Montana Church Records
|Montana Wiki Topics|
|Local Research Resources|
Historical Background[edit | edit source]
Before 1900 the largest religious groups in Montana were the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal, and Presbyterian churches. Each group arrived during the territorial period to proselyte among the Indians and the miners. The largest denominations in Montana as of 2010 were the Catholic Church with 127,612 adherents, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 46,484 adherents, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with 38,665 adherents, and nondenominational Evangelical Protestant with 27,370 adherents.
Missions[edit | edit source]
- St. Francis Xavier Mission Jesuit mission 1887-1960
- Holy Family Mission Jesuit mission 1890-1914 - Guide to records
- Ignatius Mission 1854 Catholic on Flathead Reservation
- St. Paul's Mission 1887 Catholic on Fort Belknap Reservation
- St. Mary's Mission Jesuit 1841-1908
- St. Paul's Mission Catholic 1887
- St. Peter's Mission Jesuit 1859-1898
Information Found in the Records[edit | edit source]
To effectively use church records, become familiar with their content. Click on these links to learn about a specific record type:
Finding the Records[edit | edit source]
Look for online records.[edit | edit source]
Online databases are incomplete. This can lead to two common errors:
Indexes[edit | edit source]
Dutch Reformed[edit | edit source]
- 1856-1970 - U.S., Dutch Christian Reformed Church Vital Records, 1856-1970, index and images, incomplete.($)
- 1856-1970 - U.S., Dutch Christian Reformed Church Membership Records, 1856-1970, index and images, incomplete.($)
Lutheran[edit | edit source]
- 1781-1969 - U.S., Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Church Records, 1781-1969, index and images, incomplete.($)
Presbyterian[edit | edit source]
- 1701-1970 - U.S., Presbyterian Church Records, 1701-1970, index and images, incomplete.($)
Other Collections[edit | edit source]
Look for digital copies of church records in the FamilySearch Catalog.[edit | edit source]
- The Family History Library (FHL) has a substantial collection of original church records and transcripts on microfilm for churches in the United States.
- Online church records can be listed in the FamilySearch Catalog under the state, county, or town.
- If you find a record that has not yet been digitized, see How do I request that a microfilm be digitized?
- Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations.
- To find records:
- a. Click on the records of United States, Montana.
- b. Click on Places within United States, Montana and a list of counties will appear.
- c. Click on your county if it appears.
- d. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
- e. Click on Places within United States, Montana[COUNTY] and a list of towns will appear.
- f. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
- g. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
- h. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. . The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.
Consult available finding aids.[edit | edit source]
These aids generally provide lists of records that are known to exist and information on their location.
- A Directory of Churches and Religious Organizations in Montana. Bozeman, Montana: Historical Records Survey, 1941. FHL Collection book 978.6 K24h; film 908039 item 8
- Inventory of the Vital Statistics Records of Church and Religious Organizations in Montana. Bozeman, Montana: Historical Records Survey, 1942. FHL Collection book 978.6 V2hi; film 1036415 item 3; fiche 6046711. This gives the types of records available in 1942 and the years covered by the records.
Correspond with or visit the actual churches.[edit | edit source]
Some records are still held in the local churches. Contact the current minister to find out what records are still available.
- Make an appointment to look at the records. Or ask the minister of the church to make a copy of the record for you.
- To find church staff available, you might have to visit on Sunday.
- Ask for small searches at a time, such as one birth record or a specific marriage. Never ask for "everything on a family or surname".
- A donation ($25-$40) for their time and effort to help you would be appropriate.
- If the church has a website, you may be able to e-mail a message.
- See the Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy for help with composing letters.
- Each denomination page offers an online address directory of local churches for that denomination.
Check the church records collections in archives and libraries.[edit | edit source]
Some church records have been deposited for preservation in government archives or in libraries. Watch for links to digitized, online records offered by the archives. Some archives provide research services for a fee. For others, if you cannot visit in person, you might hire a researcher.
Here you will find archive information unique to the state. Many more archives are kept by denomination. For denominational archives, go to Searching for Church Records by Denomination.
Government[edit | edit source]
Montana Historical Society Library and Archives
225 N Roberts St.
Helena, Montana 59620-1201
Phone: (406) 444-2681
Lutheran[edit | edit source]
ELCA Region 1 Archives
Archives and Special Collections
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447
- Archives hold records for closed churches. For open churches write directly to the local church.
Methodist[edit | edit source]
Roman Catholic[edit | edit source]
Diocese of Great Falls—Billings
121 23rd Street South
P.O. Box 1399
Great Falls, MT 59403-1399
The diocese includes the counties of: Big Horn, Blaine, Carbon, Carter, Cascade, Chouteau, Custer, Daniels, Dawson, Fallon, Fergus, Garfield, Golden Valley, Hill ,Judith Basin, Liberty, McCone, Musselshell, Park, Petroleum, Phillips, Powder River, Prairie, Richland, Rosebud, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, Toole, Treasure, Valley, Wibaux and Yellowstone
Diocese of Helena Archive
515 North Ewing
P.O. Box 1729
Helena, MT 59624-1729
- Contact the local parish for records.
The diocese includes the counties of: Beaverhead, Broadwater, Deer Lodge, Flathead, Gallatin, Glacier, Granite, Jefferson, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Madison, Meagher, Mineral, Missoula, Pondera, Powell, Ravalli, Sanders, Silver Bow, Teton, Wheatland
Correspond with genealogical or historical societies.[edit | edit source]
Some church records have been given to historical societies. Also, historical societies may be able to tell you where the records are being held. To find a society near you, consult these lists:
Next, go to the Wiki article for your ancestors' denomination.[edit | edit source]
There are frequently additional, nationwide or regional archives and online collections for each denomination. Find the article for your ancestors' denomination and follow the instructions there to access these sources.
|Wiki Articles for Records of Major Religious Denominations|
Carefully compare any record you find to known facts about the ancestor[edit | edit source]
You will possibly find many different people with the same name as your ancestor, especially when a family stayed in a locality for several generations, and several children were named after the grandparents or aunts and uncles. Be prepared to find the correct church records by organizing in advance as many of these exact details about the ancestor as possible:
- name, including middle name and maiden name
- names of all spouses, including middle and maiden name
- exact or closely estimated dates of birth, marriage, and death
- names and approximate birthdates of children
- all known places of residence
- military service details
Carefully evaluate the church records you find to make sure you have really found records for your ancestor and not just a "near match". If one or more of the details do not line up, be careful about accepting the entry as your ancestor. There are guiding principles for deciding how to resolve discrepancies between records that are seemingly close. For more instruction in evaluating evidence, read the Wiki article, Evaluate the Evidence.
References[edit | edit source]