Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Thanks to Tod R. for sending a link to a great local resource:

The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

It's a visually striking website with well-written content.

He also reminded me of this resource:

Free Library Digital Maps of Philadelphia

The maps are rectified (warped) to match a Google Maps image. It allows a historical exploration of places in the city.

Monday, December 7, 2015

John M. Horner of Monmouth County, New Jersey

Yes, the posts on this blog stopped in June/July, coinciding with my signing of a book contract with an academic press. The research and writing on the topic of the African American slaves in Utah Territory has been and will continue to be time intensive: I am attempting forty or more hours a week of research and writing since the deadline is approaching quickly.

From time to time I see something applicable to the history of the area, and I will include links here. Here is a story from Keepapitchinin: The Mormon History Blog about a convert from Monmouth County, New Jersey.

From the introduction:
John M. Horner (1821-1907) built – then lost – one of the first great Mormon fortunes. Despite his living only briefly in Mormon communities, then spending decades living geographically far from the Church, he always considered himself a Latter-day Saint, and his personal story is entwined with some of the greatest events of 19th century Mormondom.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

On vacation

Just a quick note that I have been out of town and am trying to deal with a backlog of research and correspondence and the minutiae of negotiating a book contract, but will return with the Philadelphia Genealogy and Thomas Kane series and local history as soon as I am able.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Thomas L. Kane: The Last of the Mormons That Left the City

Thomas L. Kane continues his description of the refugee camp...

Southern Iowa, Tanner's New General Atlas, 1846.

The party encountered by me at the river shore were the last of the Mormons that left the city. They had all of them engaged the year before, that they would vacate their homes, and seek some other place of refuge. It had been the condition of a truce between them and their assailants; and as an earnest of their good faith, the chief elders and some others of obnoxious standing, with their families, were to set out for the West in the Spring of 1846. It had been stipulated in return, that the rest of the Mormons might remain behind in the peaceful enjoyment of their Illinois abode, until their leaders, with their exploring party, could with all diligence select for them a new place of settlement beyond the Rocky Mountains, in California, or elsewhere, and until they had opportunity to dispose to the best advantage of the property which they were then to leave. 

Some renewed symptoms of hostile feeling had, however, determined the pioneer party to begin their work before the Spring. It was, of course, anticipated that this would be a perilous service; but it was regarded as a matter of self-denying duty. The ardor and emulation of many, particularly the devout and the young, were stimulated by the difficulties it involved; and the ranks of the party were therefore filled up with volunteers from among the most effective and responsible members of the sect. They began their march in mid-winter; and by the beginning of February, nearly all of them were on the road, many of their wagons having crossed the Mississippi on the ice. 

Under the most favoring circumstances, an expedition of this sort, undertaken at such a season of the year, could scarcely fail to be disastrous.* But the pioneer company had to set out in haste, and were very imperfectly supplied with necessaries. The cold was intense. They moved in the teeth of keen-edged north- west winds, such as sweep down the Iowa peninsula from the ice-bound regions of the timber-shaded Slave Lake and Lake of the Woods: on the Bald Prairie there, nothing above the dead grass breaks their free course over the hard rolled hills. Even along the scattered water courses, where they broke the thick ice to give their cattle drink, the annual autumn fires had left little wood of value. The party, therefore, often wanted for good camp fires, the first luxury of all travellers; but to men insufficiently furnished with tents and other appliances of shelter, almost an essential to life. After days of fatigue, their nights were often passed in restless efforts to save themselves from freezing. Their stock of food also proved inadequate; and as their systems became impoverished, their suffering from cold increased. 

Sickened with catarrhal affections, manacled by the fetters of dreadfully acute rheumatisms, some contrived for a-while to get over the shortening day’s march, and drag along some others. But the sign of an impaired circulation soon began to show itself in the liability of all to be dreadfully frost-bitten. The hardiest and strongest became helplessly crippled. About the same time, the strength of their beasts of draught began to fail. The small supply of provender they could carry with them had given out. The winter-bleached prairie straw proved devoid of nourishment; and they could only keep them from starving by seeking for the browse, as it is called, or green bark and tender buds and branches, of the cotton-wood and other stinted growths of the hollows. 

To return to Nauvoo was apparently the only escape; but this would have been to give occasion for fresh mistrust, and so to bring new trouble to those they had left there behind them. They resolved at least to hold their ground, and to advance as they might, were it only by limping through the deep snows a few slow miles a day. They found a sort of comfort in comparing themselves to the Exiles of Siberia,* and sought cheerfulness in earnest prayings for the Spring,—longed for as morning by the tossing sick. 

* Nine children were born the first night the women camped out. “Sugar Creek,” Feb. 5.
* One of the company having a copy of Mme. Cottin’s Elizabeth, it was so sought after that some read it from the wagons by moonlight. They were materially sustained, too, by the practice of psalmody, “keeping up the Songs of Zion, and passing along Doxologies from front to rear, when the breath froze on their eyelashes.”

To be continued...

(Thomas L. Kane Defends the Mormons: links to all excerpts.)

Friday, June 5, 2015

Thomas L. Kane: Dreadful, Indeed, Was the Suffering

Thomas L. Kane leaves Nauvoo to visit the refugee camps on the other side of the Mississippi River. He describes heart-rending scenes of suffering among a remnant of the Mormons, and thus finishes the introduction to his lecture: The Mormons, A Discourse Delivered Before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania: March 26, 1850.

Lee County, Iowa, Tanner's New General Atlas, 1846.

It was after nightfall, when I was ready to cross the river on my return. The wind had freshened since the sunset; and the water beating roughly into my little boat, I headed higher up the stream than the point I had left in the morning, and landed where a faint glimmering light invited me to steer.

Passing these on my way to the light, I found it came from a tallow candle in a paper funnel-shade, such as is used by street venders of apples and pea-nuts, and which flaring and guttering away in the bleak air off the water, shone flickeringly on the emaciated features of a man in the last stage of a bilious remittent fever. They had done their best for him. Over his head was something like a tent, made of a sheet or two, and he rested on a but partially ripped open old straw mattress, with a hair sofa cushion under his head for a pillow. His gaping jaw and glazing eye told how short a time he would monopolize these luxuries; though a seemingly bewildered and excited person, who might have been his wife, seemed to find hope in occasionally forcing him to swallow awkwardly measured sips of the tepid river water from a burned and battered bitter smelling tin coffee-pot. Those who knew better had furnished the apothecary he needed—a toothless old bald-head, whose manner had the repulsive dullness of a familiar with death scenes. He, so long as I remained, mumbled in his patient’s ear a monotonous and melancholy prayer, between the pauses of which I heard the hiccup and sobbing of two little girls, who were sitting up on a piece of drift wood outside.

Dreadful, indeed, was the suffering of these forsaken beings. Cowed and cramped by cold and sunburn, alternating as each weary day and night dragged on, they were, almost all of them, the crippled victims of disease. They were there because they had no homes, nor hospital nor poor-house nor friends to offer them any. They could not satisfy the feeble cravings of their sick: they had not bread to quiet the fractious hunger cries of their children. Mothers and babes, daughters and grandparents, all of them alike, were bivouacked in tatters, wanting even covering to com- fort those whom the sick shiver of fever was searching to the marrow.

These were Mormons, famishing, in Lee county, Iowa, in the fourth week of the month of September, in the year of our Lord 1846. The city,—it was Nauvoo, Illinois. The Mormons were the owners of that city, and the smiling country round. And those who had stopped their ploughs, who had silenced their hammers, their axes, their shuttles and their workshop wheels; those who had put out their fires, who had eaten their food, spoiled their orchards, and trampled under foot their thousands of acres of unharvested bread; these,—were the keepers of their dwellings, the carousers in their Temple,—whose drunken riot insulted the ears of their dying.

I think it was as I turned from the wretched night-watch of which I have spoken, that I first listened to the sounds of revel of a party of the guard within the city. Above the distant hum of the voices of many, occasionally rose distinct the loud oath-tainted exclamation, and the falsely intonated scrap of vulgar song;—but lest this requiem should go unheeded, every now and then, when their boisterous orgies strove to attain a sort of ecstatic climax, a cruel spirit of insulting frolic carried some of them up into the high belfry of the Temple steeple, and there, with the wicked childishness of inebriates, they whooped, and shrieked, and beat the drum that I had seen, and rang in charivaric unison their loud-tongued steam-boat bell.

They were, all told, not more than six hundred and forty persons who were thus lying on the river flats. But the Mormons in Nauvoo and its dependencies had been numbered the year before at over twenty thousand. Where were they? They had last been seen, carrying in mournful trains their sick and wounded, halt and blind, to disappear behind the western horizon, pursuing the phantom of another home. Hardly anything else was known of them: and people asked with curiosity, What had been their fate—what their fortunes?

I purpose making these questions the subject of my Lecture. Since the expulsion of the Mormons, to the present date, I have been intimately conversant with the details of their history. But I shall invite your attention most particularly to an account of what happened to them during their first year in the Wilderness; because at this time more than any other, being lost to public view, they were the subjects of fable and misconception. Happily, it was during this period I myself moved with them; and earned, at dear price, as some among you are aware, my right to speak with authority of them and their character, their trials, achievements and intentions.

To be continued...

(Thomas L. Kane Defends the Mormons: links to all excerpts.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Philadelphia Genealogy: Online Trees

The next step in the research process is to see if anyone has done any work on your line, so you will need to do a survey of online family trees.

Online family trees are notoriously unreliable. They must be used with great caution.

Rules of Thumb
1. The more sources a family tree has, the more likely it is to be accurate.

2. When you're constructing your own family trees, shoot for at least three sources for every person you add.

3. What sources do you add for each person? All of them. I will cover some basic rules of evidence later on about how to decide if a source matches the person, and what sources mean.

Doing the Survey
Choose a deceased ancestor in the line you will be researching. Preferably it should be someone who was alive during the 1920-1940 US Censuses. Search for this person (and if he or she doesn't show up, look for a parent or grandparent if you know their names) in the following databases:

Ancestry (LDS members have free access; others can subscribe or use an institutional copy at Family History Centers or public libraries)

Case Study: The Lintons

I will start with Samuel Linton (1827-1916). It looks like his Philadelphia family is well represented in FamilySearch Family Tree; they have between 2 and 24 sources each, so it's worth looking through each entry and double-checking the vital records and sourcing those who are only partly represented.

In Ancestry, there are dozens if not hundreds of family trees, with between 1 and 17 sources, so there will be a good database of information to sort through.

In MyHeritage, I set up my LDS account and began a family tree. It was a fairly seamless process, but I'm not sure I want to maintain multiple family trees. However, I see eight matches for Samuel Linton with complete family information and dozens with partial information. A spot check suggests other people are using the tree in a similar manner and I might not find extensive new information through these trees, but it's worth a try. MyHeritage has the largest membership of any of the genealogy sites, so along with Ancestry it's the most likely place I'll find Linton cousins if any of them still live in Philadelphia.

RootsWeb WorldConnect is a free online family tree service maintained by Ancestry. Much of the information is dated, but about a decade ago it was one of the default places to store family trees, so it's worth a look. There seem to be two family trees available. One has sources, so I will look at that. 

It seems to have the same information as all the other sites do, including many misspelled place names, so I won't bother using it, but it WorldConnect occasionally contains valuable compiled databases by expert genealogists, so it's worth checking.

In Conclusion...

Check these sites for your own family line. Do you see cousins working on your ancestors, or are you doing original research?

And do remember that online family trees are only as good as the work that went into them, so check how thoroughly sourced they are and if the information looks at all credible before copying any of it over. It may be worth contacting the owners of the family trees if you don't know who they are and what connection they have to your family.

Philadelphia Genealogy: index to all articles in this series

Monday, June 1, 2015

Thomas Kane: The Import of This Mysterious Solitude

Thomas L. Kane continues his tour of Nauvoo, Illinois, just vacated by the Mormons. He meets some of the mobbers and tours the empty temple.

Hancock County, Illinois, from Morse's North American Atlas., 1845

Only two portions of the city seemed to suggest the import of this mysterious solitude. On the southern suburb, the houses looking out upon the country showed, by their splintered woodwork and walls battered to the foundation, that they had lately been the mark of a destructive cannonade. And in and around the splendid Temple, which had been the chief object of my admiration, armed men were barracked, surrounded by their stacks of musketry and pieces of heavy ordnance. These challenged me to render an account of myself, and why I had had the temerity to cross the water without a written permit from a leader of their band.

Though these men were generally more or less under the influence of ardent spirits; after I had explained myself as a passing stranger, they seemed anxious to gain my good opinion. They told me the story of the Dead City: that it had been a notable manufacturing and commercial mart, sheltering over 20,000 persons; that they had waged war with its inhabitants for several years, and had been finally successful only a few days before my visit, in an action fought in front of the ruined suburb; after which, they had driven them forth at the point of the sword. The defence, they said, had been obstinate, but gave way on the third day’s bombardment. They boasted greatly of their prowess, especially in this Battle, as they called it; but I discovered they were not of one mind as to certain of the exploits that had distinguished it; one of which, as I remember, was, that they had slain a father and his son, a boy of fifteen, not long residents of the fated city, whom they admitted to have borne a character without reproach. 

They also conducted me inside the massive sculptured walls of the curious Temple, in which they said the banished inhabitants were accustomed to celebrate the mystic rites of an unhallowed worship. They particularly pointed out to me certain features of the building, which, having been the peculiar objects of a former superstitious regard, they had as matter of duty sedulously defiled and defaced. The reputed sites of certain shrines they had thus particularly noticed, and various sheltered chambers, in one of which was a deep well, constructed they believed with a dreadful design. Beside these, they led me to see a large and deep chiselled marble vase or basin, supported upon twelve oxen, also of marble, and of the size of life, of which they told some romantic stories. They said, the deluded persons, most of whom were immigrants from a great distance, believed their Deity countenanced their reception here of a baptism of regeneration, as proxies for whomsoever they held in warm affection in the countries from which they had come: That here parents “went into the water” for their lost children, children for their parents, widows for their spouses, and young persons for 8 their lovers: That thus the Great Vase came to be for them associated with all dear and distant memories, and was therefore the object, of all others in the building, to which they attached the greatest degree of idolatrous affection. On this account, the victors had so diligently desecrated it, as to render the apartment in which it was contained too noisome to abide in. 

They permitted me also to ascend into the steeple, to see where it had been lightning-struck on the Sabbath before; and to look out, East and South, on wasted farms like those I had seen near the City, extending till they were lost in the distance. Here, in the face of the pure day, close to the scar of the Divine wrath left by the thunderbolt, were fragments of food, cruises of liquor and broken drinking vessels, with a bass drum and a steam-boat signal bell, of which I afterwards learned the use with pain.

To be continued...

(Thomas L. Kane Defends the Mormons: links to all excerpts.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Philadelphia Genealogy: Family Records

In Philadelphia Genealogy: Getting Started, the assignment was to start with yourself. Make sure you have a place to store your information, whether a program (FamilySearch compatible programs) or website (such as FamilySearch Family Tree or If you use online trees make sure you keep your own personal copy of the information on your hard drive and back it up to another hard drive or "the cloud."


The next step: survey your family. Do you have any family members who are genealogists? Have they done work on the lines you're researching? Does anyone have family pictures and documents? 

Start asking around. Talk to parents and grandparents, if they're still living, as well as more distant relatives. 

Copy Photos and Documents

Make arrangements to copy information. Often you will find that people who save family information tend to be very possessive, so it can take some delicate negotiation to get copies. There are a number of tools available now so you can copy documents and pictures on location, including cameras and tripods or laptops and scanners. Even a smart phone can take pictures of important documents, if that's the only way you are allowed to make copies. If you do have some latitude as to how you can copy family pictures and documents, photos or high resolution scans are the best, but try to get at least 300 dpi images.

If pictures are not labeled, talk to family members for identification. If you are on social media, Facebook, for example, a family network could help with this process.

Case Study: The Lintons

My grandmother's grandmother, Mary Linton Morgan, was the genealogist in the family. She spent many years doing genealogical research. After her death her documents ended up with her granddaughter Helen. Helen's family didn't know what to do with the boxes, but fortunately instead of throwing them out, they gave them to my father. He digitized the entire collection and since it contains a number of valuable historical documents, he donated it to a university library. A digital copy is available for use at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

So, how would you know how to find similar collections for your family, if they exist? This series will cover the answers in subsequent installments.

Back to the Lintons. There is limited Linton/Philadelphia material in the Mary Linton Morgan collection, although it does contain the autobiography of Samuel Linton previously excerpted on this blog. Mary mostly worked on her mother's and husband's lines.

More information, including pictures, was available from my Linton cousins. Ten years ago when I moved to the Philadelphia region I got into contact with some of my Linton cousins who were working on the genealogy, and I have been in contact with them ever since. My father and I have shared family information and used some of theirs over the years, including this picture of Samuel Linton, also used previously on this blog. Samuel is sitting in the center between his daughter and the family historian Mary (in the plaid blouse), and his wife Ellen Sutton Linton, showing the ravages of cancer.


Talk to your family. Find out who might own memorabilia. Get in contact and make an appointment to visit and discuss the family heritage. If no seems to do genealogy, check on FamilySearch, Ancestry, and other genealogy databases like MyHeritage to see if someone is working on the family lines. Contact them, if possible, and discuss your common heritage.

Philadelphia Genealogy: index to all articles in this series

Monday, May 25, 2015

Thomas L. Kane: The Town Lay as in a Dream

This is the first of a series of short selections from Thomas L. Kane's discourse to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania about the Mormons, and there's no better place to start than with his introduction.

A few years ago, ascending the Upper Mississippi in the Autumn, when its waters were low, I was compelled to travel by land past the region of the Rapids. My road lay through the Half-Breed Tract, a fine section of Iowa, which the unsettled state of its land-titles had appropriated as a sanctuary for coiners, horse thieves, and other outlaws. I had left my steamer at Keokuk, at the foot of the Lower Fall, to hire a carriage, and to contend for some fragments of a dirty meal with the swarming flies, the only scavengers of the locality. From this place to where the deep water of the river returns, my eye wearied to see everywhere sordid, vagabond and idle settlers; and a country marred, without being improved, by their careless hands. 

I was descending the last hillside upon my journey, when a landscape in delightful contrast broke upon my view. Half encircled by a bend of the river, a beautiful city lay glittering in the fresh morning sun; its bright new dwellings, set in cool green gardens, ranging up around a stately dome-shaped hill, which was crowned by a noble marble edifice, whose high tapering spire was radiant with white and gold. The city appeared to cover several miles; and beyond it, in the back ground, there rolled off a fair country, chequered by the careful lines of fruitful husbandry. The unmistakeable marks of industry, enterprise and educated wealth, everywhere, made the scene one of singular and most striking beauty. 

It was a natural impulse to visit this inviting region. I procured a skiff, and rowing across the river, landed at the chief wharf of the city. No one met me there. I looked, and saw no one. I could hear no one move; though the quiet everywhere was such that I heard the flies buzz, and the water-ripples break against the shallow of the beach. I walked through the solitary streets. The town lay as in a dream, under some deadening spell of loneliness, from which I almost feared to wake it. For plainly it had not slept long. There was no grass growing up in the paved ways. Rains had not entirely washed away the prints of dusty footsteps. 

Yet I went about unchecked. I went into empty workshops, rope walks and smithies. The spinner’s wheel was idle; the carpenter had gone from his work-bench and shavings, his unfinished sash and casing. Fresh bark was in the tanner’s vat, and the fresh-chopped lightwood stood piled against the baker’s oven. The blacksmith’s shop was cold; but his coal heap and ladling pool and crooked water horn were all there, as if he had just gone off for a holiday. No work people anywhere looked to know my errand. If I went into the gardens, clinking the wicket- latch loudly after me, to pull the marygolds, heart’s-ease and lady-slippers, and draw a drink with the water sodden well-bucket and its noisy chain; or, knocking off with my stick the tall heavy-headed dahlias and sunflowers, hunted over the beds for cucumbers and love-apples,—no one called out to me from any opened window, or dog sprang forward to bark an alarm. I could have supposed the people hidden in the houses, but the doors were unfastened; and when at last I timidly entered them, I found dead ashes white upon the hearths, and had to tread a tiptoe, as if walking down the aisle of a country church, to avoid rousing irreverent echoes from the naked floors.

On the outskirts of the town was the city graveyard. But there was no record of Plague there, nor did it in anywise differ much from other Protestant American cemeteries. Some of the mounds were not long sodded; some of the stones were newly set, their dates recent, and their black inscriptions glossy in the mason’s hardly dried lettering ink. Beyond the graveyard, out in the fields, I saw, in one spot hard-by where the fruited boughs of a young orchard had been roughly torn down, the still smouldering embers of a barbecue fire, that had been constructed of rails from the fencing round it. It was the latest sign of life there. Fields upon fields of heavy-headed yellow grain lay rotting ungathered upon the ground. No one was at hand to take in their rich harvest. As far as the eye could reach, they stretched away—they, sleeping too in the hazy air of Autumn.

To be continued...

(Thomas L. Kane Defends the Mormons: links to all excerpts.)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Philadelphia Family Discovery Day

The Philadelphia Stake is holding a Family Discovery Day at the Pennypack Chapel this weekend. I will be giving some remarks and presenting two workshops, so preparations for that have taken time I would have otherwise spent on posting here. If you will be in town this weekend and can attend the conference, register at

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Thomas L. Kane Defends the Mormons

Thomas L. Kane memorial in Kane, Pennsylvania. (Source.)
The message of early Mormonism was so radical that it tended to alienate wider American and European society. Missionary efforts gathered both poor and wealthy, highly educated and unschooled, master and slave, scoundrel and pillar of society, but all who survived the winnowing effect of the Nauvoo years had to pass through the same extreme trials of crossing the Great Plains to gather with the Saints. They were trying and difficult years and it meant much to the Saints to have a powerful, respected advocate outside the Church.

Philadelphia native Thomas L. Kane (1822-1883) first met members of the Church at an 1846 conference in Philadelphia. He was an idealist and merged his family's power with the causes of the poor and downtrodden. An abolitionist at the time that such activities were a fringe movement, the plight of the Mormons caught his sympathy. Over the next few years he:

  • helped create the Mormon Battalion,
  • secured permission for temporary refugee settlements on Pottawattamie and Omaha lands,
  • defended the Church in the press,
  • served as peacemaker during the Utah War,

and he did all that while suffering very poor health. In return the members of the Church held him in highest regard. They named towns and counties after him and put a statue of him in the Utah State Capitol. He never accepted Mormon beliefs, but always defended their rights as humans and citizens of the United States.

Kane spent time in Utah with his wife Elizabeth (more about her later), became a general during the Civil War, and established the town of Kane, Pennsylvania.

In 1970 the Church purchased the Presbyterian church in Kane, Pennsylvania, and created the Thomas L. Kane Memorial Chapel. Several months ago the Church donated the chapel to the Kane Historic Preservation Society.

In 1850, Thomas Kane presented a lecture to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania about the Mormons. Over the next few while I will excerpt some of his lecture.

Additional reading
The Prophet and the Reformer (Grow, Walker, 2015)—a new book about the friendship between Brigham Young and Thomas Kane
Thomas Leiper Kane & the Utah-Mormon War of 1857-58
The Kanes Have a Mormon Thanksgiving
“The Qmlbwpnygax Eujugec Have Not the Power to Ktgjie the Wzznlhmpygtg”: Codes and Ciphers in Mormon History (part 1) (part 2) (part 3)

1—[Nauvoo] Lay as in a Dream
2—The Import of This Mysterious Solitude
3—Dreadful, Indeed, Was the Suffering
4—The Last of the Mormons That Left the City

Monday, May 4, 2015

Creating a Timeline

Timelines are a tool of the historical trade, not often read, but highly useful in writing histories and biographies, ensuring accuracy, and showing gaps in the historical record. A timeline for the history of the Church in the Philadelphia region is now in the tab under the blog title. It will be an ongoing project, updated as blog content is added.

Monday, April 27, 2015

“It is good to look to the past...”

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

Friday, April 24, 2015

Rachel Ivins Grant: “...the kind of religion I was looking for...”

Rachel Ridgeway Ivins Grant was from Hornerstown, New Jersey, a small community in Monmouth County. She was born in 1821. This is the story of her conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

My parents died when I was quite young. My grandparents on both sides were Quakers, consequently I was brought up under that influence. But the silent worship of the Friends did not satisfy the cravings of my soul. I longed to hear the beautiful hymns that my mother taught to her little children even in our tender years, and the spirit often moved me to burst out in songs of praise, and it was with difficulty that I could refrain from doing so. 

At the age of sixteen years, with the consent of my relatives, I joined the Baptist church. The singing pleased me and the prayers were somewhat inspiring, but the sermons were not much more satisfactory than the none-at-all of the Quakers. I was religiously inclined but not of the long-faced variety. I thought religion ought to make people happier, and that was the kind of religion I was looking for.

About this time we heard of some strange preachers called Mormons who had come to our neighborhood. I concluded they were some of the false prophets that the Bible speaks of and I had no desire to see or hear them. Soon after I left my home in New Jersey for a visit to relatives in Philadelphia, little thinking what would transpire in my absence. The elders held meetings near our home and soon after my sister Anna and some of my cousins accepted the truth and were baptized. She was filled with the spirit of the Gospel, and when I returned she urged me to attend the meetings with her. I went to the meeting on Saturday, but when she asked me to go on Sunday I did not know whether I ought to break the Sabbath day by going to hear them or not, but through her persuasion and that of a schoolmate, who had come some distance on purpose to hear them, I finally went, but upon returning home I went to my room, knelt down and asked the Lord to forgive me for thus breaking the Sabbath day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Philadelphia Genealogy: Getting Started

The statement may seem too trite to be true, but true it is: the place to start genealogy is with yourself. Who are you? Where are you? How did you get to where you are? Can you prove your own existence? Do you have a birth certificate, family photos, and biography, however brief?

Once you've started to collect information, find a way to keep and organize your materials. You can use a genealogy program or app (FamilySearch compatible programs) or use an online tree such as FamilySearch Family Tree, Ancestry, findmypast, or MyHeritage. Memberships to all of those are free to members of the Church

Decide how you will convert paper files to digital. Either scan or photograph documents and pictures and add them to your family tree. Many Family History Centers have digital scanners that will scan images directly into FamilySearch Family Tree.

Once you have a system, start working back generation by generation on the line you're investigating, gathering documents about entire families: parents and all children. If you trace a single line back, grandparent to grandparent, and ignore siblings and in-laws, you're going to miss the information that will help you discover the history of your family.

When you're doing genealogy, what information do you include? All of it.

Here is the Linton family. I have done the preliminary work and situated the family in Philadelphia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and it's time to start looking at the Philadelphia area sources. 

I will be working on the Linton family in FamilySearch Family Tree and Ancestry, and will show how to use both programs in future posts. 

If you're following the series and working on your own genealogy here's an assignment:

Choose a genealogical program or online family tree or trees. Collect information about yourself and your parents and grandparents and add it to the family tree and choose which ancestors you want to investigate.

Philadelphia Genealogy: index to all articles in this series

Monday, April 20, 2015

“The past is a force that is alive…”

The past is a force that is alive, and, like all living things, growing and maturing, yet preserving a pattern that can be recognized and defined. From the past, we inherit not only patterns and standards, but we inherit vision, insight, strength and courage. The past has passed on to us, as part of our heritage, its unfulfilled dreams and desires, and it bides us keep faith with it in these, as well as in other things, for these, too, are a part of the contribution to advancement and progress.

(Belle Spafford, Relief Society Annual Conference Proceedings, General Session of the Relief Society Conference, Thursday afternoon, October 4, 1945, CHL CR 11 3/60, by way of the Facebook group I Love Mormon Women's History. The picture is the Relief Society building in Salt Lake City in 2014.)

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Quaker Garden on the Old Brandywine

Just a short-short story this time:
J.E. Malan...made five trips back to Florence and each time he brought back, securely wrapped, a variety of seeds for the flower garden. His pride was the hollyhock. They were one bit that reminded him of the Quaker garden his people left behind on the old Brandywine in Pennsylvania. Many times my grandmother has been called from her busy round of household tasks to answer the door and have someone with eyes filled with tears ask to be allowed to sit among [the] hollyhocks...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Philadelphia Genealogy: An Introduction

With the explosion in online digital resources, genealogy is a different experience than it was just ten or twenty years ago. This is not your great-aunt Bertha's genealogy.

The process is the same:
  1. start with yourself and identify what you know about your family,
  2. decide what you want to learn about your family,
  3. select records to search,
  4. obtain and search the record, and
  5. use the information.
But steps three and four are dramatically different than in previous generations. Many resources are now available in just seconds at FamilySearch, Ancestry, FindMyPast, MyHeritage, and AmericanAncestors. (These are the five programs available free to members of the Church. If you are a member of the Church and haven't signed up for the services, visit Partner Access.) 

The collections at these websites are expanding almost daily. FamilySearch is currently working with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to digitize parts omyherf its collection. (I hope to have more about the project later.)

How do you use all the genealogical resources? What steps do you need to take?

In the coming months, the weekly series Philadelphia Genealogy will walk through the research process step by step, using the example of the Linton family. The Lintons immigrated to Philadelphia in the mid-nineteenth century. One of the family members, Samuel Linton, whose story was featured here last week, joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and moved to Utah, but the rest of the family remained in Philadelphia.

We will use online resources, highlight local collections, visit cemeteries, find historical maps, and see what the story of this family can tell us about life for immigrants, religion in the city, peripatetic Philadelphia cemeteries, local histories, and the feeling of connection to people and places.

Whether or not you have Philadelphia ancestry, this series will be useful for anyone interested in genealogy or family history, since the process of research is the same for most types of genealogy.

In the meantime, here are a few guides and wikis for Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia area:
Here are guides for researching some of the ethnic groups in the Philadelphia area: 
The beautiful 1847 Philadelphia map used here and as the background for this blog was found at David Rumsey Maps, one of the websites I will feature in this series. The map is a good example of early lithography and was considered the most successful of all the Robert P. Smith maps. The pictures in the lower corners are Girard College and Laurel Hill Cemetery.

All Installments in This Series
Getting Started
Family Records
Online Trees
Using search engines

Monday, April 13, 2015

William Appleby: New Jersey's Pioneer Poet

William Ivins Appleby (1811 Egypt, Monmouth, New Jersey - 1870 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah Territory) lived in Recklesstown (now Chesterfield), Burlington, New Jersey, when he joined the Church.

Don't miss the post Kent Larsen wrote about Appleby:
Lines suggested by reflections on Joseph Smith
Besides his occasional literary series at Times & Seasons, Kent Larsen wrote a blog called "Mormons in New York City," which has been an inspiration. Here's his brief biography of Appleby: 
This poem, written 3 years after Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, is by William I. Appleby, a New Jersey native born in 1811. When he joined the Church in 1840 he was already a Justice of the Peace and Town Clerk in Recklesstown, New Jersey. Appleby jumped into the Church with both feet. He travelled to Nauvoo in 1841, met Joseph Smith, and returned home anxious to serve. He built up branches in central New Jersey, and was eventually named president of the Eastern States Mission, first temporarily in 1847, before he took his family to Utah in 1849, and then later returning to the East as the permanent mission president and immigration agent from 1865-1868.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

William Penn's Prayer for Philadelphia

The 27-ton bronze statue of William Penn atop City Hall is one of the distinctive landmarks in the city of Philadelphia.

The son of an English father and Dutch mother, William Penn joined the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) in his 20s. After several tumultuous years for the faith, Penn told King Charles II that the Quakers would leave England in return for a large land grant in America. Influential Quakers purchased West Jersey and East Jersey—New Jersey was not always divided into north and south as it is now—and then Charles II granted Penn 45,000 square miles of land with all powers to govern, except the power to engage in war, and named the territory after Penn's father, with sylvania being the Latin for "forest" or "woods."

The rest of William's Penn's life was complicated; politics and land grants can prove difficult bedfellows in any time; but he is rightly honored as one of the influential founders of the United States, not just the city of Philadelphia and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. His legacy survives in our ideas of religious liberty, education, an amendable constitution, and, not least, the city he founded on the Delaware River. 

As he left Pennsylvania for England in 1684, he wrote a moving letter to the friends and associates he was leaving behind. An excerpt from the letter is engraved on a plaque at City Hall and is known as William Penn's Prayer for Philadelphia.
And Thou, Philadelphia, the virgin settlement of this province—named before thou wert born—what love, what care, what service and what travail there have been to bring thee forth and to preserve thee from such as would abuse and defile thee. 
Oh that thou mayest be kept from the evil that would overwhelm thee; that faithful to the God of thy Mercies, in the life of righteousness, thou mayest be preserved to the end. 
My soul prays to God for thee that thou mayest stand in the day of trial, that thy children may be blest and thy people saved by His power.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Stephen Fleming on the Church in the Delaware Valley

Stephen Fleming is a talented young academic, and one of the few who has done significant work on the history of the Church in the Philadelphia area.

He wrote an article for the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation, available here:
Discord in the City of Brotherly Love: The Story of Early Mormonism in Philadelphia
Another article is not available online, but may be purchased.
The Delaware Valley and the Success of Early Mormonism

Monday, April 6, 2015

An Irish Immigrant Joins the Church, 1854

Linton family reunion, Utah, c. 1908. Samuel Linton is sitting in the center.
Samuel Linton was born in Ireland in 1828. His family moved to St. Johns, New Brunswick, Canada when Samuel was a child. Here he tells the story of his conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He left Philadelphia directly for Utah, where he helped rescue the Martin and Willie Handcart Companies in 1856.

I remained with my father until I was twenty (20), when I went to Philadelphia, with the approbation of my parents. I took passage on a Brigantine loaded with spare timber for New York which I helped to unload. It took us four days. I then took a train for Philadelphia where there was a job waiting for me. I was among strangers, but my friends were very kind to me.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

An Unsigned Letter to Edward Hunter

Here's a brief post from Stephen Fleming on Juvenile Instructor about Edward Hunter (1793-1883) the third Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, born in Newtown Square, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and a noted citizen of Chester County:
An Unsigned Letter to Edward Hunter: Any Guesses Who and When?
The topic mentioned in the blog post, dissension in the Church upon Joseph Smith's death, was an important issue for the Church in Philadelphia. More about that later. More later as well about Edward Hunter and his family.

Stephen Fleming is probably the foremost expert of the history of the Church in this region, and I'll review some of his other work in the future.

The picture of Edward Hunter, a C. R. Savage photograph, is from Wikipedia, as originally found in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, MSS P 24, item 225.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Some Basic Resources on the History of the Church in the Philadelphia Area

Here is an article by church member Daniel Rolph, for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Mormonism in Early Philadelphia
Here is a brief, generic review on the Church website.
The Church in Pennsylvania
Here is an even briefer Wikipedia article. It needs some work.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Pennsylvania
And here is a much longer, but unsigned article.
Philadelphia Mormon History

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Defining the Philadelphia Area

So, what is "the Philadelphia area"?

The easiest definition is to equate the area with the Delaware Valley. Here's a map.

The Delaware River runs through the map from the top center, takes a jag to the right by Trenton, and then doubles back to Wilmington where it runs into Delaware Bay. It includes parts of the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland.

The counties in the Delaware Valley are (with metropolitan areas listed, and the largest or most influential in bold and italics):

Kent (Dover)
New Castle (Wilmington)


New Jersey
Camden (Camden)
Cumberland (Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton)
Mercer (Trenton)

Also associated with the region:
Atlantic (Atlantic City)
Cape May
Ocean (Ocean City)

Berks (Reading)
Philadelphia (Philadelphia)

Also associated with the region is the Lehigh Valley:
Lehigh (Allentown, Bethlehem)
Northampton (Bethlehem, Easton)

For the purposes of this blog, I will generally avoid Maryland and most of Delaware, but will include the Lehigh Valley and other nearby areas, including Lancaster County, since they play into the story of the Church in this region.

Map of the Delaware Valley from Wikipedia.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Beginnings of the History of the Church in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is important in the history of the Restoration of the Gospel, or the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Joseph Smith first visited Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, after he was hired to help find the possible site of an old silver mine. There he met Emma Hale, his future wife. They were married in New York and lived there for a time, but then returned to Pennsylvania.

Between 1827 and 1830, Joseph and Emma Smith lived in Harmony, now Oakland Township, Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, where Joseph translated the Book of Mormon and received the Aaronic Priesthood. The Church has marked the site of their home and is currently planning to make a more formal visitor's center at the site.

Here are a few resources about the site in Oakland.
  • Baker, Robert L., "Latter-day Saints make $2.1M land purchase," The Scranton Times Tribune, January 8, 2011. (Link.)
  • Christensen, Horace H., "Harmony, Pennsylvania," Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Brigham Young University. (Link.)
  • Hodges, Blair. "'In Memory of an Infant Son,'" By Common Consent [blog], January 23, 2013. (Link.)
  • LDS Church, "Church to Restore Historic Site in Pennsylvania," [Press release], April 21, 2011. (Link.)
  • Lloyd, R. Scott, "Church offers preview of priesthood restoration site and film project at Motion Picture Studio," Deseret News, October 2, 2014. (Link.)
  • Porter, Larry C., "Joseph Smith’s Susquehanna Years," Ensign, February 2001. (Link.)
  • Scott, R., "Harmony historic site to be memorialized as plans take shape," Church News, May 21, 2011. (Link.)
  • Wikipedia, "Aaronic Priesthood Restoration Site." (Link.)
All pictures taken by the author on a cold November day in 2012.