Now What? Trails and Tribulations

By Diane Haddad Premium

Q. My great grandparents went West on a wagon train after 1892. They lived in Memphis, Scotland County, Mo. Is there a way to verify their names on a roster or find out which wagon train they were on?

A. We don’t know of a comprehensive list of wagon train passengers, and not all trains were documented, so you’ll have to search a variety of sources. It’ll help to know when and where your great grandparents departed and arrived, and which trail they followed. Examine your research for clues, search for land claims in the destination state (use the General Land Office records site <>), look up your ancestors in US and territorial censuses, and double-check their obituaries.

Then type the name of your ancestors’ trail into a Web search engine such as Google <>. For example, a search on Oregon trail turns up wagon train lists and other resources on Oregon GenWeb <>. Try search terms such as wagon train genealogy plus the arrival and departure places, and mine Cyndi’s List <>.

Genealogical, historical and pioneer societies in Western states (such as California <california>) usually collect research materials and maintain registries of people who’ve proven their ancestors arrived before statehood. Some groups focus on particular trails, such as the Oregon California Trails Association <>. Museums also may help: The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center <> in Oregon City describes pioneer families and trail history on its Web site.

Search state archive Web sites and online catalogs, too. Look for pioneer manuscript collections, trail journals and published indexes such as California Wagon Train Lists compiled by Louis J. Rasmussen (San Francisco Historic Records) in the California State Library <>.

Newspapers sometimes reported wagon train happenings, including arrivals and departures. Check papers at both ends of your ancestors’ trail and along the way. See The February 2007 Family Tree Magazine for newspaper research advice.

From the July 2007 issue of Family Tree Magazine

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