New Internet School for Researching LDS Genealogy and Family History

Can your lost ancestors be found? Are there family stories to be discovered in your family lines? Is it possible to learn the details in the lives of our early LDS pioneer forefathers? Here’s information on an online school that teaches family history skills.

by James W. Petty, A.G., C.G.R.S., BS (Genealogy)

Julia Ann Wright didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. Her beautiful black go-to- church Sunday shoes stood on the stool before her. Her father had purchased them in Philadelphia before they left to join the Saints crossing the plains, and coming to Salt Lake City. They were beautiful shoes, tall with soft leather and shiny black laces, and decorated with lacy black ribbons at the top. She had tried them on before they left the city, and they fit perfectly; maybe a little bit large, but that was intended, because she knew it would be many weeks before they would arrive at their new home in the west. The narrow construction of the shoes emphasized the small ladylike shape of her feet, and she felt they made her look much more mature. After all, at 14 she was a young lady now.

Julia wanted these shoes for a special occasion. She had saved them to celebrate coming to Zion; to walk into Church the first Sunday after they arrived dressed in her best Sabbath dress, and wearing her beautiful shoes. She almost laughed. Upon arriving in this hot, dusty, wilderness town, she had unpacked her bundle of dresses and special clothing; had taken her shoes out, and wiped them with an oil cloth to bring out the shine in the leather. She undid the laces, and spread the soft leather tongue so as to slip her dainty feet inside. Dainty? Julia wanted to cry. She looked down at her feet. In order to save her shoes for this special occasion, she had walked, barefoot, for hundreds of miles alongside the ox-drawn wagons. Her “dainty” feet were now wide and calloused, and about as dainty as those of the family’s milk cow. In fact, she was sure the cow’s hooves would probably slide into those soft leather shoes a lot easier than her feet would.

The Wimmers and Discovery of Gold

Elizabeth Wimmer huddled close to her husband Peter, as he guided the horses and wagon towards their home in the small village of Springville, near the shores of Utah Lake. They had a small log cabin, and Peter had been working on a new home not far away. It didn’t have to be big; their children were grown, and were spread throughout the Utah Territory. They had a farm here in Springville. It was also small, just enough to provide for the two of them. Besides, Peter was getting on in years, and the physical labor of starting a new farm, and building a home was a lot to ask of a man already well into his 70’s. But this was home; and it would be their last home. They finally were at peace.

The air was cool on this evening of May 19th, 1860, but Elizabeth felt so warm and happy. She barely felt the bump and sway of the wagon. Three days ago a prayer had been fulfilled She and Peter had gone to the Endowment House near President Young’s office in Salt Lake City, seventy miles north, and had received their Holy Endowments. It was the answer to one of many prayers over the past eighteen years. There were times she doubted she would ever see this day. Their life over the past twenty-six years had been full of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but these past twenty-six years could only be described as years of turmoil, persecution, and moving on.

Missionaries from the Church had visited their community in Henry County, Indiana in the early 1830’s, and when she heard their words, and read the book they carried, her heart became convinced that they offered the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She and several of her children, some of whom were grown and married, were baptized. Peter had been less inclined toward religion, but welcomed the gospel into his home. When the word went out for the Saints to join with the Church in Missouri, they sold their farm, and moved to Far West. For a short time they experienced peace living with the community of the Saints, but soon conflicts arose and persecutions drove them from their home and farm. Some of their children were beaten and nearly killed. Finally, with others in the Church they packed their belongings, and headed east to a swampy patch of ground in northern Illinois called Nauvoo.

They settled next in a farming community south east of Nauvoo, and later crossed the Mississippi River to a farm in Lee County, Iowa. This seemed like it would be home for the Wimmer family, and Peter began farming a sizeable piece of property. But again contentions rose between the Mormons and their neighbors, until their Prophet and his brother were killed, and war was threatened against the Saints.

The difficulties led to unrest in the Wimmer home, and Peter broke away from the Church. Anger and resentment separated him from the Church community, and he and Elizabeth joined with their son Peter Jr. and his family, and began their own migration west to California. They crossed the Sierra Nevada Mountains just days before the Donner Party, and settled in the forest and rivers of Central California, where their son Peter Jr. became a mill foreman for a man named James Marshall on the lands of a Mr. Sutter.

Peter and Elizabeth were living with their son’s family in 1848, when Peter Wimmer Jr. and James Marshall discovered gold in the American River near their cabin. The men at the mill at the time were Mormon veterans of the Mexican War who were working to earn enough money to obtain supplies to be taken to the Church, and to their families, who were now settling in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. The discovery of gold made it possible to gather the badly-needed goods more quickly. When the men returned to their families, Peter and Elizabeth went with them. Elizabeth remained in Salt Lake City, while Peter continued east and reunited with the families of his children in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He helped them in their trek west to Utah in 1850.

Peter and Elizabeth settled first in Salt Lake City, and later moved to Springville in 1855. Peter still hadn’t joined the Church, but in 1856, Elizabeth received a patriarchal blessing in which she was told that her husband would yet be baptized. That day finally came just a year ago in 1859. Now the pieces all seemed to be coming together.

A Wealth of History and Stories

Julia’s story is one of thousands of accounts handed down by the pioneers who made the trek across the plains of America to come to the Zion of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Behind hers was a history of missionaries, conversion, sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, and life in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. Ahead of her was a history of Indians, wars, young love, family, industry, struggles, and successes. The story of her shoes is based on family traditions handed down by her to her children, and to their grandchildren. Details about her life can be found in Church minutes, family diaries, newspaper stories, W.P.A. histories, and a myriad of other church and private records.

The story of Peter and Elizabeth Wimmer is also compiled from a dozen different original records. Their story is found in branch minutes in Iowa; in documents from the Journal History of the Church, and federal court testimonies concerning reparations from the Missouri Persecutions. Journals of some of the members of the Mormon Battalion at Sutter’s Mill account for their presence at the discovery of gold. Membership records, and Patriarchal Blessing records tell of their settlement in Utah, and federal census records and other governmental sources filled in additional details. Their story is still growing and changing, and becomes more and more interesting as it does so.

Each of our ancestors represent a similar wealth of history and stories, waiting to be found and recorded, and shared. Sadly, many of those stories have been lost, or soon will be, because no one is interested enough in seeking them out and preserving them for their families. These accounts are an important ingredient for nurturing our testimonies of the Church, and those of our children and grandchildren Even sadder is the loss of memory concerning thousands of individuals who played roles in the history of the Church, but were forgotten by their descendants.

Can your lost ancestors be found? Are there family stories to be discovered in your family lines? Is it possible to learn the details in the lives of our early LDS pioneer forefathers? The answer is a resounding YES!

Heritage [email protected] College announces a new class on LDS Genealogy Research and Colonization of the Western United States. This course is a three credit-hour course, taught through Salt Lake Community College, beginning in January 2003. The course is designed to teach students about LDS records, and guide them in the use and evaluation of sources relating to both genealogy and family history. This class will teach students and researchers to understand the connection between history and the records of the LDS community. Students will learn how to identify ancestors in membership records, passenger lists, and ordinance registers; and then proceed to learn about their histories and stories through journals, diaries, minute books, newspapers, and other sources. Initially, this class will be taught at the campus of Salt Lake Community College, but beginning in the Fall of 2003, the course will also be available on the Internet, where the materials and information can be accessed from anywhere in the country, or throughout the world.

HERITAGE [email protected] COLLEGE is a new educational institution approved and licensed by the State of Utah called on April 6, 2000. Heritage [email protected] College is intended as a four year educational program, authorized to provide certificates, a two year Associate degree, and a four year Bachelor’s degree in Genealogy Research. This new school was established through the Know Your Heritage Organization, a non-profit corporation under the direction of Dr. Paul Daniels, and his wife Jeanette B. Daniels, with the assistance of James W. Petty, and Mary E. Petty. Both Jeanette Daniels, and James W. Petty, are professional genealogists, with certifications from the Board for the Certification of Genealogists (BCG) in Washington, D.C., and Accredition as Genealogists (AG) by the Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mrs. Daniels holds a degree in Education from Brigham Young University, and Mr. Petty holds degrees from BYU in both Genealogy, and History. As indicated by the “@” sign in the name, Heritage [email protected] College is designed to be an “Internet College”, in which students from throughout America, and other countries of the world, can obtain an in-depth education by way of computer communication in genealogy and family history research.

The mission of Heritage [email protected] College is to provide an intensive educational and experience related program to train future professional researchers, archivists, educators, writers, and all others interested in serious genealogy studies. Any study or avocation which can report the interest of millions of enthusiasts deserves an educational program, or programs, which will provide training for future leaders, scholars, and educators in that given field. As this program grows we hope it will become a source of education and training for people in numerous fields, such as history, medicine, journalism, education, sociology, and many other areas of interest. The classes taught focus on the experience of research and using original records, and students are tested to see how well those skills are learned.

In addition to the course on LDS Research, the college offers a growing selection of classes. Introduction to Genealogy Research is a beginning course designed to teach students to think like genealogists. It teaches concepts of evaluating evidence, and solving problems through logic and evidence. Computer Genealogy is a course that teaches computer programs such as PAF (Personal Ancestral File) and KLOOZ, as well as other computer programs that assist the genealogist. Paleography is a class regarding the study of handwriting in early records, providing methods for solving hard to read documents, and helping students understand records in a variety of different languages and alphabets. Genealogy research can be done with confidence in any language and culture if the handwriting of the early documents can be read.

Genealogy Writing I and II, are course designed to communicate their research. Genealogy Writing I teaches students to evaluate their research, and write reports and proofs. This is one of the most important classes a person can take to develop their abilities as a genealogist, because communicating your research, even if only to yourself, is such a vital part of the research process. This training helps a student to better understand records, and look for new sources and methods to do their research. Genealogy Writing II teaches students to compile their information and write articles about their methods or their findings, as they share their experience with others.

Classes are also being offered in various areas of interest, including U.S. Sources – Census, Vital Records, and Church Records. Other U.S. Research courses are currently being offered as well. New course beginning in January 2003 include Searching for Missing Heirs, Foreign Research I (British Isles, German, Scandinavian, and French), Human Genetics and Genealogy, and Writing Life Stories. Additional classes pertaining to history, language, and general education subjects can be obtained through Salt Lake Community College, or similar acceptable educational programs.

For further information about Heritage [email protected] College, go to on the Internet, and contact Salt Lake Community College at , about class schedules and fees.

2002 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.