Tag Archives: Wyoming

Research in the Equality State: Wyoming Vital Records

In Wyoming, statewide vital registration was required starting in July 1909. Depending on the age of the records your are looking for, there are a couple of locations you might look for records.

  • For birth records under 100 years old and death records under 50 years old, they can be obtained at the Wyoming Department of Health. Their website indicates that birth records may be obtained by the “registrant if 18 years of age, either parent named on the certificate, lawyer representing the registrant or parent(s), or legal guardian with Court Ordered Guardianship papers.” As for death records, you must be an immediate family member, named on the certificate, a bank, a lawyer, or otherwise need to show proof of your relationship to the decedent. Marriage and Divorce records are also on file since May 1941. Prior to that, you will need to check at the county level.
  • For births older than 100 years and deaths older than 50 years you will find the records at the Wyoming State Archives. Of course, this is only back to July 1909. Prior to that, if a record was kept you might find it at the county level.
Wyoming State Archives Death Certificate Database
You request a copy from the State Archives by using the Contact Form.
My husband’s great-uncle’s death certificate from Wyoming.

And even though we didn’t request it, the Wyoming State Archives also sent his obituary! And all of it was completely free!

Obituary for George F. Furbeck from Sheridan Press, 12 November 1953, p. 2.

Of course, you will want to examine the FamilySearch catalog for the county in Wyoming that is of interest to you. Here is the catalog for Albany County marriage records:

And here is the marriage certificate for Philena Bailey, one of the sisters of Susan Bailey, our homesteader from Centennial, Wyoming from the previous blog post:

Be sure to check the county websites as well. You never know what you might find. This is the website for Laramie County (the county where Cheyenne is located, not Laramie, which is in Albany County). They have digitized their handwritten marriage index for the years prior to 1985.

A sample index page from Laramie County’s marriage index.

There are some other useful sites when looking for vital records in Wyoming beyond those listed above:

Next up, one of my favorite record sets, newspapers!

Research in the Equality State: Land

Wyoming is a big state, with big counties. The state only has 23 counties, and they are all fairly large in size.

Map from U.S. Census Bureau, 2000.

When we moved to Wyoming in 1988, we lived in Big Horn County, right up near the Montana border, in a little town called Cowley. When I went off to attend the University of Wyoming, we lived in Laramie, which is in Albany county, not Laramie County. My husband was born in Cheyenne, which IS in Laramie County… confusing, I know.

The land in Wyoming was part of the Public Land system. This was land, once obtained by the federal government was then sold by cash sale or given to settlers through various programs such as the Homestead Act. Once the land was distributed by the federal government it became the property of the individual. You can find the first disposition of the land at the Bureau of Land Management’s General Land Office website.

When you search for documents at the BLM website, you can search by the “authority” or the act by which the land was distributed.

BLM Website with a zoom in on the Authorities by which land was distributed with Homestead highlighted.

There was a female homesteader in Albany County named Susan Baily. She obtained 160 acres in two sections.

BLM website entry for Susan L. Baily in Albany County.
BLM website entry for Susan L. Baily in Albany County showing the map.

There is a great site called HistoryGeo (requires subscription) that has a “First Landowners Project” where they have pulled all of the individuals listed in the BLM database and placed them on maps beside each other. This allows you to see the neighbors, at least at the time of obtaining the land from the federal government. Looking for Susan Baily in this project showed me that several members of the Baily family obtained land near each other in Albany County.

HistoryGeo, Baily Family Entries
HistoryGeo, Baily Family Entries, Jason D. Baily is Susan’s father.

Homestead records for ten states have been digitized and are available on Ancestry: Alaska, Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, and Wyoming. At that database, I was able to locate Jason Bailey’s homestead packet.

Homestead Packet at Ancestry for Jason D. Baily

In those homestead packets you often find genealogically useful information such as “I am a Native born citizen of the United States over the age of twenty one year and the head of a family consisting of wife and three children.” And that the land “is grazing and hay land, of timber, a few trees.”

Homestead Packet at Ancestry for Jason D. Baily

Once the land is obtained by the individual, and then later sold, those transactions are handled by the counties. Many of their records have been microfilmed by FamilySearch. Or contact the county to obtain records.

I’ve created an Ancestry Family Tree for Susan Baily as I work on her project. You can view it here.

Research in the Equality State: Migration and Transportation

Wyoming may be largely made up of wide-open spaces, but there are several important migration routes and transportation events. I’m going to cover five migration routes:

  • Bozeman Trail – connected the gold rush areas of Montana to the Oregon Trail
  • Oregon Trail – from western Missouri into the Rockies and on to Oregon City
  • California Trail – from western Missouri across the Rockies into the California Gold Fields
  • Mormon Trail – from Nauvoo, Illinois to Nebraska and on to Salt Lake City and beyond to California
  • Chisholm Trail – branch that ended in Cheyenne and joined the Oregon, Mormon, or California Trails

Rivers served as migration and settlement points. The North Platte River and the Sweetwater, a long tributary of the North Platte, are part of the Mississippi river system and the water eventually reaches the Gulf of Mexico. These two rivers are along the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails. They offered important water for explorers and settlers. Wyoming is a very dry state (I could never seem to drink enough water!) It was imperative for explorers and settlers to stay near water sources.

Image by “Shannon1” permission by Creative Commons license (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:North_Platte_basin_map.png : viewed Aug 2021).

The railroad played an important role in the expansion and settlement of the state of Wyoming. The Union Pacific Railroad was vital in that it financed town-building across the state. The railroad fostered economic growth not only for itself but also for the state of Wyoming. It helped move livestock out, and other goods in to the state. When coal was discovered in southwest corner of the state, it powered the railroad while the railroad also moved coal out of the state to sell to other regions and consumers.

Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act, 1 July 1862. This act created the Union Pacific (UP), and subsidized the UP and the Central Pacific by granting 10-square mile sections of land for each mile of track laid. In 1864, the second Pacific Railway Act doubled the land grant to 20 square miles and also gave mineral rights to the railroad. The sales of this land then paid for the building of the railroad. The pounding of the Golden Spike on 10 May 1869 at Promontory Summit, Utah, connected the railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This opened trade and transportation to and from farther locations. This made Wyoming much more accessible for settlement. Transportation by train was more preferable to wagon trains.

The ceremony for the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869; completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. At center left, Samuel S. Montague, Central Pacific Railroad, shakes hands with Grenville M. Dodge, Union Pacific Railroad (center right). By Andrew J. Russell – Yale University Libraries, Public Domain.

Next we will look at land in Wyoming. There’s plenty of it… mostly filled with sheep and sagebrush.

Research in the Equality State: Background & History

I’m going to start a new series with this post, about researching in one of my favorite states: Wyoming. We moved to Wyoming from Ohio when I was 14. I went to high school and college there. I met my husband there. He was born there. And now, my daughter is about to start attending the University of Wyoming this semester. So, Wyoming is a special place for me and my family. I also created a locality guide for the state (I don’t recommend doing a guide for an entire state, but that’s another story.)

Wyoming is a state with a lot of firsts for women, giving it the title “The Equality State”:

  • Esther Hobart Morris – first female Justice of the Peace, served in South Pass City, Feb. 1870
  • Mrs. Louisa Swain, first woman to vote in the nation in Laramie, 1870
  • Estelle Reel became the first woman elected to a state office, 1894
  • Mrs. Nellie Tayloe Ross, first elected female governor in the United States, 1924
Esther Hobart Morris, first female Justice of the Peace, Library of Congress image in the Public Domain.

Most of the Wyoming’s land was acquired by the US through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Most of the southern portion of modern-day Wyoming was claimed by Spain and Mexico until the 1830s but there was no real presence by them in the area at that time. The Oregon Territory claimed a western portion. There was also a little bit that was part of Texas.

“The Territorial Acquisitions,” The National Atlas of the United States, digital image (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Territorial_Acquisitions.png)

The first known explorer to Wyoming was John Colter in 1807. Later, he was a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He first wrote about the geological features in what is now Yellowstone National Park. In 1812, South Pass was discovered by a party of men returning from Astoria, Oregon. This important route would later be used by the Oregon Trail, the Union Pacific Railroad, and eventually become Interstate 80 that runs along the south part of Wyoming from east to west.

When traveling from my home in Colorado to Salt Lake City to visit the Family History Library, I drive across I-80. There is a lot of flat nothing much out there. I often find myself wondering about those first explorers and what they must have thought about that landscape as they traveled across it. By car it takes me about 7 hours to get to Salt Lake City. It would have taken many days by horse, wagon, or walking. Plenty of time to think about life while crossing the state!

We will explore important migration and transportation routes next week.

A Much Needed Break

Island Lake, MN
Island Lake, MN

I recently returned from a two week vacation. My family and I had the pleasure of spending a week on a lake with my husband’s folks. It was beautiful. The weather was great! Not too hot, not too cool. Of course there were the mosquitoes but when we were on the boat (which was a large part of the time) they didn’t bother us. I turned off my cell phone, there was no internet and no cable TV, and it was glorious! I felt little to no stress or worry the entire week.

Fishing isn’t something I just go do. I will fish when the opportunity arises however, and I kept up with the “boys” and caught my fair share. We had a big fish fry one night and ate a lot of our catch. I was not involved at all in the cleaning of the fish (nor in the unhooking of them for that matter), I left

Ellie and a turtle
Ellie and a turtle

that up to those with stronger stomachs! My kids had a great time catching the fish also. But one of the coolest things we got to see were turtles laying eggs! Ellie, my daughter, had the best time watching the turtles climb the hill behind our cabin, dig holes and lay eggs. We also encountered many other wild animals: herons, loons, bald eagles, osprey, bowfin (very large fish) with swarms of their babies (fishlets?), deer, and a pair of mallard ducks that hung out in our little bay every night.

I caught a big bass!
I caught a big bass!

After our week at the lake, the grandparents took the kids back to Kansas with them and Seth and I were FREE to do some roaming on our own. We took the slow way home through North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. We visited historical sites, wineries, and took only back-road highways, no interstates. We did visit one cemetery on our trip (I have no ancestors that I know of yet across these states). We visited historic Mount Moriah Cemtery in Deadwood, South Dakota, where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried. The entire way we saw the most beautiful scenery and ended our trip by watching fireworks at Devil’s Tower.

What does all of this have to do with genealogy? Maybe not much, however, it was a great time cultivating relationships with LIVING family members. But also, it was a great time to just relax, enjoy the beautiful scenery that makes up our country.