Yesterday I received an interesting email from FamilySearch that they had found some of my ancestors in their early Church History missionary records. This surprised me as my parents are both converts to the Church and we have never had any Pioneer heritage. So I clicked on the link and was taken to a page with several names on it of early church missionaries who were related to me, based on the family information I have entered into FamilySearch.org. They also provide the relationship information of how I am related to these individuals. To be honest, the connection is loose, my great-great-great-grandfather’s brother had a son who was born in 1860 and was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1885, James Wesley Hartley. And in 1908 he was set apart as a Seventy and sent on a mission to the Southern States Mission. James Wesley Hartley had a son named Don Carlos Hartley who was born in 1905, and baptized in 1913, and ordained an Elder in 1927 by David O. McKay to serve a mission, also in the Southern States Mission.
This was amazing information, I had never suspected that there would be relatives of mine who were also members of the Church. I found a few individuals through both my father’s and mother’s lines, all of them descendants of siblings of my ancestors several generations back, but still very much part of my family history. I have a new connection to early Church History that I had never believed could exist. Pioneer heritage, for me, always meant my parents as first generation members of the Church and the sacrifices they made to accept and live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now I know that there are cousins of mine I never knew who share this rich heritage and history.
I, of course, called my parents last night and shared with them what I had found about our family, a new excitement for genealogy inspiring me to want to learn more about who these people were and how they lived their lives. That is what makes Family History fun and interesting – it is not just the names and dates but the stories of who they were and the other many details of their lives. In other research I have found that my 4th great-grandfather’s brother, David McCandless, was the first man shot by Wild Bill Hickok. I have another great-great-grandfather who was a traveling Methodist minister in the late 1800s in Colorado and New Mexico. My great-grandfather came to the United States from Greece in early 1900s with his wife and four children, my grandfather was the first of his children born in the United States and there were 6 other siblings born here. These are the fun facts and stories about our ancestors that bring them alive and make them real people and not just names on a piece of paper or a tombstone somewhere.
We all have family and we can learn so much about who we are as we learn about who our ancestors were. And thanks to the internet it is now easier than ever to find out who you are and who they were. FamilySearch.org is a great free website with lots of information about people and lots of records and documents of those individuals.
If you are at all interested in your family history and would like some tips or help, please let me know. I’ve been doing this for a few years and have a pretty good grasp of the basics and how to get started. And that’s all it takes. Just get started, see what you can find about your family and see if you don’t fall in love with family history and genealogy. It is an immensely fun hobby, extremely rewarding when you find new information, and wonderfully fulfilling as you come to know your ancestors better. God created us in families for a reason, it is not simply coincidence that we are part of the families that we are. There is a bond there between us and our family going all the way back to our Ultimate Father, our Father in Heaven. Come and see what you can find, come and see what you can learn, come and see what your ancestors can show you about who you can be.
And if you are interested in seeing if you have ancestors who were part of the early church, you can check FamilySearch’s early church missionary records by going to www.familysearch.org/missionary and signing in with your FamilySearch account. This was an incredible experience to learn about early pioneers in my family I never had reason to be existed. If you find something fun or interesting or exciting, please share – I love hearing other’s family history stories as much as my own!