LDS Colonization

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This section is about the history of Church settlements and colonies. This information will help you understand your ancestors’ movements and may help you determine their origins.

For information about the Church immigration to the United States, or the journey of the pioneers to Utah see the "Emigration and Immigration" section of this outline.

History of Church Settlements

One of the earliest gathering places for Latter-day Saints was Kirtland, Ohio. At almost the same time Jackson County, Missouri, and later several northern Missouri counties were also settled by Church members. Relatively few records exist from those early settlements. By 1839 many Saints began to gather in the area around Nauvoo, Illinois. In 1846 most Church members crossed Iowa to set up Winter Quarters near what would become Omaha, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa.

After arriving in Salt Lake Valley in July 1847, President Brigham Young sent exploration parties to find suitable places to settle in Utah and the mountain west. He also assigned people to colonize an area based on the talents and professional skills. Families who arrived later, often settled in a community with people they knew from the old country, or who were of the same ethnic background. This colonization effort continued for over 50 years, eventually leading to more than 500 settlements in the western United States, Mexico, and Canada. While some settlements were abandoned, many of these communities still exist today.


General information about Church colonization and settlement is found in:

Historical Atlas of Mormonism. New York and London: Simon and Schuster, 1994. (FHL 289.3 H629). Includes index. This atlas includes maps showing Church migration, settlements and founding dates, colonization, birthplaces of Church leaders, migration trails, and ethnic patterns.

"Mormon Colonization 1847–1900." Deseret News 1980 Church Almanac. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News, 1980. (FHL book 289.305 D457), 321–25. This list is chronological by year. Settlements are listed alphabetically under each year. This helps you determine the earliest date a member could have settled in a community.

Nelson, Lowry. The Mormon Village: A Pattern and Technique of Land Settlement. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1952. (FHL book 289.3792 N334m). Includes index. This book gives you background information about how church settlements were organized in the United States and Canada.

Carter, Richard. Mormon Colonies, 1847–1900. N.p.: [1979?]. (FHL map 978 E7caw). This detailed map shows the communities in the western United States that were settled by members of the Church.

Nauvoo. The Lands and Records Office of Nauvoo Restoration, Incorporated specializes in the records of settlers in Nauvoo and surrounding areas of Illinois and Iowa. See the "Archives and Libraries" section of this outline for the address and telephone number.

Map of the City of Nauvoo. [1842?] Reprint, Nauvoo, Ill.: Nauvoo Restoration, 1971. (FHL map 977.343 E7n). This map is drawn from 1842 plats. It shows each Nauvoo land section. Use this map in conjunction with the land records to see exactly where your ancestor lived in Nauvoo.

Nauvoo Restoration Incorporated Historical Index. Salt Lake City, Utah: Nauvoo Restoration Incorporated, 1973. (FHL film.) This index is not listed in the Family History Library Catalog, but it is available on 16 reels of microfilm in the Special Collections Room in the Family History Library. It is not available to Family History Centers. This source indexes Church and civil records for Nauvoo and the Hancock County area. It has has more than 100,000 cards. It indexes tax records, newspapers, periodicals, cemetery records, land deeds, and census records. Most cards give a person's name, page, and source. Some cards give more information. This source is explained in:

Sperry, Kip. "The Nauvoo Restoration, Incorporated Historical Index." Genealogical Journal 4, no. 1 (March 1975): 34-39. (FHL book 973 D25gj v. 3-4). This has a selected list of 71 of the more useful sources included in the Nauvoo Restoration Incorporated Historical Index.

[Nauvoo Social History Index]. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1983. (FHL fiche 6334931 [set of 6]). This is a personal name index to over 71,000 records including Nauvoo property records, tax lists, ship lists, censuses, family group records, and research notes. Shows the name, sex, and source information for each entry.

Sperry, Kip "Nauvoo and Hancock County, Illinois: A Selected Bibliography of Family and Local History Sources." In Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History-Illinois. Provo, Utah: Department of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University, 1995. Several hundred sources are listed with full bibliographic information. This source is available in the Historical Department—Church Library.

Utah was primarily settled by Church members. Many histories of these communities are available. Look in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:





For maps and tables of Utah settlements see:

Atlas of Utah. [Ogden], Utah: Weber State College; Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1981. (FHL book Q 979.2 E7a). It gives the date of settlement. These maps also show county boundaries needed to find church and civil records

Western United States. Church members settled many areas in the western United States, especially the states immediately surrounding Utah, parts of California, and western Oregon. To find information about these communities in the Family History Library Catalog, look in the Locality Search for the town, county or state. Each state’s research outline may also give you more information.

Histories of these settlements may identify the origins of the settlers and add color to family histories. The following histories discuss Church settlements and colonization in the western United States. They are organized alphabetically by state:

McClintock, James H. Mormon Settlement in Arizona: A Record of Peaceful Conquest of the Desert. Phoenix, Arizona: Manufacturing Stationers, 1921. (FHL book 979.1 K2m; film 1033844 item 10). This book discusses about 200 Church settlements in Arizona between 1847 and 1920.

Muir, Leo Joseph. A Century of Mormon Activities in California. Two volumes. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Press, 1952. (FHL book 979.4 K2m; film 1000136 items 5–6). This is not circulated to Family History Centers. Volume one has historical information. Volume two contains biographical sketches. This is indexed in the Early Church Information File.

Lyman, Edward Leo. San Bernardino: The Rise and Fall of a California Community. Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1996. (FHL book 979.495/S1 H2L). Includes index. This is a definitive history of the LDS colony.

Flower, Judson Harold. Mormon Colonization of the San Luis Valley, Colorado 1878–1900. [Mesa, Ariz.: H. H. Haynie], 1981. (FHL book 978.833 K2f; film 1059492 item 10). A bibliography is included. This is indexed in the Early Church Information File.

Scarcello, Mary Linemuth. Mormon Pioneers in Pueblo, Colorado, 1846–1900. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1994. (FHL film 1598130 item 9). This includes members who lived in Pueblo, Colorado, from 1846 to 1847 or died en route. It also includes Pueblo vital records from 1846 and 1847.

Arrington, Leonard J. The Mormons in Nevada. Las Vegas, Nevada: Las Vegas Sun, 1979. (FHL book 979.3 H2am; film 1059488 item 7). This is a short history of the Church in Nevada from 1847 to 1976. This is indexed in the Early Church Information File. Another index to this book is:

Tolman, Sybil. Index to Leonard J. Arrington’s The Mormons in Nevada. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1987. (FHL film 1421708 item 7).

Kullberg, Lois G. Saints to the Columbia: A History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Oregon and Southwestern Washington, 1850–1990. Vancouver, Washington: L–K Publications, 1991. (FHL book 979.5 K2k). This book includes information on the Portland and Seattle Temples and the Northwestern States Mission. It is indexed.

Star Valley and Its Communities. Afton, Wyoming: Star Valley Independent, [1970]. (FHL book 978.782 H2s; film 1059486 item 8). This has histories of the Church colonies in Star Valley, Wyoming, 1879–1964.

Welch, Charles Arthur. History of the Big Horn Basin: With Stories of Early Days, Sketches of Pioneers, and Writings of the Author. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Press, 1940. (FHL book 978.7 H2w; fiche 6110628). This is the history of Church settlements in Big Horn Basin, Wyoming from the 1890s to 1940. Includes index.

Mexico and Canada. To avoid persecution in the United States, Church members also colonized areas of Mexico in 1885 and Canada in 1887. To find information about these colonies, look in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog for the town, county, state, or province. The following sources tell their story:

Hicken, John R. Events Leading to the Settlement of the Communities of Cardston, Magrath, Sterling, and Raymond, Alberta. Logan, Utah: Utah State University, [1968?]. (FHL fiche 6334072).

Lethbridge Family History Center [Internet] Home Page. Lethbridge, Alberta: Genealogy Resource Center, 15 May 1997 [cited 24 September 1999]. Available at This site includes Alberta pioneer historical sketches, descriptions of Lethbridge Family History Center resources and databases, a surname registry, and links to Internet sites about Canadian genealogy, immigration, and cemeteries.

The Mormon Colonies in Mexico. [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1938]. (FHL map 972 E7mc). This map helps to identify the location of many Church colonies in the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora.

Romney, Thomas Cottam. The Mormon Colonies in Mexico. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1938. (FHL book 972 F2ro; film 1059492 item 6). This is a history of the Church colonies in Chihuahua and Sonora. An index is included.