PROVO, Utah A new page just posted on the Church's web site, called Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, has the most complete listing ever assembled on the subject.
The online database, located in the Church History section of the Church's lds.org home page, was announced by Steven L. Olsen, associate managing director of Church History, in the keynote address at the BYU Computerized Genealogy Conference, held March 25-27.
Some 450 people attended the annual seminar, traveling from most states in the union and even other countries to learn of the latest gains and resources in research by computer. At the seminar, about 50 classes were held on subjects ranging from submitting names for temple work to comparing census records online.
The Church History section, which was launched in 2003, also includes the Index to Church Periodical Literature, an index to thousands of articles published about the Church. The Church History page also includes information about: History of the Church, Historic sites, Museum of Church History and Art, Church History Library, Church Archives and BYU resources. Under History of the Church is information being developed on the presidents of the Church.
Additional valuable databases will continue to be added to the site, said Brother Olsen.
Regarding the importance of researching contemporary history along with family history that is, to surround an ancestor's name with the circumstances he or she lived through he quoted President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, who said:
"You cannot find names without knowing that they represent people. You begin to find out things about people. When we research our own lines we become interested in more than just names or the number of names going through the temple. Our interest turns our hearts to our fathers we seek to find them and to know them and to serve them." ("Your Family History: Getting Started," Ensign, August 2003, p. 12.)
Brother Olsen said the purpose of the Church History side of the department is threefold: "(1) to witness the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in this dispensation; (2) to remember the works of God on behalf of His children, and (3) to help preserve the revealed order of the kingdom."
Thus, historians are charged to "keep the historical records of the Church and to use those records in approved ways."
The Church history side of the department includes the archives, library and museum, which has more than 100,000 artifacts, and Church history sites that document the restoration of the gospel through the actual settings. Among the records in the library and archives are manuscripts, documents, publications, audiovisual and audio recordings. In the museum are artifacts and works of art.
From each of these areas, information can be drawn about the people who lived in those times, he said.
The Overland Travel site will be valuable for those seeking information about their pioneer forebears, he continued. Included are some 40,000 pioneer names, a narrative of each company is being written, a list of publications pertaining to that company, a roster of individuals in each company where it is known and the full text of some accounts of the pioneers who traveled in the company.
"This overland database has been the product of many, many years of not only staff members, but missionaries at the Church History Library doing indexing, data entry, all the other processing, verification of records and so on."
He said additional information could be submitted by patrons, although documentation was required.
"It is a good contribution to family history research, particularly for those of you who have ancestors, or lines you are working on in the 19th century, who were members of the Church."
The database includes name and company search features, alphabetical and chronological. The database is expected to continue to grow as patrons submit information. Even though the information is extensive, it is not and likely never will be complete as some rosters were never turned in to the Church, said Brother Olsen.
He invited people to visit the Church History Library and Church Archives, which has in the archives collection more than 400,000 photographs, 2.5 million manuscripts, including journals, letters, diaries, Church records and other kinds of manuscripts. The Church History Library contains more than 200,000 published books, pamphlets and audiovisual material as well as indexes and other finding aids.
"Please come into the archives, please come into the library to complete your research," he said.
He said such use would balance more equally the corresponding purposes of keeping and using historical records, so people around the world, whether or not they are Church members, can benefit from them.
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