Scale the highest peaks for your family history research in Denver.
A gold rush brought settlers to the foothills of the Rockies in 1859, and as more gold was discovered, Denver became a booming town. Now a major metropolis with a population larger than Wyoming’s, the Mile High City houses many family history resources for those with Western ancestry.
If you’re ready to hit the genealogical slopes, your first peak will be the National Archives and Records Administration Rocky Mountain Region (West Sixth Avenue and Kipling Street, Building 48, 303-236-0817, <www.nara.gov/regional/denver.html>). Besides its collection of all US censuses and indexes from 1790 to 1920, this NARA facility has Revolutionary War records, pension and bounty land warrant applications, Indian censuses, Utah polygamy prosecution case files and Colorado naturalizations. Archival holdings here date back to 1860, and come from Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Its microfilmed records are related to the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and Reconstruction, Native American-government relations, westward expansion and World War II.
Prior to your visit, download the Guide to Archival Holdings at NARA’s Rocky Mountain Region (Denver) at <www.nara.gov/regional/findaids/dengdtoc.html>. The microfilm research area is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30 a.m. to 8:45 p.m., and on the first and third Saturdays of each month from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. In the spring, this room will be moving to the building behind the current facility to accommodate the flood of 1930 census researchers, offering more space and microfilm readers. The facility is about 7 miles west of downtown Denver and about 35 miles west-southwest of the Denver International Airport. As at all NARA regional facilities, you’ll need a researcher identification card, which you can get upon arrival.
Is your focus on the state of Colorado? Visit both the Colorado Division of State Archives and Public Records and the Colorado Historical Society. The state archives (1313 Sherman St., 303-866-2358, <www.archives.state.co.us/geneal.html>) hold all kinds of Colorado records: vital, court and judicial system, legislative history, business incorporation, corrections, military, school and census. They include the statewide marriage and divorce index (1890-1939; 1975-2001); birth and death records before 1901; naturalization records; the 1885 Colorado state census; teacher lists and school pupil census lists for many counties; Colorado veterans’ grave registrations (1862-1949); and city directories (1866-1975). The archives are located one block south of the state Capitol building in Denver, and the research room is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
At the historical society (1300 Broadway, 303-866-3682, <www.coloradohistory.org>), you’ll gain access to the Stephen H. Hart Library, one of the West’s most comprehensive history libraries. Tap its vast collections of books, maps, architectural drawings, private and business correspondence, family albums, photographic prints, magazines and newspapers. The photograph collection is nothing to sneeze at, either: 600,000 historic images of Colorado’s people, industries, agriculture and communities. You can view a small portion of them at <gowest.coalliance.org>. Once you get there and find a photo you’d like to have, an on-site imaging studio provides high-quality photographic prints and scans of society images and artifacts. The library is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is located on the second floor of the Colorado History Museum.
Across the street is the Denver Public Library, where you can explore the western history and genealogy department (10 W. 14th Ave. Parkway, 720-865-1111, <www.denver.lib.co.us>). This department offers books, manuscripts, artifacts and photographs. The central library is also the region’s only federal deposit library, containing 2.3 million documents. It’s open Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. The library is located on the southern edge of Civic Center Park.
Denver professional genealogist Joe Beine also recommends the nearby Clerk and Recorder’s Office (1437 Bannock St., 720-865-8400, <www.denvergov.org/Clerk_and_Recorder>), where you can do real-estate and property research. This office is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is located in the Denver City & County Building.
As for where to stay, there are plenty of downtown hotels: Courtyard by Marriott (934 16th St., 303-571-1114), Adam’s Mark (1550 Court Place, 800-444-2326), Cambridge Club Hotel (1560 Sherman St., 800-877-1252) and Oxford Hotel (1600 17th St., 800-228-5838). Denver’s most historic hotel is the 1892 Brown Palace (321 17th St., 303-297-3111), whose guests have ranged from Teddy Roosevelt to the Beatles. Refuel at one of the many local restaurants and breweries, such as: Hotcakes — American (1400 E. 18th Ave., 303-830-1090); Gallagher’s Steak House continental (1060 15th St., 303-825-6555); and Wazee Supper Club — American (1600 15th St., 303-623-9518).
Besides its genealogical collections, the city offers many museums and heritage sites to explore between research stops. The Black American West Museum & Heritage Center (3901 California, 303-292-2566, <www.coax.net/people/lwf/bawmus.htm>) tells the forgotten story of African-Americans who worked as cowboys in the Old West through photographs, personal artifacts, clothing and oral histories. Buffalo Bill Crave & Museum (top of Lookout Mountain, exit 256 from I-70, 303-526-0747, <www.buffalobill.org>) celebrates the life of Buffalo Bill Cody, from his days as a Pony Express rider and buffalo hunter to world-renowned showman. At the Colorado Railroad Museum (17155 W. 44th Ave., 800-365-6263, <www.crrm.org>), you can relive the days when 2,000 miles of narrow-gauge railroad snaked through Colorado’s mountains in a replica of an 1880-style depot, with exhibits featuring 50,000 artifacts and photos. If you have Latinos in your family history, check out the Museo de las Americas (861 Sante Fe Drive, 303-571-4401, <www.museo.org>), which focuses on the art, history and culture of Latinos in the Americas from ancient times to the present.
– Susan Wenner
• Idaho Resources at RootsWeb
<resources.rootsweb.com/USA/ID>: Archived messages, queries, message boards.
• Vital Records Information — Idaho
<vitalrec.com/id.html>: Get birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.
Museum Comes to Life at the Idaho Historical Museum
This family event takes visitors back to pioneer days.
• Montana State Genealogical Society
Box 476 Chester, MT 59522 <www.rootsweb.com/~mtmsgs>: Lists of surnames and researchers.
• Montana Historical Society
225 N. Roberts Helena, MT 59620 <his.state.mt.us>: The oldest historical organization in the West is the official state archives, and features a library, museum and publications.
• “Along the Continental Divide: Research in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming” lecture by Blaine Bake (Audiotapes.com, $8.50)
• Montana Atlas and Gazetteer (DeLorme, $19.95)
• Montana Census Links
<censuslinks.com/Montana>: Online census transcriptions.
• Montana Genealogy
<freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~helper/montana.htm>: Links to Montana resources, historical atlas.
• Montana GenWeb Project
<www.rootsweb.com/~mtgenweb>: Photo archives, online newspapers and queries, plus access to resources for Montana counties.
• Montana Mailing Lists
<www.rootsweb.com/~jfuller/gen_mail_states-mt.html>: Join lists to discuss Montana state or county genealogy.
• Montana Obituary Links
<geocities.com/~cribbswh/obit/mt.htm>: Online newspaper listings.
• Montana Resources at RootsWeb
<resources.rootsweb.com/USA/MT>: Find your family in Montana-related personal Web pages and search for primary records.
• Mountain Men and the Fur Trade
<xmission.com/~drudy/amm.html>: Links to diaries, narratives and letters.
• Vital Records Information — Montana
<vitalrec.com/mt.html>: Tells where to obtain copies of birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.
• Great Falls
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center
YEAR-ROUND; CLOSED MONDAY AFTER OCT. 1
Take a guided tour or explore as they did — on your own.
(406) 727-8733 <www.fs.fed.us/r1/lewisclark/lcic.htm>
• Virginia City and Nevada City
The Virginia City Players act out a 19th-century mining melodrama nightly. Also find gold panning and period buildings at these sites, between Butte and Yellowstone.
(800) 829-2969 <www.virginiacity.com>
First mostly extant federal census: 1870
Statewide birth, death and marriage records begin: 1907
First mostly extant federal census: 1870
Statewide birth and death records begin: 1911
Statewide marriage records begin: 1947
First mostly extant federal census: 1900
Statewide birth and death records begin: 1907
Statewide marriage records begin: 1943
First mostly extant federal census: 1850
Statewide birth and death records begin: 1905
Statewide marriage records begin: 1887
First mostly extant federal census: 1870
Statewide birth and death records begin: 1909
Statewide marriage records begin: 1941
If you can go only one place to research your roots, make it Salt Lake City. Here’s how to get the most out of your visit.
When Brigham Young founded Salt Lake City in 1847, he decided that this oasis between the Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake would be the “New Jerusalem.” Today, more than 150 years and more than 1 million people later, the booming metropolis of Salt Lake City draws the faithful much as Young envisioned.
Salt Lake City is a mecca for family historians, too. Tens of thousands make a pilgrimage there every year. The Family History Library on Temple Square in the heart of the city houses the world’s largest genealogical research collection (35 N. West Temple St., 801-240-2331 or 800-453-3860 Ext. 22331, <www.familysearch.org>; open Monday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.). Odds are excellent that records in the Family History Library (FHL) include some of your ancestors.
The library’s collection encompasses more than 2.5 million rolls of microfilmed records, 745,000 microfiche and 300,000 books, plus indexes and electronic resources. You’ll find row after row of self-service microfilm, microfiche and books at your fingertips. These contain church, birth, marriage, death, tax, land, probate, passenger arrival and departure, census and other records. The collection of family histories and locality histories in microform and in books is also extensive.
The collection covers the United States and many other countries. Of course, you have a branch of this fabulous library right in your own backyard — your local Family History Center, where you can borrow most of the Salt Lake City library’s microfilm resources. (For more on Family History Centers, see the April 2000 issue of Family Tree Magazine.) And ever more of the library’s riches are going online at <www.familysearch.org>, where you can peruse them in your pajamas. So why would you want to go all the way to Salt Lake City?
With proper preparation, you can accomplish in a week in Salt Lake City what might take a year of research visits to your Family History Center. You can move from the indexes to the deed, census or probate records without waiting. You can browse books that contain cemetery transcriptions, will abstracts, genealogical society publications, county histories, surname directories, research guides and more. All researchers are welcome, free of charge.
When planning your trip, make your hotel or motel reservations well in advance. Salt Lake City is a popular destination surrounded by many sports and culture venues. Nearby accommodations include Best Western Salt Lake Plaza Hotel (122 W. South Temple St., 800-366-3684), Carlton Hotel (140 E. South Temple St., 800-633-3500) and Crystal Inn (230 W. 500 South, 800-366-4466).
When you arrive depends on the schedule you want to use. Some people prefer to arrive midweek and have a break for reorganization on Sunday when the library is closed; midweek airfares are also generally cheaper. Others prefer a Sunday to Sunday trip, traveling on the day the library is closed. Mornings and evenings are the less busy times in the library.
If this is your first visit to the library, start by giving yourself a tour of the four research floors. Locate the reference counter, reference book area, attendant’s window, film cabinets, copy center, rest rooms, telephones and elevators. Browse the books and binders in the general reference areas. Do a similar tour on subsequent trips to reacquaint yourself with the layout and with changes.
Each of the library’s research floors has computers with the FamilySearch system and a self-service copy center for copying from books and microforms. A general reference area on each floor features frequently used map guides, address lists, indexes, lists of film numbers for selected records, how-to guides and more. Many of these excellent resources are in-house guides not available elsewhere.
You should have family group sheets and ancestor charts ready to refer to. Previous research or at least good family clues are necessary for the correct localities to search, since the FHL’s records are largely locality-based. An alphabetized surname list and a chronological timeline are timesaving tools.
Also, review FamilySearch online before your trip. The online FHL catalog at <www.familysearch.org> will give you the call numbers for items to check at the library upon arrival and will aid in determining what information to bring along. If you find there are few records microfilmed for one ancestral locality, you may need an alternate research plan. Do check the International Genealogical Index (IGI) and Ancestral File for clues. If you find family connections via the IGI or Ancestral File, the library is the perfect place to check the validity or to expand those clues.
Some lesser-used microfilms are in off-site storage. There is no publicly available comprehensive list of these off-site films, though eventually the online catalog may indicate which films must be ordered. To obtain these films, you place an order on the appropriate floor at the library attendant window. Some films will be available the same day; others may take longer. Check early in your trip for your most important films to see if they aren’t in the cabinet and need to be ordered. If a film isn’t in the drawer, someone may be using it, or it may be out for repair or reboxing. The helpful staff at the window will be able to check the status using the call number you’ve gleaned from the catalog.
Throughout the library you’ll find free and low-cost informational brochures on a variety of topics including the IGI, Ancestral File, Hamburg Passenger Lists, Social Security Death Index, Library Catalog and Research Outlines about genealogy in each US state, Canadian provinces and many foreign countries. These may also be viewed or ordered online via FamilySearch. Researchers may bring briefcases, laptops, pens, staplers, notebooks and other supplies into the library. An electronic security system makes sure no one removes library material. Occasionally, bags and briefcases are checked as patrons depart the building.
Family histories in book form are now a block away on the fourth floor of the historic Joseph Smith Memorial Building (JSMB). Family histories in microform remain in the library. In addition, the JSMB houses the FamilySearch Center with more than 180 computer workstations and individual laser printers.
You’ll also find a duplicate set of the 1920 US census. A collection of family group records is found in more than 20,000 binders. The Garden Restaurant and The Roof Restaurant are in the JSMB. Note that the JSMB is open on Monday evenings when the library is closed.
Within two blocks of the library are two enclosed shopping malls with many of the stores and services any traveler or shopper might need.
Much of the downtown area is a free-fare zone for buses and for light rail, which runs one block from the library all the way south to Sandy, Utah. There are motels and restaurants near some rail stations. Bus lines radiate out from the light rail, and taxicabs are usually found at the stations.
Salt Lake City’s street numbering system is easy to use once you understand it. Most street names indicate how far north, south, east or west the streets are located from Temple Square, which is the heart of the system. Thus, the street 400 South lies four blocks south of Temple Square. It runs east to west.
Some hotels offer shuttle service between the airport and hotel; commercial shuttle services are also available. Parking is available at area hotels, the malls and at surface parking lots within a few blocks of the library. The city blocks are longer and the streets wider than in most cities. Temple Square, across from the library, has flowers in bloom much of the year and is a peaceful place to walk.
Within two blocks of the library are a convenience store, a small grocery, two drugstores with food and stationery supplies, and movie theaters. A short cab ride away are office-supply stores, a full-service grocery store and many restaurants.
After a long day of searching the library, you’ll be hungry. Some nearby restaurants you might want to try are Carriage Court Restaurant (71 W. South Temple St., 801-536-7200), City Creek Bar and Grill (215 W. South Temple St., 801-521-7800) and Dee’s (143 W. North Temple St., 801-359-4414).
Your non-genealogist traveling companions won’t lack for activities in Salt Lake City. The area is filled with places to ski, golf courses, professional sporting events, movie theaters, shopping malls, museums, symphony performances, parks and live theater. Just two hours away are several casinos in Wendover, Nev. Your companions might scout out the specialty restaurants, brewpubs, the zoo, the water park and other places to visit together after your day at the library. Be sure to take in a performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Sunday morning at Temple Square.
The Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau is a good contact <www.saltlake.org> for information on the city, hotels, museums, events and restaurants. The Insider’s Guide to Salt Lake City <www.insiders.com/salt-lake> is also a helpful travel resource.
– Paula Stuart Warren and James W. Warren
• Utah Genealogical Association
Box 1144 Salt Lake City, UT 84110 <infouga.org>: Pioneer certificates, newsletter, journal.
• Utah State Historical Society
300 Rio Grande Salt Lake City, UT 84101 <history.utah.org>: Holdings include newspapers, periodicals, telephone directories.
• Going to Salt Lake City to Do Family History Research by J. Carlyle Parker (Marietta Publishing Co., $15.95)
• Your Guide to the Family History Library
by James W. Warren and Paula Stuart Warren (Betterway Books, $18.99)
• Tracing Mormon Pioneers
<xmission.com/~nelsonb/pioneer.htm>: Step-by-step guide to tracing Mormons traveling to Utah from 1847 to 1868.
• Utah GenWeb Project
<lofthouse.com/utgenweb>: Links to county resources.
• Utah Genealogy Books
<bigtreebooks.com/search.asp?state=Utah>: Purchase Utah CD-ROMs and books.
• Utah Genealogy Links
<genealogylinks.net/usa/ut.htm>: Links to online census, military and cemetery records.
• Utah Mailing Lists
<www.rootsweb.com/~jfuller/gen_mail_states-ut.html>: Special-interest, state and county lists.
• Utah’s Online Library
<pioneer.lib.ut.us>: Utah links, references, government information, virtual libraries and more.
• Utah Resources at RootsWeb
<resources.rootsweb.com/USA/UT>: Queries, message boards, mailing lists and RootsWeb search engines.
• Vital Records Information — Utah
<vitalrec.com/ut.html>: Where to obtain copies of birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.
• Salt Lake City
Days of’ 47
This date commemorates the 1847 arrival of Mormon pioneers. Events feature a rodeo and parade, and pioneer activities are held in surrounding rural communities.
Festival of the American West
JULY 29-AUG. 3
Events celebrate late-1800s pioneer and Native American cultures. Sponsored by the American West Heritage Center.
(800) 225-3378 <www.americanwestcenter.org>
• Cheyenne Genealogical Society
Laramie County Central Library 2800 Central Ave. Cheyenne, WY 82001 <www.wyomingweb.net/genealogy>: Online discussion group, Laramie County obituary and marriage indexes.
• Wyoming State Historical Society
PMB#184 1740H Dell Range Blvd. Cheyenne, WY 82009 <www.wyshs.org>: Links to Wyoming historical sites and history resources.
• “Along the Continental Divide: Research in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming” lecture by Blaine Bake (Audiotapes.com, $8.50)
• Cemeteries of Wyoming
<interment.net/us/wy>: Links to local cemetery sites.
• Vital Records Information — Wyoming
<vitalrec.com/wy.html>: Where to obtain copies of birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees.
• Wyoming GenWeb Project
<www.rootsweb.com/~wygenweb>: FAQs of Wyoming research, links to county resources.
• Wyoming Mailing Lists
<www.rootsweb.com/~jfuller/gen_mail_states-wy.html>: Special-interest, state and county lists.
• Wyoming Obituary Links
<geocities.com/~cribbswh/obit/wy.htm>: Links to obituary transcriptions from across the state.
• Wyoming Resources at RootsWeb
<resources.rootsweb.com/USA/WY>: Personal Web sites, queries, archives.
Cheyenne Frontier Days
The festival attracts more than 300,000 to one of the largest rodeos and celebrations of frontier heritage.