Background Sources for Utah

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This entry was originally written by Patricia Lyn Scott, CA and Gary Topping Ph.D. for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Utah Family History Research series.
History of Utah
Utah Vital Records
Census Records for Utah
Background Sources for Utah
Utah Maps
Utah Land Records
Utah Probate Records
Utah Court Records
Utah Tax Records
Utah Cemetery Records
Utah Church Records
Utah Military Records
Utah Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Utah Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Utah Naturalization
Native Americans of Utah
Utah County Resources
Map of Utah


The story of the exodus of the Mormons from eastern parts of the United States is not the only aspect of Utah emigration, although it is a large part. Two-thirds of those early immigrants arriving in the Salt Lake Basin in 1847 and thereafter were settlers largely from states north of the Ohio River. Approximately sixty percent were from New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio, with forebears from New England. People from Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky comprised the bulk of the remaining U.S.-born emigrants. Foreign-born Mormons originated mostly from the British Isles, with the second largest group coming from the Scandinavian countries. Emigration of other parties and the establishment of mining districts, particularly the Tintic district and mines around Price, Utah, constitute other major settlement groups.

Mormons have written and preserved the history of their ancestors better than most of their contemporaries. The other major settlement groups also have good printed sources regarding their history.

For background reading in Utah history, see:

  • Alexander, Thomas G. Utah—the Right Place: The Official Centennial History. Salt Lake City: Gibbs-Smith Publishers, 1995.
  • Arrington, Leonard J. Great Basin Kingdom: Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830–1900. Lincoln, Nebr.: University of Nebraska Press, 1958.
  • Arrington, Leonard J., and Davis Bitton. The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints. New York: Vintage Books, 1980.
  • Papanikolas, Helen Zeese, ed. The Peoples of Utah. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1976. The diversity of population in Utah is covered.
  • Poll, Richard D., Thomas G. Alexander, Eugene E. Campbell, and David E. Miller, eds. Utah’s History. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1978. A collection of chapters written by the editors and others, which covers various aspects of Mormon and non-Mormon Utah history. A bibliographic essay covering Utah’s history is included.
  • Powell, Alan Kent, ed. Utah History Encyclopedia. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1994. Also available online at www.media.utah.edu/UHE.

Some unusual, highly informative publications are those by Kate B. Carter: Heart Throbs of the West (13 vols., 1939–51); Treasures of Pioneer History (6 vols., 1952–57) and Our Pioneer Heritage (18 vols., 1959–75), all published in Salt Lake City by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. Many personal accounts of settlers, as well as invaluable source materials, are included. These publications and other biographical/family history sources are available as part of Ancestry’s LDS Family History Suite 2 (1998).

For genealogical research, Laureen R. Jaussi and Gloria D. Chaston’s Genealogical Records of Utah (see Utah Vital Records) is an essential guide, detailing church and government-related documents and sources as well as discussing the genealogical uses and limitations of records and sources.

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