Did Your Ancestors Interact with the Prophet Joseph Smith?

December 15, 2014  - by 

The Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is pleased to announce an exciting collaborative effort between the Joseph Smith Papers Project and FamilySearch. FamilySearch.org users can now easily view documents in the papers of Joseph Smith that mention their direct ancestors. With just a few clicks, it is now easy to see how your ancestors interacted with Joseph Smith and other early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The new website is being updated but will soon be available again at FamilySearch.org/campaign/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 . . . history of the Church,” he continued.

The new website combs through all the digitized pages of the Joseph Smith papers and compares names from the documents with the names of ancestors in your family tree on FamilySearch.org. You can then easily view original historical documents from Church history containing ancestors’ names and search other related historical records on FamilySearch.org.

“The majority of the papers that were written by 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, 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, 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 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 and 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 Project continues this effort.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. I posted a comment about needing indexing and was given a message that I was posting too quickly. I only posted one other, and did not do it quickly. I forgot to click the follow up links. I don’t want to repeat the information in the last email but would like to ask for indexing because my ancestors were 1 sealed to Joseph, 2., an apostle, 3., a possible bodyguard for Joseph 4. One of the quorum of stone cutters completing the SL Temple but who grew up with Joseph in Vermont and then cut stone for all the next 4 Temples. I wonder what Joseph said about these and other of my family members who knew Joseph.

    1. Beki, your best bet would be to call FamilySearch Support and ask them. However I’m not sure what you are asking. Are you wanting certain names to be digitized so you can index them?

  2. Joseph Smith preached the funeral sermon of my great-great-grandfather Stephen Joseph Abbott about October 1843. Joseph also gave the family some grain when theirs was stolen. Stephen was gathering wood on an island in the Mississippi to provide for his family while he was on a mission to gather funds for the temple. He became sick and died. The source is his widow, Abigail Smith Abbott’s, life story. Did Joseph write anything about Stephen or Abigail?

  3. My name is Robby Duty.

    Upon completion of a thorough family genealogy, my family are descendents of Joseph Smith.

    As you are aware, Mary Duty was paternal grandmother to Smith.

    The Russell family is also a family connection. Our genealogist states that the Russell family was also connected to the Duty family and highly in evolved with the conception of the Mormon church of Ladder Day Saints.

    Point of interest – the Duty genealogy of which I speak, we’re one of the first families to settle in Virginia. As you may be aware, Virginia was actually the first colony to be settled.

    The Duty family was compiled of many physicians, litigators and, of course family land for the growing of tobacco.

    Our genealogy is made up history dating back ten enerations.

    We settled our home in Bristol, Virginia. On such property that remains in the family, we do have a family cemetery.

    I thought this information would be of interest to your Church.

    My father, Robert Duty eventually left Bristol and settled in Atlanta, Georgia. He had attended Auburn University. I, attended Oglethorpe University, receiving two bachelor of arts degrees.

    My mother’s family name is traylor Traylor with other family connections to the Houseworth family, the Lasseter family and Cancellor family.

    My parents have been married for 55 years. Love at first site. Married two months after courting on March 17th.

    My first sibling was born on march 6 the very next year. Eighteen months later, my second sibling was born. Both of these elder siblings were named Tabby and Tara.

    I was born four years later thus creating our immediate family.

    I must say we were raised in a truly amazingly fashion. Superb educations, highly exposed to travel within the United States and Europe.

    I ,still to this day, have an amazing life. Truly blessed and with out regrets. I say this with humility, and awesome pride.

    I have no idea why I have chosen to contact and share the knowledge I have shared with you all. Perhaps my strong love of genealogy and history.

    Robby Duty

    1. Jason, thank you for bringing this to our attention. The site is currently being updated and will soon be live again. I’ll let you know if I hear when it is up again!

      1. Any updates on this, Alison? I saw it briefly in the carousel at the top of the page when I log in, but I can’t find it now. Thanks so much for your help.

  4. My friends get this when they first sign into their familysearch accounts. I am not. I just have the Family tree pic. How do I fix this?

  5. some months ago I received an email regarding ancestors of mine mentioned in the Joseph Smith Papers. Can you tell me where go to get this info

  6. Yes, I am interested to find out if any of my family is related to or had any connections with Joseph Smith. Will appreciate any updates. Thank you! Susan J. Vaughan

  7. I would like to know how I can find out if I’m related to Joseph Smith. It seems almost impossible to get a straight answer from any to tool, or Company, about this issue.
    Can you help?

  8. Hi, I am wondering something about my 5th great grandpa, Stephen Markham. I looked back into our history, and there was a lot of people named Joseph Smith, so I wonder, am I really related to the prophet Joseph Smith??