Find Your Relatives
Find Your Relatives
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Discover Your Relatives in Wilford Woodruff's Papers

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Project Progress March 1, 2023

Insight from the Letters

by Rachel Huntsman Baldwin

I believe Wilford Woodruff’s vision for his family and eternal families was glorious beyond mortal understanding. On September 10, 1885, Wilford penned a tender letter to his granddaughter, Lucy Emily Woodruff. While he recounted some tedious tasks, to which we may readily relate, other writings are significant and inspiring, holding precious historical value. 

Wilford wrote, “I spent a week in the mountains lately . . . I spent one day up the pine valley canyon fishing. I spent half of the time climbing over rocks, trees & thick brush, one quarter of the time untangling my fish line, & one quarter of the time fishing.” Perhaps with a tone of frustration and humor, Wilford described how we might feel as we set forth to accomplish our daily tasks.

However, the Lord will divinely guide us as we align our will with His. Wilford continued, “I spent the Sunday . . . on the edge of the Desert 3 miles North of the Mountain Meadow Settlement, and I preached to about 75 Lamanites who were in Camp . . . After Meeting We Baptized 15 & confirmed them.”  When I read Wilford Woodruff’s account, my mind reflected on our resurrected Lord appearing to the people in America, and His first commandment given to the ancient prophet Nephi: “I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people” (3 Nephi 11:21). 

Having the opportunity to be part of the Wilford Woodruff Papers Project, with historical and meaningful context, is a witness to me that God’s love and tender mercies are upon all His children.

Insight from the Journals

by Ashlyn Pells, Associate Editor

Wilford Woodruff described April 6, 1892 as “the Most interesting day in some respects the Church has Ever Seen since its organization.” On this day, the capstone was placed on the Salt Lake City temple, with about 50,000 members of the Church in attendance on the temple grounds. When Wilford addressed the people, he said, “If there is any on the face of the Earth that will Attract the Attention of the God of Heaven and the Heavenly hosts it is the one before us to day: the Assembling of the people, the shout of Hosannah, the laying of the Top Stone of the Temple of our God. We want to finish the Temple as soon as we can so we can Dedicate it to God, so we can go to work therein & Redeem the Dead.” 

Wilford recorded that this was “the largest Assembly [he] Ever saw meet on any occasion of the Latter Day Saints,” and he was particularly touched as these Saints united together in shouting Hosanna to God. He affirmed, “This was certainly the greatest Day the Latter Day Saints Ever saw in these Mountains.” After this incredible experience, the members of the Church were moved to unite in the effort to complete the temple in whatever way they could so it could be dedicated a year from that day on April 6, 1893. Through the great sacrifice and devotion of so many Latter-day Saints, this goal was accomplished. Since 1893 the Salt Lake City Temple has stood as a beacon to the world, a reminder of God’s mercy and love, and a monument to the dedication of the early members of the Church.

Insight from the Discourses

by Ashlin Malcolm, Editorial Assistant

Wilford Woodruff’s writings are full of stories that relate to our own lives. One such story is in a discourse he gave on August 29, 1897. In this address, he discussed his thoughts as he arrived in Utah Territory. Though he mentioned the barrenness of the land, he also painted a vivid picture of what they imagined it could be and what they were promised it could be. He said that President Young “took his cane, which had a spike in the end of it, and stuck it down into the ground, and said, ‘Here shall stand the Temple of our God.’ It went through me like lightning… I did nothing else until I put a stake in that spot that he marked with his cane, and then we went on about our business.” Wilford Woodruff said that he knew that this would be fulfilled, and he lived to see the day that Brigham Young’s prophecy was fulfilled 46 years later.

Just as God built up a city and temple for the Saints in a place that seemed uninhabitable, God helps us build up our own lives even through less-than-perfect circumstances. It wasn’t easy for the Saints; they still had much to go through after reaching Utah. However, as Wilford Woodruff showed, we often don’t see the blessings, the fulfillment of the promises, or God’s hand until hours, minutes and sometimes years go by. But God fulfills His promises and He is there! From time to time He shows us glimpses of what He is trying to build in our lives, and it is important we pay attention to these so we can recognize their fulfillment, just as Wilford Woodruff did. 

God can help us build up ourselves to become better than we thought we could be, until we recognize, like Wilford Woodruff, that “we ought to have faith in God in His promises and revelations.”

Insight from the Additional Documents

by Katlyn Linville, Editorial Assistant

One thing that I love about working with the Wilford Woodruff Papers Project is that I often come across familiar names—not just those of historical figures that I recognize from Church history lessons, but also last names matching my own family members and friends. Sometimes I find the names of my ancestors, but most often, I find people that my friends and extended family may have descended from, and I happily send them a message asking if they’re related. 

One document I recently worked on was a list of temple sealings. There, on the first page, beneath the words, “The following Deceased Persons were sealed for Wilford Woodruff,” I found Abigal, Sophia, and Mary Chadwick, three individuals sharing the same last name as my uncle. It’s amazing to see how many names I recognize in the Papers, and I don’t think that thrill will ever disappear. It reminds me that Wilford Woodruff’s records are not just about him and his story, but a story that we all share. He mentions over 14,000 other individuals in his records and links us to them, and us to the broader story of the Restoration of the gospel.

Insight from People & Places Research

by Kristy Thieme, Research Assistant

There are usually individuals that are difficult to identify in historical records. I have had several of these cases appear in my research list. One in particular gnawed at my conscience, Caroline Gaston. She was an individual whose general information matched several potential individuals. After six months, I needed to decide if this individual’s research was at a standstill. At this crucial moment, I stopped, prayed, and felt drawn to do a general Google search. After four pages of results, a name piqued my interest as a possible descendant of Caroline. Further exploration of this source illuminated why the ancestor of interest was elusive. Only a month after her baptism, which was her only connection to Wilford Woodruff, she got married, thus quickly changing her name. Within a year of her marriage, she found herself widowed. A few years later she married again, only to lose her second husband while emigrating with the Willie and Martin Handcart Company. When she reached the Salt Lake Valley, she married again as a plural wife. This incredible woman not only experienced multiple name changes, but her maiden name was indexed incorrectly, eliminating her from original searches. As I completed her biography, a thought entered my mind as if I could hear the words: “None of my children are forgotten.”

I have had many similar experiences while working on the Wilford Woodruff Papers Project. This particular experience increased my testimony of God’s plan of happiness and the opportunity for all to be full participants of this plan across time and eternity. I love that God does not forget His children, including you and me. 

See Caroline Gaston’s completed biography here.

Insight from Content

by Shauna Horne, Content Team Lead

In Wilford Woodruff’s journal dated November 1, 1857, he mentioned a statement by Brigham Young: “With us it is the kingdom of God or nothing.” This quote touched me. I saw a painting once of a pioneer woman driving her covered wagon through a muddy embankment with men pushing the wagon as they exited a river. It was an illustration of just one moment, on one day, for the pioneers. The struggle, the hardship, the battle. It was a beautiful painting. On the canvas written in red were the words, “The kingdom of God or Nothing.” The sacrifice, the love, the devotion of these women and men make me stronger. No matter what happens in life, having a motto such as this one will remind me of my “why” of being here on this earth. My motivation is to live my life with one goal in mind and that is the kingdom of God or nothing!