The following important events in the history of Montana affected political boundaries,record keeping, and family movements.
1803-1850s The United States acquired from France the area of Montana east of the mountains.
Britain relinquished its claims to the western section in 1846. Until the 1850s, Montana was thedomain of Indians, explorers, fur traders, trappers, and
missionaries.1841 Jesuit priests founded St. Mary's mission. In the 1850s thismission became the center of ranching activity in theBitterroot Valley of western Montana.
1846 Fort Benton, the only Montana trading post to become a permanent settlement, was established on the MissouriRiver.
1859 Steamboats first reached Fort Benton.
1860s Montana west of the continental divide was designated
Missoula County, Washington Territory, in 1860. In 1861
the unsettled eastern portion was attached to Dakota
Territory. In 1863 and 1864 all of Montana was included in Idaho Territory.
1862-1864 The discovery of gold in western Montana brought an influxof miners to Bannack, Virginia City, and Helena. Many of he miners began farming and set up supply centers—suchas Missoula, Deer Lodge, and Bozeman.
1864 Montana Territory was established with nine counties
1880s Railroads first crossed Montana. The population of the
territory was about 40,000.
1889 Montana became a state.
1910-1925 The number of counties doubled from 28 to the present 56
as homesteaders moved into eastern Montana. By 1930 a
cycle of drought years had driven many of the settlers fromthe state.
The Montana Historical Society has an extensive collection of biographical materials.
There is no statewide biographical index or major manuscript collection. You may find
information in the biographical sections of state, regional, and county histories.
Representative biographical encyclopedias are:
Progressive Men of the State of Montana. Chicago: A. W. Bowen and Co., 1901. (FHL
book 978.6 D3p; film 1000176.)
Stout, Tom. Montana, Its Story and Biography. . . . 3 vols. Chicago: American Historical
Society, 1921. (FHL book 978.6 H2s; film 1000175.) There is also an every-name index
(FHL book 978.6 H2s Index, film 1320700 item 3.)
Brief biographies of settlers who arrived in Montana before the territory was established
in 1864 are found in James U. Sanders, Society of Montana Pioneers: Constitution,
Members and Officers, with Portraits and Maps, vol. 1 (Akron, Ohio: Societ
Published sources about the soldiers who died at the Battle of the Little Big Horn are
available. Military histories of the officers and enlisted men are in:Carroll, John M., and Byron Price. Roll Call on the Little Big Horn, 28 June 1876. FortCollins, Colo.: The Old Army Press, 1974. (FHL book 973 M25hc.)
Hammer, Kenneth. Men with Custer: Biographies of the 7th Cavalry, 25 June, 1876. FortCollins, Colo.: The Old Army Press, 1972. (FHL book 973 M25hk.)
About four percent of the present population of Montana is American Indian. The major
groups include the Blackfoot, Cree, Crow, Northern Cheyenne, Chippewa, Flathead,
Kutenai, and Assiniboin.
The Family History Library has microfilm copies of Indian records at the National
Archives—Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle). These include excellent collections for the
Blackfoot, Crow, Flathead, Northern Cheyenne, and other tribes. The available records
include heirship, school, welfare, census, annuity, and family documents. The records are
listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under MONTANA -
MINORITIES or MONTANA - NATIVE RACES. Records are also listed in the Subject
Search of the Family History Library Catalog under the names of the tribes.
The major genealogical periodicals and magazines helpful for Montana research are:
Central Montana Wagon Trails. 1979-. Published by the Lewistown Genealogy Society,
701 W. Main, Lewistown, MT 59457-2501, Telephone 406-538-5212. (FHL book
978.6292 H25c; fiche 6105092.)
Treasure State Lines. 1976-. Published by the Great Falls Genealogical Society, Paris
Gibson Square, 1400 1st Ave. No., Great Falls, MT 59401-3299, Telephone 406-727-
3922. (FHL book 978.6 B2t.)
Trees and Trails. 1976-. Published by the Flathead Valley Genealogical Society, P.O.
Box 584, Kalispell, MT 59903-0584. (FHL book 978.6 D25f.)
Tri-County Searcher. 1980-. Published by the Broken Mountains Genealogical Society,
P.O. Box 261, Chester, MT 59522, Telephone 406-759-5445, Fax 406-759-5445. (FHL
book 978.6 H25s.)
Probate courts existed in the counties from 1864 to 1889. Their records and jurisdiction
were then transferred to the district courts. Montana probate records include
administrators' books, probate proceedings, registers, files, wills, bonds, and exhibits. The
Family History Library does not have copies of Montana probate records. They are
available at the various county courthouses.
An excellent source of more detailed information about research and the records in each
county is:Richards, Dennis Lee. Montana's Genealogical and Local History Records. Detroit: Gale
Research Company, 1981. (FHL 978.6 A3r; fiche 6019973.)
Another helpful source is:
Eichholz, Alice, ed. Ancestry's Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Rev. ed. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1992. (FHL book 973 D27rb 1992; computer number
594021.) Contains bibliographies and background information on history and ethni