Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Family History Mission: Who are the missionaries?

The Washington DC Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
No. 29

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission James Tanner" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

The diversity of Senior Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is astonishing and their dedication is even more astonishing. The people we have met have varied backgrounds: homemakers, doctors, lawyers, university professors, farmers, government workers, teachers and many other occupations. It would be very hard to find any common background among those serving. What they do share is a strong testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, his life and atonement and the importance of sharing that testimony with others around the world either through active proselyting work or through dozens of other service opportunities.

Some of our Senior Missionary friends are doctors and have served as medical resource missionaries in various parts of the world. A few of our friends have served as Mission Presidents, but many more have served as MLS or Member and Leader Service missionaries. What is surprising to me is the number of missionaries that have served multiple missions. One couple we know sold their home and have now served two missions with plans to keep serving in the future. They have decided that owning a home is not their priority but serving missions is.

Presently, we have six missionary couples serving in the Maryland State Archives. The couples reflect the diversity I mentioned above. We are privileged to get to know our fellow missionaries and appreciate their devotion and the help they have given us in learning our responsibilities both in the Archives and as missionaries.

We all arrive at the Archives at 7:00 am. Because of the weather and the darkness at that time of day here in Annapolis, getting to the Archives is a significant challenge. But they are all cheerful and get right to work digitizing documents or preparing them for digitization. We have four cameras and it takes a lot of work to prepare the documents for digitization. With the four cameras, we digitize thousands of documents every day. Because we have couples and we can trade off between working with the cameras and preparing documents. We are assisted by a significant number of volunteers in preparing the documents for digitizing. This is what the documents look like before the preparation process:

This is how we have to prepare the documents:

The documents are identified with the principal name of the person and then put in folders for digitization. No, we do not wear white gloves. We wash our hands frequently. It is no longer an archive practice to wear white gloves for working with paper. It is, however, still the case when working with physical artifacts including photos.

It is a lot of work and the missionaries spend at least nine hours a day at the Archives including a lunch break. We work half a day on Friday and are off on Saturday and Sunday (of course).


  1. I volunteered in a city preservation lab in Fredericksburg, Virginia for about 20 years in the 1990's-2000's. The process for preparing old papers started with humidification so the papers could be unfolded. Once they were open they were mended if there were tears or holes. Special mending tape could be ironed on. They were then filed flat in boxes and indexed. Unfortunately the state library was not interested in digitizing them. They are ready to go now if that becomes a possibility. We used white gloves to begin with but found wearing them caused more damage to the papers than was already there to begin with so wearing gloves was discontinued. See for the indexes. Hurray for Family History Missionaries!!!

    1. Most of the documents are in fair to good condition and do not need extensive conservation. If the documents are too far gone to digitize, they are turned over to the Archives for the extensive conservation you describe. We are dealing with millions of documents.

  2. James, I want to thank you and your associates for the work your doing. I'm a direct beneficiary of your work having ancestors in Maryland, Virginia going back to the 1650's. Here is a small sample I found in the "Archives of Maryland Online".
    WHITTINGTON, JOHN (ca. 1650-1722). BORN:
    ca. 1650 in Nottingham, England. IMMIGRATED:
    by 1678, probably as a free adult. RESIDED: in
    Kent County by 1678; Talbot County by 1683;
    Kent (later became Queen Anne's) County by
    1696-until his death. FAMILY BACKGROUND.
    FATHER: William Whittington, Esq., of Not-
    tingham, England. UNCLE: John Whittington (?-
    1710) of Talbot County, planter. BROTHER: Wil
    liam. MARRIED first, Johanna. MARRIED second,
    Jane, who subsequently married in June 1722 John
    Dempster. CHILDREN. SONS: probably John (?-
    1720/21); Thomas, who married in 1731 Rhoda,
    daughter of James Earle, Sr. (?-1734); Joseph,
    who married in 1735/36 Elizabeth Gould; Ben-
    jamin; and James. DAUGHTERS: Elizabeth; Isa-
    bel. PRIVATE CAREER. EDUCATION: literate. RE-
    LIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Protestant; perhaps the John
    Whittington who left the Society of Friends in
    There is much much more that somebody(s) had to dig out of old records and I am forever great-full. Keep up the good work
    William Wittington

  3. We are humbled at your dedication and sacrifice to do this great work. Thank you for sharing what you are doing. We are serving as MLS missionaries and working with our beloved hispanic brothers and sisters from many parts of the world. Recently we met with the other couples serving in this area (Florida, Tallahassee) and were also amazed at their different backgrounds, gifts, talents, skills, experiences, and their desires to serve their fellowman. It's wonderful to try to be 'about Our Father's business'. Thank you for your great insights.