Mortality on the Mormon Trail, 1847–1868 | BYU Studies

Mortality on the Mormon Trail, 1847–1868

Mortality on the Mormon Trail, 1847–1868
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Mortality on the Mormon Trail, 1847–1868

Melvin L. Bashore
BYU Pioneer Mortality Team
H. Dennis Tolley

Over two decades, staff and volunteers at the Church History Department compiled a database of thousands of pioneer records, now available at, containing diaries and company reports of known Mormon pioneers from 1847 to 1868 (56,042 of them). Data were then compiled in tabular format in an Excel file, available at Researchers working with BYU actuarial students analyzed these data and report their findings: Slightly more males than females made the journey. Fully 45% of the immigrants were under age twenty. For about 25% of known pioneers, no death date is available, and so it is not known if they died during the trek. The death rate for Mormon pioneers was higher than the general U.S. population. Females were slightly more likely to die than males. The number of babies born on the trail is lower than the birth rate in the general population, suggesting that some expectant mothers waited to give birth before crossing the plains, and these babies born on the trail died at a slightly higher rate than in the U.S. population. Mortality rate of those under 1 year of age crossing the plains, however, was essentially the same as U.S. rate. With these excellent resources now available, further study can be made of the pioneers and their experiences.