Utah History and Research Overview

By Family Tree Editors Premium

The first white settlers in Utah were the pioneer Saints — members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — who were following Brigham Young, the newly recognized prophet of the church. Brigham Young led the first wagon train of Mormons into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Over the next 12 years, some 69,000 Mormons flocked to Utah by wagon and handcart. In 1849, the provisional State of Deseret was organized with a constitution and system of government that was in effect until Utah became a US territory in 1850.

Until statehood was granted in 1896, the federal government and the Mormons — the majority of Utah’s settlers — often came to disagreements, mostly as a result of the unique practices of the religion, which included polygamy. Over the years a number of federal anti-polygamy acts had a direct affect on when, where and how the territory’s courts worked, in addition to altering record-keeping practices.

Because of the overseas missionary efforts of the church, Utah had a large influx of immigrants as those in Britain, Europe, and Scandinavia began to convert to this new religion and head to “Zion” — Utah.

(click to enlarge)
Utah state map with county outlines


  • A Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church History Library online database names pioneers who came to Utah from 1847 to 1868,15773,3966-1,00.html.
  • While the Family History Library is under the auspices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is open to anyone. To get the most from the Family History Library and its branches around the country, read Your Guide to the Family History Library by Paula Stuart Warren and James W. Warren (Betterway Books, 2001).
  • When it comes to early births, see whether midwives’ records exist. The Family History Library is a good place to start, searching on the city and town level.


  • Federal census: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • Federal mortality schedules: 1870
  • Special census of Civil War Union veterans and widows: 1890
  • State/territorial census: 1851, 1856


  • Church Records, 1868-1940 from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (filmed by the Family History Library, 1994)
  • Daughters of the Utah Pioneer Lessons, 31 vols., by Kate B. Carter (Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, 1937-1968)
  • Early Utah Journalism by J. Cecil Alter (Utah State Historical Society, 1938)
  • Encyclopedia History of the Church by Andrew Jenson (Deseret News Publishing Co., 1941)
  • Episcopal Register of the Bishop of Utah (Bishop’s Personal Register) 1899-1946, 1951-1967 from the Episcopal Diocese of Utah (filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1975)
  • Genealogical Records in Utah by Laureen Richardson Jaussi and Gloria Duncan Chaston (Deseret Book Co., 1974)
  • Guide to Archives and Manuscript Collections in Selected Utah Repositories (Utah State Historical Society, 1990, CD-ROM)
  • Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies by Davis Bitton (Brigham Young University Press, 1977)
  • Guide to Newspapers Located in the Utah State Historical Society Library by Linda Thatcher (Utah State Historical Society, 1985)
  • Guide to Official Records of Genealogical Value in the State of Utah (Utah State Archives and Records Service, 1980)
  • A Guide to the Oral History Collection (Utah State Historical Society Library, 1980)
  • A Guide to Unpublished Materials at the Utah State Historical Society in Salt Lake City (Utah State Historical Society, 1989)
  • Heart Throbs of the West, 12 vols., compiled by Kate B. Carter (Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, 1939- )
  • Here Are the Counties of Utah by Betty R. Cook (Betty R. Cook, 1983)
  • “The History of Marriage in Utah, 1847-1905” by Lyman D. Platt in Genealogical Journal vol. 12 (Spring 1983) pages 28-41
  • History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols., by Joseph Smith (1902; Deseret Book Co., 1970)
  • Inventory of the Church Archives of Utah, 3 vols., from the Historical Records Survey (Utah Historical Records Survey, 1940)
  • Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia by Andrew Jenson (A. Jenson History Co., 1901-1936)
  • The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints by Leonard J. Arrington (Alfred A. Knopf, 1980)
  • Mormons and Their Neighbors: An Index of Over 75,000 Biographical Sketches From 1820 to the Present, 2 vols., by Marvin E. Wiggins (Brigham Young Univ., 1984)
  • Municipal Records Manual, 1983 (Utah State Archives and Records Service, 1983)
  • Name Index to the Library of Congress, Collection of Mormon Diaries (Utah State University, 1971)
  • Our Pioneer Heritage, 20 vols., compiled by Kate B. Carter (Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, 1958-1977)
  • Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah by Frank Esshom (1913; Western Epics, 1966)
  • Portrait, Genealogical and Biographical Record of the State of Utah (National Historical Board, 1902)
  • Salt of the Earth by Bernice Mooney (Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, 1987)
  • The Story of the Latter-day Saints by James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard (Deseret Book Co., 1976)
  • Treasures of Pioneer History, 6 vols., compiled by Kate B. Carter (Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, 1952-1957)
  • Utah: A Centennial History, 3 vols., edited by Wain Sutton (Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1949)
  • Utah: A People’s History by Dean L. May (University of Utah Press, 1987)
  • Utah Research Outline by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (online at
  • Utah’s Newspapers: Traces of Her Past edited by Robert P. Holley (University of Utah, 1984)
  • Utah, the Storied Domain: A Documentary History of Utah’s Eventful Career, 3 vols., by J. Cecil Alter (American Historical Society, 1932)

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From the Family Tree Sourcebook
Also available: the State Research Guide Book, State Research Guides CD and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.