Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Monday, June 22, 2015

What about the pioneers? Where do we find their records?

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can trace their ancestry back to "pioneers." In Utah, pioneers are technically defined as people who arrived in Utah between 1847 and 10 May 1869, when the railroad was completed. Generally, people who died on the way to Utah are also considered pioneers. See National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers, Pioneer History. But the main issue here is not "pioneers" per se, but immigrants and travelers. Even including Native Americans, all of us living on the American continents have immigrant ancestors. The only difference is the time they arrived.

But more particularly, I would like to focus on the people who came to the western states of the United States (sometimes before they were part of the United States) and settled. In Utah, we have a specialized State holiday on the 24th of July to celebrate the arrival of the first Mormon Pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley. I could get picky and note that some of the "pioneers" arrived before the 24th of July, 1847, but the official day is celebrated on the 24th.

When I was growing up, during the summers in Eastern Arizona, the 24th of July was the biggest and most celebrated holiday of the year. We had a rodeo, a Camporama (outdoor picnic event), a parade, dances, barbecues, races, and a lot more activities.

Many of those with pioneer ancestors do not know much about the details of their journey to Utah or other states. Where do we go to find these records? This is probably one of the most well documented area of our collective history, but there is still a lot of room for discovery.

You might also want to remember the Family History Library and the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. They both have extensive online catalogs.

I already mentioned the Sons of the Utah Pioneers website. There is also a Daughters of the Utah Pioneers website. The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers (usually called the DUP) also has an extensive museum in Salt Lake City, Utah called The Pioneer Memorial Museum. Almost every town of any significant size in Utah also has a museum or historical society. If you can locate where your ancestors first settled or where they ended up, you should take to the time to visit the local facilities. Here is a sample of some of the museums and societies:
Here is another list of resources from the Utah Division of State History:
You might also want to look at the following:
Well, that should get you started in finding out about your ancestors as pioneers. 

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