Q&A with B. Nelson

Q: How did the web site Tracing Mormon Pioneers begin?

A: Back in the Summer of 1996 I was doing research for a book on my family history and thought it would be nice to trace the route taken by my Mormon ancestry in 1859. I completed my initial research in a few days, but I found the search to be haphazard since there was no single place that told me what I needed to do to accomplish my tasks, so I thought it might be a good idea to create a web page and share my experiences.

Q: When did the page start?

A: The page was started in November of 1996 and the page was about three printed pages of material at first. Now if all the pages were printed it would take a ream of paper to see them all.

Q: What was the response?

A: It was kind of slow at first, but in 1997 with the 150th year celebration of the first company arrival to Salt Lake City there was more interest. So with each month it seems to get more and more popular as the word got around. Many people send E-mail saying they were suprised that no one had thought of this before. I had wondered too.

Q: Do you respond to E-mail inquries?

A: Oh yes. Hundreds have written in asking this or that about their pioneer ancestry. Luckily I have been able to help most people in one way or another.

Q: What is the most common question that people have?

A: Hmmm. I think one of the most common is "Why isn't my ancestor listed on one of your web pages?" The problem with tracking down Mormon ancestry and their trek to Utah is that you have varying degrees of documentation. Some companies were well documented and some do not have anything on them. Sometimes you are left with very little to begin with, so I often suggest that people look at alternate resources such as census or church records to document one's arrival to Salt Lake City.

Also another problem that arises is that most people don't realize that the pioneer rosters are incomplete. One example is that in 1852 the record was so incomplete the editor of the Deseret News complained in the newspaper that company clerks were not doing their job in turning in completed rosters. Another example is in 1854. No pioneer rosters were printed in the Deseret News that year.

Q: What is best advice you have given those who send E-mail?

A: Follow the simple outline I have put forth on the Tracing Mormon Pioneers page and also take a look at the Pioneer Search web page, which lists tens of thousands of pioneers. It sounds simple, but it works.

Q: Where do you get all the material for the site?

A: Mostly from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Some of the material I find is quite by accident. I remember doing some research on the European floor and I looked up and saw ten huge volumes documenting LDS Swedish migration. It was a wonderful resource with one page per person. I added it as soon as I got home that day.

Q: What are the future plans for the site?

A: As I find new resources I will add them to the site. Right now much of my focus is on Pioneer Search and adding resources to that.

Q: Tell me about Pioneer Search.

A: Some had commented in their E-mails that they wanted an easier way to look for their pioneer ancestry. I had tens of thousands of names on various pages and it could take a person some time to track down the one individual they were looking for. I put together all these names into a single page and put a front end on it to allow a visitor to search by name and year of migration.

Q: What are your future plans for Pioneer Search?

A: Continue adding entries. My main focus now is to add more and more pioneer rosters that are found in the Deseret News and Journal History.

Q: How do you top Tracing Mormon Pioneers and Pioneer Search?

A: I don't know. Maybe a book or something on what I have learned and shared over the last couple years. I know I need to get it on paper some time as I want this information to be available to next generation of family historians.