Montana Courthouse records change extensively from county to county in both level of quality and volume. You will find different kinds of court records that are most likely to possess information related for your genealogical research below.
Montana Court Records
The state supreme court and district courts each have files containing various court records for the state of Montana. Those records can be quite valuable to researchers.
District courts are Montana’s major trial courts. They are capable of hearing divorce cases, criminal cases, naturalization cases, juvenile cases, appeals, and, since 1889, probate cases. They also handle a few other matters, including guardianship cases.
The statewide court of appeals was the supreme court. The supreme court dockets can be found on microfiche for the years of 1868 through 1983, and may be obtained from the Montana Historical Society via inter-library loan.
County clerk of the court offices also have many court records on file, which researchers should explore. See Also Research In Court Records.
- U.S. Circuit Court Criminal Case Files, 1790-1871 (search.ancestry.com)
- Montana Court Record Books (amazon.com)
Montana Land Records
Originally, there were federal land offices located in the following cities: Bozeman, Glasgow, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, Lewistown, Miles City, Missoula
However, those land offices were all closed by 1950. Today, the only federal land office in Montana is located in Billings.
All Montana land entries for the years of 1800 through 1908 are organized according to the land office, the type of land entry and the number of the certificate. However, there is no index available for names on certificates filed prior to 1908. The land description (township, range etc.) or the certificate number must be known, in order for researchers to access land entries. The County Recorder of Deeds can provide those descriptions.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website can provide information about land patents that were issued after the 1900s. The Department of the Interior has public land records on file. Some of the information that can be found in federal land records includes: Survey Plats, Field Notes, Tract Books, Register’s Returns, Case Files , Land-Entry Papers, Patent Records
The BLM Montana/Dakotas State Office, 5001 Southgate Dr., P.O. Box 36800, Billings, MT 59107 can provide records of Montana patents, tract books, and survey plats.
The National Archives has case files, land-entry papers, and patent records that were filed after 1908. Many Montana research materials can also be found in Denver and Seattle. Case files are genealogically important because the can include naturalization records, military documents, and other vital information. Each county clerk or recorder may also have subsequent land records on file. See Also Guide to U.S. Land Records Research
Montana Probate Records
Between the years of 1864 and 1889, there were probate courts in Montana. Probate courts handled marriages, adoptions, some criminal cases, some civil cases, and probate cases relating to wills and estates. The district courts took over probate functions when probate courts were abolished, in 1889. County courthouses have probate court records on file. See Also Guide to U.S. Probate Records Research
- Montana Probate Record Books (amazon.com)
Montana Tax Records
Montana property tax paperwork included a land description and the name of the property owner. Records of delinquent taxes included more information, including the amount of the penalty, the date, the interest rate, and the total amount owed. Those tax records are organized according to their ranges, townships, and section numbers. The county courthouse clerk or recorder can provide those records for the researcher. The Montana Territory Bureau of Internal Revenue (1864 to 1872) records are available on microfilm at both the FHL and the National Archives. See Also Guide to U.S. Tax Records Research
- Montana Tax Record Books (amazon.com)
Montana Immigration & Naturalization Records
Some immigrants who eventually settled in Montana came via Canada, but most originally entered the United States through New York. Canadian ports of entry and their years of establishment are: Sweetgrass – 1903, Gateway – 1908, Roosville – 1930
The FHL and the National archives each have Seattle passenger lists and Montana entry port records on file on microfilm. The St. Albans, Vermont District records, which do have an existing index, also contain some information regarding ports of entry in Montana.
The county district court clerks office contains information on any naturalizations that took place in that particular county. The Montana Historical Society also has several copies of naturalization records available on microfilm. See Also Guide to U.S. Immigration Records Research
Montana County & City Government Links
Montana contains 56 counties. Each county is the local level of government within its borders. Montana has two consolidated city-counties—Anaconda with Deer Lodge County and Butte with Silver Bow County.
The links in the table below link to county and city government offices and is limited to government-maintained websites. If you know of a Montana county that has an official government web site but is not linked, or if the link is in error, please contact us so we may edit our database. Montana State Government is located in Helena.