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 He digitized the entire collection and since it contains a number of valuable historical documents, he donated it to a university library.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.