Missionary Database, Pioneer Database to consolidate into single platform

Julia Samuelson Curtis had been married only four months when her husband, Arthur, who was preparing to serve a mission in Samoa, died unexpectedly. She delivered their son stillborn six months after Arthur’s death.

Two years later, Julia wrote a letter to President Joseph F. Smith, sixth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and told him her husband often repeated, “The Lord is so good to us. I will not content myself until I am in Samoa.”

“My beloved companion was not permitted to fill this mission,” she continued in the letter dated Jan. 27, 1905. “Our little son soon followed to the great beyond. And I now am alone, ready and anxious to fill this mission and take my husband’s place.” 

Julia Samuelson Curtis, 1881-1946.
Julia Samuelson Curtis, 1881-1946. Credit: Missionary Database, History.ChurchofJesusChrist.org

Julia served faithfully in the Western States Mission, and through her service she was introduced to her second husband, George Handy.

Ryan Combs, content manager for the Church History Library’s Missionary Database, said Julia’s letter to President Smith is one of many “heartwarming and touching” mission-acceptance letters housed in the Missionary Database.

The Missionary Database is a record of missionaries who served proselyting missions for the Church from 1830-1940. It includes rich collections of letters, photographs, journal entries and detailed biographical data — missionaries’ birth dates, birthplaces, parents’ names, baptism dates, who baptized them, residences at the time of their calls, mission assignments and dates of service.

With a new update, the Missionary Database is now easier to navigate and features more resources to help with research and link to related information. The updated database will soon be integrated with the Pioneer Database and other Church history databases to provide users more complete information in one place.

“In order to consolidate our resources, we’ve decided to build a single platform that focuses on individuals and their interactions with key events in Church history,” said Kevin Nielson, a product manager in the Church History Department who oversees the development of History.ChurchofJesusChrist.org. “We’re trying to standardize the experience for users that come to the site.”

Consolidation of databases

The Church History Department maintains several databases to help answer frequently asked questions, such as “Where did my ancestor serve? With what company did my pioneer come over? Where did my ancestor live in Nauvoo?”

A photograph of President Ezra Taft Benson, middle, serving in Scotland wearing a kilt. He served in the British Mission from 1921-1923.
A photograph of President Ezra Taft Benson, middle, serving in Scotland wearing a kilt. He served in the British Mission from 1921-1923. Credit: Missionary Database, History.ChurchofJesusChrist.org

“We’re trying to create resources that allow people to easily find this information themselves,” Nielson said. “This streamlines the ability to answer visitors’ key questions, both those that are doing research and those that visit our historic sites.”

The largest databases are the Pioneer Database, which contains almost 80,000 names, and the Missionary Database, which includes about 40,000 names. The databases function the same but are built differently, Nielson said. 

The Missionary Database is the first to move into the consolidated database. 

Nielson said he expects integrating the Pioneer Database will take about six to eight months. Other databases, such as the Nauvoo location database and the Mormon Battalion database, will be added after.

What’s new?

The updated Missionary Database in the new consolidated platform is designed to be more user-friendly with a simplified layout, improved search filters and a better format for mobile devices. Person profiles now feature a timeline of life events that will soon include dates from other databases. 

When a user clicks on Julia’s profile, for example, they will notice a timeline of her life — when and where she was born, who baptized her, where and when she served, and when she died. Had Julia been a pioneer who arrived in Salt Lake City, her timeline would soon feature her pioneer activities as well. 

Screenshot of Julia Samuelson Curtis' profile in the updated Missionary Database.
Screenshot of Julia Samuelson Curtis’ profile in the updated Missionary Database. Credit: Missionary Database, History.ChurchofJesusChrist.org
Screenshot of timeline on Julia Samuelson Curtis' profile in the Missionary Database.
Screenshot of timeline on Julia Samuelson Curtis’ profile in the Missionary Database. Credit: Missionary Database, History.ChurchofJesusChrist.org

The individual mission profiles, such as this page on the Western States Mission where Julia served, feature a timeline of mission presidents called and other key events in that mission’s history. 

Profiles in the Missionary Database still include previously added options to attach the source to FamilySearch Family Tree, view related photos, share with others via email or social media and submit additional information.