Francis the Mormon

I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only family historian who has had to devise nicknames for members of the family tree because the same names occur again and again. So I’d like to introduce you to Francis the Mormon, brother of my 2 x great grandfather, William the drunk.

Francis has caused me a lot of grief over the years as I shall explain as his story unfolds.

Francis Edmonds was born in Lowestoft on January 14th 1822, the second son of William and Susannah and was baptised in St Margaret’s Church two days later. William was a mariner and must have made a good living because he ensured that all his sons had trade apprenticeships and his daughters all ‘married well’. The family had been in Lowestoft since 1796 when Gabriel, a cooper from Norwich, was granted a settlement by the parish guardians.

There are second baptisms recorded for Francis and William at The Old Meeting House on November 9th 1823 and all the subsequent children of William and Susannah were also baptised there. It is also known as the Wesleyan Chapel, so the family had become Methodists.

Meanwhile in the USA the Mormon Church, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, had been established and the early members found themselves persecuted, so headed further and further west and settled in Utah. In 1840 they began to send missionaries to other countries and the first ones arrived in the UK the same year. Converts were encouraged to emigrate to the USA to establish new communities.

Francis married Ann Brunning on Christmas Day, 1844 in St Margaret’s Parish Church. Their first three children were baptised in the parish church, but I have been unable to find baptisms for any of their children born after 1852. Anne’s sister, Maria, is mentioned in the history of the LDS church in Lowestoft as the first convert there in 1849, so logic dictates that her sister and family converted a few years later.

In 1868 Francis, Anne and their children travelled to Liverpool ready to emigrate to Utah. The packet ship, The John Bright, left Liverpool on June 4th. The Mormon Emigration Index has a note that their son Robert ‘declined to go’.

A description of the voyage has been written using the diaries of those who made the journey. There were 722 Mormons on board, 176 from Scandinavia and the rest from the UK.

“The saints were in fine spirits, and were full of joy at being really on their way to Zion, an event for which they had long laboured, hoped and prayed.”

The John Bright was a sailing ship, as steamship passage was too expensive for many converts. They arrived safely in New York on July 13th 1868 and from there travelled on the Union Pacific Railroad via Chicago and Omaha arriving at Laramie City on July 23rd. Laramie City was the western terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad, and was the outfitting place for the journey across the mountains by wagon train.

Here the emigrants met the church teams and most of the Scandinavian saints went with Captain Horton D.Haight’s company, which left Laramie on July 27th, and arrived in Salt Lake City, August 24, 1868.

The family thrived and settled in small communities in and around Salt Lake City. One family settled in the beautifully named ‘Bountiful’. Francis, the patriarch, stayed in Salt Lake where he died in 1917 at the age of 94. Here, he followed the requirement of the church to trace and baptise four generations of ancestors into the LDS church. Francis did not have at his disposal the resources that modern genealogists have today. No filmed parish records, no census, no GRO index readily available. So he did it all from memory. Unfortunately, he did not have a very good memory.

Even more unfortunately Francis’ children used his submissions as their source.

So, inevitably, the IGI information for this branch of my family bears very little resemblance to actual events. Succeeding generations have submitted the same incorrect information again and again. This caused me many headaches when I began my research and has sent me off on several false trails.

However, there is light on the horizon. Via the LDS I have been in touch with my 4th cousin, the great granddaughter of Francis’ daughter Eliza. She and her husband are active members of the church and are now submitting the correct information, although the wrong information cannot be removed.

I’ve been contacted by many descendants of Francis and Anne, most of whom still believe the incorrect information on the IGI is right “because it’s on the internet”. There are trees on many websites like Ancestry and Gencircles all compiled from the same wrong information obtained from the IGI.

My father has recently had his DNA taken by Oxford Ancestors  and I have just got in touch with a descendant of Francis’ who is organising a family DNA project. It will be interesting to see the results.

So, that’s Francis the Mormon who has caused me more difficulties than any other member of my tree but thanks to him, and other members of the LDS church, I have been able to use their resources to prove him wrong. I think he’ll forgive me.


© Guinevere 2007