Mormon Genealogy – An Interview with Randy Stebbing Part 1
In anticipation for RootsTech 2012 genealogy conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, we interviewed Geni Curator Randy Stebbing, who graciously agreed to share with us his experience working on projects about Mormon genealogy on Geni. Here is part 1 of his interview. Check back tomorrow for part 2.
You’ve been instrumental in creating several projects about Early Mormon Leaders and Pioneers. What first sparked your interest in this area?
You might say its “in my blood” I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah and 11 of my direct ancestors where Mormon pioneers. If you add in the extended families there are scores of pioneers throughout my family tree. In 1980 I was privileged to be able to attend the “World Conference on Records” held in Salt Lake City. On that occasion the author of “Roots”, Alex Haley, spoke to the 11,000 attendees and shared with us how researching his ancestry had changed his life. At that same conference LDS church leader, Spencer W. Kimball, discussed the importance of families which helped cement my interests in family history research. I think attending that conference really got me going. I see the RootsTech conference as a direct descendant of these early conferences and it is a great place to share ideas about the interaction of technology and family history which is what Geni is great at.
Can you briefly describe the scope of a few of the Mormon related projects you have created?
The first project on Geni that I’d like to hi-light is the “Early Mormon Leaders” project. It includes profiles of 350 early church leaders and includes Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, the Book of Mormon Witnesses, the original Quorum of the 12 apostles and numerous other early church leaders. Emma Smith, Eliza R. Snow and others are there also. It also includes linked in profiles of everyone mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants, and many participants in Zion’s Camp. Brigham Young’s extensive family was a particular challenge.
Also on geni there are the 24 related “Mormon Pioneer” projects. A short background might be helpful to those not familiar with this history. The Mormon Pioneers were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Following their expulsion from Missouri their leader, Brigham Young, organized thousands of members so that they could make the 1,000 mile trek across the central portion of the USA before arriving in what would become Salt Lake City. Over the next 20 years (1847-1867) an estimated 70,000 men, women and children either walked or rode in covered wagons to re-settle in a land where they could live their religion.
The Mormon Pioneer projects on geni have grown to include 5,600 of the 70,000 total pioneers. As each profile is found it is added to the project corresponding to the arrival year for that person. This is a huge undertaking and is collaborative in nature.
How have these projects helped in your research? Have you found success collaborating and connecting with other users through these projects?
It’s been valuable in my own family research to see the extended family relationships of those that married into my family pioneer lines. Often I’ll come across a history that a different geni user has uploaded about their pioneer ancestor that really gives me a sense of what it was like to actually live and experience that period of history. These people had tremendous amounts of courage, faith and fortitude to have a accomplished what they did. The collaborative aspects of geni and its projects have been an ideal research tool.