Family History Miracle for Elvis’s Relative

Contributed By Amber Clayson, Church News contributor

  • 2 October 2014

An old journal helped solve a family history mystery.

Article Highlights

  • After 50 years, a journal was found that helped solve a family history mystery.

Sandra Sorensen had been searching for Elenor Johnson’s family history for 50 years. Recently, her answer finally came in an email.

Sister Sorensen knew her husband’s ancestor Elenor Johnson was married to William Hawkins Presley. They were born in New York, had seven children, joined the Church, and moved to Nauvoo. Elenor Johnson died in Nauvoo, and William Hawkins Presley died crossing the plains. Only one of their children, Lydia, made it to the Salt Lake Valley.

“We knew a lot about William Hawkins Presley’s side of the family—they are related to Elvis,” Sister Sorensen said. “But we didn’t know any more about her family.”

The only clue the Sorensens could find was an old family group sheet in the Church genealogy archives that listed who Elenor Johnson was married to, their children, and that Lydia was the only child to make it to the valley.

Running out of options, Sister Sorensen posted about her search for Elenor Johnson on ancestry.com. A month later, a non-LDS woman in Rochester, New York, who had a handwritten journal mentioning Elenor Johnson and her husband, William Hawkins Presley, emailed her. Sister Sorensen quickly responded.

“This lady that got [the journal] said it was in her aunt’s things when she died,” Sister Sorenson said. “She couldn’t figure out why her aunt had it in her possession.”

The first few pages of the anonymous journal contained inspiration, thoughts, and advice on how to be a good person. Some inside pages were missing, but the journal also contained a list of Elenor Johnson’s parents, Elenor Green and William Presley, and their 11 children and spouses, including Elenor Johnson.

“When they listed William Hawkins Presley and Elenor Johnson, they put him as a Mormon minister,” Sister Sorenson said. “That’s why I think [Elenor Johnson] didn’t write [the journal] but one of her sisters did.”

With the new information, Sister Sorenson got on FamilySearch and looked up Elenor Johnson’s parents.

“We found William and we found Elenor Green, but Elenor Johnson was not listed as one of the children,” Sister Sorensen said. “That’s why we would have never found it. That’s why it was such a miracle.”

The origin of the journal remains a mystery.

“My husband, who is the direct relative [of Elenor Johnson], is up on the other side now, so the kids think that he had something to do with us finally getting this,” Sister Sorenson said.