With the final refrain of “All is well, All is well” still ringing in our ears from various July 24th celebrations, thoughts and hearts naturally turn to our pioneer forefathers.
We all know the Mormon pioneer story. We’ve heard the tales of hardship and courage. But do we know our own ancestors’ personal experience of trekking across the plains?
Over the last couple of years, FamilySearch.org has made it easier to research our pioneer ancestry and discover their stories by working in partnership with the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel Database.
The Overland Database began over 30 years ago and, as stated on the FamilySearch site, is considered the most complete listing of Mormon pioneers who traveled to Utah in the 1846–47 exodus of Latter-day Saints. It contains names and indexes of the more than 350 known emigrating companies. Approximately 60,000 who made the journey have been identified.
Patrons can access this database by going to familysearch.org/pioneers. After signing in, Family Tree brings up a list of the user’s early Mormon ancestry, interfacing it with the Overland Travel church history site. FamilySearch provides the family relationships while the Overland information connects users to personal documents of interest. Researchers can discover stories from the trail and even follow a pioneer company’s journey with a graphic of the travelers’ route across the United States.
Additionally, users may find company information, departure and arrival dates, missionary records, news articles, autobiographical sketches, and diaries. Your ancestor may not have kept a journal, but it’s highly likely that someone in his or her company did.
It is estimated that between 70,000 and 75,000 people emigrated, but only about 60,000 names appear in the database. This means more pioneers need to be found and identified. Patrons may submit their ancestors’ personal records and information to FamilySearch.
The Church’s Church History site also asks for corrections and additions to the Overland Database. It states, “Although we have done our best to present information drawn from the most reliable sources available, we understand that some of the best resources may still be in private hands. We would love to hear from you if you find any inaccuracies or have information that we haven’t discovered…if you have information that could improve this database, please submit a request…”
You may get the result I did after signing in on FamilySearch: “We are unable to determine if you have any pioneer ancestors in Family Tree,” but that’s okay. Even those of us without Mormon pioneer heritage enjoy the fruits of their faith and perseverance. Because of their perilous trek to the Utah desert Promised Land, the church grew and flourished and we are all beneficiaries.
FamilySearch, operated by the Church’s Family History Department, is the world’s premiere online genealogical service, offering access to records, resources, and services free to the general public.
For possible inclusion as a sidebar…(not included in above word count)
Excerpt from the MacArthur Company summary:
“The sweltering heat persisted for weeks and several fainted from exhaustion, causing a few more to drop out. In early July a terrible thunderstorm tore up tents and drenched everyone. At one point an 8-year-old boy got lost on the road. They halted for a day to search for him but then had to move on, leaving the boy’s father to continue the search alone. Four days afterward, a reunited father and son joyfully rejoined the company, waving a red shawl as they approached the camp.”