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In the early years of the Church, all faithful members were encouraged to gather to Zion. The records showing these early Saints’ faith and endurance are of great interest to their descendants.
See the "Colonization" section of this outline to learn about the history of Church settlements and colonies.
By learning about an ancestor’s immigration to Zion, you may find records that provide clues to births, marriages, and deaths that occurred along the way. You may also find names of children and other relatives in these records. You may also find clues that will help you identify the family’s place of origin.
Crossing the Ocean
If your ancestor traveled across the ocean to the United States with a Church company, follow these steps:
1. Use the indexes listed in "Indexes to Passenger Lists," below, to find out the voyage on which an ancestor came.
2. Find the voyage in the Worldwide LDS Ship Register, which is described later in this section, and record the following information:
- Name of Ship
- Date of departure and the microfilm number of the Church emigration register.
- Date of arrival and the microfilm number of the United States passenger list.
3. Obtain the microfilms of the Church emigration register and the United States passenger list.
4. On the film of the Church emigration register, look chronologically for the date of departure. Then look on the United States passenger list for the date of arrival.
5. Find the ship. (Ship’s names are recorded at the top of each page of a passenger list.)
6. Read the names of the passengers to find your ancestor.
If your ancestor did not emigrate to the United States with a Church company, you can check the following sources for records and strategies:
- The "Emigration and Immigration" section of the research outline of the nation from which he or she came.
- The "Emigration and Immigration" section of the United States Research Outline (30972).
- The Tracing Immigrant Origins Research Outline (34111).
Indexes to Passenger Lists.
To find the voyage of Church members who emigrated to the United States, try the following sources:
- [Nauvoo Social History Index]. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1983. (FHL fiche 6334931 [set of 6]). This is a personal name index to over 71,000 records including Nauvoo property records, tax lists, ship lists, censuses, family group records, and research notes. Shows the name, sex, and source information for each entry. This indexes passengers on many Church sponsored ships arriving in the United States from 1840 to 1849.
Davis, Grant. LDS Emigrant Roster and Voyage History, Crossing the Ocean, 1840–1869. Salt Lake City, Utah: Your Ship, 1997. (FHL compact disc no. 60). It focuses mostly on the Saints who crossed the ocean between 1849 and 1869. This indexes Church emigration register (passenger lists), books about Church member emigrants, Perpetual Emigration Fund lists, handcart pioneers, and Sons of Utah Pioneer records. The index is not complete. This disc also includes Conway B. Sonne’s book Ships, Saints, and Mariners with pictures and descriptions of many ships chartered by the Church. This is included in LDS Family History Suite 2.
European Emigration Card Index, 1849–1925. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1951. (FHL films 298431–39). This index is also known as the Crossing the Ocean Index. It is an alphabetical card index to the Saints who crossed the ocean on their way to Zion. This index is incomplete because it focuses only on ships chartered by Church agents. The cards are filed by the head of the family or the leader of each group. The name of the ship and the date of departure from Liverpool is included.
Early Church Information File. This index is cited fully in the "Biography" section of this outline. It indexes Church emigration registers that were not included in the European Emigration Card Index cited previously.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Family History Dept. LDS Reference Unit. Scandinavian LDS Mission Index. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1992. (FHL fiche 6060482 [set of 344]). This indexes.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Scandinavian Mission. Emigration Records, Scandinavian Mission (Denmark, Norway, Sweden) 1852–1920. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1951–1953. (FHL films 025696–97). It may list in a year-by-year arrangement each emigrant’s name, age, residence, and occupation.
Passenter-liste for Undvandrerskinbene fra Kobenhaven til Hull, 1872–1894 [Passenger Lists of Emigrants from Copenhagen to Hull, 1872–1894]. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1948. (FHL film 040994). Text in Danish. This record was created by the Copenhagen police of Latter-day Saint emigrants. It may show name, age, occupation, residence, and marital status.
Worldwide LDS Ship Register (1840–1913).
To find microfilm numbers of passenger lists of emigrating Saints, search the following source:
Taylor, Margery. Worldwide LDS Ship Register, 1840–1913. [Salt Lake City, Utah]: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Family History Department, 1991. (FHL book 289.309 T216w; film 1592753). This is a comprehensive list of ships used by Church emigrants. It is arranged chronologically by the departure date. It includes ships that came from Liverpool, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Capetown, Glasgow, and other foreign ports. It lists departure date, ship name, departure port, "LDS roster" (microfilm number for the Church’s emigration register), company leader, arrival date, arrival port, "US roster" (film number for the United States passenger arrival list), references to written accounts of the voyage, and references to a picture or description of the ship.
You can also find film numbers to the Church emigration registers in the Subject Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
Written Accounts of Voyages.
To find written accounts of voyages, check the following sources:
Bashore, Melvin L., and Linda L. Haslam. Mormons on the High Seas: Ocean Voyage Narratives to America (1840–1890). [Salt Lake City, Utah]: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Historical Dept., 1990. (FHL book 289.3016 B291mh; film 1592752 item 5). This is a bibliography of accounts of the voyages made by members of the Church. This is arranged alphabetically by the ship name, and then by the date of the voyage. The latest edition is available in the Historical Department—Church Library.
The following important source is not limited to Scandinavians:
Jenson, Andrew. History of the Scandinavian Mission. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Press, 1927. (FHL book 948 K2j; film 896938 item 2; fiche 6030136). This history gives accounts of voyages and the adventures while crossing the ocean. It includes detailed descriptions of many Church-chartered ships embarking from England between 1852 to 1890. Check the index to see if your ancestor’s ship is listed. The accounts include the Saints’ journeys across the plains to Utah.
Crossing the Plains
The Church’s movement to the valley of the Great Salt Lake is the largest organized migration movement in American history spanning from 1846 until 1925. This section covers this major migration. For more information about other migration movements see the LDS Colonization and LDS History sections of this outline.
Indexes to Pioneer Companies (1847–1869).
Can’t find a name in the index?
If you cannot find your ancestor in one of the indexes mentioned in this article, you could try to determine the year or company in:
The following indexes list members who crossed the plains before the transcontinental railroad was completed:
The Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847-1868 is the Internet version of Melvin L. Bashore's Crossing the Plains Index Database. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Historical Dept., 1998-. The Historical Department—Church Library is adding information from many recently discovered rosters and other sources to this database. Each entry gives the pioneer’s name, age, sex, and the year he or she came and the name of the pioneer company. It sometimes includes birth, death, or other identifying information. This is an attempt to correct and expand previous indexes. This database has the following searches:
Surname. This search provides all entries for one surname, by exact spelling.
Company. This search gives an alphabetical list of all the members of a pioneer company.
Alphabetical Search. This search may show individuals with an alternate spelling.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Historical Department. Index to Journal History. For an Internet version of the index see http://chcatalog:88/. The Journal History has more rosters of immigrant companies that crossed the plains than any other single source. See the "History" section of this outline for a full citation. These rosters were compiled from primary and secondary sources.
Utah Immigration Card Index, 1847–1868. Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1963. (FHL films 298440–42). This card file is also known as the Crossing the Plains Index. It is not complete, but indexes pioneers who crossed the plains before 10 May 1869 in LDS Church sponsored immigrant companies. The cards are listed alphabetically by the head of the family or group. They usually contain the names of other family members or traveling companions. Each card gives the name of the company, date of arrival in Salt Lake City, or the date the company roster appears in the Journal History (see the "History" section of this outline).
A roster is a list of people who were in the same pioneer company as they crossed the plains.
For a bibliography of all known pioneer company rosters see:
"Pioneer Companies that Crossed the Plains, 1848–1868." Deseret News 1997–1998 Church Almanac. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News, 1996. (FHL book 289.305 D457). Pages 167–76 list pioneer companies by date of departure. Each company has a reference citation to the roster, if one is available. These references are usually to entries in the Journal History. This issue of the almanac also includes a sketch of a typical pioneer wagon, typical pioneer clothing, trail maps, and a list of pioneer supplies on pages 107–14.
Incomplete rosters can be found in:
Carter, Kate B. Heart Throbs of the West. Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1939–1951. (FHL book 979.2 H2cah).
- "They came in 47" v. 8: 401–48
- "They came in 48" v. 9: 453–524
- "They came in 49" v. 10: 429–72
- "They came in 50" v. 11: 377–454
- "They came in 51" v. 12: 405–62
These volumes are indexed on the Internet at Ancestry.com and included in the LDS Family History Suite 2. Although the compact disc has a search function that should find a name within these volumes, it does not seem to check these lists. Go directly to the article and look for your ancestor’s name.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Historical Department. Church Emigration, 1831–1881. [Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Historical Dept., 199-?] This is available in the Historical Department—Archive Search Room. The information was taken from the Millennial Starand the Journal History.
Written Accounts of the Journey.
To find written accounts of the journey across the plains see:
Bashore, Melvin L., and Linda L. Haslam. [Database of] Mormon Pioneer Companies Crossing the Plains [1847–1868] Narratives: Guide to Sources in Utah Libraries and Archives. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Historical Dept., 1998-. It is arranged by year and lists each company by date of departure. For each company, it lists sources of accounts alphabetically by author. For each source cited, it gives a summary of the account and list of every name and place mentioned in the original. It includes the repository and call number for each narrative. The staff at the Historical Department—Church Library will search the current database for you. The Family History Library only has the predecessor listed below:
Bashore, Melvin L., and Linda L. Haslam. Mormon Pioneer Companies Crossing the Plains (1847–1868.) Narratives. Third Revised Edition. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Historical Dept., 1990. (FHL book 289.3016 B291m; film 1592752 item 6). Since then, many more sources have been added. Pioneer companies are listed chronologically by year and then by company leader. This is indexed in the Early Church Information File.
Bashore, Melvin L. "New Mormon Emigration Finding Aids: The Compiler’s Personal Experiences." Nauvoo Journal 10 (Spring 1998): 97–108. (FHL book 977.343/N1 H25n). This article explains the sources he used to compile his emigration indexes and reference works which are cited in this outline.
Hafen, LeRoy R. Handcarts to Zion: The Story of a Unique Western Migration, 1856–1860, With Contemporary Journals, Accounts, Reports, and Rosters of Members of the Ten Handcart Companies. Glendale, Calif.: Arthur H. Clark, 1960. (FHL book 289.309 H119h; film 1059487 item 7; fiche 6031590 [set of 4]). This is a good resource for accounts of the handcart companies. However, the rosters are incomplete. This is indexed in the Early Church Information File.
Also check the "Biography" and "Genealogy" sections of this outline for more sources that may have accounts of the journey.
The Pioneer Trail.
The following books and Internet sites also good places to find trail maps and histories:
Historical Atlas of Mormonism cited fully in the "Colonization" section of this outline.
Kimball, Stanley B. Discovering Mormons Trails: New York to California, 1831–1868. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1979. (FHL book 978 E7k). Includes index. This shows current maps with the original trails marked. Using these maps, you can travel along the original trails.
"The Mormon Pioneer Trail." In Douglas-Sarpy Counties Mormon Trails Association [Internet site]. Omaha, Nebraska: The Association, 3 September 1998 [cited 10 September 1999]. Available at http://omahafreenet.org/trails/index.htm. This site discusses the history of the trail, historical sites, events, and has Internet links.
"Oregon - California Trails Association." In Calcite Rocky Mountain College [Internet site]. Independence, Missouri: OCTA, 28 June 1999 [cited 1 December 1999]. Available at www.calcite.rocky.edu/octa/. Includes Mormon trail maps, photos, site descriptions, and diary quotations.
"Nebraska Mormon Trails Association." [Internet site]. N.p.: NMTA, [cited 2 December 1999]. Available at www.omaha.org/trails/toc.htm#hist Includes sections about the history of the Mormon trail historical sites additional sources and organizations LDS religion and event calendars (Site does not exist anymore)
Deaths Along the Trail.
A complete list of all Saints who died crossing the plains does not exist as explained in:
Black, Susan Easton, et. al. Do We Know How Many Latter-day Saints Died Between 1846–1869 in the Migration to the Salt Lake Valley? The Ensign of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 28, no. 7 (July 1998): 41–44. (FHL book 289.305 C473e). This article includes background information about the types of illness that saints died of, their symptoms, and possible causes. It also explains the types of fatal accidents that occur with a wagon.
The following lists have been compiled:
Bashore, Melvin L. [Database of] Mormon Trail Deaths 1847–1868. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Historical Dept., 1998-. The purpose of this database is to keep a record of all of the documented deaths that occurred while crossing the plains. This database will grow as new information becomes available. It is arranged by year, by emigrant company, and then alphabetically by surname. Each entry includes the person’s full name, sex, age, death date, death place, source and notes. The Historical Department—Church Library staff will search the current database for you.
Black, Susan Easton. Inscriptions Found on Tombstones and Monuments in Early Latter-day Saints Burial Grounds: Nauvoo, Illinois (Joseph Smith Homestead, and Pioneer Saints Cemetery on Parley Street), Mt. Pisgah, Iowa, West Bank of the Niobrara River, Nebraska, Winter Quarters, Nebraska. N.p., [198-?] (FHL book 973 V3es; fiche 6019028). Entries may include name, birth date, birthplace, death date, headstone markings, location of the grave, nickname, age, or source. This is included in the LDS Family History Suite 2.
Record of Early Members of the Church Who Died in Missouri, Kirtland, Nauvoo and on the Plains: Taken from the Evening & Morning Star, the Messenger & and Advocate, the Elders’ Journal, the Times and Seasons, the Wasp, the Nauvoo Neighbor, the Prophet, the St. Louis Luminary, the Frontier Guardian, the Mormon, the Western Standard, and the Deseret News: Down to 1868. Holograph, 1965. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1965. (FHL book Q973 V2rc; film 413034 item 2). This is an alphabetical list of people who died along the trail. It gives the person’s name, birth date and place, and death date. It includes only the pioneers who died crossing the plains whose temple work was not completed as of 1918.