Friday, August 3, 2018

Elisha Tanner in Manhattan

John Tanner's son Elisha practiced medicine in Manhattan from the 1830s through the 1840s or 1850s. This map shows his places of work and residence as listed in city directories. Note his progress north as he progressed in his career.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Speaking in Texas

I'll be speaking in the Dallas area on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. Here are details. (Link.)

A quick update since I'm not posting much. I've finished a preliminary draft of my book and it needs some revisions, which I will begin when the children start school at the end of August.

Here are some of the other things happening while I'm not blogging.

* I recently attended and presented at the 2nd Annual Meeting of Sons and Daughters of the U.S. Middle Passage. Once again, a delightful conference.

* I've been copyediting and updating a friend's manuscript for publication. It's a great project, and I am delighted to get to help.

* Another project I've contributed to is the amazing and newly-released database A Century of Black Mormons.

* A new part-time job. Okay, so it's barely a job; it involved a good amount of work up front but now it's two or three hours every couple of weeks. It's three minutes from my house, and I can set my own hours, and it wouldn't come close to paying any of our bills, but it's nice to have a new cast of characters in my life.

* I'm slowly identifying all the people mentioned in the Winter Quarters Burial Records and gathering materials related to the cemetery. So far I've been able to identify most everyone, but there are some elusive people. It started as a casual project, and I still spend at most an hour a week on it, but once I'm finished identifying everyone, the plan is to write a journal article.

* I continue to direct our local Family History Center. We've finished a transition from mostly microfilm-based operations to mostly computer-based operations. It was a huge project, but the center is now working better for our patrons. Some of the others involved in the project and I took a field trip recently and helped another center make the same change. It was a lot of work, but things are now up to date.

* And, I'm planning on what to do once the book is done. More about that later!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Trek 2018: Who Were the Mormon Pioneers?

The youth of my Philadelphia-area LDS stake are participating in "Trek" this year and I am helping prepare historical information and serving as a historical advisor for the different activities. Here are my remarks for an opening fireside this past Sunday.

One hundred and sixty-four years ago, a young Irish immigrant named Samuel Linton picked up the Philadelphia newspaper and saw a notice that said, “Elder Samuel Harrison of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would preach at ten o’clock on Sunday at 7th and Callow Hill.” Seventh and Callowhill is just a few minutes’ walk from the Liberty Bell and a few minutes’ drive from the temple. Samuel Linton said, “They were the most presumptuous people I had heard of, to style themselves the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I thought I must go and hear them first. I was there on time.” He heard the missionaries preach the gospel and said, “I was convinced that the Lord had restored the Gospel and the authority to administer the Ordinances thereof, [so] I applied for baptism.”

In those days the Latter-day Saints would move to live with other Latter-day Saints, so a few months later, Samuel left Philadelphia for Utah.

Friday, February 23, 2018

“Remembering Utah's Forgotten Black Pioneers”

Last week I had the amazing experience of giving a presentation at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. Here is a promotion for the event.

Here is an advance notice in the Salt Lake Tribune. The quotes were from an interview for a story that did not run.

Here is a write-up of the event from Deseret News.

And here is one from KSL.

Note: Salt Lake Tribune commenters will complain about anything and everything (it’s best to leave them alone) but one woman left a touching comment on the KSL story about the experience of living in the Samuel and Amanda Chambers house.

I will be giving the presentation again at my stake's upcoming women's conference, and possibly also at a meeting of the local chapter of Sons of Utah Pioneers.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Researching Your Mormon Ancestors

... reposting from 2014 ...
Here is a short guide to researching Mormon ancestry, 
including a summary of some of the more useful resources.

Collect and Examine Family Records

W hat genealogy work has already been done in your family? Do you have a copy? If not, who has a copy of the research? Can you get a copy? Who did the work? When? Which family lines did your relative research? What resources were available at the time? How reliable is it? What line do you want to work on?

At this point you can choose one of two methods:
(1) Do a purely genealogical search: confirm vital records and census entries. Source and correct Family Tree and your own files. This can be a valid and rewarding process.
(2) Go on a grand adventure and get to know your ancestors and their families and experiences and communities. Collect pictures and stories and write biographies. This process will include all the same kinds of work as (1), but will turn up more information about your ancestors' circumstances and life experiences.

It is good to look to the past to gain appreciation for the present and perspective for the future. It is good to look on the virtues of those who have gone before, to gain strength for whatever lies ahead. It is good to reflect on the work of those who labored so hard and gained so little in this world, but out of whose dreams and early plans, so well nurtured, has come a great harvest of which we are the beneficiaries. —Gordon B. Hinckley

A Note Before Starting

Remember the basic rules of genealogy:

1. Work from the known to the unknown. You don't want to start researching the wrong people. For example, there were two pioneer couples in Utah Territory named George and Ann Jarvis. If you don't know anything more than their names, how do you know you have the right couple?

Start with the information you know to be a fact, which may mean you have to start with yourself and work backwards through the years.

2. Always cite your sources. Here are a few examples of adequate citations:
Overson, Margaret Jarvis. George Jarvis and Joseph George DeFriez Genealogy. Mesa, Arizona: M.J. Overson, 1957. 
Tanner, Amy Thiriot. "Ann Prior Jarvis: Strength According to My Day." In Richard E. Turley and Brittany A. Chapman. Women of Faith in the Latter Days: Volume Two, 1821-1845. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2012, 136-148. 
Washington County News. "Another Pioneer Called." [Ann Prior Jarvis obituary.] January 16, 1913, 8.
Each of those citations includes enough information that someone could find the source and double check your work or find additional information in the source. The exact format or order of information is not as important as simply having enough information.

3. Use standard formats and spell out everything. No abbreviations. For example, a United States location would be written as "St. George, Washington, Utah, United States" (town or city, county, state, country). An English location would be written as "Harlow, Essex, England" (town, county, country).

4. Research the entire family. If you go back from generation to generation, concentrating on only your direct line you'll miss much of the story. Make sure you know the identities and stories of all children, in-laws, siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents.

Take a Look at What's Already Online

Online family trees tend to be full of errors and faulty connections, so looking at them can give you a general idea of what has been done, but none of the information should be taken as gospel truth unless fully sourced.

Rule of thumb #1: the more sources an online tree has, the more accurate it tends to be.

Rule of thumb #2: primary sources (created on or close to the date of an event by someone with personal knowledge of the event) tend to be more reliable than secondary sources (created or compiled after the event, sometimes by people with no personal knowledge of the event).

Rule of thumb #3: try to collect at least three reliable sources for every person in your tree. Try to find census records, birth, marriage, or death records created at the time of the event, and so forth.

Here are some sources for online family trees:

You can use Ancestry at your local Family History Center or at many public libraries. If you are LDS, you can get a free subscription to Ancestry, FindMyPast, MyHeritage, and other organizations.

Search the Internet

Use a search engine to look for family associations, websites, biographies, and blogs. Here are some examples of sites with extensive family history information:

Sometimes when you search online for an ancestor's name you will find documentary collections or local histories.

Check Online and Archival Resources

The Church History Library is a building in downtown Salt Lake City north of the Church Office Building and east of the Conference Center. It has extensive holdings related to the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some of the holdings is useful for genealogical research. Some collections are available online, some can be digitized by request, others can be viewed on site. Search in the online catalog for family names and locations. Ward and stake and mission records can contain valuable genealogical and historical information.

This organization has been collecting pioneer histories and pictures for over a century. Check the online index, and if you're a descendant, you can request copies of histories and pictures. Remember that these biographies are not always accurate.

Also check the collections of Sons of Utah Pioneers and regional Daughters of Utah Pioneers collections. (For example: Washington County (Utah) DUP.) 

FamilySearch's collection of more than 350,000 digitized copies of family and local history publications. They range from excellent professional works to known fraudulent genealogies, so check the identity of the author and the accuracy of the information before using the contents.

FamilySearch has huge holdings available either online or on microfilm. When you search, look for both family names and locations (town or city, county, state). Court records may be worth looking through in case your family is mentioned. Additionally, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City (west of Temple Square) has a Special Collections Area with historical temple records which can help you confirm what temple work your family did, and in some cases this can help you confirm the identity of family members.

Check this database for gravestone pictures, sometimes also obituaries and family pictures. (See also BillionGraves.) Remember that this is a compiled source and you'll want to find original copies of cemetery records.

A large collection of historical newspapers. Be creative in your search terms; for example, search for "Mrs. George Jarvis" as well as "Ann Jarvis." There are also good subscription newspaper services like and

An important local newspaper collection for Utah. Other states may have similar collections; for example, California has the extensive California Digital Newspaper Collection.

If your Mormon ancestors crossed the ocean to America, even as missionaries, check this database for names and accounts and copies of the emigration books where available. Even if your ancestors didn't leave an account of their voyage, read all the other accounts of their voyage for an idea about their experiences.

This large database contains all known Mormon pioneers and is continually being updated and improved. Check when your ancestors crossed the plains. Once again, read all the accounts for the wagon or handcart company.

A search portal for regional university and library collections. (See also WorldCat. You may need to be very specific or creative about your search terms.)

A Few Other Useful Links

Use Research Guides for Directions on How to Find More Information
(research guides, some more complete than others)
(links to free online databases for Western states)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Ebenezer Godfrey Defriez: A History

Ebenezer DeFriez was the older brother of Charles Godfrey DeFriez Jarvis. Jim Bowden has just written an excellent, detailed history of Ebenezer. The pictures above are from his history. He kindly provided the document on Ancestry and FamilySearch, and it should be of interest to any descendant of Dr. Joseph George DeFriez and his wife Mary Ann Godfrey DeFriez. Here's a link to the copy at FamilySearch.

Note that Ebenezer has those distinctive eyes that still show up occasionally among DeFriez descendants.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Teething as a Cause of Death": Frances Ann Elizabeth Glade

The parents of Frances Ann Elizabeth Glade were recent immigrants to the United States. Frances's mother, Eliza Mary Litson, arrived in Salt Lake City in 1863 and married widower James Glade, who had been in the country just two years longer. Eliza was from Wales and James was from Devon, England, by way of Wales. James's wife Mary died while crossing the plains, and he had one young daughter.

Frances was Eliza and James's second child, born on Pioneer Day in 1866. She probably would have been walking and starting to talk when she fell ill, then died at the age of fourteen months. The burial record showed the cause of death as "teething." Drs. Harry Gibbons and Kent Hebdon studied the Utah death records and suggested that this probably meant cholera infantum. (West J Med. 1991 Dec; 155(6): 658–659.)  Cholera infantum happened in the warmer months and mainly struck children who had just been weaned. It was likely caused by bad milk, and the disease all but disappeared once the government started to require pasteurization.

The grieving young parents buried their little girl in the Salt Lake City Cemetery, grave B_1_2_W/2. They may have marked the grave, but based on burial databases like FindAGrave, there is no longer a marker.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Happy Labor Day

It's Labor Day tomorrow. The picture to the left is Rose Biodo of Philadelphia, ten years old in 1910. She had already worked for three summers, minding a baby and carrying berries, two pecks at a time. "This is the fourth week of school and the people here expect to remain two weeks more." 

It was the plight of children like Rose Biodo that led my grandfather's grandmother, Utah State Senator Elizabeth Hayward (bottom right), to support progressive legislation against child labor. The button to the top right was Elizabeth's, from a national campaign to levy an extra ten percent tax on those who used child labor. In 1922, the Supreme Court declared the Child Labor Tax Law of 1919 unconstitutional, but the battle to protect children continued and ultimately prevailed.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Fighting the Good Fight, or How Do You Explain to People That They Don't Know What They Think They Know

Lehi and the Brass Plates.
John Tanner knew the name of his great-grandfather, so his son, Sidney Tanner, served as proxy for his great-great grandfather William Tanner in the early 1840s in some of the earliest baptisms for the dead in Nauvoo

Unlike the dramatic story of Lehi's family in the Book of Mormon, John Tanner and his family did not leave their original home with a record of their forefathers. John's memory stretched back to the third generation, which is as far as human memory normally goes without a written record. Although our memory may go that far, and sometimes further back based on the sharing of written records, we may know a few things about our great-grandparents from hearing stories from our grandparents, but we're unlikely to know detailed information or be able to reconstruct their families without supplementary documentation, or know much personal information about their ancestors. As would be expected, although he could remember the name of his great-grandfather, William Tanner, John Tanner did not remember the name of William's wife or parents.

Almost half a century after these first baptisms for the dead, two ministers by the names of Elias Fitch Tanner (Presbyterian Church, Wisconsin and Michigan) and George Clinton Tanner (Episcopal Church, Diocese of Minnesota) began researching the origins of the Tanner family. They were limited in their research by their location in the Upper Midwest and the resulting difficulty of finding sources, but their publications are quite amazing for the time. We are in debt to George, in particular, for preserving records that would have been lost otherwise.

Like many genealogists of the time, they did not have the access to the records we now have. They were limited by the same overall lack of records as we are, and they did not cite their sources as a modern historian should. However, people reading their books mistook their speculative conclusions about the origins of the Tanner family for fact, and hundreds or thousands of online trees have reproduced their speculations without providing any supporting documentation.

My father, James Tanner, an internationally-known genealogist, realized that there were several major problems in the genealogy. There is little question about the connections between generations back to Francis Tanner, but there are major red flags about the purported connection between Francis Tanner and William Tanner. I will not detail them here; they have been discussed elsewhere. (William Tanner on AncestorFiles and Genealogy's Star).

Francis Tanner Home, Hopkinton,
Rhode Island, c. 1762,
courtesy of Brandon K. Staheli.
Several months ago, my father made a decision to remove Francis Tanner's purported parents from a widely-used online family tree, FamilySearch Family Tree, until documentation was found supporting their identities. The change log for Francis's page shows a battleground with traditionalists who continually add back in William Tanner and whichever of his wives feels right. Most do not give reasons for their action, but those who do justify the change with reasons like "dup." (That cryptic explanation refers to the records of Daughters of Utah Pioneers, a heritage organization chartered in 1901 to preserve and promulgate information about those who migrated to Utah between July 1847 and May 1869. Although DUP has done valuable work in historical preservation, unspecified records in their collections are no source for the identity of Francis Tanner's parents since any information DUP holds would trace back to the work of George C. Tanner.) One notable exception was from a woman who added William Tanner back, then realized the problem and removed him, noting "I should not have added this family. More research needs to happen."

Since members of the family are adding William back almost as fast as he is being removed, I decided to write an explanation to place at the top of Francis's page, hoping to educate and possibly provoke additional research and findings. Hopefully it will result in greater collaboration and understanding. The following is the text of my explanation.

• • •

Please look through Sources, Memories, and “Latest Changes” and read the following before making changes to Francis Tanner’s entry. As of May 2017, several family members are reading through Rhode Island and New York records to identify probate, property, tax, vital, church, and other historical records for the Tanner family. We are adding information to FamilySearch as we find it.

We have removed William Tanner and his supposed wives as parents of Francis Tanner. Around the start of the 20th century, Rev. Elias Tanner and Rev. George C. Tanner wrote books about the family. Over time, their speculations about the origin of the Tanner family were taken as fact and adopted in many genealogies and spread through online family trees, heritage society applications, family books, etc. A close examination of the speculative genealogy shows problems such as one possible mother, Elizabeth Cottrill, supposedly giving birth to Francis when she was a little child. The problem is that although there is very good reason to believe that a man named William Tanner was Francis Tanner’s father, there may have been multiple William Tanners in Rhode Island, and no one has provided documentation *created at the time* showing which one was the correct father, and which wife was Francis’s mother. Again, as far as we can tell, no one sharing online or published family trees has provided documentation supporting these speculative relationships.

We now have access to many more records than did family historians of prior generations, so we have begun to build a case for Francis’s parents. We are finding clues in probates, property records, and the records of the Sabbatarian or Seventh Day Baptist Church. We are identifying how Abel Tanner and Nathan Tanner and others are related to Francis, since a document associated with a relative might provide the clue that could reveal the identity of Francis’s parents.

If you would like to help, here are a few of the things you could do.

* If you've done research in the original records, look through the family entries on FamilySearch to see if something is missing, and please share a copy.

* Research related or possibly related families (Tosh, Sheldon, Tefft, Tibbitts, Babcock, Colgrove, Cottrill) using the original records of Rhode Island and New York, and add the sources to Family Tree.

* Transcribe Francis Tanner’s fourteen-page will. This would require familiarity with 18th century handwriting and legal language. (See a copy of the will in “Memories.”)

* Create detailed maps to show where each family lived during the 17th -19th centuries based on original property deeds.

* Research the history and records of the Seventh-Day Baptists and other Baptist denominations in Rhode Island and New York.

* Find additional records or original copies of extracted records in archives or government offices.

* Work on closer generations where relationships are known but the entries need sources, pictures, stories, family timelines, and biographies. In many cases the experiences of the women in the family were ignored; what can you discover and share about their experiences?

We appreciate all who have added original records or photographs. FamilySearch Family Tree gives us a remarkable ability to collaborate, so this is a good time to try to confirm what has only been speculation for too many generations.

• • •

Nauvoo Temple, undated daguerreotype
The source for the baptisms for the dead mentioned in the first paragraph is Susan Easton Black and Harvey Bischoff Black, Annotated Record of Baptisms for the Dead 1840-1845, Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois (Provo, Utah: The Center for Family History and Genealogy, Brigham Young University), 6:3562–3570 (image 216–224). This book is available for viewing at at your local Family History Center.

Note, first, what this book is and is not. Susan and Harvey Black extracted the information from the Nauvoo Baptismal Records of the Dead. This book shows the baptisms for the dead done at Nauvoo, Illinois between 1840 and 1845. They supplemented the original record with genealogical information from FamilySearch and the old Ancestral File. They do not differentiate between the information and spellings from the original record and information from later (sometimes unreliable) sources. However, reduced to its essence, here is the important information, although the original records need to be located and checked. 

Note that these early members of the Church did baptisms for both male and female relatives; this was an early practice.

In 1840 John Tanner did proxy baptisms for Thankful Barber (his sister), Elizabeth Tanner (his grandmother), Francis Tanner (his grandfather), Joshua Tanner (his father), Lydia Tanner (his second deceased wife), Tabbatha Tanner (his first deceased wife), William Tefft (his grandfather), Mary Tifft (his grandmother).

Elizabeth Beswick did proxy baptisms for Elizabeth Beswick (her grandmother), Everton Beswick (her grandfather), John Beswick (her uncle), (Ephraim's Wife) Boughton (a friend), Boughton Lamb (a cousin), Elizabeth Lamb (an aunt), Sandrus Lamb (a cousin), and Mabe Varson (a friend).

Sidney Tanner did baptisms for Tift Barber (his cousin), Amy Hyde (his aunt), Angeline Place (his cousin), Amy Stewart (his grandmother), William Stewart (his grandfather), William Taylor [sic] (his grandfather). [The latter would be William Tanner, his great-great-grandfather.]

Louisa Conley Tanner (Sidney's wife) did baptisms for (Uncle) Barton (her uncle), (Grandfather) Cole (her grandfather), (Grandmother) Cole (her grandmother), William Coles (her uncle), Calvin Conley (her brother), Easter Conley (her cousin), Elsie Conley (her mother), Anstrus Conly (her grandfather), Sally Persons (her cousin), Samuel Persons (her uncle), Phebe Warding (her step-mother).

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Mapping History: Sidney Tanner Homes

When I pulled up the map of Sidney Tanner's homes that I embedded in a previous post, I noticed that it had been viewed 180 times. It's a great way of representing data, and worth explaining. There may be other ways to create maps like this, but Google provides a nice platform, and will probably be around for some time, so that's the method I've chosen to do several recent maps.

I first used this kind of map for my book project. I was constantly pulling out a copy of the Nicholas Morgan/J. B. Ireland Pioneer Map of Great Salt Lake City to see where someone lived, and figured it would be useful to plot my data in one central location. I now have seventy data points on a map about Early Black Utah/Mormon History and may make it available to the public at some point. It has been very useful to me to see where people lived in relation to one another, and to historical events.

Here's the Sidney Tanner map.

As noted, it is "in progress." A couple of the locations are exact, to the very foot, such as Fort San Bernardino, but some are more general and could stand some additional research. In the process of making the map, I discovered that I cannot see Sidney Tanner's home at 195 E. 200 North in Beaver although it was on the National Register of Historic Places and noted to be in excellent condition.

Does anyone know about the home? Is it this one, significantly altered?