Church History Is My History: Connecting Church History and Family History

    David R. Taylor, Church History Library
    28 July 2020

    Learn about the Church History Catalog’s new feature that allows historical sources to be imported into FamilySearch’s family tree.

    The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is inextricably connected with the history of its people. The success of Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days is, in part, attributable to its focus on the stories of the individual men, women, and children who experienced some of the greatest events of the Restoration. In this bicentennial year, a study of Restoration events could guide you to discover more about your own family history.

    The Church History Catalog is an online resource that allows users to search the collections of the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to institutional records of the Church and its leaders, the collection includes thousands of original manuscripts, letters, journals, and photographs of lay members of the Church. To show what kinds of records you could find about your ancestors, allow me to share some of the treasures I have discovered about my own family using the Church History Catalog.

    William Charles Jarman is my great-grandfather. Born and raised near Evanston, Wyoming, he accepted a call to serve in the California Mission in 1914. Following his mission, he married and settled in Phoenix, Arizona. A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon the William C. Jarman papers (MS 24603) in the Church History Catalog. The collection contains a minister’s certificate for his missionary service, some doctrinal pamphlets, an annotated program for the [Mesa] Arizona Temple dedication in 1927, and a ledger in which he also made notes about daily happenings. I was ecstatic. The ledger was a particular treasure. Amid the mundane day-to-day expenses (for example, in 1933 one gallon of gas cost 16 cents and two pounds of roast beef cost 15 cents) are entries about purchases of blank family group sheets, postage for genealogical inquiries, and regular bus fare to the temple in Mesa, Arizona. These expenses and notes highlight his love of temple and family history work and help me to understand him better.

    Another personal treasure of the collection is a letter written on November 16, 1847, by Salt Lake Stake president John Smith (MS 20384). The letter was carried by Asahel Lathrop, Porter Rockwell, and my great-great-great-great-grandfather Elijah K. Fuller to southern California. The letter instructs Mormon Battalion soldiers to come to the Salt Lake Valley with livestock, grain, and other supplies. It provides supporting evidence for the story retold in my family in which Elijah and his companions toiled through the winter to return to the Salt Lake Valley with potatoes from California.

    Letter carried to California by A. J. Lathrop, O. P. Rockwell, and E.K. Fuller. Courier names have been highlighted.

    These are just two examples among many I could cite in which my family history follows the trajectory of the history of the Church. A recent addition to the Church History Catalog now makes it very easy to link the digital content I’ve found in the catalog to my ancestors’ records in our FamilySearch family tree. Adding sources to FamilySearch is a great way to share the information you find in the Church History Catalog with others—and it shows that your information is backed up by historical sources.

    Follow these simple instructions to attach a source you’ve found in the Church History Catalog to FamilySearch:

    1. In the source you want to link to, simply click on the FamilySearch icon on the right-hand side to attach the page as a source to a record on

    2. In the pop-up window that appears, enter the person’s FamilySearch ID. If you need help finding the person ID, expand the window by clicking More Details at the bottom.

    3. You will then be redirected to a page called Create and Attach Source. You will notice that it has prefilled information from your source’s catalog record. You can edit any of this information as well as add the reason you are attaching the source. Hit Save, and then you are done!

    I have already attached several sources from the Church History Catalog, and I look forward to finding more treasures and attaching them as well. I hope you enjoy this new feature and share it with others! After all, whether your ancestors came across the plains with the early pioneers or you or your parents are recent converts, Church history is our history.