Montana State Death Registry Index
1954 – 2002
The following instructions and information file was
prepared by Del Harris and Paul Dunham to document the data sources, outline
the contents of the indexes, as well as to indicate noted omissions. It also identifies how the Pre-1954 data
was collected, and how the accuracy was maintained. For further clarification
contact the Webmaster. The information presented below on this site has been
extracted from the CD ROM available from the Montana State Genealogical
1- Collection and Preparation of Pre-1954 Death
The Montana Bureau of Vital Statistics and the Montana
State Genealogical Society established a joint venture to computerize the
Pre-1954 death indexes. The Bureau
arranged for the copying of the original vital records books [available at
the Bureau of Statistics] and provided those copies to the Montana State
Many of the “early years” deaths in Montana were not
recorded either locally, or state registered. The earliest death in this file
was recorded in 1882. Until a formal system was established well after
statehood for reporting, the information about a person’s death often
went unreported. In looking for an ancestor in these early years, the best
sources are diaries, cemetery & grave records, biographies of either the individual, relative or a friend, bibles and
occasionally news or magazine articles.
The pages were then scanned with optical character
recognition (OCR) software and captured as Excel data files. As to be expected, there were many problems
in the transfer of the data, which required significant human interface to
correct. Members of the Society
reviewed and edited each page and prepared separate data files. These files then went through a series of
edit checks to assure the greatest possible accuracy.
Issues that could not be readily resolved by consulting
the copied pages were referred back to the Bureau of Vital Statistics for
further clarification. The various
columns of data from the pages then were then grouped and consolidated into
one for meaningful information; e.g. separate columns for month, day and year
of the death that existed in the original scanned pages, were consolidated
into a single column, entitled “Date of
Death”. Further data
verification to assure that the date was correct was then necessary. These
completed Excel data files were then transferred into an ACCESS database, and
grouped by ten-year increments from 1900 on, and one file for the Pre-1900
The final Excel files that form the core of the Pre-1954
Access data base contains the following column headings: Index Number,
Last Name, First Name, Middle, Sex, Age, Location, County Number, County
Name, Item Number, Day, Month, Year, Date of Death and Comments.
are several caveats related to the use of these data:
index numbers assigned by the Bureau of Vital Statistics, from the early
1800’s to 1918 have no county designations. Anyone needing this information to
find the death certificate would need to contact the Montana Bureau of Vital Statistics.
no death day or month was available a “1” was used in either
the index number did not show a county prefix (after 1918), a
“ZZ” was inserted to designate the county is unknown.
child under a year of age is shown with an age of
desiring to add the additional data (after 2002 death date) can purchase
separate years from the State Bureau of Vital Statistics.
MT Dept. of Public Health and Human ServicesP.O. Box 4210
Helena, MT 59604
The years in this Pre 1954 project have been collected
into decades to support an Access database search routine available in the CD
ROM only, as nearly as possible. Thus,
five separate decade access files were created: 1800-1919, 1920-1929, 1930-1939,
1940-1949 and 1950-1953.
[The “1800-1919” file includes items from the 1800’s
through 1919 – the 1800’s and early 1900 files are relatively
The primary reasons for this divisional grouping were:
large access files which would be difficult to utilize and,
the recording practice established the Montana Bureau of Vital
Statistics in their master database.
2 - Collection and Preparation of 1954 through
2002 Death Records
This material is a direct copy of the database material
prepared by the Montana Bureau of Vital Statistics. Both sets of indexes are similarly
organized, but these records have less information presented, as the numbers
of deaths have significantly increased.
A period (“.”) placed into the county
field means that means it is an “Out of State” death record.
When printing data from the state’s death indexes
(1954 – 2002), you should change the print mode to
“landscape” to print the material on a single page.
The pages (from the CD ROM) will print in color, unless
the printer mode is first changed to print in “black and white”.
An “*” alongside of the name in the attached
files means that it is recorded in the fathers name. Either
this person was stillborn, or was never named.
The Montana State Genealogical Society
wishes to thank all the Society members who volunteered their time and effort
to the project. It is also
acknowledged the project could not have been completed without the great
assistance from James Edgar, Montana
Bureau of Vital Statistics.
Prepared January 11, 2004
The 56 Montana County
Code Definitions follow the name groupings.