Montana Genealogy Resources
Genealogy is a popular and important activity for millions of Americans. The Montana History Portal has tens of thousands of items from dozens of institutions around the state which can be used for genealogical research. In order to make searching easier, we have compiled this helpful starter guide for those wishing to use the Portal. The sections listed below are brief guides to some of the more relevant collections which can be used in family research in Montana. In some cases a collection may appear in multiple sections, as it may contain items that fit several different descriptions
There are many more useful resources on the Portal that can assist in your research, so we encourage you to also take advantage of our powerful search tool. If you need guidance on using our search engine, we have a handy search help guide available.
We also have a lengthy list of other genealogy resources available from other organizations throughout Montana. We invite you to visit that page here.
Yearbooks are one of the most popular items on the Portal. We have over 2,000 volumes scanned, from dozens of high schools and colleges around the state. Yearbooks are a valuable genealogical resource, with names and photos nicely organized in a searchable manner. We encourage you to browse our large collection of yearbooks while performing your research. Each scanned page can be browsed manually, or you can use the search function located on the item page for the yearbook. When using the search function, please keep in mind that it can be inconsistent for scanned yearbooks. If the search results do not turn up a name you are looking for, you may want to flip through the pages of the yearbook manually to look for the person.
View all yearbooks hosted on Montana History Portal
Military Enlistment Records
Thousands of Montanans have served in the armed forces. Military records are a valuable resource in genealogical research. The Portal has three important collections of military enlistments available from the Montana Historical Society. They cover the early years of Montana statehood (including the Spanish-American War), World War I, and World War II.
Military Enlistments (Montana), 1890-1918
Military Enlistments (Montana), World War I
Military Enlistments (Montana), World War II
Montana State Prison Records
A unique research tool available on the Portal is the Montana State Prison Records collection from the Montana Historical Society. It contains over 15,000 records consisting of description sheets and mug shots, covering the period 1869-1974. The description sheets include valuable information such as birth dates and locations, addresses, marriage information, and much more.
Montana State Prison Records
Big Horn County Obituaries
Obituaries are crucial in genealogical research, as they often provide a snapshot of an individual's entire life, complete with key dates. The Portal hosts a collection of nearly 5,000 obituaries from Big Horn County, provided by the Big Horn County Library and Big Horn County Genealogical Society. These items appeared in newspapers throughout the 20th century. As Big Horn County contains portions of the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Reservations, those interested in Native American research may find useful information in this collection.
Please note that the collection is incomplete, and only contains names from the first half of the alphabet.
Big Horn County Obituaries
Montana History Books, Publications, and Directories
Countless books have been written about the history of Montana. The Portal is lucky enough to have quite a few of these digitized and available to read - for free. In particular, county histories can be quite valuable in tracking down the specifics on a person or family. Magazines such as Montana Woman have countless articles about people of the state. Also of great value in research are city or county directories, of which the Portal has quite a few. We have linked a number of different collections that researchers should investigate for genealogy leads.
Butte Digital Image Project
Central Montana R.L. Polk Directories
Early Montana Histories
Fallon County History and Pictures
Flathead and Lincoln Counties Directories
Leland Cade Books Collection
Local Histories of Montana
Miles City Historical Documents
Montana Woman Magazine
Sidney-Richland County Library Historical Collection
The single largest item type that we have on the Portal are photographs. This includes huge collections from the Montana Historical Society and University of Montana, as well as smaller collections from dozens of other organizations around the state. All of these collections are a window into Montana's past, but some of them have a strong focus on people and families. These collections will be of interest to genealogists, and are listed below. Some have names included in the description or title of the item, while some only have names listed on the actual scan of the item itself - please make sure to look closely to verify.
Billings - Images of People
Business and Professional Women's Club (BPW) 1946-1952
Central Montana Historical Photographs
Columbus School of Nursing Collection
From the Beginning - Ulm, Flood, Gore Hill and Riverdale
Huntley Project - Homesteads, People, & Harvests
Jack L. Demmons' Photographs of Bonner, Montana
Jim Annin Photo Collection
Polson Area Historical Photographs - The Paul Fugleberg Collection
Sax and Fryer Collection
Sheep Ranching in Judith Basin County
Swan Valley Historical Photographs
As organizations operate, they leave behind a trail of records. These records can be helpful in tracking down people in a genealogy search. The Portal has a selection of organizational records, from both government entities and private businesses. Please review the links below if you believe they may help in your search.
Arrowhead (The) - Great Falls Anaconda Copper Mining Company Newsletters
Billings - Historic Document Collection
Books, Pamphlets and Ephemera from the University of Montana
Boone and Crockett Club Records
Bozeman and Gallatin Valley Documents
Butte Digital Image Project
Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives Documents
Central Montana Historical Documents
Chippewa Cree Tribe Water Rights Settlement Records
Early Edgerton County and Lewis and Clark County Records
Helena, Montana City Council Minutes, 1881-1970
Lewis-Wedum General Store Ledgers
Mountain-Plains Native Americans
Natives of Montana Archival Project
Original Plats of Additions to the Townsite of Butte
Rocky Mountain Laboratories World War II Newsletters
Oral Histories and Interviews
Nothing beats learning about history through the voices of those who lived it. The Portal has a number of collections of oral histories of Montanans from all walks of life. Many of these collections cover early subjects in Montana history, or explore the histories of specific towns or families. You can listen to these interviews through our embedded audio player, by following the links below.
Central Montana Metis
Danvers, Montana Oral Histories
Gregg Family Oral Interviews
Home Ground Radio Interviews
Huntley Irrigation Project Oral Histories
Jim Magera Oral Histories Collection
Kamlowsky (Rosetta) Radio Interviews
LGBTQ Voices of Butte
Tales from Carter County - Oral Histories
Teton County Oral Histories
Voices of Labor
Winifred Oral History Project
Journals, Diaries, and Letters
The Portal is fortunate to have a number of very personal tools for genealogical research. These are the journals, diaries, and letters written by early Montanans. Combing through daily diary entries can be tedious work, but it is often rewarding, with mentions of local families and events such as births and deaths.
Diaries, Letters and Ledgers from the University of Montana
Evelyn Cameron Diaries
Letters, Diaries and Documents from the Montana Historical Society
Miles City World War II Peggy Letters
Montana Historical Society Civil War Era Diaries and Correspondence
Mydas Capps Zieg Diaries
Registers of Historic Places
People working on genealogy know that they have to be creative and investigate every source possible to track people down. Property records can be a handy source of information, as well as registered historic places. The Portal has a selection of copies of historic register files, which often list owner names and histories of the building.
Historical Neighborhoods of Missoula
Montana in the National Register of Historic Places
Montana's African American Heritage Places
Virginia City Historic Architecture Inventory Collection
Livestock brands are a very popular topic on the Portal, used by visitors every day. Thanks to the Montana Historical Society, we have over 100 years of brands available to search and view. As each brand is unique and distinct, and is associated with a person or ranch at any given time in history, it is possible to track people through the brand records.
With over 100 years of brand records, this collection is large and can be complicated to navigate. Fortunately, the staff at the Montana Historical Society have developed an excellent guide to navigating livestock brands.
Livestock Brand Registrations for Montana