1889.
After 1865, cargo and people destined from the gold camps arrived in Montana by steamboat up the Missouri River. The steamboat would leave St. Louis or Sioux City in late March or early April and arrive at Fort Benton between May and July. The route would proceed from 100 to 200 miles over land from Fort Benton to the mining camps using the Mullan Road. In 1867, about 5,000 people used this route entering and leaving Montana.
Beginning in 1869, Montana Territory began advertising for settlers. Pamphlets were printed and distributed in Germany and the Scandinavian countries. According to the 1870 census Montana population consisted of 18,306 whites, 1,949 Chinese and 183 blacks. The estimated Native American population was 19,300.
The Northern Pacific Railroad was complete in 1883. The railroad advertised the sale of property but still very few people came.
English colonies were established in Helena and the Yellowstone Valley in 1882; a few French came to Missoula County; and a few Dutch families settled in the Gallatin Valley in 1893. The Finnish lumberman settled east of Missoula in 1892. Italians and Germans settled in Fergus and Park counties. Many Germans came in through Canada.
The cattlemen were English and Scottish but the Germans owned the cattle. The sheep men were also English and Scottish.
A group of 506 came into Montana from Ryson, Wisconsin. They settled near Billings in 1882. Southerners settled in the Bitterroot Valley.
The smelters and mills of the Anaconda Cooper Mining Company drew Scandinavian and Irish workers. In 1900 the Balkans arrived. Irish, Poles and Italians worked the coalmines of Cascada, Carbon and Musselshell counties.
Prior to 1895 there was no requirement to keep birth records. In 1895 the legislature passed a law requiring all midwives to keep a register of all births. All these births were registered with the county. Montana began recording births and deaths on a state level in 1907 but registration did not become mandatory until 1815. By 1922 about 90% of the births were being registered.
The same registration rules applied to deaths as births. By 1910 about 90% of the deaths were being recorded. It was not until about 1915 that registration of deaths became complete.
Requests for birth certificates for genealogical purposes will only be filled if proof of death is provided. A request for a birth certificate will be filled for a living person is a signed letter of permission from the individual accompanies the request. There are no published indexes for Montana vital records.
Marriage and divorce records are kept in the county district court.
In 1860 the area of Montana that lies east of the Continental Divide were counted with Nebraska. The only exceptions were two trading posts, Fort Alexander and Fort Union which were enumerated with Dakota Territory. The area west of the Continental Divide was enumerated as the Bitterroot Valley and the Ponderay Mountains in the Spokane, Washington census.
The first census for Montana was 1870. In 1880 Yellowstone National Park was enumerated in the Wyoming census.
Montana federal land offices were originally located in Bozeman, Glasgow, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, Lewistown, Miles City and Missoula. In 1950 all of these were eliminated, leaving Billings as the only land office.
The land entries for Montana from 1800 to 1908 are filed by state, land office, kind of entry and certificate number. There is no name index prior to 1908. The county clerk can provide the land description and certificate number.
Patent records and case files after 1908 are available through the National Archives in Seattle and Denver. The case files have the most genealogical information.
Land transactions after the initial federal grants are filed in the counties.
Probate courts in Montana existed from 1864 to 1889. These courts handled probate, adoptions, marriage and various civil suits and criminal matters. After 1889, jurisdiction was transferred to the district court. Probate records are kept on the county level.
Montana has no complete listing of all known cemeteries. Some cemetery records will be filed in the counties. Some Montana genealogical societies are starting to transcribe cemetery records in their counties.
Before 1900 the largest groups were Roman Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal and Presbyterian churches. Each group arrived to proselytize among the Native Americans and miners. Each particular denomination kept their own records.
Most immigrants to Montana came through the port of New York. The ports of entry from Canada were used as well. Sweetgrass was established in 1903, Gateway in 1908 and Roosville in 1930. Records are filed with the Seattle passenger lists, which have been filmed and are the Family History Library.
Research Websites for Montana
Native America Land Patents
Large collection of different records
Cemetery Record Collection
A page of links for sites that contain Montana Vital Records, Census Records and other records
Another collection of miscellaneous records
Lookups and Queries
The first settlement in Idaho was Fort Hall in 1834. The fort became a major way station for those traveling on the Oregon Trail. The first permanent settlement of whites in Idaho country was the Mormon colony at Franklin in Cache Valley, but it was the lure of gold that brought the first major wave of settlers. Just three years after gold was discovered, the territory of Idaho was created in 1863 and consisted of 10 counties. The new territory included what is now all of Montana and most of the present day Wyoming. At the peak of the mining boom as many as 70,000 whites may have been in Idaho territory. By 1870, however, this number had dwindled to 15,000. Mining was Idaho’s chief producer of wealth until the beginning of the twentieth century when agriculture became the number one industry.
In 1866 the first district land office in Idaho was opened in Boise. Other district offices included Lewiston in 1866, Oxford in 1879, Hailey in 1883, Coeur d’Alene in 1884, and Blackfoot in 1886. Idaho was made a state on July 3, 1890.
Idaho was never a “melting pot” but did have its share of ethnic groups. The Scandinavian converts to the Mormon faith colonized in eastern Idaho. Coeur d’Alene mines attracted miners from Wales and immigrants from the Balkans, and the Finns settled in the high mountain valleys near Payette Lakes. Hundreds of Chinese came to Idaho in the 1860s and 1870s to work in the mines. The Basque migration from Spanish Pyrenees came primarily to Idaho as sheepherders. Japanese immigrations began settling in southwestern Idaho prior to World War II. They settled near Idaho Falls and Pocatello. In 1900 and 1910, reclamation projects opened desert lands for farming so settlers came from Utah to claim the land.
Idaho’s Native American population lives on four reservations: Nes Perce Reservation and Coeur d’Alene Reservations in northern Idaho, Fort Hall Reservation north of Pocatello, and Duck Valley Reservation in Owyhee County. The Kootenai tribe resides in an enclave near Bonners Ferry and some Kalispell’s live in an enclave at Cusick on the Idaho-Montana border.
So basically you have Mormon’s in the east, non-Mormon’s in the west and mining in the north.
Published histories are extensive for Idaho. There are histories of counties, towns and families. The county and town histories will have information on 50% or more of the families.
The registration of births and deaths on the county level was not required until 1907. Physicians, midwives and clergy were required to report births and deaths to the county clerk. Prior to 1907, churches, midwives, mortuaries, and physicians kept birth and death records. These records are sparse. In 1911 all births and deaths were recorded directly with the state.
The first marriage laws were enacted in 1864. Those performing the marriages could keep a marriage book, but they were not required to. As a result some marriages were recorded some were not. The statewide recording of marriages began in 1947.
In Idaho in order to get vital records certificates, a letter of authorization is required from next of kin. Idaho will verify information but only if it is exact for a small fee.
Census started in 1870. In 1870 the Bear Lake and Franklin areas were enumerated with Cache County, Utah. The 1880 the Yellowstone area was enumerated in Wyoming.
Idaho is a public land state. The land was managed through the BLM. These are two types of land entries in Idaho: cash entries and homesteads. Records are in National Archives Pacific Northwest Region in Seattle and the BLM office in Boise. They cover from 1868 to 1910. The land office records are on microfiche in Seattle.
The passage of land after the original land grant or homestead is filed in the counties.
Probate records began after 1890. These records are kept in the counties.
There are extensive Mormon Church records. Check “LDS Ward and Miscellaneous Records: Film Numbers and Locality List” in the Family History Center for the dates of the establishment of the wards and stakes in each town.
The Protestant, Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist and Presbyterian faith were focused on converting the Native Americans. The Swedes and Norwegians brought the Lutheran church.
Today Mormonism is the number one largest congregation with Catholic being number two.
The Mormon Church has complied a 12-volume set of cemetery entries which includes most of the counties. Check cemetery record in the Family History Library Catalog for your counties to see what exists.
Research Websites for Idaho
Death Records – 1911-1951
Cemetery List – No actual records but a complete list of cemeteries
Naturalization Records Index
Civil War Veteran Records Index
List of the location of records and years the records cover
Special Genealogical Collections at BYU-Idaho—Marriage Index, Personal Histories, Death Records and much more
Large collection of different records
Lookups and Queries
Wyoming Territory was created on July 25, 1868 mostly from Dakota Territory. Forts, fur trading and the wayside stations on the Oregon Trail had been a part of its early history. The building of the Union Pacific Railroad through Wyoming brought Chinese immigrants. Most of the history of the businesses in Wyoming is linked to the railroad.
The mining influx during the late 1860s and 1870s brought settlers into the Sweetwater Valley.
Statehood was achieved July 10, 1890. At the time one-fourth of the Wyoming population was foreign born, coming from England, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Canada, Russia, Denmark, Wales, China, Norway, Italy, Austria and France. In January 1890, two hundred African Americans mostly from Ohio were brought to work the coalmines but most did not stay. A small group of German-Russian immigrants from Chicago arrived in 1896 and settled in the Horn Basin.
Land opened up for settlement in 1890 but very little was filed on until after 1897. In 1909 dry farming was tried which enlarged the homestead acts bring farmers.
The era of public land entries in Wyoming was in the twentieth century, with the peak years being 1920-21.
The following Native American tribes were in Wyoming: Arapaho, Cheyenne, Cree, Groa Ventre, Menominee, Sioux, Ute and Ute Southern. The records for some of these tribes are with the Wind River Agency. The records for the agency are at the National Archives in Denver.
A study conducted in 1976 showed Wyoming with the following ethnic groups: British, German, Italian, Basques, Eastern Europeans and Greeks.
In 1870, one-fifth of the immigrants were from British Isles and one-half the population was foreign born. The Irish and Chinese came to work on the railroad. Russian-German people moved to Wyoming to grow sugar beets. Basques were sheepherders. Eastern Europeans and Greeks worked in the mines. The German immigrants established the cattle industry.
Wyoming began recording births and deaths in 1909. Very few births and deaths were recorded before that time unless they were delayed registration. The Vital Records Service will search their index for a desired entry for an hourly fee.
Wyoming had been recording marriages and divorces statewide since 1941. Early marriages were recorded in the counties. All Wyoming marriage records from 1869 to 1970 are available from the Wyoming State Archives and Historical Department for all counties. The clerk of the district court kept divorce records.
Census started in Wyoming in 1850. The Wyoming 1850 census was included in the Utah Territory and 1860 census as part of the Nebraska territory. The 1870 census was the first actual census in the Wyoming Territory. The first census taken by the Wyoming Territory was taken in 1869. This census includes names, length of residency, and place of origin. The Family History Library has a copy of these microfilms.
Land records in Wyoming began as early as 1841. Several land offices were opened in Wyoming, the first being Cheyenne in 1870. The files include cash and homestead entries, timber-culture and desert-land entries, and cancelled claims of all four types. The BLM Wyoming State Office holds the records of the patents. National Archives Rocky Mountain Region Office has a partial collection.
In Wyoming the probate clerk of the district court in each county keeps the probate records. During the territorial period, the probate records were kept by a territorial probate court. Most probates are on file in the Wyoming State Archives.
Court records are found in either the Wyoming State Archives or at the local county courthouse.
All Wyoming burials, including pioneer graves, have been compiled into a statewide resource at the Wyoming State Archives.
The Mormons arrived in Star Valley in the 1870’s and in 1900 an organized group of Mormons settled in Wyoming. All ward and state records have been microfilmed and are all at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The Family History Library has microfilmed copies of the histories of 19 out of 42 Presbyterian congregations. The Catholic faith came to Wyoming through the Irish immigrant laborers. The Diocese of Cheyenne kept all records. There were a very small number of Greek Orthodox, Methodist, and Jewish members in the state.
Research Website for Wyoming
Large collection of different records
Collection of miscellaneous records by county
Collection of Cemetery Records
Lookups and Queries