The area now known as Nebraska was acquired by the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. It became a natural corridor for migration to the west, much of which began in about 1841. This corridor followed the Platte River and would eventually link the settlement of the continent from ocean to ocean.
Settlements prior to the Civil War were in the eastern part of the territory, along the Missouri River and close to forts in the territory. The road west was not easy. There were births and deaths to contend with, all of which have led to myths perpetuated in family lore.
Diseases and environmental changes were more detrimental than Indian attacks, particularly in the Nebraska Territory. Cholera followed the Platte River road. The burials were speedy and without tombstones. If anything, there may have been a piece of wood to mark the spot. Very few graves have been located and identified.
Information on the early pioneers can be found in letters, diaries, journals, newspapers, military fort records and territorial census. It is worthwhile to check the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC). This does not link to the originals, but provides information as to where they are located. A good book to read about Nebraska is The Great Platte River Road by Merrill J. Mattes.
Traffic through Nebraska ran both ways. Many people and families returned through this area, some stayed and left descendants. If you have lost an ancestor who journeyed through here, check out later census and land records for Nebraska to see if they returned.
Trail era research is not impossible ... it's just challenging.