The Journey is the Reward:
Tracing Scandinavian Latter-day Saints
A book has been created to assist you in your search of ancestry from the Scandinavian Mission from 1852-1881. It is free and it is available now. To learn more about this book go to the Journey is the Reward book page.
The purpose of this page is to provide step-by-step procedures to trace the emigration of members of the LDS church from the Scandinavian Mission in the time period of 1852-1868.
Understanding the emigration begins with an understanding of the history of the Scandinavian Mission and the emigration itself. A Brief History of the Scandinavian Mission provides an overview while the articles Mormon Influence on Scandinavian Settlement in Nebraska and Scandinavians to Zion: From the Old World to the New World provide more details on some migration patterns.
Where Do I start?
The first place to begin is to identify the nationality, names, birthdates or birth year of your ancestors that came from Scandinavia. Any other family information such as parent's names, sibling names and their ages is also useful.
One of the things to keep in mind are the name variations that existed during the latter half of the 19th century. Standardized spelling had not come into its own, so someone with a name like Niels Nielsen may be spelled Nils Nelsin, Neils Nilson, Nels Nillsson, or Nels Nelson.
The second thing you need to do is to determine an approximate emigration date. This can be done by knowing the date outright from a history of the person, or seeing that a child was born in Utah in a given year you know that they arrived prior to that. Another method is if the person was single and subsequently married upon arrival to Utah you can know that they left the old country prior to that time. Still another way is by looking up the name(s) in the 1860 Utah census. If they were listed there then you know to look prior to 1860.
Begin Your Search
Try looking at the listing of the LDS Scandinavian Mission emigration registers from 1854-1868, which has over 10,000 Scandinavian names of those who intended to emigrate to Utah and is sorted by surname, first name. Other family members can be estimated by matching the surname, emigration year, and register page number as most families appeared on the same page. Remember that not everyone made it. Death on the voyage, death on the trail, and other circumstances prevented some from making the entire journey. Auerila Clemons has done verbatim transcription of the years 1852-1866 and 1867-1881.
If nothing is found then begin your search by searching the Mormon Pioneer Search database.
Another resource that details church and emigration records is the Scandinavian LDS Records page and it can be useful if you don't find your ancestor on the Emigration from LDS Scandinavian Mission page.
If your ancestor was Swedish then see the reference to the Swedish Mormon Pioneers books.
If you know that your ancestry came from one of the first two organized groups, which were the Kelsey and Forsgren companies then see the Kelsey roster or the Forsgren roster.
Identify the Ship
One of your first tasks in documenting the voyage is to identify which ship that your ancestor was on. Most of the Scandinavian companies traveled together as a unit on scheduled trips made by church officials in Europe and in the states. The Scandinavian Emigrant Ship Companies page lists these major companies with film numbers for LDS and US rosters, which you can then verify that your ancestor was on that ship. For many years it is a simple task of matching up the year with the ship on the aforementioned page, however if you are unable to find them on a roster look at the European Emigration Card Index and look for the individual there.
A few individuals or families came to America by themselves traveling in other LDS companies. If you think your ancestor fits in this category then visit the Mormon Emigrant Companies from 1840-1868. and then consult the Worldwide LDS ship register page to find the microfilm numbers of the U.S. and/or LDS rosters of the ship.
Documenting the Voyage
The next task is to detail what you can about the voyage itself. To aid in this task you can look at Andrew Jenson's summary of each voyage at the Narratives of the Emigration from the Scandinavian Mission 1852-1868 page. To see information on the ship itself and possibly a picture of the ship that your ancestor came on look at the Scandinavian Emigrant Ship Descriptions and Voyage Narratives web page. Still another resource that can be used is the book, Mormons on the High Seas that lists a bibliography for ocean voyage narratives. Additionally the Millennial Star, which was a LDS publication in Europe can provide some unique details. See the Millennial Star References to Emigration 1848-1860 page for references. Match up the year and/or ship to find a corresponding reference. Finally you can see what is available from various Daughters of Utah Pioneers publications.
If you ancestor came in 1863, 1864 or 1868 you may want to visit one of these pages:
Other articles of general interest on the ocean voyage experience are
Documenting the Trail Experience
To identify the company that your ancestor came in you can see what Andrew Jenson said about which group went with which wagon company on the narratives page or by scanning the Scandinavian Pioneer Index.
Once you have identified the company you can see what was written about the wagon trail experience in Mormon Pioneer Companies Crossing the Plains by referring to the bibliography for your ancestor's company.
If your ancestor was a member of the Forsgren company in 1853 you may want to read a journal that details the experience.
Another resource to look at are letters written by those who made the trip to the states and told their relatives back in Scandinavia about their experience.
If your ancestry came from Iceland consider reading the article, LDS Icelandic Settlement in America.
Another excellent resource on Iceland LDS settlement is The Icelanders of Utah by La Nora Allred. It can only be found at the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City with the call number of US/CAN 979.2 F2a.
Verify Your Pioneer Against a Roster
You can verify that your ancestory arrived prior to 1869 by looking at the Scandinavian Pioneer Index or use an alternate source of information for telling when a pioneer arrived by examining the 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 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 paid their debt.
The names from the Scandinavian Pioneer Index and the names from the aforementioned book can be found easily by searching Mormon Pioneer Search. Remember to try all variations of the name as Scandinavian names sometimes had several spellings.
Other alternate records include the 1860 census or the existence of other records such as a birth, baptism, marriage, endowment, sealing or death in Utah prior to 1869.
Still Not Found
If you are unable to locate your ancestor consider expanding the year range that you search or look for them traveling with other family members e.g. brother, parents, brother-in-law, etc. If this expanding of the search parameters reveals nothing you may want to consider finding an expert researcher or genealogist to help you.
For more information on Scandinavian genealogy see the Scandinavian Genealogical Links