Research in Montana Church and Bible Records
Montana Church records undoubtedly are a exceptional resource for the genealogical and historical researcher. In many parts of Montana, church records predate civil records. They therefore document vital occurrences, giving birth, marriage, and death information which could often be lost. Furthermore offering names and dates, church records may show you associations between people and show a family’s position in the community. In addition, records of a personal nature are not unheard of, and these could offer a view into an ancestor’s persona or habits.
Before Montana County and city governments compiled vital records, many people recorded significant dates, events, and names in their family Bible. Family Bibles are invaluable research tools. Even though the dates are not guaranteed, Family Bibles are a tangible link with past generations.
Each church denomination kept different records in Montana. In some cases, a family’s migration can be traced through church memberships that were transferred as a family moved around. The Presbyterians. Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and Methodists were the largest religious denominations in Montana until about 1900. Those groups all came to Montana when it was still a territory in order to minister to miners and try to convert Native Americans in the area. The following groups were also in the area around that time, but were minority groups: Latter-day Saints, Baptists, Brethren, Hutterites, Lutherans, Disciples of Christ.
The Mansfield Library at the University of Montana in Missoula holds historical files relating to several religious denominations in the state. Some of those denominations include: Assemblies of God, Baptists, Brethren, Catholics, Disciples of Christ, Episcopalians, Hutterites, Methodists, Latter-day Saints, Presbyterians.
Roman Catholic records for Montana can be obtained by contacting either of its two dioceses. Those are the Diocese of Helena and the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings. They can tell researchers where certain registers from various parishes across the state are located.
The Latter-day Saints who originally came to the state of Montana were in search of work. In the later part of the 1870s, the Latter-day Saints began to bring produce and other goods into Montana from Utah and Idaho. Then, beginning in 1880, certain movements began, many of them headed by politicians, in order to try to remove the right of the Mormons to vote in certain Montana precincts. In 1896, Montana became an official missionary field of the church. The FHL holds all of the records from the missions, branches, and wards.
The FHL also houses the records from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS Church), which is now Community of Christ. The World Church Archives, which is located in Independence, Missouri, holds the original records. It’s important to note that one Mormon sect, the Morrisites, did exist in Montana at one time, but the sect no longer exists today.
In 1904, the Mennonites first settled in Montana. Their original settlement was at Bushy, which was part of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Two years later and about 18 miles away, they created the Lame Deer mission. Soon, other groups of Cheyenne took an interest in listening to the teachings of the Mennonites. When the missions first began, in fact, more than 500 members of the Cheyenne Nation underwent baptism by the Mennonites. Congregations of Mennonites in Montana belong to the General Conference Mennonite Church.
In 1864, the Methodist Church came to the Montana area. They began ministering to the miners who were there mining for gold. The Montana Conference Depository, Paul M. Adams Memorial Library, Rocky Mountain College has a large collection of records relating to the United Methodist Church.
In the late 1800s, the Church of the Bretheren started to establish a foothold in Idaho. Then, they started to move north into Montana via the Snake River Valley. From 1895 to 1910, they established several different congregations in Montana.
- Research In State Church Records (ancestry.com) from The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy.
- Inventory of the vital statistics records of churches and religious organizations in Montana, 1942 (search.ancestry.com)
- Patricia M. McKinney’s Presbyterianism in Montana: Its First Hundred Years, 1872–1972 (Helena: Thurbers, n.d.) provides a list of churches in Montana including Native American congregations both extant and defunct.
- C. Leroy Anderson’s Joseph Morris and the Saga of the Morrisites (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1981).
- Lois R. Habegger’s Cheyenne Trails: A History of Mennonites and Cheyennes in Montana (Newton, Kans.: Mennonite Publication Office, 1959).
- Doris Whithorn’s Bicentennial Tapestry of the Yellowstone Conference (Livingston, Mont.: The Livingston Enterprise, 1984)
- Montana Church Books (amazon.com)
- Montana Bible Books (amazon.com)
Research in Montana Cemetery Records
Montana cemetery records can be a very useful resource for your genealogy project and other things. Many people do not think about using Montana cemetery records to find what they need, but you would be quite surprised by the results. The trick to being able to use Montana cemetery records is that it would be very helpful if you knew which county you wanted to look in for your records. For Definitions of all Cemetery Terms See Symbols on Gravestones and Their Interpretations
Instead of trying to search the entire statewide database for cemetery records, you really need to know if you should be looking in:
- Big Horn
- Deer Lodge
- Powder River
Or any other county within the state for Montana cemetery records. In fact, you can also consider finding out if the data you need comes from the national cemetery for the state of Montana.
You may also be surprised at just how much data you can obtain using Montana cemetery records. Though the data included in Montana cemetery records can vary, you can still find a good deal of important information. Aside from where a particular person is buried and the date of death, you may be able to find out a person’s full legal name including maiden name and possibly even the names of a spouse, parent or surviving children.
Using Cemetery Records – It is best to have as much data about a person as possible when conducting a Montana cemetery records search. The more correct information you begin with, the easier and more accurate your search results will be. Of course, if you do not have that much data to go on, do not let that discourage you. You can still use Montana cemetery records to help you find a great deal of information.
You can find more than you would have suspected from just cemetery records. Montana cemetery records may be exactly what you need to help fill in any gaps in your genealogy research or other ancestry projects. Some of the information you try to obtain can cost money, and some may be free. The important thing is to get the information you need from Montana cemetery records and help complete a family tree.
Montana Cemetery Research Tips – There is no agency in Montana that is responsible for recording all cemetery information. There is also no known full list of cemeteries in the state. However, the county recorder and county clerk do keep some cemetery records. Some counties also have their own cemetery boards that keep those records. Some cemeteries only recorded the lot purchaser and the person buried in the lot. Other cemeteries didn’t keep any records at all. Certain cemetery records have been transcribed by Montana county genealogical societies as well.
- Montana Tombstone Inscription Project (usgwtombstones.org)
- Montana Obituary Project (usgwarchives.net)
- Epodunk – Montana Cemeteries (epodunk.com)
- Find a Grave – Montana Cemeteries (findagrave.com)
- Montana Cemeteries at Internment.net (interment.net)
- The Montana Political Graveyard (politicalgraveyard.com)
- Montana Cemetery Books (amazon.com)
Famous People Buried in Montana Cemeteries
|County||Name / Date / Cemetery||Description|
|Big Horn||Little Bighorn Memorial Site
Little Bighorn National Monument
|The battlefield is littered with ‘headstones’ that mark where each person was found dead.
The bodies, themselves, are not actually buried under these stones.
Most of the bodies were buried in a mass grave nearby, marked by a large granite marker bearing the names of all ‘white men’ that died in the battle.
|Lewis and Clark||Loy, Myrna (Myrna Adele Williams)
8/2/1905 – 12/14/1993
Myrna Loy began her career as a dancer before transitioning into films during the silent era and being typecast as exotic women.
12/14/1904 – 2/25/1905
Lame Deer Cemetery
|Native Northern Cheyenne Chief.
He was originally known as Wahiev which means Morning Star.
|Silver Bow||Knievel, Evel (Robert Craig)
10/17/1938 – 11/30/2007
Mountain View Cemetery
|Stuntman and entertainer.
Robert Knievel was born in Butte, Montana.
|Cemetery Name||Cemetery City|
|Custer National Cemetery||Big Horn County|