Posted in Research tips, State records, Territorial records

When was it a territory? When was it a state?

Mountain West FB

Here is a reference table to help you see at a glance when each state in the Mountain West was first a territory and then a state. I have also added a column for history which gives some key dates in each state’s history.  Feel free to copy this table for your own use.

After you have pinpointed where your ancestor was living, working, or passing through at a given time, it is important to find out what country/state/ territory/county had jurisdiction in that locality on that date. That will tell you where the records can be found—or at least who was creating the records. You may be surprised to find that Arizona ancestor in New Mexico territorial records, or that Nevada ancestor in Utah territorial records. And Colorado ancestors?  Take your pick of Nebraska, Kansas, Utah, or New Mexico territories…

Stay tuned for some advice on where to look for the records, especially territorial records—an important record group for research in any western state.  Click on the map link in the menu bar to access map resources which will be helpful in determining boundaries and jurisdictions.

Posted in American State Papers, Archives and Libraries, Books, Family History Library, National Archives, Research tips, Territorial records, U.S. Serial Set

On the Trail of Territorial Records

The early U.S. Territorial Period was 1821-1845, but the eventual Territorial Period lasted until 1912, when Arizona and New Mexico were admitted as states.

Where can you find territorial records?

I would suggest searching the online catalogs for these types of repositories, using the search term “territorial papers.”

  1. State archives and libraries 
  2. National Archives Regional Branches
  3. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  Do a “keyword” search for “territorial papers” in the FamilySearch online catalog.
  4. State level genealogical and historical societies
  5. University Special Collections in the state you are researching
  6. Territorial records can also be found on the county level sometimes

Here is a quick guide and links to the territorial papers available at the Family History Library:

  • State Department territorial papers, Arizona, 1864-1872, FHL film 1580035
  • State Department territorial papers: Colorado series, FHL film 1464017
  • Territorial papers, Idaho, 1863-1872 FHL film 1580038
  • Territorial papers of Montana, 1864-1872, FHL films 1602228 -9
  • State department territorial papers, Nevada, 1861-1864 FHL film 1491200
  • State department territorial papers: New Mexico, 1851-1972, FHL films 1580030-33
  • State Department territorial papers, Utah series, FHL film 491567
  • Interior Department territorial papers, Utah, 1850-1902, FHL films 1602234 -9
  • Territorial papers of Wyoming, 1868-1873, FHL film 1602230

Here are some published finding aids for territorial records:

Kvasnicka, Robert M. The Trans-Mississippi West, 1804-1912: A Guide to Federal Records for the Territorial Period, pts. I-IV (Washington, District of Columbia : National Archives and Records Administration, c1993-1996).

Chiorazzi, Michael.  Pre-Statehood Legal Materials: A Fifty-State Research Guide, including New York City and the District of Columbia,  2 volumes (New York : The Haworth Information Press, 2005).

Some other good resources are:

United States, The public statutes at large of the United States of America / by authority of Congress (Boston : Little, Brown, n.d.)

United States. Congress. House and Senate Documents and Reports, United States Congressional Serial Set  (Washington : U.S. G.P.O., n.d.).

United States. Congress, American State Papers, 38 vol (Buffalo, N. Y. : W.S. Hein, 1998)

Posted in American State Papers, Archives and Libraries, Books, Family History Library, National Archives, Research tips, Territorial records, U.S. Serial Set

On the Trail of Territorial Records

The early U.S. Territorial Period was 1821-1845, but the eventual Territorial Period lasted until 1912, when Arizona and New Mexico were admitted as states.

Where can you find territorial records?

I would suggest searching the online catalogs for these types of repositories, using the search term “territorial papers.”

  1. State archives and libraries 
  2. National Archives Regional Branches
  3. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  Do a “keyword” search for “territorial papers” in the FamilySearch online catalog.
  4. State level genealogical and historical societies
  5. University Special Collections in the state you are researching
  6. Territorial records can also be found on the county level sometimes

Here is a quick guide and links to the territorial papers available at the Family History Library:

  • State Department territorial papers, Arizona, 1864-1872, FHL film 1580035
  • State Department territorial papers: Colorado series, FHL film 1464017
  • Territorial papers, Idaho, 1863-1872 FHL film 1580038
  • Territorial papers of Montana, 1864-1872, FHL films 1602228 -9
  • State department territorial papers, Nevada, 1861-1864 FHL film 1491200
  • State department territorial papers: New Mexico, 1851-1972, FHL films 1580030-33
  • State Department territorial papers, Utah series, FHL film 491567
  • Interior Department territorial papers, Utah, 1850-1902, FHL films 1602234 -9
  • Territorial papers of Wyoming, 1868-1873, FHL film 1602230

Here are some published finding aids for territorial records:

Kvasnicka, Robert M. The Trans-Mississippi West, 1804-1912: A Guide to Federal Records for the Territorial Period, pts. I-IV (Washington, District of Columbia : National Archives and Records Administration, c1993-1996).

Chiorazzi, Michael.  Pre-Statehood Legal Materials: A Fifty-State Research Guide, including New York City and the District of Columbia,  2 volumes (New York : The Haworth Information Press, 2005).

Some other good resources are:

United States, The public statutes at large of the United States of America / by authority of Congress (Boston : Little, Brown, n.d.)

United States. Congress. House and Senate Documents and Reports, United States Congressional Serial Set  (Washington : U.S. G.P.O., n.d.).

United States. Congress, American State Papers, 38 vol (Buffalo, N. Y. : W.S. Hein, 1998)

Posted in Maps, Territorial records

Yes, Texas extended all the way to Wyoming

We like to think of our states as we know them now—like, Texas has a panhandle and Las Vegas is in Nevada—not Utah, and Oregon stays on its side of the Snake River.  But any good Western States researcher knows about the past territorial lives of the states along the Rocky Mountain corridor.  In 1850 it was all about Texas, and the territories of Oregon and Utah…

Map of U.S. Territorial Growth (1850) from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection. This image can be found at [http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/united_states/us_terr_1850]
And by 1860 the area was part of five territories—Washington, Nebraska, Kansas, Utah, and New Mexico:

Map of U.S. Territorial Growth (1860), cropped, from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection. This image can be found at [http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/united_states/us_terr_1860]

By 1870 what we now know as the Western States had taken their familiar shape, and those along the Rockies were officially territories in their own right:

Map of U.S. Territorial Growth (1870) from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection. This image can be found at [http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/united_states/us_terr_1870]
By 1900 all the Western States had achieved statehood but New Mexico and Arizona, who were admitted to the Union in 1912:

Map of U.S. Territorial Growth (1900), cropped, from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection. This image can be found at [http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/united_states/us_terr_1900]
Where did your ancestors settle in the West? Make a timeline of their activities and movements and plan to search some Territorial Records.  Help in that area will be posted next time.

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