Sources of information on overland travelers include journals written during the trip, letters written back home describing the trip, and later life reminiscences of the trip. Some of these have been published; many more are in manuscript form at various libraries and museums. Sometimes, you may be lucky enough to find something actually written by one of your ancestors; sometimes, you'll find them mentioned in someone else's writing.
Trail writings are found in many collections. "Platte River Road Narratives" by Merrill J. Mattes [University of Illinois Press, 1988] includes brief descriptions of journals and reminiscences found around the country, including 60 items for 1851. Mattes' abstracts often include the place a wagon train originated and the dates of travel. Below, I have abstracted some of the information from an especially valuable publication for trail info seekers:
K. White and M-C. Cuthill (1993), Overland Passages: A Guide to the Overland Documents in the Oregon Historical Society. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press. 125 pages.
What is especially useful about this publication is that there is an every-name index of people mentioned in the manuscripts reviewed. Not every name included is of an Oregon Trail traveler - the compilers made no effort to separately categorize names of fellow travelers, people met on the way, people back home, etc. - and, of course, seldom is everyone on a given wagon train mentioned by name, Nevertheless, here are more clues to who came when and with who.
Below, I've given a brief summary of each of the Oregon Historical Society manuscripts that cover the year 1851. Included are: the author of the manuscript; the OHS manuscript number [note that several contributions may be included under the same manuscript number]; a title and/or a brief description of what the manuscript includes; departure and arrival dates and places, if given; and a list of the people mentioned in the manuscript. I have included an alphabetical index to all the surnames on this page, and also my webpage on arrival dates from donation land claims.
1. BROOKS, Quincy A. - Oregon Historical
Society Ms collection #1508: 7 pages typed. Departed St. Joseph,
Missouri 4 May 1851, arrived Olympia, Washington Sept 1851.
ALDEN. ARTHURS. BROOKS, Quincy A. CARTWRIGHT. EGGERS. FLEMING. HARDIN. JOHNSON. MAHON, Tom. REINHART. SHADEL.
2. CHAMBERS, Margaret White - OHS
Ms collection #1508: 48 page printed booklet. Departed Indiana
1 April 1851, arrived Milwaukie, Oregon, fall of 1851.
CHAMBERS, Margaret White. CHENOWITH, Justin. PARKER, David. ROSS, Charles. SPINNING. STEWART, Millie. WHITE, Jerusha. WHITE, Margaret. WHITE, Elizabeth.
3. COLVIG, William M. - OHS Ms #337:
11 page typed autobiography. Departed Parksville, Missouri, 5
May 1851; arrived Portland, Oregon 5 Oct 1851.
BIRDSEYE, Addie. CARTER. Thomas. COLVIG, George W. COLVIG, William Lyngae. DRYER, T. J. RODECKER, A. L. SHELBY, Joe.
4. CRANSTONE, Sarah Marsh - OHS Ms
#674: 14 page journal (typed copy). Left Missouri River 8 May
1851, arrived The Dalles, Oregon, 26 Aug 1851.
CRANSTONE, Sarah Marsh. MARSH.
5. FRY, John O. - OHS Ms #427: 35
page typed article. Left Know Co., Illinois 2 April 1851; trip
ended at Portland, Oregon (no date).
DELLAMATER. FRY, John O. GRAY, Henry. GRAY, J. B. GREEN. HAYS, S. L. KING. KNOT. MERRILL, Joseph. RIGGS.
6. HADLEY, Amelia E. - OHS Ms #253:
54 page journal (typed copy). Left Council Bluffs, Iowa, 6 May
1851; arrived Oregon City 24 Aug 1851.
GODFREY. HADLEY, Amelia E. HADLEY, Melville. HADLEY, Samuel. ROSE. STRONG.
7. JAMES, Samuel - OHS Ms collection
#1508: 14 page diary (typed). Left Dudley, Iowa 8 April 1851;
arrived Milwaukie, Oregon, 9 Sept 1851.
JAMES, Samuel. JOHNSON.
8. JOHNSON, John L, and Rev. Neil
JOHNSON - OHS Ms #1185: 51 pages diary (typed). Left Mt. Pleasant,
Iowa, 1 April 1851; arrived Willamette Valley Sept 1851.
BALLARD. CROSBY, Hart. FOUTS, Ben. JOHNSON, John L. JOHNSON, Neill. JOHNSON, Esther. JONES. LYNN. McCLURE, Charles. McCULLY. McKINLEY. MORRISON. SMEAD, Sim. STARKEY, J. L.
9. ROBE, Rev. Robert - OHS Ms #1163:
25 page diary (typed). Left St. Joseph, Missouri, 17 April 1851;
arrived Butter Creek, Oregon 16 Aug 1851.
BLACK. COOLAGE. DAVENPORT. DOVEY. HAMILTON. HARDIN. KEENEY. MILLER. PATTERSON. ROBE, Robert. SMITH. STEWARD. TERVIT.
10. RUDDELL, W. H. - OHS Ms. collection
#1508: 18 page diary (typed). Left Council Bluffs, Iowa on unnamed
date 1851, traveled to Puget Sound, Washington.
BROCKETS. COWHORN, James. EBEYE. FLETCHERS. RICHARDSON. RUDDELL, S. D. RUDDELL, Stephen L. RUDDELL, W. H.
11. ZIEBER, John S. - OHS Ms collection
#1508: 61 page diary (typed). Left Peoria, Illinois 19 Apr 1851,
arrived Portland, Oregon 14 Oct 1851.
ANDREWS. ARNOLD, Willis. BARFIELD. BARNEY. BELCHER. BISSEL. BOHL. BRAY. BROWN. BUTTS. CHAPMAN. CLARK. DAVIS. DOWLING, James. FLINT, James P. HALL, L. HEPWOOD. HITCHCOCK. HUDSON. HUGHITT. INGELLS. KERN. LINK. MILLER, John. NOLAN. OGDEN. PALMER. PRATHER, David. SLOUGH. SMITH, Rolin. THOMAS, Gideon. TUCKER. VANCES. WAMPOLE. WEBSTER. WELLINGTON, Jack WELLS. WHITAKER. WILHELM. ZIEBER, John S