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Many students write for information because they have an assignment on the Donner Party. Here are some suggestions:

1. Start with general information.

If you don't know anything about the Donner Party, look it up in an encyclopedia -- there are several online.
Read a book! I'm not kidding. You're not going to find a simple, accurate, well-illustrated account of the Donner Party on the Internet. Sure, you'll find a lot of information, but most of it won't make sense unless you already know the story. You'll have to fit all the bits and pieces together yourself, which is a waste of time because somebody has already done it for you. Marian Calabro's The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party and David Lavender's Snowbound were written especially for young people. They're factual, easy to read, and have lots of illustrations. If your local library doesn't have them, you can request them through Interlibrary Loan.
If you want to try something written for adults, read George R. Stewart's Ordeal by Hunger -- it's outdated and has quite a few errors, but Stewart is a great storyteller -- or you could try Peter Limburg's Deceived.
You could also watch a video of Ric Burns' documentary The Donner Party.
For an outline of the Donner story, see the
Chronology page.

2. Now you're ready to start digging.

Think about your assignment. What is your teacher really asking for? What do you need in order to finish your project? Once you have an idea you can start looking for the particular information you need.
Sources are books and articles that give you information about the Donner Party. Many of them are listed on the Sources page, which includes Children's/Young Adult Books.
If you want to know about Donner Party members, see the
Roster pages. There's information about each person.
If you have questions, visit the
FAQ page. The answers could be there already.
Look at the other pages on this website. You might find something that really interests you.
There are many hyperlinks to other websites with information about the Donner Party on the Links page.
Don't expect to find everything you need on the Internet.

3. Maps

In September 2000 National Geographic published an article about the overland trails and included a folded map showing various emigrant routes, including Hastings Cutoff. Your library may have this map.
There are also maps in The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party, Snowbound, The Donner Party Chronicles, The Oregon Trail Revisited, Maps of the California Trail, West from Fort Bridger, Trailing the Pioneers, Trail of the First Wagons over the Sierra Nevada, and other books listed on the Sources page.
For maps on the Internet, see "Trails and Tours" on the
Links page, especially the OCTA virtual tour, the Trails of Hope website, or Dan Rosen's page. Some of the other websites listed on the Links page also have maps.

4. Illustrations

The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party, Snowbound, and The Donner Party Chronicles have great illustrations. (Publication information is given on the Sources page.)
If you want to find pictures of people and other illustrations on the Internet, there are some on Dan Rosen's website and other websites listed on the
Links page.

5. Unanswered questions

If you still can't find what you want to know, you can write to me. But please:

Make sure the answer isn't already on the FAQ page.
Ask specific questions. Many students write, "I have to do a project on the Donner Party. Please send me information." Well, I'm sorry, but I can't tell you the whole Donner story by e-mail!

6. Remember:

Teachers give you assignments so you'll learn how to find information and think for yourself. Have fun with it, and good luck!


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Revised: 31 Jan 2006

Original content copyright 1997-2006 by Kristin Johnson. All rights reserved.