From 1805 to 1806, the area now known as Idaho was explored by Lewis and Clark. At that time, however, it was considered to be a portion of Oregon country. Both Great Britain and the United States had joint control of Oregon country until 1846. At that point, the Oregon Treaty was enacted, making borders clearer. Franklin, which was located in Cache Valley, was home to a group of Mormons who established the first white settlement in the area.

Most white settlers of that time, however, came to the area in search of gold. Gold was discovered in the area in 1860 and by 1863 Idaho Territory was formed and divided into 10 counties. Idaho Territory included most of what is now Wyoming and all of what is now Montana. Idaho Territory was home to as many as 70,000 white settlers during the height of the mining craze in the area. However, by 1870, only about 15,000 were still living in the state. The mining industry was replaced by the agriculture industry as Idaho’s primary revenue source in the early 1900s.

Idaho Counties

The Idaho Territory was organized on March 3, 1863. The State of Idaho was created as the 43rd state on July 3, 1890. It has 44 Counties. The capital is Boise and the official state website is Select a Idaho county to view information & records pertaining to each County

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Searching for Idaho Genealogy Details

Idaho is a bit of a mystery to many people; many are more familiar with the unique shape that the state takes than its fascinating and colorful history. Today it is still a place of natural beauty and successful agricultural establishments, but it is also a location where many Americans have settled or passed through, and this means that it is a state with a need for a lot of genealogical material. Fortunately, there are excellent resources for those looking for Idaho genealogy data.

Sources for Idaho Genealogy Information – If you need to find an answer you probably head to your computer, and you don’t have to change this habit when looking for Idaho genealogy data. This is because there are many different records and resources that are entirely digital or able to be ordered from archives or libraries via an Internet request.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t soon find yourself in a county clerk’s office somewhere in Idaho seeking a bit of information, but it is useful to know that many groups and organizations are rapidly digitizing collections, archives, and records as well.

What all of this means is that anyone doing research for Idaho genealogy will want to identify which resources are going to give them what they require.

A Modern Method for Idaho Genealogy Research – People seeking materials for Idaho genealogy will have to become familiar with the following types of records:

  • Local Records – anyone looking for Idaho genealogy may need to visit a county clerk’s office at some point (if the data is not digitized). They may also have to head to the small local libraries, historical societies, local genealogical societies, and school or college libraries for Idaho genealogy information since these are places that are usually offline and open only by appointment or special arrangement.
  • Vital Records – these include the birth, marriage, divorce and death records from county, state, and national archives, and can also contain immigration and naturalization details, newspaper items, military records, census records, cemetery or obituary information, passenger lists and records as well. These are available as online and offline resources for Idaho genealogy.
  • State Records – from probate information to birth certificates, cemetery information, death records, deeds, estate information, genealogical folders, land records, maps, marriage details, military or veterans information, newspapers, private manuscripts, state census information, surname lists and more, these records are available as online and offline resources for Idaho genealogy.

The Most Current Sources for Idaho Genealogy – Rather than pointing you towards “general” sources, we have listed some of the most effective sources for Idaho genealogy below:

  • Vital Records Unit, Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics, P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0036; Website:
    This is where you can order birth, death, marriage and divorce records via a written request or even online.

Additional state and local records can be found at the:

  • Idaho State Historical Society, Idaho State Archives, 2205 Old Penitentiary Road, Boise, ID 83712; Website:
    A major resource for those looking for Idaho genealogy; it has a specific Genealogy section that includes books such as family histories, emigration records, state histories, regional and local histories, atlases and gazetteers, public records, and much more.

Finally, these websites provide a lot of state-specific details to those in search of facts for Idaho genealogy projects.

Idaho Ethnic Group Research

The federal census from 1900 states that the following tribes were present in Idaho at that time: Bannocks, Cayuse, Coeur d’Alene, Colville, Cree, Crow, Flathead, Kalispell, Kootenai, Omaha, Seletze, Sheepeater, Snake, Spokane, Umatilla

The federal government created multiple agencies to oversee Idaho Native American tribe affairs. The Idaho State Historical Society and the National Archives, Pacific Alaska (Seattle) have those records on file. The FHL also has copies of the records for the Northern Idaho Agency.

Fort Hall Agency – Fort Hall, Idaho (1889 to 1952) records may include: School Censuses, School Surveys, Mining Permits, Grazing Leases, Individual Indian Accounts, Ceded Land Records, Irrigation Records, Forestry Records, Loans, Law Suits.

The tribes administered by the Fort Hall Agency were the Shoshone, Bannock, Boise, and Bruneau tribes. However, researchers should note that Bannock tribe members did not fall under that agency’s jurisdiction until 1872.

Northern Idaho Agency – Lapai, Idaho (1875 to 1964) records may include: General Correspondence and Decimal Records, Historical Files, Correspondence Concerning Kutenai Educational Contracts, Timber and Grazing Leases, Forestry Records, Road Records, Individual Indian Account Ledgers, annuity Payrolls, Vital Statistics, Census Records, Economic and Social Surveys.

The tribes covered by this agency were the Nez Perce, Kootenai, and Coeur d’Alene.

There are two schools that can be excellent resources for Idaho tribal records. They are the Chemawa, Oregon Chemawa Indian School and the Cascade County, Montana Fort Shaw School. Those schools included students from across the entire northwest part of the country.

The Pacific Northwest Tribes Missions Collection of the Oregon Province Archives of the Society of Jesus (1853-1960) and the Major James McLaughlin Papers contain valuable Native American information.

There are several ethnic groups in Idaho. Many of them did not fit well into Idaho’s frontier society. For example, the eastern part of the state was mainly Mormon. It consisted primarily of Mormons from Scandinavia and England. They had their own court system and didn’t really adhere to territorial law in Idaho.

In 1864 the first Chinese people came to the area in order to work in the gold fields of Oro Fino. They were originally used as a labor force in California, but quickly began working in all of the mining towns in the Northwest. As of 1879, 4,274 Chinese people lived in the area. They made up about 28.5% of Idaho’s population at that time. Boise was home to the biggest Chinatown in the country aside from the one in San Francisco at one point in time.

The Chinese people who came to Idaho started out in Kuang-Tuang province, in a city called Canton. There was a lot of political upheaval in that area around that time. Combined with severe weather, that upheaval led to economic problems. That led to many Chinese people leaving to find better lives in America.

There were several taxes that the Chinese people had to pay in Idaho. Those included a hospital tax, miners’ tax, poll tax, and property tax. The Chinese people enjoyed the fraternal and social aspects of the Masonic Lodge. Although other states were anti-Chinese, no conflicts with the Chinese developed in Idaho.

As of 1880 there were 3,379 people living in the are. However, 10 years later there were only 2,007. The next decade saw an even larger decline in the Chinese population, which had dropped to just 1,467 by 1900. Most of the Chinese people who still lived in Idaho around 1900 were living in Boise County.

A Chinese fraternity called the Hip Sing Association existed in Boise until the building was torn down, which took place in the 1970s. The Idaho State Historical Society now holds many of the materials from that fraternity. An inventory of those materials, including documents written in Chinese, is currently being created.

Idaho gained its statehood in 1890. Over the next decade, several Japanese people moved to the state. In fact, they made up the biggest ethnic group in the region. There were Japanese settlements at Pocatello, Nampa, and all along the Oregon Short Line Railroad by the 1890s. As of 1920 there were 1,569 Japanese people living in Idaho.

The Japanese-American group’s loyalties were questioned by many during World War II. That led to the federal government creating camps to hold Japanese-Americans during the war. Ten camps were created in all. One of them was opened in August of 1942 in Hunt, Idaho. It was called Camp Minidoka and it mainly held Japanese-Americans from Seattle and Portland. When the war ended, several Japanese-Americans chose to stay in Idaho.

People known as Basques from Navarre, Alava, Guipuzcoa, and Viscaya in the Pyrenees Mountains also came to Idaho. To this day Boise is home to one of the largest concentrations of Basque people in the United States. Many of them began moving to the United States in 1876 because of suppression in their home lands. They soon sent word to relatives that there was work in the Idaho area, causing even more Basques to immigrate to Idaho. The largest immigration of Basques to Idaho lasted from 1900 to 1920.

The Basque people were Catholics, but Idaho was predominantly Protestant when they settled there. There were a few Catholic parishes in Idaho at the time, but most of the Basques didn’t attend them because the parish priests mainly spoke English and the Basques spoke little or no English. It wasn’t until 1911 that a Basque-speaking priest was hired by the Boise Diocese bishop. That allowed the Basque people to begin really settling into the area. There are still several Basque organizations that can be found in the Boise area and may hold records that researchers will find useful.