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

Discover Your Relatives in Wilford Woodruff's Papers

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Project Progress November 1, 2023


Written by Joseph Flake, Editorial Assistant

After recently attending the funeral of a family friend, I have been contemplating the precarious nature of our lives here on earth and how hard it can be for us to be separated from our loved ones. Death is a common part of life, and it was tragically even more commonplace in the 19th century. Yet Church members’ knowledge of the plan of salvation has always been a source of comfort when dealing with death.

As I have transcribed letters related to the life of Wilford Woodruff, I have been struck by the direct and sometimes even casual manner with which some 19th-century Church members wrote about death. One clear example of this is an 1886 letter from Clara Beebe (Wilford’s daughter) to her parents. In it, Clara mentions the passing of her grandmother, and comforts her mother with these simple words: “Now Ma don't feel bad over it, because Grandma is much better than if she had lived.” I was impressed by the frankness of Clara’s words. This simple message expresses a sure faith in a better hereafter for the faithful. While it may sometimes be impossible for us to not “feel bad over it”—at least for a while—this faith has provided a great comfort to my soul whenever those I care for have been called back to our heavenly home.


Written by Megan Hutchings, Assistant Editor

Have you ever wondered how to minister to those around you? Even though the ministering program we know today wasn’t organized the same way during Wilford Wilford’s lifetime, he diligently served those around him one by one. On May 11, 1838, Wilford Woodruff entered a jail in Massachusetts to visit an imprisoned member of the Church named Albert P. Rockwell. Wilford wrote in his journal of the experience:

I went to the gaol in order to have an interview and to comfort Elder Albert P. Rockwood, who had been cast into prison. . . . the jailor permitted me to enter into the room where he was, and it was truly a happy meeting, for although we were strangers after the flesh, yet we were united in the Spirit. This was the first time I ever entered into a prison to see an Elder of Israel, but after the keeper of the prison doors had turned the key upon us and left us together to comfort each other in the midst of iron grates and bars, I began to inquire into the state of his mind, and it gladdened my soul to find him strong in the GOD of Abram Daniel and Elijah. He was rejoicing in God, contented in his mind, and strong in the faith. . . . We conversed together about three hours in this solitary abode, and our souls were made glad. . . . At half past 8 o'clock p.m., the jailor came and unlocked the prison doors, and I took the parting hand with this worthy brother while he manifested much joy for my visit.

Sometimes ministering can seem overwhelming, and we might not know where to start. We can follow Wilford Woodruff’s example in our ministering efforts by going to those in need, comforting them, sincerely asking how they are doing, and just spending time with them. Brother Rockwood was eventually released from prison, and he and Wilford Woodruff stayed connected throughout their lives. They served in many callings together and both crossed the plains in 1847. Wilford Woodruff even mentioned hearing of Brother Rockwood’s death in his journal on December 8, 1879. In our efforts to minister, I know that we will be blessed with the Savior’s love for those around us, and we will be led to those who need to be comforted, just as Wilford Woodruff was.


Written by Jason Godfrey, General Editor

At the recent General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Russell M. Nelson exhorted listeners to “think celestial.” How can one achieve this level of thinking? President Nelson suggested a few ways to help in this endeavor, including temple attendance. He said, “Spending more time in the temple builds faith. And your service and worship in the temple will help you to think celestial. The temple is a place of revelation. There you are shown how to progress toward a celestial life. There you are drawn closer to the Savior and given greater access to His power. There you are guided in solving the problems in your life, even your most perplexing problems.” What comforting counsel and blessings from a man who demonstrates what it means to think in a celestial manner.

Wilford Woodruff, who served as President of the Church from 1889 to 1898, was also someone who demonstrated a celestial-like attitude. He was someone who loved temple work and the gathering of Israel. This attitude is evident throughout all of his writing, but succinctly summarized in a short discourse given in November 1880. The discourse reports that Wilford said “so much about temple building because he saw the necessity of this work. He had already had the ordinance of baptism performed for two thousand of his family.”

A lesson learned from both President Woodruff and President Nelson is that temple attendance and thinking celestial will bring us closer to the peace and strength that the gospel of Jesus Christ offers. As we choose to follow the teachings of our Savior—outlined in the scriptures and in the words of past and present prophets—we will find greater meaning in our daily experiences from involvement in a work that is great and eternal.


Written by Steven C. Harper, Executive Editor

A few days after the Church of Christ (its first name) was organized on April 6, 1830, “Joseph the seer” composed “by the gift & power of God” the original draft of the document that is now Doctrine and Covenants 20. It functioned as the Constitution for the Savior’s newly restored Church. The early Saints called it the Articles and Covenants of the Church. So what does it have to do with Wilford Woodruff’s papers? Among many other connections to Doctrine and Covenants 20, President Woodruff’s papers include his very first license to preach the restored gospel. The instructions for issuing such licenses come from section 20:

“each Priest or Teacher who is ordained by any Priests is to take a cirtificate from him at the time which when shewn to an Elder he is to give him a licence which shall authorize him to perform the duty of his calling” (Revelation Book 1, p. 56, The Joseph Smith Papers; corresponding to Doctrine and Covenants 20:64).

On January 2, 1834, a few days after being baptized, confirmed, and ordained a teacher on December 31 by Zerah Pulsipher, Wilford received his preaching certificate. Following the restored instructions in Doctrine and Covenants 20, Zerah Pulsipher wrote it for Wilford to carry with him in his ministry. It says:

“A Power and authority given to Wilford Woodruff Proving that he is a Teacher in the Church of Christ by the will of god the father acording to his holy Caling and the gift and Power of the Holy ghost agreable to the Revelations of Jesus Christ signifying that he has been Baptized and Revd into the Church acording to the articles and Covenants of the same and Ordaind under the hand of Zerah Pulsipher.”


Written by Erin B. Hills, Research Specialist

Wilford Woodruff visited a “Mrs. Latson” at 68 Columbia Street in New York City on August 24, 1841. This is the only mention of Mrs. Latson in Wilford’s journals. He doesn’t explain the purpose of the visit. He doesn’t say whether the address was Mrs. Latson’s residence or just the place of their meeting. Regardless, identifying the people that Wilford Woodruff included in his records and finding them within their communities and families is the responsibility of the Research Team. 

Using the limited context Wilford provided, we began our search to identify Mrs. Latson. The first step was to learn if Wilford Woodruff mentioned any other individuals with the surname Latson. He did. In May of 1841 he visited an Elder John W. Latson, also in New York City. John W. Latson was also mentioned in The Joseph Smith Papers. He attended a branch of the Church in New York City, was possibly a grocer, and “attempted to purchase goods for [Joseph Smith’s] store.” He was a merchant in 1845, and then a lawyer after 1847. He and his spouse, Margaret Bausher Latson, married September 18, 1836. She died in 1854 and left a will wherein she named her sister, Barbara L. Bausher. Barbara then married her brother-in-law, John W. Latson, in 1858. Her parents were John Bausher and Barbara Brown. In 1843, John Bausher lived at 68 Columbia Street in New York City, the same address where Wilford met with Mrs. Latson in 1841!

It is a complicated process to definitively identify the 16,000 individuals in Wilford Woodruff’s records. As a team, we research exhaustively, we collaborate on connections, we discuss possibilities, then we come to a conclusion. Through all of this hard work we discovered that Mrs. Latson was Margaret Bausher Latson. When she received a visit from Wilford Woodruff she was probably visiting her parents. Now that Mrs. Latson has been identified, additional research will be completed in order to write her biography, which will be published on our website with links to the research. You can read Margaret Bausher Latson’s biography and many others at


Written by Shauna Horne, Content Team Lead

This month my husband and I were able to attend General Conference. What a great experience it was for us to gather with so many Saints and hear our leaders speak. As we were walking to the Conference Center, a protestor began screaming at us. At the top of his lungs he yelled, “You’re desperate for Jesus!” At first I was taken back. What? But then I realized he was completely right. I am desperate for Jesus. Desperate to be with Him. Desperate to live with Him in the celestial kingdom. Desperate to live my life to please Him. Wilford Woodruff said in one discourse, “I hope we live our religion. I hope we strive to keep the commandments of God. We occupy a very important position in the world. There are very few of the inhabitants of the earth who are laboring to build up Zion. There are very few, apparently, who are able to abide the law of God. There are very few who are willing to sacrifice anything for eternal life and salvation, and thousands will have to inherit a kingdom other than the celestial.”

In Conference, President Dallin H. Oaks gave a stirring talk and quoted President Russell M. Nelson. He said, “Mortal lifetime is barely a nanosecond compared with eternity. But what a crucial nanosecond it is! Consider carefully how it works: During this mortal life you get to choose which laws you are willing to obey—those of the celestial kingdom, or the terrestrial, or the telestial—and, therefore, in which kingdom of glory you will live forever. What a plan! It is a plan that completely honors your agency.”

I want with everything in my soul to do what these two beloved prophets encourage me to do and that is to choose to obey the commandments and to realize my choices have significance here and in the next life. So, to the man screaming at me outside the Conference Center, thank you. Thank you for reminding me that I am willing to sacrifice everything for him. I truly am desperate for Jesus.