In the mid-19th century, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) staged a very successful missionary effort in Wales. Dr. Ronald Dennis, professor of
Portuguese and Welsh at Brigham Young University (BYU), recently launched a Web site documenting the families of each of the Welsh converts who immigrated to America. Because 20 percent of the current Utah population descends from this group of
individuals, this Web site promises to become a popular Internet attraction.
Dr. Dennis, himself a descendant of the famed LDS Welsh missionary Dan Jones (1811-1861), has an insatiable desire to accumulate "everything Welsh Mormon." Dennis' collection, in conjunction with the Center for Family History and Genealogy at BYU, is now available online at www.welshmormonhistory.org. The Welsh Mormon History Web site contains hundreds of superb photographs, transcribed journals, biographies, autobiographies, and other material produced by descendants, bringing this substantial group of LDS pioneers to life. Particularly interesting are more than 500 photographs depicting many of the early members of the LDS Church and the homes and towns they left behind in Wales. Some of the sources Dennis used to compile this information include LDS Welsh branch membership records, original journals and autobiographies, the 1880 U.S. Federal Census and the Mormon Immigration Index.
The Web site provides simple interface for users. Simply click on one of the Headings •, Immigrants, Resources, or About. You can find photos, journals and bios under the heading Resources. In addition, these materials are linked to the described individuals under the Immigrants category. The About section includes an article published on Dr. Dennis' project in the Fall 2002 edition of BYU Magazine.
For those interested in LDS history, the Web site includes many of the early writings of Dan Jones and other missionaries involved in the establishment of the LDS Church in Wales (see Writings section under Resources). Dan Jones came to America from Wales as a young man. He operated a steamboat on the Mississippi River. After joining the LDS Church in the United States, he actively engaged in its cause. A close friend of the LDS prophet Joseph Smith, he visited the church leader a few days prior to Smith's martyrdom in 1844. Joseph Smith made his last prophecy to Dan Jones. The prophet, when Jones stated that he feared he would die alongside him, prophesied that Jones would not die at that time. Joseph Smith told Jones that he had an important mission to fulfill in his native land of Wales. Jones later stalwartly served that mission.
Driven by his desire to serve Christ and propelled by his testimony of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, his preaching converted thousands. Before entering a Welsh community, Jones boldly sent letters to the religious and civil leaders in the area announcing his coming to bring them the restored Gospel. When he arrived, hundreds gathered to hear the debates between Jones and the local authorities. Many individuals in the attentive audiences joined the LDS Church. Early Welsh members would have either been taught by Dan Jones, or heard of his efforts.
Due to his extensive writings, most Welshmen who did not join the church, would have heard about it from him. A painting depicting Elder Dan Jones, while proselytizing in a Welsh street meeting, commissioned by Dr. Dennis, who himself served as an LDS missionary and LDS mission president in Brazil, adorns the wall of the front hall of the LDS Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. For a detailed biography on Dan Jones, go to historytogo.utah.gov/danjones.html.
Dr. Dennis estimates that approximately 5000 of the men, women, and children who joined the LDS Church in Wales migrated to "Zion," settling in Utah, Idaho, and other Mormon colonies. Welsh immigrants established the towns of Malad and Samaria, Idaho, as well as Wales, Utah. Dr. Dennis has identified around 4000 of the estimated 5000 LDS Welsh immigrants. He welcomes additional information. Dr. Dennis would be delighted to speak with anyone interest in this topic and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2004.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.
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