The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints began with a question a 14-year-old farm boy named Joseph Smith had about which church he should join. Over its 175-year existence the church has had a rich history that includes oversea immigration treks to the pioneer trail through the United States ending in the Salt lake Valley.
As we look at resources available to those wanting to know more about their Mormon ancestors, please know that even if you are not Mormon, that does not preclude you from having Mormon ancestors. The early church, prior to the exodus to Utah, had many converts that left the church due to the extreme persecution of the Mormons by their neighbors. Also, after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, the church was split in beliefs. Some followed Brigham Young to Utah while others stayed and built a new church with the belief that Joseph Smith’s son, Joseph was to be the new leader. This church, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, now known as the Community of Christ, has its own archives and headquarters, separate from the Mormon Church.
At the official website for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, LDS.org, you can look for your immigrant pioneer ancestor in their database, Mormon Overland Pioneer Trail 1847-1868, http://www.lds.org/churchhistory/library/pioneercompanysearch/1,15773,3966-1,00.html. This database allows you to search by your ancestor’s name or the company that they were a part of as they made their way to Utah. This database is the most complete Although this database is the most complete database of those who made this journey, there are gaps in knowledge, you can add or correct information about your ancestor.
I used the database search engine to locate my ancestor, John McNeil. He is listed as part of the John McNeil Company of 1859. Clicking on the company name leads me to a page with information about the company and when they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. A picture of John is an added bonus. I can then click on a link to see a list of everyone who traveled with this company. That link leads you to information about that person and where the information was obtained. You can use this information to search for the corresponding primary sources.
Tracing Mormon Pioneers at www.xmission.com/~nelsonb/pioneer.htm will help you trace ancestors who belonged to the Mormon Church during the years 1847-1868. Using the Mormon Pioneer search form, I entered one of my ancestors, William Atkins. A list came up that included the ship he sailed on to America, mentions of him in the Deseret News and in the book, Handcarts to Zion. Other resources you may find, include references to your ancestor in Salt Lake City directories, Utah census’, and other books about Mormon pioneers. What I especially love about this search engine is that it provides you with the Family History Library microfilm number so that you can look up the original source.
The International Society of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, www.dupinternational.org, is a membership organization dedicated to “perpetuating the names and achievements of those men, women and children who founded our Utah commonwealth.” Members submit pedigree charts with the names of their Utah pioneer ancestors who arrived in the Utah Territory prior to the completion of the railroad in 1869. Members also submit life histories of these ancestors. You can search their History Card Index from their website, under the “History Department” tab. Use their search engine to locate your ancestor and then download a request form to obtain a copy of any ancestor history that is on file. Price for the history is .25 cents a page and a bill will be sent to you along with the history.
The following records are available through the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. You can view the microfilm at your local Family History Center. To find the appropriate microfilm number, search the Family History Catalog, available online at familysearch.org. Use the Title search feature and then type in the title of the record. That will lead you to a screen where you can obtain the appropriate microfilm number you will need to order at the Family History Center.
The first source you should check for your Latter-Day Saint ancestor is the Early Church Information File. This index is an alphabetical listing of individuals covering the period from 1830 to the mid 1900′s. Over one million names from 1,000 sources are represented in this file. Sources used to create this record include journals, periodicals, cemetery listings, immigration records, family histories, church histories and membership records. While this is a largely a source for church member’s names, there are also some non-members included, those individuals who lived in areas heavily populated by Latter-Day Saints.
Membership of the LDS Church, 1830-1848 is a 50-volume work compiled by Susan Easton Black, captured on 95 microfiche, that contains information on early members of the LDS church who lived in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. This work does not include every member of the Church, but it can be a great starting point for finding out more about an early church convert. Use this resource to discover more about an individual ancestor and their family, obtain biographical information, and locate your family in a specific geographic area. This set is microfiche number 6031596 in the Family History Library catalog. The exact microfiche you need will be listed alphabetically.
A resource that may not include reference to your ancestor but can provide you with insight about their life in the early Church is the Journal History of the Church 1830-1973. This is a day-to-day scrapbook of events in the early Church. You can use the index to find specific dates or to look for your ancestor’s name. Unfortunately, this resource does not circulate to family history centers and must be reviewed at the Family History Library.
If you find yourself in Utah and want to avail yourself of additional records, you may want to conduct some research at the Church Archives and the Church History Library, located across from Temple Square. Currently their catalog is not online, but the Church’s website at LDS.org has a link for Church History Library, http://www.lds.org/churchhistory/library , provides you with information on their collection. You can also use the Ask a Librarian feature to ask about a resource or a research question.
I highly recommend the book, A Guide to Mormon Family History Sources by Kip Sperry, http://www.kipsperry.com/index.htm.Â This guide will provide you with ideas and resources for researching your Mormon ancestor.Â These resources go beyond the names and dates of genealogy and will assist you in learning about the lives of your ancestors.
Tracing your LDS ancestors can provide you with biographical information that can assist you in learning more about that ancestor and their day-to-day life. Search out the above resources and come to appreciate the struggles and sacrifices that the pioneers made for us.
Join us for a LDS History Tour in Missouri
Join us for a pre-conference event at theÂ Midwest Family History Expo in Kansas City, Missouri with a tour of LDS History sites on July 29, 8:30 am to 4:30pm
Guests will board deluxe 56-passenger motorcoaches at the KCI Holiday Inn.
Our first stop will be at the Mormon Church in Independence Missouriâ€™s newly remodeled center honoring the past and the present, with exhibits depicting experiences of Mormon settlers in Missouri between 1831 and 1839.Â Exhibits on the importance of families, messages from modern prophets and the Book of Mormon add to this experience.
Located within walking distance of the Mormon Church is the Community of Christ Temple.Â Guided by Temple docents, you will tour the Temple Museum and view artifacts including the Liberty Jail Door and an original portrait of Joseph Smith.
A short bus ride to Liberty, Missouri is our next tour stop and features the Liberty Jail.Â You will experience the basement jail where Joseph Smith and his followers were held, feel the cold, dark surroundings, see the straw covered flooring serving as their bed and note the small slits in the walls that served as windows.Â Docents will explain how Prophet Smith and other Church leaders survived these conditions and later escaped to freedom.
Gourmet box lunches with sandwiches, fruit, chips, cookies and cold beverages will be provided.
Far West and the Haunâ€™s Mill massacre site are next on our tour.
You will preview the vision of Prophet Joseph Smith as we visit the town site of Far West, Missouri and see the cornerstones of the temple planned by the Church.Â The Haunâ€™s Mill massacre area is nearby and offers a glimpse of the site of an attack of a Mormon settlement.Â Known as the Mormon War, it is the bloodiest skirmish in 1838, long remembered by the members of the Latter Day Saint movement.
Before we arrive at Adam-ondi-Ahman Temple, our final destination, we will stop at the Deseret Book Store.Â It will give us a resting spot and also provide us with an opportunity to visit the bookstore and purchase memorabilia from the trip.
Adam-ondi-Ahman is located at the bend in the Grand River in northern Missouri and at 124 feet above Grand River, is the highest elevation of Spring Hill.Â This peaceful, tranquil scene will be the perfect ending to your tour before being returned to your hotel.
COST OF THIS 8 HOUR TOUR IS $65 PER PERSON
THIS TOUR INCLUDES:
- Deluxe 56-pax Motorcoach Transportation
- Community of Christ Temple Tour
- Stop at Liberty Jail
- Stop at Deseret Book Store
- Gourmet Box Lunches/Beverage and delivery
- Coordination Services
Our tour guide will be Glen Rawson. He can be reached at 801-829-3295. Sign up for this tour at the homepage for the Midwest Family History Expo.