The discovery of Mormons amongst my ancestors has certainly given my George research a new lease of life! A whole tranche of hitherto untapped sources has been revealed, so I’m on a big learning curve currently.
Having established that James George, brother of my 2 x great grandfather John, most probably sailed from Liverpool bound for New York on 15 June 1878 accompanied by his youngest daughter Alice, I wanted to know when the rest of his children crossed the pond.
From a historical narrative on Ancestry it seemed that James Jnr was the first to go, in the winter of 1868, but what of Martha, Ann and John?
Not having a Worldwide subscription to Ancestry, I took myself off to our local library last Friday to use the library version (hooray for libraries!). Firstly I looked for death certificates and found ones for all five of the children under Utah, Death and Military Death Certificates 1904 – 1961.
James George Jnr was the first to die, in January 1926 in Bountiful, Davis County. The death certificates have two particularly useful questions: “length of residence in city or town where death occurred” and “how long in US if foreign birth”. Now this information is only as good as the knowledge of the informant. In this case James’ wife Viola seemed to think he had been in Bountiful since 1869 and in the US since 1857. However the 1910 census, which I looked at next and where James himself is likely to have provided the information, gives his “year of immigration” as 1869. That would make him about 16 – 17 years old when he emigrated from England.
Next to die was Ann just three months later in Park City, Summit County. In this case the informant was her son Joseph who stated that he believed his mother had immigrated in 1876. At the time of the US Federal census in 1920 Ann was living with her daughter Mae, who had given her mother’s immigration year as 1880. Another time I must look for a marriage date for Ann, but with her first child born in 1881, I’m speculating that her arrival in Utah might have been nearer 1876 than 1880.
After Ann was Martha, who died in October 1932 in Ogden, Weber County. Her eldest son Fred was the informant and was way out on her birth date, giving that as 1844 rather than 1850. He stated that she had been in the US since 1862. However, in the 1920 census Martha herself had given the information that she immigrated in 1870, which should be the more reliable date except that she appears on the 1871 census in East Dereham, Norfolk, working as a dairymaid! I found a marriage date for her on Family Search of 1874 in Salt Lake, so her immigration was sometime between 1871 and 1874.
Next to die was brother John, in June 1944 in Logan, Cache County, at the advanced age of 88. His son Horten was the informant and he gave the immigration date of 1873. John himself, on the 1930 census, gave the year as 1872. That looks pretty reliable to me as the dates are so close. He, too, was in East Dereham in 1871.
Alice outlived them all, dying in July 1948 at the age of 90 in Salt Lake City. The informant’s signature is unclear, but may have been her daughter Alice. She gave the immigration date as 1876, whereas Alice’s husband in 1930 had given the date as 1904, which was obviously inaccurate since her first child was born in Utah in 1883.
It would be great if I could find all of the above on a passenger list, but until I do my best guess is that their immigration dates were James 1868/9, John 1872, Martha 1872/4, Ann 1876 and then James Snr with Alice in 1878. Quite probably all (with the possible exception of James Jnr) went by steamship to New York and then by rail to Salt Lake. Prior to 1869 the journey was far more arduous, consisting of sailing to New Orleans and then by boat up the Mississippi before the wagon train or handcart route to Salt Lake.
I mentioned Family Search earlier, and this is just one source which I am just beginning to investigate. I am embarrassed to say that I had no idea how much primary source material was on this site! Till the last week I had only been aware of user-submitted material on there, often with no sources given whatsoever, and so had treated the information with a good deal of scepticism. But, for example, looking up East Dereham I see there are scanned pages from Court rolls – definitely something to come back to.
I am beginning to work out how to use the Catalog search and have found some of the sources mentioned in ‘My Ancestor was a Mormon’, such as the Early Church Information File. This appears to act as a signpost to other records, some of which I believe can only be accessed at LDS Family History Centres. Though aware for many years of the existence of these centres, I have never had occasion to use one. But this, I think, will be my next line of enquiry, since the Family Search site indicates that membership records exist for East Dereham for the period 1848 – 1871, which is just the period I need to potentially throw more light on my Mormon George family. Who knows – it may just reveal other family members who also converted!