'Saints by Sea' FamilySearch campaign offers new information about immigrant pioneers

No matter how much a person knows about their heritage, delving into family history work proves there’s always more to learn.

Between 1869 and 1932, thousands of Saints immigrated to the United States to join with other Saints in the Salt Lake Valley and surrounding regions. FamilySearch and Brigham Young University have indexed records over the last seven-plus months detailing those individuals’ stories.

The resulting FamilySearch campaign, “Saints by Sea: Latter-day Saint Immigration to America,” launched July 19, just five days before Utahns celebrate Pioneer Day. The carefully researched information is expected to reach over a million FamilySearch patrons.

Roughly five years ago, Kathy Warburton, senior marketing campaigns manager at FamilySearch, stumbled across the “Saints by Sea” database with her manager. At the time, they found it impossible to match people in that database with those already in the FamilySearch database.

After trying to figure it out on her own for a while, Warburton and her team decided to table the matching endeavor.

A year later, she spoke about the intriguing project with Joseph B. Everett, family and local history librarian at BYU. Everett enlisted the help of Dr. Joe Price from the BYU record linking lab and BYU student Courtney Lawson. Using Price's computer algorithm to match people in the “Saints by Sea” database, FamilySearch worked with BYU students and missionaries to verify the matches.

The logo for the FamilySearch Tree mobile app.
The logo for the FamilySearch Tree mobile app. | Provided by FamilySearch

“This campaign is to celebrate those specific pioneers” who left everything familiar to build better lives for themselves in America, said Sarah Hammon, FamilySearch’s senior marketing manager of channels and campaigns.

Many members of the Church of Jesus Christ may already know much about their ancestors, but Hammon hopes “Saints by Sea” will highlight even more pioneers and offer additional context.

She said everyone involved in the project made sure “it’s good information, including as many people as possible, but also making sure that the matches are correct.”

The database contains roughly 90,000 Saints. So far, FamilySearch and BYU have matched a small percentage of them, but Warburton said the project is ongoing. She hopes viewers will have "greater understanding and appreciation of the experiences of their ancestors."

Added Hammon: “We’re really excited to get this out to as many people as possible” — members and nonmembers alike. FamilySearch and BYU will continuously update the record collection as more information becomes available.

Discover “Saints by Sea” here.

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