Utah Genealogy

Doing Genealogy in Utah

Doing genealogy in Utah is an interesting and relatively simple procedure. Utah was settled by Mormon pioneers as early as 1847 and, with the church's emphasis on performing temple ordinances on behalf of deceased ancestors, the Mormons have been a "record keeping" people since the 1830s. While the first settlers in Utah were Mormons, people of other denominations soon began arriving. Therefore, we will look first at all Utah genealogy records, not just those for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

One of the best primary sources is, of course, the censuses. Although Utah was not a state until 1896, and the first pioneers had arrived only 3 years earlier, the leaders of the territory determined to be included in the 1850 census. Probably because they had not received the standard forms for such an undertaking, they apparently decided to use plain paper and drew columns for the information. Because of distances involved, this census was taken over a period of time and so you will sometimes find people enumerated twice; they had moved between enumerations. Information given on the 1850 census includes names, ages, gender, occupation, place of birth, value of real estate and other information regarding school or whether they married during the year. There is, by nature of the population, a large number of female-headed households. By 1860, Utahns used the regulation government census form and thus they continued. The church also took periodic censuses beginning in 1912.

Vital records are another good source for doing genealogy in Utah. Although records of births, marriages and deaths were kept by various churches and cities prior to 1905, it wasn't until then that the state began keeping these records. Logan has births and deaths from the 1860s, Ogden has them from 1890, and Salt Lake City has births from 1890s and deaths from as early as 1847. Counties kept marriage records from 1887.

Cemetery records are an ideal place to look when doing genealogy in Utah. Some counties have indexed their cemeteries and others have not. A great web site for all cemetery records is www.findagrave.com. Information given in indexes varies but generally includes names (women are usually listed by their name at time of death but not always - it depends on what was put on the headstone), birth year, death year, and name of cemetery.

Probate records can also assist with your Utah genealogy. These are kept by and at county recorders' offices. Land records are kept at county recorders' offices too. At least in Utah County, you will need to know the address of the property in question. These records involve not just the buying and selling of land (property was first deeded by the mayor or other local authority) but also any transaction involving land, including dowers and divorce settlements.

Newspapers are a wonderful source of genealogy information in Utah! While bigger cities usually had a daily newspaper, smaller ones had weeklies. Newspapers then were not laid out like the ones today. You will need to read every article to find what you are looking for but they are a gold mine of information to let you know what your ancestors' lives were like.

Several good secondary sources have been compiled of people living in Utah. These include Marvin Wiggins' Mormons and Their Neighbors (1820-1984), Frank Esshom's Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah (1913), and Utah Pioneer Biographies in 44 volumes. The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers have compiled 12 volumes of Heart Throbs of the West, 20 volumes of Our Pioneer Heritage and 6 volumes of Treasures of Pioneer History.

Records specific to Mormon genealogy in Utah are church-related records such as the Utah Immigration Card Index, European Emigration Card Index, Early Church Information File, Membership Card Index, the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia by Andrew Jensen and Journal History of the Church, as well as records kept by all the wards (congregations) of the church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other local entities have made great efforts to index, copy and microfilm most of the early records, and they are available from the Family History Library or local government offices and universities.

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