I am planning a trip to the Research Center. What do I need to know?
Do you have wireless access?
Am I allowed to bring a scanner or camera?
Do you sell portable USB drives?
How can I obtain an obituary?
How can I obtain a copy of a birth, death, or marriage record?
Can you tell me when my relative died in Montana?
What census information do you have?
Is there an index to Montana newspaper articles?
I am adopted. Can you help me find my birth parents?
Do you have a record of my family's livestock brand?
Do you have a record of my family's homestead?
Can you tell me who built my house and when it was constructed?
Do you have photos of historical buildings in my community?
How do I locate photographs of specific individuals?
During a Google search, I found a "finding aid" for a collection. What is this?
I found an old stock certificate. How do I learn more about this corporation?
Can you help me with my paper, thesis, or project?
How do I donate historical materials to the MHS?
Q: I am planning a trip to the MHS Research Center. What do I need to know?
A: First, familiarize yourself with the information at Visiting the Research Center and with our hours. Second, conduct a search of our collections. As you search, compile a list of resources you would like to view during your visit and present this list to staff when you arrive. The Montana History Compass and ArchivesWest are also helpful tools.
Q: Do you have wireless access?
A: Yes, the Research Center has free wireless access. Ask staff for assistance upon your arrival.
Q: Am I allowed to bring a scanner or camera?
A: Scanners are not allowed in the research room. You may use a phone or digital camera to capture any item (except photographs from our collections), as long as your efforts pose no risk to the materials. Consult staff upon arrival.
Q: Do you sell portable USB drives?
A: Yes, you may purchase a portable 4GB USB drive for $10.00.
Q: How can I obtain an obituary?
A: Please complete a genealogy research request, including the person's name, location and date of death. The Montana State Death Index lists deaths from 1907 through 2002.
Q: How can I obtain a copy of a birth, death, or marriage record?
A: The Research Center has marriage records for most counties; however, please consult with our staff before submitting a research request. We have birth and death records for only seven of Montana's fifty-six counties. The Department of Public Health and Human Services has all birth and death records.
Q: Can you tell me when my relative died in Montana?
A: We have cemetery records (mostly western Montana) and county histories that may help you determine date of death. Once the death date is known, we can help you locate an obituary or death notice in a Montana newspaper.
Q: What census information do you have?
A: When you visit the Research Center, you can access any U.S. census using our subscription to Ancestry.com. We also have the 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930 Federal Census on microfilm, and all are indexed. Montana has never conducted a state census, however, our library holdings include a variety of specialized census and area reports. Go to our online catalog, search for the term census, and use the filters at left to narrow your results.
Q: Is there an index to Montana newspaper articles?
A: There is no comprehensive index to the content of all Montana newspapers, however, a few newspapers have been indexed, and these indexes are available either online or in print at the Research Center. In addition, the MHS has digitized more than 700,000 pages from over 80 Montana newspapers.
Q: I am adopted; can you help me find my birth parents?
A: No, we do not have adoption records.
Q: Do you have a record of my family's livestock brand?
A: Yes, if it was recorded before 1951. We have records of brands recorded in Montana from 1873 through 1950. They are accessible either by the brand or by the name of the person to whom it was registered. These records have been digitized and are on the Montana Memory Project. If you prefer, you can conduct a brand search using microfilm in our reading room or you can submit a research request.
Q: Do you have a record of my family's homestead?
A: We do not have homestead records. Federal Land Patents can be searched through the Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office Records web site.
Q: Can you tell me who built my house and when it was constructed?
A: If you are attempting to find the architect or builder of your historic home, we won't be very helpful. Few if any communities in Montana required building permits until the 1960s. Therefore, there is no central repository for that information. We have Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for most Montana towns and a collection of city directories for major cities. However, the primary source of information on individual properties resides with the Clerk and Recorder and the Tax Assessor at the relevant county courthouse. You may also want to read the Montana State Historic Preservation Office's A Guide to Researching Your Montana Property (PDF).
Q: Do you have photos of historical buildings in my community?
A: We have photographs of many business and government buildings in towns throughout Montana. Complete a research request, providing us with the names and locations of the buildings, the types of businesses or agencies that occupied the buildings, and the approximate dates.
Q: How do I locate photographs of specific individuals?
A: It is best if you submit a research request. Include the person's name, location, occupation, and birth and death dates. It is helpful to know whether the person held public office or took part in a significant event. If we have photos of the individual, we will mail you photocopies of the images together with a form for ordering prints or digital images.
Q: During a Google search, I found a "finding aid" for a collection. What is this?
A: A finding aid is a detailed inventory of an archival collection. It describes the collection overall as well as the content of boxes and folders in the collection. To use our archival materials, visit us or submit a research request.
Q: I found an old stock certificate. How do I learn more about the corporation?
A: We hold the Montana Secretary of State Business Entity records for inactive corporations. To find the status of a specific inactive corporation, follow the instructions here. You can view the business entity file in our reading room during open hours, or you can submit a research request to obtain a copy of the file. For information on active corporations, contact the Montana Secretary of State office.
Q: Can you help me with my paper, thesis, or project?
A: The best approach is to acquaint yourself with our collections by browsing our catalog. As you search, build a list of sources and present this list when you arrive. The Montana History Wiki and the Northwest Digital Archives are also helpful for compiling a list of relevant resources. Our staff is available by phone during our open hours at 406-444-2681, or, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: How do I donate historical materials to the MHS?
A: Please see our Donating Historical Materials page.