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 LDS.org 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:
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:
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 LDS.org.
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:
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!