Sunday, July 22, 2018
A Plethora of Pioneers
For me, pioneers were not something out of a history book, I lived with and knew people who had traveled by wagon to settle in Arizona. My Great-grandmother was born in 1878 and she traveled by wagon to Arizona as a child when the pioneers in Snowflake, Arizona were still living in houses dug out of the sides of hills. For us, the 24th of July was not just a day off for Utah workers, it was a week-long celebration with a rodeo, a parade, cookouts called a "Camporama," races, patriotic speeches, dances, and parties. My pioneer ancestors did not have to be discovered, they were my reality. Every year, there was a huge presentation with short plays and at the end, a diorama with everyone singing Come, Come, Ye Saints.
Today, for most people in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints outside of Utah where the day is a state holiday and some parts of Arizona, the 24th of July is just another day. As a genealogist and family historian, I can look at my pedigree chart and see that every one of my ancestral lines has pioneers. Some of my ancestors did not cross the Plains in wagons but arrived in Utah by way of boats and overland travel from Australia. But all of them, all 16 great-great-grandparents traveled by wagons to settle parts of Utah or Arizona.
The definition of a "pioneer" in the Church has now expanded to include all those who sacrificed their lives and property to join the Church whether or not they ever traveled to Utah or even came to the United States. By the way, when we talk about the Utah pioneers, we need to remember that the first pioneers to Utah beginning in 1847 were traveling to Mexico to get out of the United States.
FamilySearch has published a whole series of blog posts on ways to discover your own pioneer ancestors. It saddens me when I talk to someone who obviously has pioneer ancestors in whatever part of the world and who cannot relate the stories of how they joined the Church and the difficulties and challenges they went through. My Great-great-great-grandfather, Jens Christensen and one of his daughters, died while crossing the Plains. His name and the names of other of my relatives who died crossing the Plains are memorialized in a monument in Nauvoo, Illinois on the banks of the Mississippi River.
People ask me how I got started in genealogy. If I really think about it, I have to come to the conclusion that I was born into the whole idea and pursuit of family history and genealogy. I may have started my actual research only 36 years ago, but I was destined to become involved because the pioneers gave me no other choice.