Montana Emigration and Immigration
Pre-statehood settlers of Montana were trappers, missionaries, miners, cattlemen, farmers, and lumbermen. They came primarily from the midwestern states, although refugees from Confederate states came to the early mining camps.
In the 1860s many gold seekers took steamboats from Saint Louis to Fort Benton, Montana, where they joined the Mullan Wagon Road leading to the camps. Other settlers traveled from the east by way of the Northern Overland Road, or the Bozeman Cutoff and other branches of the Oregon Trail. From the west, some took the Mullan Road at its terminus in Walla Walla. Others took an older route from Salt Lake City. The era of steamboats and trails finally came to an end in the 1880s when transcontinental railroads from Utah and Minnesota reached Montana.
In the 1890s and 1900s, the building of branch railroad lines encouraged new mining and homesteading. Some immigrants from Europe came to work in the mines, and others joined midwesterners in homesteading parts of eastern Montana. Between 1910 and 1920 a homestead boom brought thousands of settlers, but years of drought in the 1920s caused many of them to leave the state.
In 1920 nearly half the Montana population was foreign-born. Most immigrants were from Germany, Canada, Ireland, Norway, England, Sweden, or Austria. Many overseas immigrants to Montana came through the port of New York or other East Coast ports.
The Family History Library and the National Archives and its regional centers have passenger lists or indexes for various United States ports. The years covered in the lists and indexes at the Family History Library vary by port but range from 1820 to 1940. More detailed information on U.S. immigration records is in the United States Research Outline. The Family History Library and the Public Archives of Canada have some passenger lists for Canadian ports for 1865 to 1900. The Family History Library and National Archives have Canadian border crossing records, 1865 to 1954.