Did Your Ancestors Interact with the Prophet Joseph Smith?

  • 16 December 2014

FamilySearch.org users can now easily view documents where their direct ancestors are mentioned in the papers of Joseph Smith.

“Descendants of early Church members can now connect to original source documents where their own progenitors are mentioned.” —Elder Steven E. Snow, Church Historian and Recorder

The Church History Department has announced a collaborative effort between the Joseph Smith Papers Project and FamilySearch.

FamilySearch.org users can now easily view documents where their direct ancestors are mentioned in the papers of Joseph Smith. With just a few clicks, they can see how their ancestors interacted with the Prophet Joseph Smith and other early members of the Church.

The new website is free and available now at https://familysearch.org/josephsmithpapers#.

“Using the power of FamilySearch.org and the scholarship of the Joseph Smith Papers Project, descendants of early Church members can now connect to original source documents where their own progenitors are mentioned,” said Elder Steven E. Snow, Church Historian and Recorder. “Seeing our ancestors in the original papers will provide insight and inspiration as we see how our own lives intersect with the sacred history of the Church.”

The new website combs through all the digitized pages of the Joseph Smith Papers and compares names from the documents with names of ancestors in a FamilySearch user’s family tree.

Information in the Joseph Smith Papers confirmed the story about John Tanner giving a sizable donation to help save the mortgage on the Kirtland Temple.

Users can then easily view original historical documents from Church history containing their ancestors’ names and search other related historic records on FamilySearch.org.

“The majority of the papers that were written by the Prophet Joseph Smith or written on his behalf were about people,” said Reid L. Neilson, managing director of the Church History Department. “These people have living descendants. Now you can see how your ancestor once interacted with the prophet of the Restoration.”

FamilySearch patron Ben Godfrey was able to make several family discoveries about his fourth great-grandfather, John Tanner. In the Joseph Smith Papers online, Brother Godfrey was able to confirm a family story that John Tanner had made a generous financial donation to the Church that helped prevent foreclosure on the mortgage for the Kirtland Temple block. In another entry, Brother Godfrey discovered that John Tanner was severely beaten by angry mobs in Far West, Missouri.

“Seeing the sacrifices that John Tanner made inspired me as his descendant. It gives me courage to face the daily challenges in my own life and to understand how we might be the answer to another person’s prayers,” said Brother Godfrey.

The Joseph Smith Papers Project is an ongoing project that will publish, according to accepted documentary editing standards, documents created by Joseph Smith or by staff whose work he directed, including journals, revelations, translations, contemporary reports of discourses, minutes, business and legal records, editorials, and notices. The project also includes papers received and “owned” by his office, such as incoming correspondence.

FamilySearch and the Church History Department recently collaborated on the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel website to make it easier to find pioneer ancestry. This new collaboration with the Joseph Smith Papers continues this effort.