17 August 2010

Who are their neighbors? Another tip from Leslie Huber and I

On a christening record, who carried the baby? On a census, who is listed on the same page or next page, the same post office in a small town? On the ship manifest, who else emigrated at the same time from the same place? Noticing and finding out more about these "neighbors" helps the researcher to break through brick walls, and most significantly for the writer, it gives us somewhere else to look for the details we crave about our person.

One particularly easy and rewarding way to do this for a Mormon emigrant ancestor is by using the historical resource (not on familysearch), the Mormon Overland Travel site (1847-1868). While this is an incomplete listing because rosters have not been found for all companies, it is very helpful. For two different families that I have written about, I was able to make a very good guess as to which company the family traveled with simply by noting their traveling companions on shipboard and reading the accounts given on this site. Putting the information together gave me a good picture of what my family's experiences would have been even though I had found nothing written by them. When you have found "your" company, be sure to click on "View a list of sources" which will give you trail excerpts from those sources as well as where to look next.

A similar resource, less well known, is the Mormon Migration (1840-1890) website hosted by Brigham Young University's Harold B. Lee Library. This site includes over 1,000 first person accounts of over 500 LDS immigrant voyages. It's a treasure trove for someone researching and writing about an early LDS immigrant. Remember, you do not have to find your particular person there. Read the accounts of anyone on the same voyage, and you will know the events that your person also experienced.

After much research and thought about my ancestor Jens Jorgensen and his wife Marie, I believe they traveled with the 7th Handcart Company in 1857. Family stories, traditions and dates combined with the excellent historical resources found on the sites listed above led me to that conclusion. Imagine my delight when I found a book (Before Zion by Allen Christensen) written specifically about this particular company and also realized that a CCA Christensen painting I had always loved, Handcart Company, was based on this journey with my 3rd great-grandparents.

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