FamilySearch announced the release of a fun new feature that connects you with ancestors of Utah pioneers who served missions in the first hundred years of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Early Mormon Missionaries database, announced at RootsTech 2016 by Elder Steven E. Snow, is a collaborative effort between FamilySearch, the Church History Library, and the Church’s Missionary Department to match FamilySearch users’ family trees with the database to identify early missionaries. If the feature finds a match, you will see digital images of your missionary ancestor’s call and acceptance letters, mission journals, and possibly even photos. FamilySearch is a free service.
Over 1.1 million LDS members have connections to the information in the database, but you don’t need to be a Mormon to have ancestral ties to the global Church. The Early Mormon Missionaries database includes records of over 40,000 Church missionaries that served between 1830 and 1930. The feature contains resources like bios, setting-apart information, call letters, mission journals, registries, and photos. You can also contribute additional information your family might have about your missionary ancestor.
To see if you are a descendant of early Mormon missionaries, visit the Early Mormon Missionaries database. Once you login to your FamilySearch account, you will view a personalized page that reveals the identities and stories of any of your early missionary ancestors. You can also click here to search through the database on LDS.org.
The calls to serve and corresponding letters of acceptance give insight into the lives of these faithful people. Most of them lived in poor circumstances and were married with children. Many had traveled long distances and were establishing their homes when they received their letter to serve a mission. In their written replies to the Church, examples of great faith mixed with incredible hardships were depicted. Some explained their financial problems and requested time to clear up any debts or finish school or to deal with family urgencies. But they accepted in impressive numbers, serving in the US and abroad. Some served two or three times while their faithful wives and families held down the home front during already difficult times.
Julia Samuelson Curtis (Western States Colorado Mission March 1905–November 1906) was a young widow when she faithfully accepted her call to serve a mission in 1905. Her late husband was called to serve a mission in Samoa but died unexpectedly. Following his death and the stillborn birth of their child, she felt the desire to serve the mission he was unable to fulfill and requested to serve in his stead. (Read her letter to President Joseph F. Smith requesting a mission call to Samoa.) She served in Colorado, where she would be ultimately introduced to her future (second) husband, a widower in similar circumstances who had previously served in the same mission.
Online visitors will find an interactive map showcasing the expansion of LDS missions from 1830 to 1930 and highlighting where ancestors served, video stories from designer Rhona Farrer and others talking about their family’s missionary heritage, and a link to fun family activities about missionary service.
“Taking historic databases, like the Early Mormon Missionary collection, and mapping them against FamilySearch users’ family trees online to create new, interesting, personalized discoveries for them has increased users’ engagement in their family history dramatically,” said Allison Hadley, FamilySearch campaign manager for the project.