Was your ancestor a prospector? If they staked a mining claim in Salt Lake County, Utah 1863-1920 or 1976-2000, you are in luck. But even if they never set foot in Utah, this collection could benefit your research. The Salt Lake County Archives has just digitized a huge collection of mining records for the mining districts located within its boundaries. It includes
Assessment Rolls, Index to Mining Claims, 1897-1938
Index to Mining Abstracts, books A-F
Index to Mining Deed Record, book Q
Index to Mortgage Record Mining Properties, Book A
Mining Claims, Index to Agreements, Book C; Power of Attorney
Mining Claims, Index to Mining Location Notices, books E-F
Mining Claims, Index to Patented Mines, 1898
State Assessments Book B, 1977
Even if your ancestor did not mine in Salt Lake County, this collection has something for you. Take a look at the titles of the records in this collection. Did you realize these kinds of mining records existed? Do you know what kinds of mining records exist in the county where your ancestors prospected? These titles can give you some ideas for keyword searches on county and state archive sites, or in your favorite search engine.
The Salt Lake County Archives has posted an excellent guide to their collection which is also a very good overview of mining records in general. Much of it appears to have been taken from the Utah State Archives “Mining Claims“ guide. I highly recommend reading these documents to educate yourself on the ways federal mining laws impacted state and county laws and requirements.
And if your ancestor was a Utah prospector from someplace other than Salt Lake County, be sure to check out the list of Utah mining records for other counties which were processed and are housed at the Utah State Archives. These are records which are in microfilm format. Be sure to make note of the Finding Aids associated with each county’s collection.
Settlers had a variety of “pushes” or “pulls” that influenced them to hitch up a wagon and make the trek Out West. The 1800s was a time of unprecedented territorial growth for America, and the native peoples of the West saw an influx of settlers of every kind.
Frontier forts gave some soldiers their first glimpse of the region and they decided to settle there after their service was finished. Trappers and traders followed native trails and established trading posts utilized by other migrating groups. The Homestead Act, the end of the Civil War, and the transcontinental railroad brought waves of families looking for opportunity. Foreign countries sent colonists to stake claims in the West, and religious groups sought refuge in the region.
A lesser-known influence on the settlement of the West as a whole was the mining industry. Most people are aware of the California Gold Rush, and some may know about the Nevada Comstock Lode, but how many of these other mineral strikes are you familiar with?
1850 Queen Charlotte, B.C.
1850 Northern Nevada
1856-1858 Arizona (silver)
1858-1961 British Columbia
1858 Cherry Creek (Denver)
1859 Pike’s Peak, Colorado
1859 Virginia City, Nevada
1863 Black Hills, Montana
1860s/1870s East. Oregon
1870’s Leadville, Colorado
1870’s – 1880’s Arizona
1890’s Silver at Creede Gold at Cripple Creek, Colorado
Mining influenced the creation of territories and states, and here’s how:
The discovery of gold, silver, copper, lead, etc. was broadcast through word of mouth or newspapers.
Miners flooded into an area
Temporary mining communities sprang up, and sometimes mining companies were created.
These settlements preceded any form of government, and they were rough places. There were mostly men, and the diversions that came along with that—saloons and brothels and such. Add to that sudden wealth in some cases and frustration in others, and the potential for crime was high. It was every man for himself, and sometimes the mining companies were the closest thing to government for solving grievances.
Military was dispatched to the area to help keep order, and then when enough people were in an area they started to want official government for protection and adjudication of problems.
Territorial governments followed along with a Court system.
More people moved into the area once territories were created.
When enough people settled in a territory a state was created.
Was your ancestor a miner? Where can you find records for him? It varies by state and county—there are no hard and fast rules. Here are a few places you might look:
Look for mining claims in deed records in county courthouses
Look for mining claims on the glorecords.blm.gov website (Bureau of Land Management)
State archives often have records of mining companies, mining districts, and mining accidents
Newspapers can be a resource for mining records, especially specialized mining newspapers
Some states have mining departments with knowledgeable personnel, indexes, and maps
Mining museums have been established in many areas, and often have libraries