A large part of what is now Wyoming was originally ceded to the United States from France. That took place when the Louisiana Purchase was made, which was in 1803. However, the western portion of Wyoming did not become part of the United States until they acquired it from Great Britain, which was in 1846 as part of the Oregon Treaty. Two years after the treaty was signed, the Mexican War came to an end.The first known white person to travel through what is now Wyoming was a fur-trapper by the name of John Colter. He passed through the Yellowstone region in 1807 and reported back about its hot springs and geysers. From 1812 to 1813, the Oregon Trail was pioneered by a man named Robert Stuart. Wyoming’s first permanent trading post was established at Fort Laramie several years later, in 1834.

Getting Started with Wyoming Genealogy and Family Trees

Searching for Wyoming Genealogy Information – Think of Wyoming and you probably think of cowboys, mountains, and open country. A lot of people passed through Wyoming as America expanded, and many settled permanently. This is why there is such a large interest in information for Wyoming genealogy, and this article will cover the basic steps necessary for good research.

A Basic Approach for Wyoming Genealogy Research – To search for Wyoming genealogy materials requires only a few basic steps. The first is to use the computer to find out if your preferred archives or resources have been “digitized” and made available on the Internet. Knowing when materials for Wyoming genealogy are available online is important because it will save you from making unnecessary trips to libraries or archives.

Although many organizations have made their collections available electronically, it is important that the first steps in your search for Wyoming genealogy information uncovers the different groups of records that can be accessed from a home computer, and which need you to book an appointment and make a visit. Should a document or item require a visit to an “offline” location, most good websites will still be able to ensure that the materials you need for Wyoming genealogy are actually at the site in question.

Standard Records for Wyoming Genealogy Data – Generally, state specific genealogy research work starts in public records, and these tend to fall under three headings or categories. You must learn the differences if you want to streamline your search for Wyoming genealogy materials, and these categories are:

  • Vital Records – these are birth, marriage, divorce and death records from county, state, and national archives. They can include cemetery or obituary information, census records, newspaper items, military records, immigration and naturalization details, and passenger lists and records as well. These tend to be available as online or offline resources for Wyoming genealogy.
  • State Records – ranging from probate information to surname lists, state census information, private manuscripts, newspapers, military or veterans information, marriage details, maps, land records, genealogical folders, estate information, deeds, death records, cemetery information, birth certificates and more, these are available as online and offline resources for Wyoming genealogy.
  • Local Records – state research will generally start in a county clerk’s office or website, and then move on to historical societies, local genealogical societies, small local libraries, and school or college libraries for Wyoming genealogy materials. These are items that are usually offline and viewable by appointment or special arrangement

Best Sources for Wyoming Genealogy Information and Materials – These are the resources that can direct you to the information most needed for Wyoming genealogy research:

  • Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Vital Statistics Services, Hathaway Building, Cheyenne, WY 82002;
    Website: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w/wyoming.htm.
    This is location from which you may order birth, death, marriage and divorce records via a written request or even through an online form.

Additional state and local records can be found at the:

  • Wyoming State Archives, Barrett Building, 2301 Central Avenue, Cheyenne, WY 82002;
    Website: http://wyoarchives.state.wy.us/

Also, consider using the incredible resources at the Wyoming State Historical Society’s websit at: http://wyshs.org/

Finally, these three websites give researchers a tremendous amount of state-specific details for those in search for Wyoming genealogy data.

Wyoming Ethnic Group Research

Native Ameicans – At the time that the 1900 federal census was taken, it showed that each of these tribes was living in Wyoming: Arapaho, Cheyenne, Cree, Gros Ventre, Menominee, Sioux, Ute, Ute Southern.

In 1870, the Wind River Agency was started. It presided over the Bannock and Shoshone tribes. Then, in 1887, a few Red Cloud Agency Cheyenne and several northern Arapaho tribe members joined the Wind River Agency. Records that still exist for that agency cover the years of 1873 to 1952. They include: Sent and Received Letters, Decimal Files, Land and School Records, Censuses, Indian Photographs.

The FHL and the National Archives-Rocky Mountain Region, which is located in Denver, each have those records on file.

The Chemawa, Oregon Chemawa Indian School and the Cascade County, Wyoming Fort Shaw School records should each be consulted by researchers interested in Wyoming Native American ancestors. Both schools had students from multiple states, including Wyoming.

The “Major James McLaughlin Papers” is a very important collection of Wyoming Territory Native American historical records, which researchers should definitely consult.

Other Ethic Groups – Although some of the Germans who settled in Wyoming actually came from Germany, others were Russian-German immigrants. Both groups began migrating to the west in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Several of them had settled in states other than Wyoming, but moved to Wyoming eventually. As of 1870, German immigrants made up around 31% of Wyoming Territory’s foreign-born immigrants. Several Germans elected to stay in Wyoming permanently because of the railroad or the cattle industry.

Lovell and Worland became home to large numbers of Russian-German immigrants in 1915 and 1916. Soon after that, Wyoming’s sugar beet industry began to take off. However, Goshen County had the largest group of Russian-German immigrants, who had come to the area from Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

Some of the early German settlers in Wyoming were German Jews. In fact, Temple Emmanuel was constructed in Cheyenne for the large number of Jews who had come to Wyoming by 1888, when the temple was founded. The community of Huntley, which was formed in 1906, was also home to a large group of Jews. They had originally come from Romania. However, that group no longer existed in Huntley, as of the 1920s.

At one point in time, there was a significant group of Italians living in Wyoming. They arrived at the end of the 1900s and in the beginning of the 1900s. Many of them were miners, who came to the area between 1890 and 1910. In fact, 7.7% of the foreign-born population of Wyoming was Italian, as of 1910. The majority (about 60%) of Wyoming Italians were living in the following counties, as of 1920: Sweetwater, Uinta, Laramie.

Many of them originally came from the Italian provinces of Tuscany, Piedmont, and Lombardy.

The Wyoming sheep industry was largely developed by the state’s Basque population. Many of them settled in the Buffalo area, in Johnson County, establishing that community by 1902. The early Basque settlers also had a large influence on Sweetwater County. The French Basque settlers and the Spanish Basque settlers were largely brought together by the Catholic Church. A traveling priest served both cultures.

Wyoming was home to a large number of Balkan immigrants from areas that are now known as: Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia.

Many of them had heard about job openings in the mines of Wyoming. Many Jews from eastern Europe settled in the eastern part of the United States before eventually moving westward and settling in Wyoming. Some of them made a large profit from their real estate in Sheridan County, near the coal mines.

The largest amounts of eastern European settlers who came to Wyoming settled near Sheridan, Rock Springs, Lander, or Riverton. Many of them came to the area from 1910 to 1920. They were primarily Orthodox or Roman Catholic. In fact, almost every Wyoming mining colony was home to a Roman Catholic Church. Although, some of them did not have full-time priests. However, not all mining colonies had Orthodox churches.

Around 1900, Cheyenne became home to the first Greek residents to permanently settle in Wyoming. Several of them started businesses in the area, while others worked for the railroad. The Greek community centered around Cheyenne’s Greek Orthodox Church of Saints Constantine and Helen. It was started in 1922. Before that, Cheyenne was home to two Greek Orthodox churches, Saints Constantine and Helen and Holy Trinity.

The Rock Springs and Hartville-Sunrise mines drew several Greeks to Wyoming. An Orthodox church was founded in Rock Springs, but it also served the Serbian, Slavic, Romanian, Dalmatian, Bulgarian, Montenegrin, and Russian Orthodox residents of the area, not just the Greeks. Meanwhile, the priest from Cheyenne’s Church of Saints Constantine and Helen served Greeks living in Casper, Wyoming as well for several years.

Wyoming became home to several Chinese laborers, when the Union Pacific Railroad came to the area. That was beginning in 1875 in the Rock Springs area. The Chinese people worked for both the railroad itself and its coal contractors. The white Americans and several other groups did not like the Chinese people at all and persecuted them mercilessly. In fact, Wyoming was plagued by a trend of violence towards the Chinese, in 1885. Several other areas in the northwestern United States saw the ramifications of that violence also.

In 1885, white railroad works went on strike, prompting the railroad to hire workers from many different races, including workers from China. In fact, about two-thirds of the railroad’s work force around that time was Chinese. The other third was white. All workers were paid the same amount, regardless of race.

28 Chinese workers were killed and 15 were wounded in a coal miners’ union massacre that took place on September 2, 1885. The union worker mobs drove several hundred people out of Chinatown in Rock Springs, destroying the entire settlement. Subsequent violent acts against the Chinese people took place in Montana, Oregon, and the state of Washington. Federal troops escorted the Chinese people of Rock Springs back to that settlement, but they eventually wound up leaving the state entirely. The 1885 Rock Springs massacre is often referred to as Wyoming’s most disgraceful historical event. Many documents relating to the massacre and the Chinese population, in general, can be found at the Wyoming State Archives.

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