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Montana: Local History & Genealogy Resource Guide

Courthouse Records

County level research is essential in the pursuit of family and local history. The list below highlights the most common county courthouse records used by genealogists, but there are many more record sets available. Use the guides below and explore the specific resources for the counties of interest to assure that you locate all pertinent documents.

When requesting courthouse records, inquire about both docket books and paper files. Often both types of material exist for each record. While the two formats may merely repeat the data, one may be easier to read than the other. And, in many cases, there are further details, unique notations, over-sized pages such as maps, and so on, that are filed in only the docket book or in only the paper file. Seeing both will provide a more complete review of the record.

Timeline for County Courthouse Records

Birth Records

See the Vital Records section of this guide.

Civil Lawsuits
  • Generally maintained by: Clerk of District Courts
Coroner's Inquests
  • Generally maintained by: Coroner

Note: The County Attorney assists the coroner in conducting an inquest before a jury. Inquests identify the decedent, cause of death, and those who may be culpable. All deaths that occur while the decedent is in custody must be investigated.

Criminal Court
  • Generally maintained by: Clerk of District Courts
Death Records See the Vital Records section of this guide.
  • Generally maintained by: Clerk and Recorder’s Office
Divorce Records See the Vital Records section of this guide.
Marriage Records See the Vital Records section of this guide.
  • Generally maintained by: Clerk of District Courts

Note: Naturalizations from District Court records may be available in Microform at the Montana Historical Society External or through interlibrary loan.

  • Generally maintained by: Treasurer
Will and Probate
  • Generally maintained by: Clerk of District Courts

Online Resources for Courthouse Records

The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

Using Ancestry Library Edition for Montana

Begin your search through Ancestry's vast collections, by viewing the list designated as Montana records External.

Using FamilySearch for Montana

FamilySearch provides useful state and county wikis that make excellent starting points for research. The Montana Wiki External includes links to each of its counties.

FamilySearch has digitized many of its microfilms containing county courthouse records. Not all records have been indexed yet, so search engine results may NOT show you the full range of FamilySearch data. You must browse the FamilySearch catalog External listings for each county to view the full set of records available. The vast amount of accessible original records is well worth your time to explore.

There is no fee to use FamilySearch, but you must create a free, personal account to access the databases and digital records.

Published Courthouse Records

Below are selected print publications for statewide courthouse records. The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

To locate additional published materials, go to the Print Resources section of this guide for search tips on locating published county courthouse records, abstracts, and indexes that may aide you in locating original records at the county level.