Find Your Relatives
Find Your Relatives
Images of Wilford's Family

Discover Your Relatives in Wilford Woodruff's Papers

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Written by Braden Chancellor, Research Assistant

In the past two months, the Document Research Team completed the metadata project: we listed and verified metadata for all 10,767 documents in our collection to facilitate review by the Intellectual Property Office of the Church and to obtain “use” agreements from the other repositories and private collectors who have contributed images of their documents to the Wilford Woodruff Papers.

One batch of the documents is a series of letters between Wilford Woodruff and my third-great-grandfather, Charles Coulson Rich, a fellow Apostle with Wilford and the namesake for Rich County in northern Utah. Elder Rich founded multiple communities in the Bear Lake Valley and in San Bernardino, California, and was often away from Church headquarters. Many letters between Wilford Woodruff and Charles C. Rich highlight trips that Wilford made to see Rich, details on agricultural development, and other Church matters.

However, the most interesting letter between Charles C. Rich and Wilford Woodruff was written on May 28, 1856. In the letter, Wilford wrote: “I have had a severe illness for about four weeks, caused while skinning an ox which had died suddenly. I received a slight scratch on my left arm by one of the ribs; in a few days inflammation sat in, the arm swelled to double its usual size, the poison virus got inoculated, & mortification commenced, but through kind nursing, frequent administrations, & the continual prayers of the Saints, I am restored so far as to commence operations in the Historian's Office.” Charles C. Rich’s next letter to Wilford Woodruff presumedly responded to Wilford’s recovery. “I received your letter by the last mail and was truly glad to hear from you. This leaves myself and family here in tolerably good health, also the saints in general.” The friendship between Wilford Woodruff and Charles C. Rich is evident in their correspondence, but even more so by the fact that Rich named one of his children after Wilford—Wilford Woodruff Rich.

The research we do not only helps us reveal details about Wilford Woodruff and his life, but simultaneously helps us discover details about the lives of other people with whom he interacted. As we discover more documents written by Wilford Woodruff and others, we are helping to fulfill the promise of the Lord in Malachi 4:5–6 by connecting us with our ancestors; we are “turn[ing] the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.”


Written by Jason Godfrey, General Editor

We transcribed 2,530 pages of Wilford Woodruff’s documents between February 15 and April 26, thanks to a valiant team of volunteers, interns, and staff. Although the search for documents is yielding fewer than before, and those being found are often harder to transcribe, the efforts of our transcribers continue to be diligent and consistent. We have been grateful for the efforts of veteran volunteers and new volunteers alike who have been up to the paleographical challenges these remaining documents pose.  

This past quarter has also seen a rise in our translations of foreign language documents, thanks to Roger Minert, professor emeritus of Family History at BYU. One letter Dr. Minert worked on was written to Wilford Woodruff from George Grau, a German convert living in Palestine at the time he penned his letter on March 3, 1893. His letter is fascinating in its telling of Grau’s conversion and of his unwavering testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition to the letter, Grau also sent “two barrels of olive oil” from the Holy Land for use in the Salt Lake Temple. The documents that comprise the Wilford Woodruff Papers Project are from the world over, truly illustrating the charge found in the Doctrine and Covenants that “this gospel shall be preached unto every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:37). Through the incredible transcription and translation efforts of individuals such as Dr. Minert, the diverse languages and vast landscape of the globe don’t have to remain unreadable or unreachable.


Written by Steven C. Harper, Executive Editor

Thanks to the hard work of editorial assistants and trained volunteers, our first-quarter verification work continues ahead of schedule. As of April 26, we verified 1,164 pages of Woodruff letters along with 21 discourses and 429 pages of additional documents. Amber Becker, who supervises the verifiers, led them ably even as she endured the death of her dear husband, Chris, as the quarter drew to a close. Chris’s passing caused all of us who work on the Wilford Woodruff Papers to remember poignantly that our work is not just historical document editing. It is recording, remembering, and sharing the good news of the Savior’s triumph over sin and death and the restoration of God’s covenant in the latter days. Historical document editing is merely a means to that end.  


Written by Megan Hutchings, Associate Editor

The Stylization Team completed third-level verification of 2,328 pages of Wilford Woodruff’s documents from February 15 to April 26. Because we had already exceeded our goals of stylizing letters, we set new goals to focus on stylizing Wilford Woodruff’s discourses and additional documents. 

In addition to this third-level verification, the Stylization Team continued work on a fourth-level verification of Wilford Woodruff’s journals. This verification is being done to ensure that his journals are preserved with the highest level of accuracy possible and is expected to be completed by September of 2024. In the past two months, the Stylization Team completed fourth-level verification of 987 pages of Wilford Woodruff’s journals. 

Wilford Woodruff’s journals contain powerful accounts of how he experienced the hand of God throughout his life. One such experience took place on October 4, 1838, as Wilford Woodruff was traveling with his family and recent converts from Maine to Missouri to gather with the Saints. After a long day of travel, he wrote: 

“Camped for the night by a saw mill. As the camp is not fully organized there is some bustle among us. It was for a moment a trial to my feelings to take my tender wife with an infant at her breast into a cold tent to sleep upon the ground but after we became reconciled to it there was a door opened for her to go into a house to spend the night & as she had a young child she accepted the invitation. I lay down upon the bed that I had spread in the tent & after lying two hours I got up to stand on guard & I sat up the remainder of the night built up a fire & wrote these lines by it.”

To me, this experience shows just how aware God was of Wilford Woodruff in that moment. As we follow Wilford Woodruff’s example and make an effort to record the events of our lives, we will be able to look back and see that the tender mercies of the Lord are embedded throughout. 


Written by Sara Briggs, Research Specialist

The Research Team has completed 397 biographies in the past two months, which brings us to a total of 5,135 biographies for the 18,562 individuals we have identified in the Wilford Woodruff Papers. This quarter our emphasis on training new team members increased our efficiency. Personal and partner reviews have been enhanced to prevent errors and streamline the review process. Interns and volunteers work on organizational and identification projects. These projects economize research by categorizing groups of people in the same location, in ward groups, and in families. As a result, the team is ahead of both team and personal goals in our research and people identification.

However, this research is not just about the numbers; it is about the Spirit that is present as we do the work and about the unity it creates between us and our ancestors. Those aspects were emphasized through the addition of the Relative Finder on the Wilford Woodruff Papers website and the experiences our team members had with it. Denise Waldram shared her experience.

I was always a little envious when I heard my coworkers on the Research Team talk about their family members mentioned in the Wilford Woodruff Papers and how excited they were to research them and write biographies about them. I wanted to have that experience too, but I hadn’t been able to find any of my relatives mentioned by Wilford. Recently, when I was invited to test the new Relative Finder tool on the Wilford Woodruff Papers website, I was eager to try it but not very hopeful of finding any connections. Imagine my surprise when I opened the results, and I had over 7,000 relatives mentioned in the Papers—including Wilford Woodruff, my sixth cousin six times removed.

Much of my research during my time with this Project has been focused on the people Wilford interacted with in 1835 and 1836 when he was a missionary in the southern United States. I was moved to tears when I realized my results included 89 people who fell into that category. I had been involved in researching and writing biographies for many of them. These were people I knew and loved! Little did I know I had been fulfilling my wish all this time. Wilford served a mission to my people!

My work now has a deeper meaning than it did before, all because of the new Relative Finder tool. I invite you to go to the website and try it for yourself. Then, take time to learn more about the family you find there. You will likely be amazed with what you discover.


Written by Shauna Horne, Content Team Lead

The theme that ran through the April general conference for me was temples. Many talks, including our beloved President Nelson’s, were focused on temples. I was reminded of something Wilford Woodruff said in 1879 when only one temple was available:  “We will have to have more temples, we have got to redeem the dead, we should be prepared for the coming of the Son of Man.”

In 1870 President Brigham Young prophesied, “We will have hundreds of temples and thousands of men and women officiating therein for those who have fallen asleep, without having had the privilege of hearing and obeying the Gospel.” This is being fulfilled. There are currently 182 operating temples, 6 being renovated, 45 under construction, 7 awaiting dedication, and 94 more have been announced, and thousands of men and women are officiating in these operating temples.

In Elder Neil A. Anderson’s talk he said, “Have you wondered why the Lord would direct His prophet to now dot the earth with His holy temples? Why would He, at this specific time, give the needed prosperity to His covenant people that through their sacred tithes, hundreds of houses of the Lord could be built?” I had not thought about our financial prosperity in the light of building temples. 

Then my thoughts turned to Doctrine & Covenants 109:5, where we read the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland temple. It says, in part, “For thou knowest that we have done this work through great tribulation; and out of our poverty we have given of our substance to build a house to thy name, that the Son of Man might have a place to manifest himself to his people.” I thought of the sacrifice that the early Saints made to build the Kirtland Temple, and it made me think, What kind of sacrifice am I making? Definitely not any sacrifice near the level of the early Saints. How can I sacrifice? Could I give more tithes and offerings? Could I dedicate more time to temple service? 

It is amazing to watch these prophecies from Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff coming true. The temples are dotting the earth and it is incredible to be part of this work now. 

One of the many projects the Content Team had the opportunity to work on this quarter was transcribing the St. George temple baptism records. In anticipation of the completion of the St. George temple in 1877, Wilford Woodruff completed family history research for 3,000 relatives. With the help of members in St. George, he was able to complete proxy baptisms for more than 2,700 of his ancestors by the end of 1878. He recorded their names and personal information in the temple records, and the Research Team will complete their biographies. We also found more than 100 faith-promoting quotes by reading another 2,496 pages of verified documents. It has been a privilege to work in these sacred records. 


We began this report by noting the feeling or spirit that is increasingly characterizing the editorial work of the Wilford Woodruff Papers. Editorial Assistant Parker Jardine expressed it well in a recent accountability report: 

On Tuesday I began work on a fairly challenging two-page document (Letter from George Teasdale, 29 May 1891). On Thursday, as I continued working on Page 1, a volunteer transcriber completed Page 2. Additionally, where I was struggling to complete my transcription of Page 1, the volunteer helped fill in gaps and complete/submit the document. After reviewing the volunteer’s work and my work once more, I recorded the document as finished.

I was initially a little disappointed that I was unable to complete the entire document myself, but quickly realized that because of this volunteer’s selfless assistance, the work was completed more quickly and accurately than if I had done it alone. This volunteer’s assistance helped move us effectively and efficiently closer to the Foundation’s overarching mission and goal. Rather than be disappointed and self-centered, this caused me to be self-reflective and thankful for this team member’s valuable contributions toward achieving our collective end goal and purpose: to accurately transcribe and make available President Woodruff’s documents.

I’m grateful to have been able to participate in this work this week, for the lessons reemphasized, and for my internship with the Project generally. I am sad to see it come to a close and am enjoying every moment I can. It has, is, and will be something I will always be indebted to and grateful for.

Parker’s report shows how the combined talents of young, energetic editorial assistants, working with devoted volunteers, are able to selflessly synergize their efforts. As a result, there is a certain sadness in seeing the Project begin to wind down. But that is swallowed up in gratitude for the opportunity we have to witness and participate in this sacred project.