AncestorNews: Pioneer Certificates

By Nancy Hendrickson Premium

Did you know that several genealogy societies offer “pioneer certificates” to direct descendants of people whose family settled in a certain area before a specific date? Some societies even offer more than one type of certificate. For example, the Utah Genealogical Society offers a Founding Pioneer, Territorial Pioneer or Territorial Citizen certificate for anyone whose ancestor was in Utah before 1851 or from 1851 to January 4, 1856. People with forebears born in Utah before 1856 are eligible, too.


Proving your connection to a “pioneer” is a nice way of honoring your adventuresome ancestor, as well as adding an interesting feature to your family tree book or software.

As with other lineage-based organizations, you’ll have to prove your pioneer connection using sources such as church records, birth, marriage and death certificates or census records. It’s possible you’ll need to send along a pedigree chart and family group sheet. And it may require a small fee (usually less than $15).

While you’re hunting down your pioneer certificate, look for other types of available certifications. For instance, the Illinois State Genealogical Society ( issues certificates to direct descendants of Illinois Civil War veterans.

Here’s a small sampling of sites for pioneer certificates. If your state isn’t listed, use your favorite search engine and enter the search phrase “Texas pioneer certificate” (or whatever state you’re looking for). By the way, some societies will issue certificates to residents of a specific county—so if your state-related search doesn’t help, try searching for the county name plus “pioneer certificate.” If that doesn’t work, post a query on Ancestry’s Pioneer Certificate bulletin board.

A few pioneer certificate sites:

Cook County, Ill., Pioneer Certificates

Tennessee Pioneer Certificate

Florida Pioneer Descendants

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