Posted in Manuscript Collections, Websites

A Colonial goldmine | Harvard Gazette

Here is some exciting news about a digitization project going on at Harvard which will benefit historians and genealogists with Colonial era interests.  I’m telling you about it because those folks who settled the West came from the East in most cases, and sooner or later you are going to need this:

A Colonial goldmine | Harvard Gazette.

The article explains plans to digitize Harvard’s Colonial collections, and it also discusses something called the Colonial Archives of North America (CANA) project—“an ambitious collective enterprise.”  It is all very interesting.  Continue reading “A Colonial goldmine | Harvard Gazette”

Posted in Letters, Manuscript Collections, Mormon Migration Index, Pioneer Overland Travel, Utah pioneers, Websites

What kind of pioneer are you?

On July 24th Pioneer Day is celebrated as a state holiday in Utah. In 1847 the first LDS (Mormon) pioneers entered the valley of the Great Salt Lake.  The Pioneer Overland Travel database at has an introduction which reads:  “Between 1847 and 1868, Mormon emigrants traveling in more than 300 companies departed from various places and headed for the Salt Lake Valley. More than 60,000 LDS Church members traveled in these companies — some traveling by foot, some in wagons, and some pulling handcarts.”

Check out this database if you have Mormon pioneer ancestors, and you will find them listed with other family members and rosters of entire pioneer “companies” (the group they traveled with); you might find journal excerpts from individuals they traveled with, letters, and other valuable source material connected to their trek.  Here is what an entry looks like – note the wonderful source references:

Jacob Foutz entry
Pioneer Overland Travel Database at, entry for Jacob Foutz

Notice the blue link to “Trail Excerpt”.  Click it and you will see a letter written to Brigham Young from Edward Hunter and Jacob Foutz, leaders of a particular pioneer company:

Edward Hunter and Jacob Foutz letter to Brigham Young, 17 Aug 1847
Edward Hunter and Jacob Foutz letter to Brigham Young, 17 Aug 1847

Finding a name in the database is just the start of your research.  Be sure to follow up with the sources named, and tap into the Journal History of the Church,  Selected Church History Manuscript Collections ( I found some great information in Brigham Young’s Letterpress Copybooks regarding dealings with Native Americans in NE Arizona), and General Church Minutes 1839-1877. Those are some of the primo resources at

Of course there are a zillion sources I could direct you to for early LDS research, but I will just direct you to the Research Wiki link for Tracing LDS Ancestors and you can take it from there.

I created a fan chart and color-coded it to show my children how many Mormon Pioneer ancestors they have.  Red=crossed the plains with a Mormon pioneer company, Blue=Mormon, but not part of a pioneer company:

Pioneer ancestors of the children of Reed and Dayna Jacobs
Pioneer ancestors of the children of Reed and Dayna Gooch Jacobs

My Gooch line is full of pioneers as well, but their records will not be found in the Pioneer Overland Travel database above, since they were not Mormon.

I owe everything to my pioneer ancestors, and I have loved learning about them as I have researched their lives, and I love them even though I have not yet met them.  I hope my children can get a sense of who they are from looking at this chart, and cherish their roles as the “keepers of the flame.”  I think we can all discover something about ourselves that qualifies us as a pioneer – taking a path that nobody has trod before – whether it is with a covered wagon or with our lives. Happy Pioneer Day to you all!

Posted in Archives and Libraries, Manuscript Collections, Research tips, Websites

Friday Finds: Braun Research Library and Autry National Center

One of the benefits of researching in the Western States is the abundance of specialized libraries and museums that preserve artifacts and manuscript collections for this region.  Quite often a museum will have a research library connected to it, and these libraries can be overlooked by genealogists as we tend to overlook museums as a resource.

TIP:  Compile a list of all major repositories in the region or state you are researching.  A good place to start is the website Repositories of Primary Sources.  

Don’t limit yourself to repositories located in the state you are researching, however.  I found a valuable manuscript collection pertaining to my Arizona/New Mexico ancestors in the Braun Research Library, a part of the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, California.

The Autry National Center, Los Angeles, California

The Autry National Center in Los Angeles, California is  “a history museum dedicated to exploring and sharing the stories, experiences, and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West.”

The Autry has online collections which can be searched, but be sure to access the Braun Research Libary and the Autry Library for collections that have not been digitized.

Braun Research Library reading room

The Braun Research Library is part of the Autry, but the facility is not located on the same site.  The online catalog will get you started, and then you can contact them for directions and hours they are open.

Phone: 323.221.2164, ext. 256
Mail: Braun Research Library
234 Museum Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90065

“The strength of the library’s holdings, including its special collections and research material, also provides a context for the study of the art, literature, history, culture, and archaeology of the Native peoples of the Americas. This renowned collection includes approximately 50,000 books and serials, 2,000 sound recordings, 3,000 maps, more than 147,000 historic photographs, 3,000 works of art on paper, and 700 manuscript collections.”

The Autry Library is part of the Autry National Center, and is another research facility.  It’s collections are available by appointment only.

Phone: 323.667.2000, ext. 349
Autry National Center
Autry Library
4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, CA 90027-1462

TIP: Contact a research librarian via email to learn more about a collection before visiting.  If you have a specific collection or item you are interested in, notify the librarian in advance of your visit so they can have it pulled for you. 

TIP: Each research facility will have special rules about accessing materials.  Find out ahead of time what the rules are and what you are allowed to bring in with you.

I hope these tips lead you down some new trails in your research.  I think it’s time for a new adventure!