The Family Atlas
a monthly column by Jen Baldwin
Vast open spaces. Still wild forest. Wildlife galore. When you hear Wyoming, the imagination expands, but this is a state that can promise that it’s larger than you can picture. Perhaps one of the “quieter” states, in terms of news items and events, the genealogy to be found in its borders are as impressive as the Teton Range.
Our first stop is the Wyoming State Archives housed in Cheyenne. Some of their system is indexed online, and nearly every database set includes a notation for “work in progress,” or “check back often”. It has been exciting to watch the growth of this site, and Wyoming’s commitment to making more of their records available online. Do not miss the “Oral Histories” section of the site, with recorded oral histories from the source: the families that played out the great stories of the west.
Searching the Rocky Mountain region in general? Start with the Rocky Mountain Online Archive, which covers Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, and has links to a variety of available resources. This site is hosted and managed by the University of New Mexico, but can be an excellent jumping off point for Wyoming research. For specific information, start with the GoWYLD.net site, “Wyoming’s Portal to Knowledge & Learning.” It offers a series of links for general resources, and counties, and it’s a great way to start your learning for this state. Of course, the Wyoming State Historical Society is not to be missed, either. Their website offers journals, maps, limited digital collections, and artwork.
Did you have an ancestor involved in the early development of America’s “best idea”; the National Park Service? Then you must utilize the History & Culture section on Yellowstone National Park’s website to learn more. You will find here what you expect on the history of one of our greatest parks’, but you will also find diaries and the Heritage & Research Center, which includes information on the archives and research library staff and collections.
For a bit of cultural influence, follow highway 28 north to the Fremont County Pioneer Museum, located just outside of Lander, and the Grave of Sacajewa, on the Wind River Indian Reservation. While there, take a few minutes to learn of native burial customs, the current traditions being practiced and more, at a variety of stops in and around the reservation.
In the late 1890’s and early 1900’s, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, wrote numerous letters to George Beck. Guess what? They’ve been digitized. Find these, and several other collections, on the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center Digital Collections page. Also available at the UW: Rare Book Collections, the Anaconda Collection, photographs, paper collections and the Swan Company Records series. Rancher in the family? Try the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association Records. You just never know where those ancestors might be hiding.
Looking to fill in some of the stories on those tree branches? Search the Wyoming Newspaper Project for the day to day life events. According to the site, the project consisted of over 828,000 full newspaper pages, converted from microfilm to a digital format, as of 15 June 2012; you are bound to find something! Also look in the University Libraries Wyoming Biography Database. They are offering over 11,000 entries from 38 books in this online index, leading you to the source, through a variety of search fields.
It’s the least populated state in the union, but don’t let that statistic fool you. Wyoming is big on land, and big on genealogy resources. The wide variety available to the researcher is intriguing, and the combination of traditional records and the more obscure sources will lead many to a rich and satisfying family history.
Coming soon in the Family Atlas… Tennessee, Wisconsin, South Dakota and more!
© Jen Baldwin 2012
This article originally appeared in the December issue of The In-Depth Genealogist. Receive The In-Depth Genealogist free by subscribing HERE.