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Church History

Library

Latter-day Saint Family and Local History Sources

Research Guide

The Church History Library houses diaries, memoirs, personal papers, correspondence, photographs, oral histories, local unit records and annual histories, and records from Church departments as well as other materials that offer historical context for your ancestors’ lives. This context is shown through the recorded perspectives of fellow countrymen, townsfolk, local religious leaders, neighbors, emigrants, travelers, and others with similar occupations and social experiences. If your family has been associated with the Church, either in the United States or in other countries, or if you are compiling a history of your branch, ward, stake, district, or mission, the Church History Library may have historical sources that can help bring your story to life.

Digital and Web Sources

Published Sources 

Journals and Personal Papers

Church and Membership Records

 Photographs

 Finding Aids and Indexes

 

Digital and Web Sources


The first issue of the Church’s Millennial Star, which began publication in England in May 1840 and ceased in 1970, when Church magazines were consolidated.

Church Periodicals

The Church History Library has digitized a large number of early periodicals published by the Church. Many of these early publications contain information on specific individuals or Church units. A list of the most useful periodicals is given below:

 

Mormon Migration

Outward Bound, The Goconda, Leaving Liverpool, January 17th 1853 by George Ottinger.

The Mormon Migration database indexes Latter-day Saint emigration records and ship rosters from 1840 to 1932. It includes narrative accounts of ship voyages from those who participated. Generally, the information available includes the names, ages, and origins of travelers as well as ports of departure and arrival, the known number of Latter-day Saints aboard the various ships, and the names of their leaders. This database complements the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database, which details the overland journey to Utah after the immigrants arrived in the United States.

 

Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel

Out and back companies
Down-and-back wagon train headed through Echo Canyon on its way east to meet Mormon emigrants at the Missouri River and transport them to Utah, circa 1866. Photograph by Charles W. Carter.

The Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database indexes rosters and other records of pioneers who traveled overland to Utah between 1847 and 1868 and the companies to which they were assigned. It also includes a bibliography of sources—diary entries, letters, life sketches, newspaper accounts, and so forth. Many narrative overland emigration accounts have been transcribed and can be printed from the site. The database currently contains more than 55,000 names, although an estimated 15,000 names are missing because of lost or incomplete rosters. An option is available on the site for either submitting missing ancestral information or making corrections to data already available.

 

Mormons and Their Neighbors

The Mormons and Their Neighbors database provides an index to more than 100,000 life sketches published in over 200 local and regional history books relating to Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Southern California, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, northern Mexico, and southwestern Canada. The people who are indexed lived primarily between 1820 and 1981, and many pioneers and settlers who were not Latter-day Saints are included. Index entries state whether a photograph accompanies the person’s life sketch.

 

Selected Collections from the Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This collection is a set of 78 DVDs that contain about 400,000 pages of important early Church documents, including the Journal History of the Church from 1830 through 1923, diaries and papers of selected Church leaders, minutes of early Church meetings, and architectural drawings of the Nauvoo Temple and the Salt Lake Temple. The collection is not indexed. A copy is available for use at the Church History Library. Other institutions may house copies as well.

 

Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia

Compiled by Andrew Jenson, this four-volume set includes a large collection of life sketches and photographs of early members of the Church. The volumes include a small number of selected women’s sketches and photographs; the first volume was published in 1901 and the last in 1936.

 

Encyclopedic History of the Church

Compiled by Andrew Jenson, this volume contains brief histories of branches, wards, stakes, conferences, districts, missions, selected localities, and Church publications as well as entries on miscellaneous subjects. It was published in 1941.

 

Church Chronology

Compiled by Andrew Jenson, this volume gives brief chronological entries of Church-related historical events from 1805 through 1898.

 

Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah

Compiled by Frank Esshom and published in 1913, this volume contains about 5,900 photographs and 5,700 brief life sketches of pioneers and settlers in early Utah and the Intermountain West.

 

Brigham Young Office Files 1832–1877

Letter to President Brigham Young from Sarah Cooper of Richmond, Utah, in 1866, asking for money to help members of her family immigrate.

This collection includes approximately 15,000 letters from Church members who were seeking personal guidance, spiritual advice, or financial help from President Brigham Young. Many letters report on missionary matters and colonization progress. The index to the names of those who wrote letters to Brigham Young can be accessed through the Periodical Index. Once a specific letter is found, the digital images are available through the catalog. Researchers should also consult letterpress copybooks for replies to letters.

 

Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This is a chronological, day-by-day scrapbook–type compilation of Church history from 1830 to 2008. Volumes before the 1990s focus on events and personalities in the Intermountain West. Digital images of the index cards and the corresponding pages of the Journal History of the Church are available on the Church History Library online catalog.

 

Published Sources (Available in Hard Copy Only)


Many of the library’s original records are contained in leather-bound volumes from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Daughters of Utah Pioneers Publications

The Daughters of Utah Pioneers began publishing sets of multivolume books in 1939; there are now over 70 volumes available. The volumes describe the Latter-day Saint pioneers’ hardships and experiences while immigrating and later establishing many communities in the Intermountain West; southern Alberta, Canada; and northern Mexico. Volumes include life sketches, local histories, accounts of emigration, transcribed diaries and correspondence, newspaper articles, and photographs. Each volume contains an index. The series includes the following:

  • Heart Throbs of the West (1939–1951, 12 volumes)
  • Treasures of Pioneer History (1952–1957, 6 volumes)
  • Our Pioneer Heritage (1958–1977, 20 volumes)
  • An Enduring Legacy (1978–1989, 12 volumes)
  • Chronicles of Courage (1990–1997, 8 volumes)
  • Museum Memories (2009–present, 3+ volumes)

 

Pioneer Women of Faith and Fortitude

Published by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers in 1998, this four-volume set contains about 4,600 photographs and 8,000 brief life sketches of Latter-day Saint pioneer women who settled in Utah and the surrounding regions.

 

Conquerors of the West

Published by the Sons of Utah Pioneers in 1999, this four-volume set contains hundreds of life sketches and photographs of pioneer-era men.

 

A Database of the Mormon Battalion

Compiled and edited by Carl V. Larson, this book provides rosters of Mormon Battalion members with accompanying genealogical and biographical information compiled from a variety of sources. Detailed bibliographic entries and selected extracts are cited for each battalion member; the first edition was published in 1997.

 

Journals and Personal Papers


The diaries and autobiographical writings of many pioneers, Church leaders, and Church members have been published (for example, Wilford Woodruff, Patty Sessions, John Henry Smith, Caroline Barnes Crosby, Hosea Stout, and Charles Ora Card). Such published volumes usually include indexes of varying completeness. Most journals, diaries, life sketches, and personal papers are not published, and very few manuscript collections are indexed. The Church History Library houses thousands of published and unpublished journals, diaries, life sketches, autograph books, and so forth. The Family History Library holds a significant number of similar microfilmed records that are not found in the Church History Library. Other university, state, or private historical institutions house similar ancestral records.

If your ancestors did not keep diaries or write autobiographies, you may discover information about them contained in the correspondence, diaries, sketches, and papers of their neighbors, local Church leaders, ward members, friends, and business associates.

 

Church and Membership Records


Church Census Records, 1914–1962

The first Church census was taken in 1914, the next one was taken in 1920, and thereafter censuses were taken every five years until 1960. No census was conducted during 1945 because of World War II. The census for 1962 is available only for branches, districts, and missions. Census information identifies members’ ward or branch of residence, which is especially useful for locating other records for the locality in which the members lived. These census records are also available at the Family History Library.

 

Deceased Member Records, 1941–1988

Beginning in 1941 and continuing until July 1988, deceased Church members’ membership records were sent to the Church Historian’s Office for filing. These records usually contain details regarding priesthood ordinations and are very useful for tracing a priesthood line of authority. These records are also available at the Family History Library.

 

Manuscript Histories (Series 2 and 3)

These are unpublished compilations of historical information for local Church units. Initial information was gathered by Church Historian’s Office staff starting in the 1890s. Quarterly historical reports from 1925 to 1967 and annual reports from 1968 to 1983 were added to previous Church Historian’s Office compilations. Annual reports from 1984 to 1999 were only submitted from stakes, districts, and missions; current annual reports from wards (2000–present) are submitted collectively by each stake and added to previous compilations. Information includes descriptions (in varying degrees of completeness) of historical events and activities, lists of callings and releases, newspaper clippings, newsletters, programs, sustaining sheets from ward and stake conferences, and photographs.

 

Record of Members

Early Payson Ward (Utah) membership records.

In the early days of the Church, membership records were kept in varying degrees of completeness and organization. Few such records exist for Church members in the United States before the Latter-day Saints came to Utah. Call numbers for the records differ between the Church History Library and the Family History Library. At the Church History Library, consult the finding aids available there. At the Family History Library, consult the online catalog or the Register of Genealogical Society Call Numbers, volume 2, by Laureen R. Jaussi and Gloria D. Chaston. No master index is available for membership records; however, many volumes are indexed internally. The Church History Library houses recent acquisitions of old membership record books that are not available at the Family History Library.

 

Annual Form E (Ward) and 42-FP (Mission) Reports

These yearly reports for specific local units begin in 1907 and end in 1983. They consist of statistical summaries and lists of members, organized by births, blessings, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, divorces, priesthood ordinations, mission departure and return information, and deaths. Call numbers differ between the Church History Library and Family History Library (see previous comment under “Record of Members”). Microfilm copies of reports from 1907 to about 1948 are available at the Family History Library from 1907 until about 1948; reports beyond that date are available only at the Church History Library.

 

Officers and Historical and Statistical Reports

These annual reports begin in 1907 and end in 1937. They consist of statistical summaries, lists of ward officers, and brief historical notes about local events.

 

Minutes of Meetings

Thatcher Ward (Arizona) minutes of deacons quorum meetings, 1910. These minutes were recorded by Spencer W. Kimball, the quorum’s assistant secretary, who became President of the Church in 1973.

Minutes of various Church meetings in local units were recorded by designated clerks. Minutes of auxiliary meetings—Relief Society, Sunday School, Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association, Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association, and Primary—were recorded and sent to the Church Historian’s Office through 1973, and minutes of sacrament meetings were sent through 1977. Minutes of local Church meetings have not been submitted to Church headquarters since 1978. Minutes vary in detail but can provide insight into an ancestor’s Church activity, including prayers and talks given, callings received, and occasional remarks offered during various meetings. Early minute books from the Intermountain West may contain some miscellaneous information, such as membership records, cemetery maps, burial records, funeral proceedings, school attendance records, irrigation information, business records, personal financial notations, and diary entries. Besides the minutes housed at the Church History Library, other university, state, or private historical institutions may house minutes and other local unit records that were not sent to Church headquarters.

 

Other Local Unit Records

Many types of records from or about local units are potentially available—such as newsletters; dedicatory programs; histories; and photographs of ward members, events, and buildings. Many items are available only at the Church History Library, but other historical institutions may house similar items.

 

Photographs


Dutch Church members donate potatoes to German members after the devastation of World Ward II, circa 1947-1949.

The Church History Library houses hundreds of thousands of photographs of Church leaders, individuals, families, missionaries, meetinghouses, temples, local unit activities, and Church historic sites and events from around the world. Many photographs are available only at the Church History Library; other university, state, or private historical institutions house similar photograph collections.

 

Physical Facilities Department Photograph Collection, circa 1890–1988

Logan Square Chapel, Willmette Illinois Stake, circa 1910.

This collection contains photographs of buildings built, purchased, or rented by the Church, including temples, tabernacles, stake offices, meetinghouses, Relief Society halls and granaries, recreation halls, seminaries, institute buildings, and mission homes and offices. It is most frequently used by those compiling histories of the Church in their ward, stake, or local area. This collection is accessible on the Church History Library online catalog.

 

Finding Aids


LDS Church Periodical Index

The LDS Church Periodical Index database is found under the Index tab of the Church History Library online catalog. It indexes authors, titles, and subjects from periodicals published by the Church as well as from other journals and magazines with significant Church content. Abstracts of most articles are provided. The index spans from 1976 to present.

 

Rebaptisms in Great Salt Lake Valley, 1847–1863

This is an index of members who were rebaptized in the Salt Lake City area from 1847 to 1863 as a sign of recomittment to the gospel. The index includes records of some initial baptisms. Only a few baptisms are dated from 1858 to 1863. This index is available at the Church History Library.

 

Public Works Accounts Books Index, 1850–1893

This is an index of men employed in building and making furnishings for public buildings and Church structures, including the Salt Lake Temple, which was finished in 1893 (at which time the public works program ended). The men worked as carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, plasterers, machinists, painters, quarrymen, mason tenders, lumbermen, millwrights, and sawyers. The index includes each person’s initial hiring date. The individual records provide information about approximate length of employment. This index is available at the Church History Library.

 

Winter Quarters Wards Membership Lists, 1846–1848

This is an index of partially reconstructed lists of members living in Winter Quarters, Nebraska, from 1846 to 1848. This index is available at the Church History Library.

 

First Presidency Missionary Calls and Recommendations, 1877–1918

Elder Cyrus LeRoy Greaves of Preston, Idaho, was called to serve in the Eastern States Mission from 104 to 1906. His acceptance reply was sent from Cardston, Alberta, Canada, to President Joseph F. Smith.

This collection contains letters written by local Church leaders recommending members to be called to serve missions. It includes replies from members either accepting or rejecting their calls. There is an online index to the collection; to access the collection, ask for assistance at the Church History Library reference desk.

 

Patriarchal Blessings

Photocopies of direct ancestors’ patriarchal blessings can be applied for by submitting a request online or by mailing a request to the Church History Library. Early Church members often received more than one patriarchal blessing.

 

Nauvoo Temple Carpenters Time Book, 1842–1846

The index to the time book contains the names of carpenters who worked on the Nauvoo Temple and the time period that they worked. The actual time book gives little additional information. The time book and the time book index are available on the Church History Library website.

 

Quorums of the Seventy Membership Records and Autobiographies (Nauvoo Era)

This is an index to Quorums of the Seventy minute books and membership rolls kept during the Nauvoo era. The books contain minutes of meetings and lists of members with occasional interfiled life sketches. The lists of members provide genealogical information (birth and parentage details) in varying degrees of completeness. The life sketches are sporadic because relatively few members of the Seventy complied with requests to submit their life sketches to the respective quorum’s clerk. Use the index to locate a person’s name and corresponding quorum number; then go to the collection identified by call number CR 499, and search for the quorum number you found. This will give you the information necessary to find that quorum’s minutes and membership rolls. Generally, the quorum records will contain summaries of topics of discussion, members’ comments and testimonies expressed during meetings, lists of donations, and so forth.

 

High Priests of Nauvoo and Early Salt Lake City

This is an index of names of men ordained to the office of high priest during the Nauvoo era and the early years in Salt Lake City. The corresponding original records primarily contain genealogical information (birth and parentage details) in varying degrees of completeness. This index is available at the Church History Library.

 

Iowa Branch Index, 1839–1859

This is an index to membership records from Iowa branches from 1839 to 1859. To use the index, locate an ancestor’s name and go to the corresponding branch records to obtain possible additional information. This index is available at the Church History Library.

 

Perpetual Emigrating Fund Ledger Index, 1849–1887

John Eames and his family emigrated from England to Utah in 1868. The family borrowed money from the Perpetual Emigrating Fund for their expenses. A promissory note and ledger entry document the family’s debt and efforts to pay it back.

This is an index of names of members who borrowed money from the Perpetual Emigrating Fund in order to emigrate from Europe to Utah. This index is available at the Church History Library. If you find a person’s name in this index, you may want to look for further information in related records at the Church History Library, including ledgers, promissory notes, and lists of indebtedness. Notations in records may list names of family members who emigrated and sporadic important information, such as death dates or places of residence both before and after emigration.