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Want to research your pioneer ancestors for Pioneer Day? Here’s how

Celebrate Pioneer Day by learning about and writing about your pioneer ancestors

SHARE Want to research your pioneer ancestors for Pioneer Day? Here’s how
Mormon Pioneer Cemetery, Florence, Nebraska.

Photograph of the Mormon Pioneer Cemetery that is located in Florence, Nebraska.

Kenneth Mays

Pioneer Day celebrates Latter-day Saint pioneers entering the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, but it also celebrates modern day pioneers.

In a 1994 Deseret News article, Rose Knighton wrote, “Branch Pres. Paul Dredge, a Utah native with a pioneer ancestry, said that he thought of the courage and sacrifices of his forefathers as he listened to his first counselor, Vann Sen, tell how he carried his two children through mine fields as they fled to Thailand in hopes of freedom.”

Wherever your pioneer ancestry comes from and wherever your ancestors lived, Pioneer Day is an opportunity to learn their story and tell it to future generations. Here are some ways to do that.

Use FamilySearch

FamilySearch is a family history site owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that is free to use and allows church members to link their account to their church membership information. You can log into FamilySearch to view your family tree. There are a couple of ways to find pioneer ancestry from there.

The manual way is to comb through your ancestry on the tree until you identify when members of your family trekked to Utah or joined the church.

Click to compare your family to the pioneer database

The second way is more automatic. By clicking on this link while signed in, Family Search will compare your family tree with the Pioneer Overland Database. Even if you think you don’t have pioneer ancestry, try it out — you might be surprised.

Once you have identified your pioneer ancestry, go to the sources tab on your ancestor’s profile to learn more. There, you will likely find census records, grave records, marriage certificates and other documents. Some of your ancestors may have biographies written about them or other primary sources located in the Church History Library or in BYU Special Collections. Archivists at both locations can help you find documents and, in some instances, provide you with digital copies of them.

Reach out to family history consultants

If you have trouble finding your pioneer ancestors or information about them, reach out to your ward or stake family history consultants. These consultants can help you navigate FamilySearch to find databases where you can acquire documents with your ancestors’ information. There are other online resources to help you, like FamilySearch’s wiki page or the Church History Biographical Database. Consider exploring the Pioneers in Every Land website to learn more about Latter-day Saint pioneers across the globe.

After you have gathered information about your pioneer ancestor, considering sharing their stories in one of these ways suggested by Thought Co.:

  • Share photographs and documents with family members and friends.
  • Make a website dedicated to compiling your family’s history.
  • Write and publish short stories based on your family history.

Consider visiting sites where your ancestor was born or lived, if possible. There are also museums that you could visit. And on Pioneer Day, read the story of your pioneer ancestors together with your family.