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Canadian Roots

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 10:34

by Stephen C. Young

As a young man in 1979, I was still living in my hometown of London, Ontario, and it was then that I first cut my teeth on genealogical research. Though tentative, the curiosity to know more about my family history motivated me to enlist the help of my father to take me to the rural cemetery where his grandparents were buried about 30 miles away in Perth County. It was the origin of our Young family in the not-so-distant past as far as we knew it at the time.

We spent a pleasant hour exploring and finding not only the graves of Charles Young (1861–1922) and his wife, Clara (née Young—they were second cousins), but also the graves of the next generation of parents and brothers and sisters. This first experience in visiting a cemetery was not only successful, but I found it fascinating and soon followed it up by visiting the London Public Library and confirming all the names and dates I had found in the 1881 Canadian census (the latest one released at that time).

In the almost 40 intervening years since my initial foray among the tombstones, subsequent research paths have led me to investigate the origins and history of Canada. I’ve found that the different branches of my own ancestry are somewhat representative of the general peopling of British North America. (I have no French-Canadian ancestry, which of course has roots back to the earliest settlements along the St. Lawrence River in the 1600s.)

Along with the immigrant farmers from England arriving to clear the virgin forests of eastern Canada during the early 19th century, I discovered Loyalist ancestry—those who earlier still took up arms for King George III during the American Revolution and who were among the first to settle on land awarded to them by the Crown along the lakes and waterways from Nova Scotia, through Quebec and Ontario. My high school history classes, which at the time seemed so tedious and irrelevant, came alive as I studied the causes and effects of America’s first civil war. I even found eyewitness accounts of one ancestor who fought in Butler’s Rangers, a Loyalist regiment ranging through New York and Pennsylvania, defending royal prerogative in America. The activities and service of the Rangers are not only recounted in local histories in the United States, but individual accounts are preserved in the Loyalist claims to justify the awards of land on the frontiers north of the border after the conflict was over.

Like many other Canadians, I can trace other ancestral lines from the east up into Canada during the early 1800s, with the opening of new lands for settlement. Progressively, as those lands filled up, my research followed the fortunes of the next generations as they moved west into the developing farmlands of the prairies. In my ancestry, I can count not only farmers, but shopkeepers, railway workers, soldiers, and sailors.

I’ve become somewhat of an expert in Canadian military records due to my developing interest in the world wars and my family’s involvement in them. Not only did my father and grandfather serve, but my research on collateral lines has revealed uncles and cousins serving in the army, navy, and air force, some of whom are lying in graves across the ocean. One of my great-grandfather’s cousins died in Toronto in October 1918, another victim along with the thousands who died during the great flu epidemic following the conclusion of World War I.

Though I am the first in my immediate family to gain a university education, I’ve learned that other branches of my family produced college graduates, some even becoming mayors, aldermen, and nationally known successful businessmen during the last century. And, of course, I’ve found scoundrels and criminals in my family tree. One Irish-Canadian fourth-great-grandfather died in 1848 while incarcerated in Kingston Penitentiary, while his younger brother was hanged for murder 10 years later.

And what makes my family’s story uniquely Canadian? I suppose that only the places where these events happened and their immediate political context separate Canadians from their neighbors to the south. American stories and research closely mirror my own in terms of sources and timelines because the stories and history of both nations are similarly parallel. In my experience, I’ve found that a huge percentage of Americans have ancestry who at least came through Canada, if they aren’t from Canada themselves. And the converse is true—many in Canada can trace their family lines back into the early history of the United States.

I’ve used records in my hometown, provincial archives, and Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, as well as in collections held by local libraries, historical societies, and genealogical societies. And I’ve used the many websites sponsored by these institutions. I never run out of new places to investigate and am continually surprised at what I find. Nearly four decades of family history research have made history come alive for me.


Engaging Activities for Your Next Family Party or Reunion

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 15:38

Family history is a great way to bring your loved ones together as you celebrate and explore your common roots. There are lots of great activities you can use to fill your family gatherings with family history fun! If you’re looking for a creative and engaging way to make your ancestors a part of your family reunions or parties, check out these family history activities, and plan a time to put them into action this summer or at any time during the year.




Activities Homeland Heritage Celebration

Jumbo Family Tree

Family Food Story

Virtual Family Reunions


Need some more ideas? We’ve gathered a list of our favorite family history games, crafts, and more from around the web to help you plan the perfect event for your family.

Ancestor Puppet Show #52Stories
Giant Family Tree
Ancestor Skit
Reunions & Heritage
Memory Game Food Traditions Involve Children Grandparent Pyramid Family Traits
Family History FHE
Heirloom Hunt



Family Food Story

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 14:23 recently introduced a new section on their website to help you preserve your special family memories: Recipes! I am so excited about this new feature because I love food and food traditions, and this resource has given me a little push to work on my family cookbook.

Another great way to get excited about preserving your family food traditions is to write them down and record all the details and memories associated with that food. This little booklet was handed out during Family Discovery Day at RootsTech 2017. I created it specifically for children and teens, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed filling it in myself. There are pages for you to write down some of your family’s favorite foods, traditions, and recipes. You can even add photos, drawings, or handwritten notes from other family members to record every aspect of your memories about the food that brings you and your loved ones together.

Taking the time to record this information caused me to reflect on some of my family’s food traditions and what I want to pass on to my children. It gave me an opportunity to search through our photos and jot down some stories I want to share, and that was only about our tortillas. There are so many memories involved with this one simple food! I can’t wait to explore some of our other wonderful family favorites.

Read Allison’s full post here, or click here to download the My Family Food Story booklet as a PDF.

Find more great activities to get the entire family involved with family history in a fun and memorable way!

Homeland Heritage Celebration

Jumbo Family Tree

Family Activities

Virtual Family Reunions


Jumbo Family Trees

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 14:06

In preparation for a reunion with my mother’s extended family, we were all given the assignment to research one of our ancestors. Each family received a questionnaire that guided us through the process of getting to know some of the basic facts and stories about our assigned ancestor. The process was very simple, so anyone could do it, and family members of all ages were involved.

Before the reunion, each family visited to find our assigned ancestor. We downloaded or took a screenshot of the photo we wanted to use, added the photo in the space provided, and then filled out the rest of the information, including the following:

  • Name
  • Birth and death dates
  • Relationship to us
  • Stories
  • Other interesting facts

Each family printed off the sheet and brought an extra copy of the photo to add to our life-sized pedigree chart, which we created out of five-foot roll of canvas (you could easily purchase a long canvas drop cloth for this too). With a permanent pen, we simply drew the pedigree chart on the canvas and had it rolled out and displayed during the reunion. We had 14 families at the reunion, so we only went 4 generations back. If you have more families, you could certainly keep going—you would just need to make a longer pedigree chart.

During the reunion, we scheduled an hour-long meeting with the entire family. We started with the first generation who are still alive, my mom and her two brothers. They each added their own photo to the chart and shared memories, stories, and their testimonies.

Then each of us stood up and added the photo of our assigned ancestor as we shared the info we had collected, along with any other interesting facts about them. It was so amazing to feel the connection with those members of our family right there in the room and with those who have gone before us. The room was filled with love and laughter (along with some tears) as we got to know each of our ancestors a little better.

This was a highlight of our whole reunion. I recorded each family’s presentation on video and am putting them together for our whole family to enjoy. It was such a simple activity, yet when we focused on the one, we connected our hearts in a way that we will never forget.

You can learn more about Rhonna at her website.

Find more great activities to get the entire family involved with family history in a fun and memorable way! These posts offer great suggestions.

Homeland Heritage Celebration

Family Activities

Family Food Story

Virtual Family Reunions


Homeland Heritage Celebration

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 13:52

Every year, I make a special dinner with different rainbow-colored or green-colored foods to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with my family. This year, however, the holiday took on a little more meaning to me. As I was searching my family tree on, I found that I had an ancestor from Ireland—a grandmother, Mary Ann Moore, whose whole line is Irish!

After making this discovery, I started wondering what it was like to live in Ireland when she was there and what brought her to the United States.  She was seven when she sailed from Ireland to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1819 with her father and younger sister. What happened to her mother? Did she die giving birth to Mary Ann’s younger sister? I really wish I had a way to interview these ancestors in person. I have so many questions!

Since I was making a St. Patrick’s Day dinner for my family anyway, I decided I would turn it into a more traditional Irish dinner. I wondered what kind of food she would have eaten and what recipes came with her from Ireland to Utah. Before that week, I had no idea that I had Irish heritage. So I started from zero. I researched traditional Irish dishes that I could make for my family, including Irish soda bread, potato pancakes, and Irish cabbage.

While we were eating dinner, I read my kids the little bit of info I had about Mary Ann Moore. I love having this info right at my fingertips (on my cell phone), and I am so thankful for the person that entered it into!

After dinner, we had treats and games while traditional Irish music played in the background. My daughter told me that she liked this night better than our typical family history stories, because of the food and the games. I’m glad it was meaningful to them.

You can bring your own family history to life by using the following “recipe” to help you plan a similar Homeland Heritage Night in your home. You could use it for anything from a family night to a family reunion. Try searching for different recipes, games, or traditions from your ancestors’ homelands and plan a special night to celebrate their heritage and share their stories with your families.

To read the complete post from Risa, click here.

Find more great activities to get the entire family involved with family history in a fun and memorable way!

Family Activities

Jumbo Family Tree

Family Food Story

Virtual Family Reunions


The Melting Pot of America: Tracing Your Immigrant Ancestors

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 11:54

by Katy Barnes

Immigration, always a hot topic in the United States, has been a common part of the historical and political discourse since the founding of the nation, largely because immigrants make up such an enormous part of our history and heritage as Americans.

I work for Legacy Tree Genealogists, a genealogy research firm with extensive expertise in researching and finding immigrant ancestors. Many of the research requests I receive involve helping a client identify his or her pre-American origins and immigration stories. Some of them are more recent, like tracing the whereabouts of an Italian man who arrived in New York, or the life of my own grandmother who came to the United States from Germany in the early 1960s. Others take some real digging through multiple generations of American citizens, like longtime Southern families hoping to explore their 18th century Ulster Scotch roots, or East Coast families seeking information on where in England their colonial ancestors lived before coming to the New World.

The Making of America’s Melting Pot

1600–1830: The earliest settlers in America were more ethnically diverse than is often discussed. Of course, the bulk of the permanent immigrants in the 17th and 18th centuries were from the British Isles—explorers, planters, soldiers, indentured servants, and religious refugees. These settled mostly on the East Coast. Additionally, however, there were the millions of Africans imported unwillingly as slaves throughout the entire western hemisphere.

The Dutch had a sizeable, thriving colony of their own in New York. The Big Apple was originally a trading post called Nieuw Amsterdam [New Amsterdam], and the Dutch influence can still be seen in the names of many geographic locations within the area (think Harlem, Rensselaer, Bleecker, Stuyvesant, and even Bronx).

The French may not have had as large of a presence in terms of permanent settlement, but there were still a number of fur trappers living in the then-frontier areas like Illinois, Ohio, and even further west into the Rockies. The Acadian French Catholic settlements in southern Louisiana and Maine began in the 1700s when a group of over 10,000 people were forcibly expelled from Canada.

Finally, the Spanish retained communities in the American Southwest (New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and California, for example), mostly in the form of missions. Later, beginning in the 1830s and 40s, this same region saw settlement by the Basques, a separate ethnic group from Spain who ranched and raised sheep and were often mistaken for being Spanish or French. There are still large populations of people of Basque descent today living in Idaho and California.

1830–1850: As time wore on in American history, immigration continued, though the different groups often fluctuated. The period of 1830–1850 was especially intense. The Chinese began arriving at the West Coast around the time of the California Gold Rush (1849–1850). The United States saw a large influx of Germans during the 1840s as well, thanks to political and military conflicts in their home country. Norwegians also began arriving, and both groups settled predominantly in the Midwest and Plains states, ranging from Indiana and Ohio to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. The Danish were also well-represented, although the majority came as a part of conversion to the Latter-day Saint faith and joined other congregants in Utah. Finally, the devastating potato famine of the 1840s led to a huge diaspora of poverty-stricken Irish. It is estimated that as many as 25% of Ireland’s entire population left the island during that decade.

1850–Today: The latter half of the 19th century brought the Castle Garden and Ellis Island eras beginning in the 1850s, but ramping up in earnest in the 1890s. Italians, Eastern Europeans (particularly Jews escaping the pogroms of Russia), and Syrians, as well as even more Germans and Scandinavians came during this period. Today, most immigrants to the United States are of Hispanic and Asian origin, with Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines representing the largest groups.

Finding Your Immigration Origins

So how do you go about finding records of your own immigrant ancestors and their origins? Here are 4 rules of thumb to follow:

Check Nonimmigration Records

Check Immigration Records

Keep an Open Mind

Get Creative

Check the simple, nonimmigration records. Documents and records like census enumerations will usually at least list a country of birth for the individual or his or her parents. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a census taker will have been extra dedicated and included the town or province of your ancestor’s origin as well. If your ancestor was male and born after approximately 1872, be sure to also check World War I draft registration cards, as these usually list the birthplace of the registrant. And of course, you should never leave birth, marriage, and death records out of your search.

Finding Your Immigration Origins

Check passenger lists and naturalization records. Where possible, check not only the immigration records at the port where the ancestor landed, but also search emigration records created by the country he or she left. These include passenger lists created in the home country, as well as documents filled out by the emigrants as applications to leave their country. A great resource for this is the Immigrant Ancestors Project, a research project from Brigham Young University which works to extract and publish emigration records exclusively. Sites like MyHeritage and Ancestry also have similar collections. Also, naturalization records were created whenever an immigrant decided to apply for American citizenship. These can contain a wealth of information, including the hometown of the ancestor.

Finding Your Immigration Origins

Keep an open mind! The ports in New York (particularly Ellis Island and Castle Garden) are the most famous, but millions of immigrants came through less publicized cities. Don’t forget about Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, New Orleans, and San Francisco, as well as various cities in Florida and even Mobile, Alabama. The area of the United States in which your ancestor ultimately settled may be a clue as to the port in which he arrived.

Finding Your Immigration Origins

Get creative! There are a number of other record types which may help you find your ancestor’s immigrant origins that don’t seem obvious. For example, local and county histories (many of which can be found digitized for free on Google Books) can contain fairly detailed information. Also check cemetery records, as many immigrants retained ties to their homeland through ethnic and religious organizations relating to a specific European city or region. Often, when an immigrant died, he or she was buried in a plot owned or sponsored by that organization, or buried near fellow countrymen. For example, we did research for a client this year whose Jewish immigrant ancestor was buried in a section of a cemetery owned by a fraternal organization for people from a certain area of what is today Belarus. This was an enormously helpful clue!

With dedication and diligence, in most cases it is possible to trace your family back to their country of origin and extend their lines. It’s a wonderful feeling to know more about where you (and your family) came from.

Finding Your Immigration Origins


Three Ways to Use FamilySearch Family Tree

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 14:09

by Kathryn Grant

Did you know that there are three versions of FamilySearch’s Family Tree you can use as you help others with their family history? Deciding which one to use can be an essential part of helping others have a positive and joyful experience as they find their ancestors.


Versions of Family Tree

All three allow you to do common tasks like searching for a person, viewing vital information and relationships, adding and editing information, or submitting names for temple ordinances. But there are differences between each of the three versions as well. The following guidelines can help you decide which version to use as you prepare a personalized lesson and work one on one with others.

Use the Family Tree mobile app when the person you are helping:
  • Is a youth or adult who prefers (or has only) a mobile device like a tablet or phone. 

  • Has a data plan or wifi for the mobile device.

  • Wants access to Family Tree on the go.

  • Wants to take pictures or record audio to add to Family Tree.

  • Wants to view Family Tree persons and memories offline.

Use the full version of Family Tree when the person you are helping:
  • Will be working on a desktop or laptop computer.

  • Prefers a large screen.

  • Has high bandwidth internet access.

  • Wants to see all information for an individual or family.

  • Wants to use the full range of Family Tree features.

Use Family Tree Lite when the person you are helping:
  • Is a youth or beginner who would benefit from a simpler experience.

  • Wants to use Family Tree on a mobile phone without installing an app.

  • Has low bandwidth internet access.

  • Needs to see only vital information, family relationships, and ordinance information.

  • Doesn’t need to add sources or attach memories.

  • Will not be printing charts or ordinance cards.

Although you can’t print ordinance cards directly using Family Tree Lite, it does provide a 16-digit family ordinance request number that you can take to the temple so cards can be printed there. (You can get the same 16-digit family ordinance request number through the mobile app or full version of Family Tree, although both allow you to print ordinance cards directly.)

With three different versions of Family Tree, you can choose the one that is just right for the person you’re helping.


Relatives Around Me

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 09:00

Have you ever sat in a room full of people and wondered if or how you might be related to those around you? If not, you will now . . . Sorry. But, there is good news! Relatives Around Me, a new feature in the FamilySearch Family Tree app, can tell you the answer. 

How It Works 

To try the new feature, you and your potential cousin both need to be signed in to the Family Tree app and within approximately 100 feet of each other. Once signed in, select More at the bottom right of the screen (iOS) or the dropdown in the top left (Android) and then select Relatives Around Me. This opens a page with a green button that says Scan for Friends

How to use Relatives Around Me for iOS.

How to use Relatives Around Me for Android.

Tap the green button to start scanning. Anyone signed into the app and within range will show up in a list on your device, and you will show up on theirs. Selecting the person’s name will bring up a pedigree graphic showing your common ancestor and the lines through which you both descend. Pretty cool, right?

Give It A Try 

Now, you could log into the app, start scanning, and wander around until you find a cousin. But there are better ways to use Relatives Around Me, especially in group settings. Here are some of the best scenarios to give this new feature a try: 

  • Church group—Find out who in your congregation is also part of your family tree. Fun at a weekday party or activity, and useful in a Sunday class. 
  • Friends—Out with friends? Check to see if you are related. You may have more in common with your friends than just hiking, reading, or a love of adorable cat videos. 
  • Neighbors—Easy to do as you talk with neighbors across the fence. Interesting to see if you have flocked to the same area as your distant relatives. 
  • Coworkers—A fun work party activity, or a unique way to build unity and connection among those that work in the same office. 
  • On a date—Use Relatives Around Me to determine early on whether your potential significant other is already a part of your family tree. 

If you have questions or comments about this or any other feature of the FamilySearch Family Tree app, you can select Give App Feedback on the Help menu to send us your input. We’d love to hear what you think of the app.

Download the app today and give it a try! To get to the Android app instead, click here.


Tracing Your Immigrant Ancestor’s Record Trail

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 15:39

Although stories of ancestors stowing away on ships are dramatic and exciting, they are almost never true. In reality, immigration came with a lot of red tape—just as it does now. And for a genealogist, that red tape is useful because it often left behind a trail of records as our ancestors went through the immigration process.

While each immigration story is unique, many of our ancestors passed through similar checkpoints and created similar records. The immigration path of my ancestors Georg and Mina Albrecht highlights a few of the records that might also help you uncover the path of your immigrant ancestors.


In Germany

The church in Goldebee where Georg and Mina were married.

Mina Haker and Georg Albrecht married in 1864 in the parish church of Goldebee in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a state in northern Germany. Over the next 15 years, the family appears in local parish records having nine children, one of whom died as a baby. A one-page family history tells that Georg encountered missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while on his way home from work one day. He and his family made the decision to be baptized and then to follow the Church’s encouragement to immigrate to the United States and make their way to Utah.

Leaving one’s country was not as easy as just packing a bag and buying passage on the next ship. Often our ancestors had to get permission of some kind from their home country. Georg and his oldest son, Johann, sent in papers showing they had completed the required military service. Unfortunately, these papers are available only in the local German archive. Other areas have easier access to records of people emigrating that can be of use to genealogists. For example, the website German Roots links to many emigration databases for the German states. In Copenhagen, the police kept records of people intending to emigrate, which are now largely indexed and available online. The Antwerp police did something similar, and the index is now available on FamilySearch. To see what exists for your country, visit the FamilySearch Wiki home page, and do a search for your ancestor’s country of origin. Then click in the menu on the right to read that country’s Emigration and Immigration section.

Crossing the Ocean

The next record in the Albrecht family’s immigration process is a Hamburg passenger departure list dated October 1880. Here, Georg and Mina are listed with eight children. Theoretically, information for our ancestors should be included in two sets of passenger lists: departure lists showing when they left their home country and arrival lists showing when they arrived in their new country. In reality though, it’s not always possible to find both lists. In the United States, the magic date is 1820—most immigrants who arrived after 1820 are included in arrival lists that are indexed and searchable through FamilySearch and elsewhere. The availability of departure lists can be inconsistent. Check the FamilySearch Wiki for your departure country to learn more.

This depature list from the port of Hamburg shows Mina and Georg’s family and provides a hometown for them, making it easier to search farther back.

Mina and Georg lived in northern Germany, which meant the port of Hamburg was the most obvious choice for port of departure. And they did use this port—as did one third of all people leaving from Central and Eastern Europe at this time. Not all of our ancestors chose the closest port though. They often took into account other factors such as cost, waiting time, and ease of traveling to that port. The Albrecht family’s choice of Hamburg is fortunate for me because these lists have survived and are indexed and searchable online. Records from the other major German port, Bremen, were destroyed. While finding the departure list may feel redundant and sometimes difficult, it’s worth the effort. The all-important name of a person’s hometown (necessary to continue tracing the family in the country of origin) is much more likely to be recorded in departure lists than in arrival lists.

The Albrecht family’s New York arrival record incorrectly tells us the family is from Sweden, making it difficult to find them in indexes.

The Albrecht family arrived in New York on November 3, 1880. Once again, a passenger list gives a quick snapshot of the family. Interestingly, the Albrecht family is not included in the index Germans to America, nor can they be found on or or in any other database indicating their departure from Germany in 1880. A closer look at their New York arrival list explains why. At the top of the page in the column for origin is the word “Sweden” with a squiggly line going down the page to indicate everyone on the page was from Sweden. This detail always reminds me of the importance of experimenting with searches—you never know when information might be recorded or indexed incorrectly.

BYU’s Mormon Migration website includes a photo of the Wisconsin, the ship that carried the Albrechts to New York.

Because the family were members of the Church, another website can give me insights into their journey. The Mormon Migration site, hosted by Brigham Young University, includes all Mormon voyages that took place during the period 1840–1890 as well as some other databases. Along with passenger arrival lists and photos of ships, this website provides links to all known accounts of the voyages. That means I can read details that others wrote about the voyage, even if my own ancestors wrote nothing.

Settling In

The naturalization record for Georg and Mina’s son John Albrecht (Johann in Germany), provides only very basic information. Other naturalization records are more helpful.

Once on this side of the ocean, your ancestors could be included in numerous records—including records that give insight into their immigration experience or their lives in their home countries. One of the best records to try is naturalization records. Prior to 1906—the year naturalization became a federal process—naturalization could take place in a variety of courts and involved several steps that could create different records. Keep in mind that through much of history, women did not naturalize separately but took on the citizenship status of their husbands. For more information on naturalization, read FamilySearch’s United States Naturalization and Citizenship wiki article. Georg and his son Johann both naturalized in Utah—although their records provide scanty information. Some naturalization records are much richer in detail.

Other records can also be helpful. Besides including names, ages, and relationships, beginning in 1900, census records also asked for an immigration year and citizenship status. The 1920 census asked for year of naturalization. This information can help focus your search. Other records such as church records, vital records, newspaper obituaries, and even family and county histories among others can fill in details of your ancestors’ stories and provide hints about their immigration journey.

Although each immigrant ancestor followed a unique path, your ancestor (particularly those who immigrated to the United States after 1820) almost certainly left a record trail of some sort, just as Mina and Georg did. With a little searching, you can uncover their trail and follow them along their journey.


Celebrate Your Missionary Heritage

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 18:10

We’re all part of a great missionary heritage. Whether your ancestors preached the gospel in far-off places hundreds of years ago or you’re the one leading the way in creating your family’s missionary story, we all have a connection to someone who made sacrifices, great or small, to share the good news of the gospel. These stories connect us, inspire us, and show us the conviction and faith found in our roots.

FamilySearch is celebrating those stories with research tips, activities, and tools to help you discover more about your missionary heritage. Find out which of your ancestors served missions, where they served, and what their experience was like. Research your missionary ancestors in the Church History Database to find their names in mission records. Or get the family together and check out our fun missionary activities for all ages.


Find out how learning about your ancestors’ missionary experiences can help shape your own. Activities

Check out our ideas to help turn missionary work into missionary fun for the whole family! Database Research Tips

Try these simple tips to help you find your ancestors in the Early Mormon Missionaries database. Journals and Letters

Learn how you can preserve missionary documents that help tell your ancestor’s story.


Celebrate Your Missionary Heritage: Stories

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 18:03

Learning about our missionary ancestors can tell us a lot about ourselves. As we follow in their footsteps of service and faith, we can draw strength from their examples and recognize the traits that they passed on. The stories below, among many others, show how the spirit of missionary service can continue through generations to impact our lives and turn our hearts to our ancestors. After watching the videos, test your own knowledge about your missionary ancestors with the My Missionary Heritage Quiz.

“They Did It, So I Can Too”

“I had a really hard time with the language, and I had some really lonely times. And I just thought, ‘Great-grandpa Gonzalez went through so much more, and Heavenly Father blessed him and helped him. If my great-grandpa can do that, I can do anything.’”

Rhonna and her daughter Talli both gained strength and inspiration from the story of their ancestor, Andres Carlos Gonzalez. While imprisoned for preaching in public during his mission to Mexico City, Andres wrote the lyrics to hymn number 88 in the Spanish hymnbook, “Placentero nos es trabajar” (It Is Pleasant to Work). His determination and faith in the face of adversity continue to be a testimony to his descendants over 100 years later.

Following in His Footsteps

“I found out the Lord had a different plan in mind for me. Knowing about my ancestor Elder Peck, that he served in New Zealand 100 years before I was called to New Zealand on my mission, prepared me to go and do the things that the Lord has commanded.”

Throughout his 3 years of missionary service, Charles Lawrence Peck was an example of sacrifice and dedication to the Lord. Kastle never imagined that he would be following his great-great-grandfather’s footsteps almost a century later, all the way to New Zealand. It was there that Kastle saw those same traits reflected in himself and learned that the Lord’s plan for his life wasn’t quite what he had expected.

My Missionary Heritage Quiz

Test your knowledge about your missionary ancestors! Do you know the answers to these questions about their missionary service?

  1. Who is the missionary that taught the first convert in your family?
  2. Who was the first missionary on your family tree?
  3. What is the farthest one of your ancestors traveled to serve a mission?
  4. What is the longest amount of time one of your ancestors served on a mission?
  5. If you could go to the same mission your ancestor went to, where would it be?
  6. What languages did your missionary ancestors learn?
  7. What miracles occurred on your ancestor’s mission?
  8. Do you know descendants of converts your ancestors baptized?
  9. Do you have a picture of an ancestor on a mission?
  10. Can you find a copy of one of your ancestors’ mission calls?

Don’t worry if you don’t know all the answers—we’re here to help! Check out these database research tips next to help you fill in the blanks!

Your Missionary Heritage

Discover your missionary heritage with these research tips, activities, and tools. Activities

Check out our ideas to help turn missionary work into missionary fun for the whole family! Database Research Tips

Try these simple tips to help you find your ancestors in the Early Mormon Missionaries database. Journals and Letters

Learn how you can preserve missionary documents that help tell your ancestor’s story.


Celebrate Your Missionary Heritage: Activities

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 18:00

Here are some great ways to get the whole family involved in turning missionary work into missionary fun!

Missionary coloring pages

Print out these missionary-themed coloring pages and give them to members of your family to color while you talk about your family’s missionary heritage. When you’re finished, you can display them in your home along with any pictures you find of your missionary ancestors!


Games and activity ideas

These links can help you get the whole family involved in the missionary spirit. Try a few of these activities and games for all ages!


Find out how learning about your ancestors’ missionary experiences can help shape your own. Your Missionary Heritage

Discover your missionary heritage with these research tips, activities, and tools. Database Research Tips

Try these simple tips to help you find your ancestors in the Early Mormon Missionaries database. Journals and Letters

Learn how you can preserve missionary documents that help tell your ancestor’s story.


Celebrate Your Missionary Heritage: Journals and Letters

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 17:58

I was sitting in church yesterday when it was announced that a young man from our ward had returned home early from his mission due to some health issues. My heart mourned for this young missionary, not only for the physical but the mental anguish he was experiencing. I immediately wanted to tell him about my great-grandfather, Ralph Cutler. An extraordinary man, he was loved and revered by all who know him, but he also had to come home early from his mission because of health reasons.

He was so ill when he got home, his sister Jane recorded, that “Ralph nearly died after he returned from his mission he was so ill. There was one night that we really feared for his life.”

In his own words, “I might state here that I felt that my mission was a huge failure because I was terribly handicapped by my old intestinal trouble that bothered me most of the time and prevented me from putting my best and whole effort into the work and was unable to partake of and enjoy the hospitality of the people and to do the work required of a missionary. . . . I gradually got weaker and finally had to give up in November 1900 and come home, a disappointed and heartbroken man.”

His daughter Alice May records, “Now, lest the reader be led into believing that Ralph Cutler’s mission was, as he said, ‘a huge failure,’ a perusal of his missionary journal reveals a different point of view. Though his mission was shortened to eleven months, it was one of many varied and worthwhile experiences of fearlessly preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ralph Cutler was a strong advocate and firm defender of the faith, whether preaching on the street corners in the cities or in the schools, churches, and homes of the country. His gift for oration, brought to the fore more extensively on his mission while preaching on the first principles of the gospel, prompted one gentleman to remark at the close of a street meeting in Columbus, Ohio, that Elder Cutler ‘was a good enough orator to be in congress.’”

As I reflect on Grandpa Ralph’s life, I am humbled by the goodness and perseverance. Coming home early from his mission was difficult and something that he anguished over, but it did not define him, and he spent his life doing good, defending the faith, and testifying of Christ. His posterity calls his name blessed, for even as his great-granddaughter, I am gaining strength from the way he lived his life. Without his journals, I would have never known about his life as a missionary. I would have missed out learning that he kept track of all of his expenses, and the total cost of his life as a missionary was only $209.30.

So to this young missionary in our ward who returned home early, you are in the company of others who for whatever reason could not fulfill their entire time as missionaries. What defines you will be how you live the remaining part of your life.

Reading Grandpa Ralph’s words makes me think back to my mission, the differences, the similarities, the love of the Lord. I am so thankful he took the time to write about his experiences teaching. I am grateful for his grandson Theodore, who scanned and digitized his journal for us as posterity. I appreciate that my father, another grandson, has made it possible for me to read the life of his grandfather from any location in the world. It has been a treasure in my life.

Today I consider what I will do to preserve my own missionary experience for my posterity. With the technology of my smartphone and a scanning app like TurboScan, in a matter of minutes, I can preserve the words and experiences for future generations.

Missionary journals and letters provide a special glimpse of what life was like for your missionary ancestor, and you can help preserve these important documents and pass on your ancestor’s story.

  1. On the Early Mormon Missionaries website, type your ancestor’s name in the search box.
  2. To send your photos, documents, or other information to be included in the database, click Submit Additional Information.

  3. Fill out the form with all the information you have.

  4. If you have a document or photograph to submit, in the drop-down box, select Yes. You will be able to add an attachment on the next screen.

  5. Click Submit.

Find out how learning about your ancestors’ missionary experiences can help shape your own. Activities

Check out our ideas to help turn missionary work into missionary fun for the whole family! Database Research Tips

Try these simple tips to help you find your ancestors in the Early Mormon Missionaries database. Your Missionary Heritage

Discover your missionary heritage with these research tips, activities, and tools.


Celebrate Your Missionary Heritage: Database Research Tips

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 17:56

Soon after the Church was organized, thousands of men and women left their homes and families to preach the gospel all around the world. Some of your ancestors could be among them, and now you can get a closer look into their stories. The Early Mormon Missionaries website contains tens of thousands of digitized documents, including journals, letters, photographs, and other resources that can help you better understand your ancestors and their service.

You can search the Early Mormon Missionaries database by following a few simple steps:

  1. Enter your ancestor’s first or last name, mission, or keyword in the Search box.

  2. If you know your ancestor’s mission or the dates he or she served, you can add those in the box on the left to help refine your search.

  3. Select the correct person in the list of results to learn more about that ancestor’s missionary service, including when and where he or she served, when he or she was called and set apart, and details about the mission he or she served in.

Find out how learning about your ancestors’ missionary experiences can help shape your own. Activities

Check out our ideas to help turn missionary work into missionary fun for the whole family! Your Missionary Heritage

Discover your missionary heritage with these research tips, activities, and tools. Journals and Letters

Learn how you can preserve missionary documents that help tell your ancestor’s story.


Building Bridges with Kitchen Table Traditions

Thu, 06/01/2017 - 13:26

The kitchen is often called the heart and soul of the home. It’s where meals and memories are made, where families and friends gather, where traditions are born, and where stories are told and retold.

The kitchen table, then, occupies a place of honor as the heart of the heart of the home.

Take a moment to picture your own childhood kitchen table. Was it small and intimate or large and sprawling? Was it polished and smooth or scarred and well used? Were there blemishes and imperfections that you can trace back to the time somebody spilled some nail polish or set down a sizzling pan without using a hot pad? What games do you remember playing on, around, or underneath that table? What family stories were passed around the table as predictably as the bowl of mashed potatoes?

To Nourish and Strengthen

“One of the more important furnishings found in most homes is the kitchen table,” said Elder LeGrand R. Curtis in a general conference address from 1995. “It may be small, . . . large, or in the form of a little counter with barely room to put the food and utensils. Its major function seems to be a place for the different members of the family to receive nourishment.

“[But there is] a deeper, more important function for the kitchen table, where we can receive much more than just nourishment for our physical well-being” (“A Table Encircled with Love,” Ensign, May 1995, 82).

Yes, our mortal bodies are nourished during family mealtimes, but so are our immortal souls as relationships are strengthened and bridges are built between generations. In fact, according to research compiled by the American College of Pediatricians, “more family talk occurs during mealtime than during any other activity, including playing with toys and storybook reading” (American College of Pediatrician, “The Benefits of the Family Table,” May 2014).

After Cody Delistraty’s mother passed away and his brother moved overseas, he was left alone with his father. As he recounted in The Atlantic on July 19, 2014, mealtimes were solitary affairs at first until his father decided that their mother would have wanted them to continue to eat together, even if it was just the two of them. “Eating together was a small act, and it required very little of us—45 minutes away from our usual, quotidian distractions—and yet it was invariably one of the happiest parts of my day,” Delistraty said (Cody C. Delistray, “The Importance of Eating Together,” The Atlantic, Jul.18, 2014).

Even beyond the important conversations and family connections that occur when meals are prepared and eaten together, the kitchen table often plays host to countless other bridge-building activities—from scripture study and family home evening lessons to craft projects and cookie decorating. Many of these pastimes may seem mundane and commonplace in the moment, but the traditions they foster can carry us through times of heartache and upheaval.

A Lifeline in a Time of Loss

Crystal Farish, a family history missionary and presenter at the RootsTech family history conference in 2017, recounted how the traditions established in her grandmother’s kitchen were a lifeline for her when she needed them most (Allison Kimball and others, “Grandma’s Syrup: Fortifying Your Home with Family History,” RootsTech 2017).

“Every Sunday we gathered around my grandmother’s table for family dinner,” Crystal said. “[Grandma always prepared] the same meal: roast beef, mashed potatoes, red Jello, and Swedish coleslaw . . . served in a bowl with pink flowers and a spoon that once belonged to someone who served in the Civil War” (Kimball and others, “Grandma’s Syrup”).

Beyond the Sunday gatherings, Grandma’s table also hosted countless holiday traditions, including making red velvet cake for Valentine’s Day, decorating gingerbread men and houses for Christmas, and celebrating many holidays in between.

Crystal said that while they worked, her grandmother would tell stories. She created a window from the past to the present.

By the time Crystal was 12, both of her grandfathers had already passed away, and then she lost her father three days before Christmas that year. During this time of intense loss and mourning, what did Crystal’s grandmother do—a woman who had already buried her husband and had just laid Crystal’s father to rest, who died at the tender age of 30?

“My grandmother, on Christmas Eve, gathered us around her table,” Crystal said, “and we did what we always did—family history. We made roast beef and mashed potatoes and coleslaw. We constructed gingerbread houses, and we shared stories of the people from our past that now included stories about my dad” (Kimball and others, “Grandma’s Syrup”).

The comfort of her family’s food traditions sustained Crystal and gave her a sense of normalcy after her world had turned upside down.

Making Your Own Kitchen Table Traditions

Whether you realize it or not, you already have some established family customs that revolve around your kitchen table. Recognize and honor those traditions; they are the stuff memories are made of.

Also be intentional about creating new and lasting traditions that reflect your most important values. What do you want your children and grandchildren to remember about mealtimes at your house? Are there other ways you can add deeper meaning to the gatherings that already take place in the heart of your home? How can you call upon those traditions to sustain your family during times of trial?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a set of questions or conversation starters to put in the center of the table to spark memorable discussions. The #52stories project is a great place to start.

  • Prepare an old family recipe, and share stories about the person who first made that dish as a way of creating a window from the past to the present.

  • Enjoy the same traditional meals together as a family when different holidays roll around.

  • Sit down together at breakfast time, and read the scriptures together while you eat.

  • Use the quizzes and prompts at the end of this article to write down kitchen table memories from your childhood and share them as Memories on your Family Tree.

  • Get inspired by these stories shared by others on FamilySearch, from the kitchen table that mysteriously collapsed during Sunday dinner to piles and piles of fabric on Dorothy Hansen’s table to a tonsillectomy performed on Irvin Delora Zundel at the very table where he usually ate breakfast.

Above all, make time to eat together with your loved ones as often as you can.

“To have a time when the family meets at the kitchen table may take considerable adjustment and careful planning,” said Elder Curtis, “but what could be of more importance to the unity of the family, the spiritual growth of the family, the bridges built between members of a family as they talk, listen, and respond, surrounded by love? Our major success is simply trying—over and over” (“A Table Encircled with Love,” Ensign, May 1995, 83).


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