Posted in Maps, Migration trails, National atlases, Pioneer Overland Travel, Railroad maps, Websites

Tracks West: Railroad and migration maps for you

I like to collect maps to help in my research and often create maps to suit my needs.  Today I am posting a few maps that help in my understanding of migration into the western states.  Every western states researcher should have a sound understanding of migration routes, railroads, and rivers that affected the movement of emigrants and influenced settling patterns.  You can create your own maps using templates found at by looking under “printable maps”.

Here is a map I marked with the major overland migration routes west, with key cities or forts that were either stopping points or final destinations. Continue reading “Tracks West: Railroad and migration maps for you”

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, Biographical, Books, Census, Directories, Friday Finds, Google Books, History, Mormon Migration Index, National Register of Historic Places, Newspapers, Photos, Pioneer Overland Travel, Research Center for Utah State History, Research tips, Utah State Historical Society, Websites

Fergus Coalter Music Co.: One source leads to another

I ran across a 1900 U.S. Census record for my husband’s ancestor, Fergus Coalter, living in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah at the time, and several entries caught my eye because I knew they would lead me to other sources. That’s the great thing about a census record – one thing leads to another:

Fergus Coalter household, 1900 U.S. Census, ED 5 Precinct 5 Salt Lake City Ward 1, Salt Lake, Utah, p. 11 (, digital image)

Year of immigration (1874), years in the U.S. (26), citizenship (“Na” or naturalized), occupation (Music Dealer), education (can read, write, and speak English), and home ownership (“O” owns a home, “F” free of mortgage).

These are all things worth following up on, and I accessed a number of sources you may not know exist. Of course the easiest thing to try first is a Google search, and this got me started on the thing I was most curious about initially – no, not the immigration/citizenship columns – but “Music Dealer.” That is something you don’t often see on a census record.

A search for “Fergus Coalter music” led me to the website for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir historical roster. If you access the MTC website, there does not appear to be a link for the roster page, so I would have never found this entry for “Fergus Coulter” without Google:

So Fergus Coulter/Coalter sang Bass with the MTC for 17 years!

Another find through Google was on EBay – a postcard featuring the Fergus Coalter music company (mis-identified as Ogden). Sadly, my bid was rejected, but next time I am in Salt Lake City I intend to go to the Research Center for Utah State History, where they have an excellent collection of photographs from early Salt Lake City streets. A look at their online catalog gave me some promising leads, but they have file cabinets full of photos available for browsing which are organized geographically.

Now that I knew about the Fergus Coalter Music Company, I wanted to check city directories for Salt Lake City, which list addresses for businesses and individuals much like a phone book would in later years, plus sometimes some extra helpful facts. UTGenweb has a list of SLC directories with links to online images and/or Family History Library microfilm call numbers. Additionally, lists directories by year, and some libraries where they can be found.

The 1897 Polk directory showed “Daynes and Coalter” under Fergus Coalter’s name and a residential address of 749 2nd East:

SLC Directory 1897, Polk, p89 online at UTGenweb

State Genweb projects, hosted by Rootsweb, are excellent sources for free online images and databases posted by volunteers.

Other online city directories revealed Fergus Coalter had also been in business as Coalter and Snelgrove, Daynes and Coalter, and Fergus Coalter Music Co. His death record showed him working as a clerk at Beesley Music Co. at age 71. I can do a more thorough search of directories at the Utah Research Center and Family History Library when I am there.

Newspapers can be an excellent source when the subject was a business owner, because of all the ads they placed. Here are a few unusual publications:

Young Womans Journal v 13 p344 on

This is from the Young Woman’s Journal, Feb 1902, v 13, p 344. Here is an excerpt from something titled, “Mormon Magazine Miscellany” with the heading, “The Leading Industries of the West,” p 66, also on Google Books. It is a fascinating peek inside the music store, and we also learn that Fergus’ partner was the Tabernacle organist:

Finally, another unique source is a file from the National Register of Historic Places. The nomination form for the Capitol Hill Historic District of Salt Lake City, submitted by the Utah State Historical Society, has been digitized and is available online. It provides photos and descriptions of buildings in that district, including the Fergus Coalter home at 314 Center St., constructed abt 1880:

What is remarkable about this source is the personal info it provides and additional documentation that leads to additional sources, including plat maps Sanborn insurance maps, directories, newspapers, and biographical sources:

Fergus Coalter house, Utah State Historical Society nomination form for NRHP

There is one last resource I want to mention here, because I know the “immigration” and “citizenship” columns on the census must have made you curious, too. Did you know about the Mormon Migration website at BYU? They are abstracting records for 19th and 20th century LDS immigrants, including first-person accounts of voyages. This is different than the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database which documents pioneer wagon companies. For starters, the Pioneer Overland Travel database ends at 1868—the official end of the “pioneer” era—and only covers the immigrants’ journey after they arrived in the United States. The Mormon Migration site is a ships passenger list database that extends beyond 1868 and documents the journey from an immigrant’s homeland. The first-person accounts can describe the entire journey by ship and wagon.

Here is the entry for Fergus Coulter:

Mormon Migration Index at

A click on his name will bring up a link to first-person accounts by other passengers and also a list of other passengers.

Of course, these records are just the beginning – there are so many more record groups that come to mind: church, vital records, probate, cemetery, county history, naturalization, etc., but hopefully you now know about a few unique records for the Salt Lake City area and can start down your own trail. So Happy Trails!