With duties to help promote the new FamilySearch Pioneer Children Online Activity, Sarah Hammon clicked on the free interactive experience as a user, not expecting as a convert to the Church to find any ancestors who emigrated to Utah as children or youth.
Surprisingly, the screen displayed a somewhat familiar name and an age of one of her ancestors — 1-year-old Jude Allen, who died in 1852 while crossing the Great Plains.
“Then I realized why the name was familiar,” said Hammon, a FamilySearch campaign manager. Her second-great-grandfather was Jude Allen May — his given names of “Jude Allen” coming from his mother (and one of Hammon’s third-great-grandmothers), wanting to honor and memorialize her infant brother who passed as a pioneer child.
“To be able to discover I’m connected to that pioneer history, it’s made me feel like I’m not alone, that I have strong ancestors,” said Hammon, who discovered another third-great-grandmother, Alice Wright, who as a 14-year-old crossed the plains with an older brother.
Hammon’s own experience underscored the online activity’s appeal to users. “We have so many people who are wanting to find connectivity, who are wanting to find belonging,” she said.
No matter if a user has ancestors who were pioneer children or not, the online activity includes the Pioneer Matching game — a three-question quiz that helps collect personal interests and traits and then matches them with pioneer children from historical records with similar characteristics.
The quiz bears the title “Walk a mile in their (small) shoes.”
Say the quiz results ended up matching the user with “creativity” as a personality trait, the name of an actual pioneer child appears on the screen as well as a short story of his or her experience, age, length of time on the trail and trek company or wagon train and year traveled.
Similar brief biographical information — and an individual photo, if available — is available for up to 20 relatives who were pioneer children if a user is logged into FamilySearch and has any ancestors with such ties.
The quiz portion of the activity site is available to anyone, including those without a free FamilySearch account.
The release of the online experience is tied not only to the upcoming July 24 Pioneer Day commemorating the Latter-day Saint pioneers’ arrival into the Salt Lake Valley but also the weekend dedication of the Pioneer Children Memorial at This is the Place Heritage Park.
The latter commemorates the 660 children who died in the two-plus decades of pioneer wagon trains and handcart companies crossing the plains.
The free interactive online experience is a collaborative effort with FamilySearch, the Church History Library, the This is the Place Heritage Park and Days of ’47.
In similar Pioneer Day commemorations in recent years, FamilySearch has released other pioneer-related online experiences, Hammon said, noting that previous effort have focused on aspects ranging from activities, events, food and such from the Latter-day Saints’ mid-19th century migration West. But this is the first pioneer-themed one to be interactive.