Montana Emigration and Immigration

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Montana Wiki Topics
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Beginning Research
Record Types
Montana Background
Cultural Groups
Local Research Resources

How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Online Records[edit | edit source]

Cultural Groups[edit | edit source]

Offices to Contact[edit | edit source]

Although many records are included in the online records listed above, there are other records available through these archives and offices. For example, there are many minor ports that have not yet been digitized. There are also records for more recent time periods. For privacy reasons, some records can only be accessed after providing proof that your ancestor is now deceased.

U.S. Citizenship and and Immigration Services Genealogy Program[edit | edit source]

The USCIS Genealogy Program is a fee-for-service program that provides researchers with timely access to historical immigration and naturalization records of deceased immigrants. If the immigrant was born less than 100 years ago, you will also need to provide proof of his/her death.

Immigration Records Available[edit | edit source]
  • A-Files: Immigrant Files, (A-Files) are the individual alien case files, which became the official file for all immigration records created or consolidated since April 1, 1944.
  • Alien Registration Forms (AR-2s): Alien Registration Forms (Form AR-2) are copies of approximately 5.5 million Alien Registration Forms completed by all aliens age 14 and older, residing in or entering the United States between August 1, 1940 and March 31, 1944.
  • Registry Files: Registry Files are records, which document the creation of immigrant arrival records for persons who entered the United States prior to July 1, 1924, and for whom no arrival record could later be found.
  • Visa Files: Visa Files are original arrival records of immigrants admitted for permanent residence under provisions of the Immigration Act of 1924.[1]
Requesting a Record[edit | edit source]

Finding Town of Origin[edit | edit source]

Records in the countries emigrated from are kept on the local level. You must first identify the name of the town where your ancestors lived to access those records. If you do not yet know the name of the town of your ancestor's birth, there are well-known strategies for a thorough hunt for it.

Background[edit | edit source]

  • Pre-statehood settlers of Montana were trappers, missionaries, miners, cattlemen, farmers, and lumbermen. They came primarily from the mid-western states, although refugees from Confederate states came to the early mining camps.
  • Some immigrants from Europe came to work in the mines, and others joined mid-westerners in homesteading parts of eastern Montana.
  • Between 1910 and 1920 a homestead boom brought thousands of settlers, but years of drought in the 1920s caused many of them to leave the state.
  • In 1920 nearly half the Montana population was foreign-born. Most immigrants were from Germany, Canada, Ireland, Norway, England, Sweden, or Austria.
  • Many overseas immigrants to Montana came through the port of New York or other East Coast ports.

Immigration Records[edit | edit source]

Immigration refers to people coming into a country. Emigration refers to people leaving a country to go to another. Immigration records usually take the form of ship's passenger lists collected at the port of entry. See Online Resources.

What can I find in them?[edit | edit source]

Information in Passenger Lists[edit | edit source]

  • Before 1820 - Passenger lists before 1820 included name, departure information and arrival details. The names of wives and children were often not included.
  • 1820-1891 - Customs Passenger Lists between 1820 and 1891 asked for each immigrant’s name, their age, their sex, their occupation, and their country of origin, but not the city or town of origin.
  • 1891-1954 - Information given on passenger lists from 1891 to 1954 included:
    • name, age, sex,
    • nationality, occupation, marital status,
    • last residence, final destination in the U.S.,
    • whether they had been to the U.S. before (and if so, when, where and how long),
    • if joining a relative, who this person was, where they lived, and their relationship,
    • whether able to read and write,
    • whether in possession of a train ticket to their final destination, who paid for the passage,
    • amount of money the immigrant had in their possession,
    • whether the passenger had ever been in prison, a poorhouse, or in an institution for the insane,
    • whether the passenger was a polygamist,
    • and immigrant's state of health.
  • 1906-- - In 1906, the physical description and place of birth were included, and a year later, the name and address of the passenger’s closest living relative in the country of origin was included.

Information in Passports[edit | edit source]

Over the years, passports and passport applications contained different amounts of information about the passport applicant. The first passports that are available begin in 1795. These usually contained the individual's name, description of individual, and age. More information was required on later passport applications, such as:

  • Birthplace
  • Birth date
  • Naturalization information
  • Arrival information, if foreign born

In-Country Migration[edit | edit source]

  • In the 1860s, many gold seekers took steamboats from Saint Louis to Fort Benton, Montana, where they joined the Mullan Wagon Road leading to the camps.
  • Other settlers traveled from the east by way of the Northern Overland Road, or the Bozeman Cutoff and other branches of the Oregon Trail.
  • From the west, some took the Mullan Road at its terminus in Walla Walla.
  • Others took an older route from Salt Lake City.
  • The era of steamboats and trails finally came to an end in the 1880s when transcontinental railroads from Utah and Minnesota reached Montana.
  • In the 1890s and 1900s, the building of branch railroad lines encouraged new mining and homesteading.

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

The FamilySearch Library has additional sources listed in their catalog:

References[edit | edit source]

  • Montana Research Outline. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2001. (NOTE: All of the information from the original research outline has been imported into the FamilySearch Wiki and is being updated as time permits.)
  1. "Genealogy", at USCIS, https://www.uscis.gov/records/genealogy, accessed 26 March 2021.