Pioneer-Era Journals Research Guide Overview
Much of what is known about the overland trail is because of journals and diaries kept by pioneers. Journals, diaries, autobiographies, and reminiscences are sources that are essential to understanding and reconstructing the past. Such records provide insight to a person’s individual thoughts, feelings, choices, experiences, and behaviors. For descendants, journals and diaries allow current generations to connect with their ancestral past. Even if an ancestor did not keep a journal, descendants can deepen their understanding of family history by reading journals kept by members of the same wagon train or company.
At the Church History Library, pioneer journals and diaries provide a foundation for numerous research projects. Rich information can be gathered from pioneer-era journals. Some have been transcribed and published. Others have been digitized and are available to view in the catalog. Many more are available for viewing in person at the Church History Library. This research guide identifies digitized journals and collections, but similar methods can be employed for finding related items that have not been digitized.
The Church History Library is not the only repository that holds Latter-day Saint pioneer-era journals. Brigham Young University, Utah State University, the University of Utah, Weber State University, the Huntington Library, the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, and other institutions have collections of pioneer journals, many of which extend beyond the Latter-day Saint pioneer experience. This research guide will provide advice on how to search for pioneer journals and includes a sample list of institutions where journals can be found. Links to digital collections will be provided for Church-sponsored and non-Church-sponsored websites. The Church does not endorse the content of non-Church-sponsored websites.