See your ancestor’s ‘journey of faith’ with new FamilySearch discovery experience

Journey of Faith includes records from 9 collections — the first time FamilySearch has pulled this many Church databases into one place

For the early Saints, gaining a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ was not a one-time event — it was a journey of faith. And it’s the same for Church members today. 

That’s what Kathy Warburton, FamilySearch marketing manager, hopes people see through the new Journey of Faith discovery experience.

“As we grow in the gospel, it is a journey that we take step by step, event by event,” Warburton said. “It’s little actions that we do that eventually will lead us to the temple and to the increased faith and testimony. And there are challenges and obstacles that we overcome in the process. … So it’s a journey of faith that we want to show — this is what our ancestors went through and it can strengthen us for our own journey of faith.”

The Journey of Faith experience — found at — invites Latter-day Saints to discover some of the faith-building milestones of their ancestors that helped shape their family story. It offers a broader view of an ancestor’s spiritual journey from a wide variety of sources. 

What is the Journey of Faith experience?

Through collaboration with the Church History Library, Brigham Young University and other organizations, FamilySearch has tied nine collections of early Church records into one discovery experience — the first time FamilySearch has pulled this many Church databases into one place. 

Russell Lynch, who works with the FamilySearch engagement division, said the beauty of the Journey of Faith experience is that “the information is not just in one place. So we’re hoping now to be able to highlight different sources or organizations that have information that could be helpful to people.”

Records in Journey of Faith come from the following nine collections:

  1. Church History Biographical Database — a combination of the Missionary Database (missionaries who served between 1830 and 1940) and the Pioneer Database (pioneers who immigrated to Utah between 1847 and 1868). 
  2. Saints by Sea — a BYU database of first-person accounts of Saints who immigrated to the U.S. and traveled to the Salt Lake Valley from 1840-1932.
  3. Joseph Smith Papers — images and transcripts of extant Joseph Smith documents from 1828 to 1844 with textual and contextual annotation. 
  4. Saints, Vol. 1 — the first of a four-volume narrative history of the Restoration. 
  5. Nauvoo Community Project — a BYU database of residents of Nauvoo, Illinois, from 1839 to 1846.
  6. Wilford Woodruff Papers — images and transcripts of Wilford Woodruff’s documents from 1828 to 1898. (The Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation is an independent, private nonprofit organization not affiliated with the Church. However, the Church History Department supports and encourages the Wilford Woodruff Papers Project.)
  7. Diaries of Emmeline B. Wells — a collection of Emmeline B. Wells’ journals spanning 1844 to 1920. 
  8. The First Fifty Years of Relief Society — transcripts and annotation for 78 key documents that illustrate the development of Relief Society from 1842 to 1892. 
  9. Baptism and endowment information from FamilySearch Family Tree.

What does the Journey of Faith experience look like?

Upon signing into FamilySearch, the Journey of Faith experience will display up to 20 ancestors tied to early Church records. Each ancestor will have a timeline that shows some faith-building milestones of their life, such as when they were baptized, endowed, served a mission or immigrated to Utah.

If an ancestor is mentioned in the Wilford Woodruff Papers, Joseph Smith Papers, Diaries of Emmeline B. Wells or First Fifty Years of Relief Society, a link in the bottom left will go to the mention of their ancestor in that specific collection.

A screenshot of Edson Whipple in the Journey of Faith discovery experience on FamilySearch. Journey of Faith pulls records from nine collections, including the Wilford Woodruff Papers. | Kathy Warburton

For example, Edson Whipple (image above) lived in Nauvoo, was baptized at age 35, served in the Joseph Smith Presidential Campaign Mission, was endowed at age 40, and traveled to the Salt Lake Valley with the Wilford Woodruff Company. He is mentioned in the Wilford Woodruff Papers.

Members can view photos and stories of their ancestor, share their discoveries, and add them to their ancestor’s page on FamilySearch.

What can I learn from the Journey of Faith experience?

Lynch said one benefit of this discovery experience is that members can see that their ancestors’ journey of faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ wasn’t easy. 

When members today face spiritual challenges, they can see “it’s not just a 21st century problem,” Lynch said. “Other people in their family have also had challenges that they had to overcome.”

Warburton added: “I think at some point, in some way, we’re all pioneers. And we all have different experiences and different things that we do need to document and share so that family members — both those that are living and those that come after us — can be strengthened by our experiences. ...

“And even if we don’t have ancestors who were early Church members,” she continued, “we can still be strengthened by their examples.”

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