Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Middle Tennessee Baptismal Record - Lessons Learned

Nestled in the family search catalog is something called the Record of Members. It is a location specific, hand written record of people who joined the LDS Church. To find it you have to know where you want to look. In my case it is Tennessee.

There are a few of them for Tennessee, which are the only ones I have looked up. There is an East Tennessee one and a Southwest Tennessee one. But the big one is for Middle Tennessee from (1877) to 1920. The groupings correspond to the conferences within each mission. Each conference, and later districts, was responsible for keeping the record. As conference were created, divided, and sometimes closed, records would be kept, people would be transferred between them.

In about 1902 the boundary between East and Middle Tennessee was moved westward and 302 people who were previously in the Middle Tennessee conference were transferred to the East Tennessee Conference. That's bigger than most ward boundary changes today.

Sometimes a conference is closed.The short lived Southwest Tennessee Conference lasted from 1884 until 1889. Those records were kept in a separate book which has been microfilmed and can be found in the Record of Members collection.

But my recent work has been with the Middle Tennessee Conference. The handwritten nature of the record has made any comprehensive approach to working in this record difficult. It is only quasi-alphabetical., meaning all the B's are together, but within that section there is little to order to how the names are listed. Some of the names are entered in date order, but that is neither consistent nor reliable. Names were entered as they were received which was usually in date order, but sometime completely out of place.

The reason has to do with how the records were assembled. It was begun in about 1900. The first step was to enter the existing members and back date them. Many members records were entered for the years going back to 1894. But if a member had moved west, died, or had left the church there didn't seem to be a compelling reason to add them to the record. For this reason only a tiny handful of members baptized prior to 1894 were included. Some of those were even missing key details like a full baptism date, who performed the ordinances, or their parents' names.

 To make the record useful I took on the task of transcribing it. To be honest I am not a fast typist. Actually, I'm not a typist at all. I started this project nine years ago. Yes, I know that is a long time. But I had many other things going on. I was working on a book about the Cane Creek Massacre, and I was doing a blog, and then Twitter and so on. I guess you could say I was distracted by other projects. I'd type a little here and there as I found something I needed I would transcribe just that portion. I wasn't in a rush or anything.

About six months ago I decided I needed to finish it up, and voila it is finally complete. I still have East Tennessee to work on, but that too will come soon.

What did I find?

1411 total records
   14 records are blank
   22 appear to be duplicates within the record
    9 had names that were indecipherable (poor handwriting)
   67 had a partial or no baptismal date
 302 were transferred from the Middle Tenn Conf to the East Tenn Conf
 262 emigrated out of the mission. Most went west, though a few went to neighboring states
   22 of those who went west returned to Tennessee, at least according to the record.

I can now see how many people individual missionaries baptized, how many people were baptized at the same time and place, how many people joined the church in one location over time helping me identify local branches that were formed, and later faded away as people moved, died, or left the Church.

I plan on bumping these names up again LDS records in Family Search to add elements that weren't in the record; Death date and place, marriage info, some of which is listed in the notes field but for most is not included.

Can I tease out of the data whether they remained in the Church? Maybe. I suspect some will be obvious since their children were baptized or the record will say they left the church. But most will not be clear either way.

The most frustrating part is that for many of these people, a later proxy baptism date is listed on Family Search. So while these people sacrificed much to become members, many losing family, friends, and many times property and livelihood, the official record does not recognize them as having joined the Church in their lifetime.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Baptisms in 1918 by County

It may not look like a lot, but baptisms in Tennessee were picking up. Yes, there was still a war going on. But that was looking like it was coming to a close, which it did in November. True, there was also the Spanish Flu going around. In fact, in October 1918, just before the war ended, Nashville would see one of the largest outbreaks of the flu in the nation.

But there were some positive news for the mission. Hamilton county, where there were 14 baptisms, had recently been opened to missionary work. Up until now, no proselytizing was done in Chattanooga, the principle city of Hamilton county, for fear that it might stir up violence against the mission home itself. It was not an unreasonable concern in a state where homes were burned just for allowing missionaries to preach there.

Other counties were also opened. Blount county saw 7 baptisms and it was also newly opened in 1918. Madison county had 8 with 4 more in neighboring Chester county because several converts lived in Bemis which straddles the county line.

Weakley county which had 10, was a older branch at Turkey Creek. Maury county which had 9, also had an older branch at Hampshire. Shelby county, home to Memphis, too had an established branch with 4 converts as well as 4 more in Tipton county where a dependent branch had been meeting. Perry county (with 4 baptisms) has a branch too at Short Creek. Putam (5), Davidson/Nashville (5), Lawrence (5), Van Buren (4) and Bledsoe (4) counties round out the mix of active areas. Followed by a handful of baptisms in isolated counties.

Missing were Knox county, Grundy county which both have branches as well as proselytizing efforts, but no baptisms for the year.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Alfred Douglas Young - Part 5 Leaving Tennessee

[This is a continuation of the Autobiography of Alfred Douglas Young, quoted and summarized from his recollections in 1888.]

My brother William and myself returned to our homes in west Tennessee [Gibson county]. We continued to preach to some in that region and baptized quite a number of persons. Sometime in April my brother and myself arranged our affairs to gather to Nauvoo. In the midst of much persecution and annoyance which entailed on us some loss of property, we got started on our journey. On the way, we fell in company with a brother by the name of West with a family who were journeying to Nauvoo. He had a son 18 or 19 years of age who was afflicted by an evil spirit.

[It is possible he was writing about the family of Samuel Walker West, who left southwest Kentucky at about the same time, and would have been along the way. West's only son at the time was 12 years old John Anderson West. If this is the right person John would have had to pass for 18-19, much older than he was.]

He was continually making a noise and was very unpleasant company. The weather being showery, we camped one day near a school house to dry our wet clothes. While I was in the house by myself, someone made known to me that the mother of the lad wished me to lay hands on him for his recovery. When we attempted to do so, being strong, he contended with us and I simply rebuked the evil spirit. He came out of the lad and the latter lay at our feet, a natural, pleasant looking boy. But when the evil spirit went out of the boy, he entered into my oldest son, John William, who was standing near. He was at once seized upon with terrible contortions of body. This caused considerable excitement in camp. I took him up in my arms and started into the school house followed by my brother, William. We laid him down and prayed, asking the Lord to give us power to cast out the evil spirit. We then laid hands on him, rebuked the evil spirit in the name of the Lord Jesus, and bid it depart and trouble us no more. It departed and left us in peace.

Nothing of importance occurred during the remainder of the journey to Nauvoo where we arrived on the 9th of June 1842. There my brother, William, and myself, met the letter of John D. Lee, dated Putnam County, Tennessee, May 18th 1842, and published in the Times and Seasons of June 15th. About the same time, we were called to account.