Did Your Ancestors Interact with the Prophet Joseph Smith?

Joseph Smith

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 You can then easily view original historical documents from Church history containing ancestors’ names and search other related historical records on FamilySearch.org.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.

About the Author
Paul Nauta is the senior marketing communications manager for FamilySearch. He loves family, friends, food, fishing, adventure, gardening, all things Italian, and serving God and others.