Background Sources for Idaho

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This entry was originally written by Dwight A. Radford for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Idaho Family History Research series.
History of Idaho
Idaho Vital Records
Census Records for Idaho
Background Sources for Idaho
Idaho Maps
Idaho Land Records
Idaho Probate Records
Idaho Court Records
Idaho Tax Records
Idaho Cemetery Records
Idaho Church Records
Idaho Military Records
Idaho Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Idaho Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Idaho Immigration
Ethnic Groups of Idaho
Idaho County Resources
Map of Idaho


  • An Illustrated History of the State of Idaho: Containing a History of the State of Idaho from the Earliest Period of Its Discovery to the Present Time, Together With Glimpses of Its Auspicious Futures; Illustrations…and Biographical Mention of Many Pioneers and Prominent Citizens of Today. 4 vols. in 2. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1899. This two-volume set covers the history of Idaho and contains biographical sketches.
  • Arrington, Leonard J. History of Idaho. 2 vols. Moscow, Idaho: University of Idaho Press, 1994. This excellent work provides a scholarly history of the state. Volume 1 covers the natural setting of the state and the state’s history up through WWI. Volume 2 covers the state’s history from WWI to the present.
  • Beal, Merrill. A History of Southeastern Idaho: An Intimate Narrative of Peaceful Conquest by Empire Builders. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxon Printers, 1942. This book outlines the history of an area that was influenced by Mormon Utah to the south, mining Montana to the north, and pioneer Oregon to the west.
  • ———, and Merle W. Wells. History of Idaho. 3 vols. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1959. Volumes 1 and 2 cover the history of the state. Volume 3 is especially noteworthy as it contains personal and family histories.
  • Bieter, Pat. “Reluctant Shepherds: The Basque of Idaho,” Idaho Yesterdays 1 (Summer 1957): 10-15. A discussion of the characteristics of the Basque people and why they migrated and settled in Idaho is presented.
  • Bilbao, Julio B. “Basque of Early Idaho,” Idaho Yesterdays 15 (Summer 1971): 26. Accounts are given of some of Idaho’s earliest settlers who were Basque.
  • Defenbach, Byron. Idaho, the Place and Its People: A History of the Gem State from Prehistoric to Present Days. 3 vols. Chicago: American Historical Society, Inc., 1933. Volume 1 covers the history of the state, and volumes 2 and 3 contain biographical sketches.
  • Derig, Betty Belle. “Celestials in the Digging,” Idaho Yesterdays 16 (Fall 1972): 2. A century ago, the typical Idaho miner was Chinese. By 1870, more than 4,000 Chinese had moved into Idaho. This article tells the story of the Chinese miners.
  • French, Hiram Taylor. History of Idaho: A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress, Its People, and Its Principle Interest. 3 vols. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1914. This three-volume set is very useful because volumes 2 and 3 are biographical sketches. Volume 1 is a history of the state.
  • Gazetteer of Cities, Villages, Unincorporated Communities and Landmark Sites in the State of Idaho. Idaho Department of Highways, 1966. A useful book that lists 1,900 places in Idaho. It is especially useful to the researcher because each place is broken down into county, quadrants within the county, township, section, range, post office, highway, railroad, airport, stream, lake or reservoir, principle industry, and notes.
  • Hawley, James H., ed. History of Idaho: The Gem of the Mountains. 4 vols. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1920. Volume 1 is a standard history of the state, while the other volumes consist of biographical sketches.
  • History of Idaho Territory: Showing Its Resources and Advantages; with Illustrations … From Original Drawings. San Francisco: W. W. Elliott, 1884. Valuable because the compilers used the territorial newspapers for many of their sources.
  • Mercer, Laurie and Carol Simon-Smolinski, eds. Idaho’s Ethnic Heritage: Resource Guide. 3 vols. Boise, Idaho: Idaho Centennial Commission and Idaho State Historical Society, 1990. These volumes provide guides to the various ethnic cultures historically present in the state. Also included is an extensive bibliography.
  • Wunder, John. “The Courts and the Chinese in Frontier Idaho.” Idaho Yesterdays 25 (Spring 1981): 23. Idaho’s Supreme Court did not succumb to the anti-Chinese pressures present throughout the West. It upheld a tradition of fundamental fairness.
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