Verify the Name Against a Pioneer Roster
If you have identified the name with an entry in the index then go and verify the name by checking the name against a roster list.
One quick way to do this is to look up the name in Mormon Pioneer Search, which contains thousands of names of those found on pioneer rosters.
Another great resource is the Utah immigration index or also know as the Crossing the Plains index, which is an alphabetical index of persons who crossed the plains to Utah between 1847 and 1868 in Church-sponsored companies. Once you find the name go to the source mentioned for more details.
Another way a roster list can be found is by referencing the Pioneer Companies page or the book, Mormon Pioneer Companies Crossing the Plains and looking up the company name and then look for the source of the roster. You can then look up the roster (if it exists) in Journal History or the Deseret News.
One alternate source of information for telling when a pioneer arrived is a book, Perpetual Emigration Fund: Names of Persons and Sureties indebted to the Perpetual Emigration Fund Company from 1850 to 1877. This book is contained on microfilm 25686 or digitally in the link above and lists the name and year the person arrived to Utah. This book is incomplete in that it only lists the names of those who have NOT paid their debt back to the fund.
Mormon Pioneer Search, the pioneer search engine contains the names of those PEF pioneers who migrated to Utah in the 1850-1868 time period from this book.
See the article, The Emigrating Fund in Europe to learn about the history of the Perpetual Emigration Fund.
If you are unable to find your ancestor in the Utah Immigration Index or the book mentioned above you may want to search the Utah Census for 1850, 1860, and 1870. If you find them in the 1850 or 1860 census you can pretty much say that they were a pioneer. If they are found in the 1870 census they may have been a pioneer as the cut off year is 1868 after that they may not have walked across the plains as the railroad came through Ogden (about 35 miles north of Salt Lake City) in May of 1869, which allowed the Saints to take the train across the country without the need of a wagon train. It should also be noted that many companies did not have an official roster. If there was no roster then you need to link your ancestor with the company through other accounts of the trip prior to their leaving the Midwest. Some of these sources include personal diaries and journals and accounts by historians, which can be found in the Compiled Sources page.
Verify name against an original document
Many original source documents for rosters have now been digitized and should be used whenever possible to verify information. The Pioneer Companies that Crossed the Plains 1847-1868 web page will link to those sources when you find a link that is at the Church History Library in the Roster column off to the right. Remember that not every name is always mentioned in the original source it may just have a name (as a head of household) and a number of family members with him and sometimes not even that. You need to build upon other resources e.g. ship rosters to know who traveled in the family at that time.
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