With baseball season in full swing, FamilySearch.org has launched a campaign to encourage family historians to preserve and share photos and stories of ancestors who had an interest in America's favorite pastime.
"I associate baseball with family," FamilySearch collection manager Jeff Svare told the Deseret News. "Baseball is a great family activity." He hopes that others' enthusiasm for the sport will transform into a desire to seek out ancestors who loved the game as well.
FamilySearch has plenty of interesting artifacts available for baseball fanatics, including public documents such as birth and death records, census information and World War II draft registration cards for some of baseball's biggest names.
A few of the legendary baseball players who can already be found in FamilySearch's online database include Denton "Cy" Young, whose daughter's birth is recorded in list of babies born in Boston during 1907; George "Babe" Ruth, shown on a 1938 ship manifesto as he returned from a vacation in Bermuda; and Willie Stargell, listed as an infant in the 1940 census.
Whether a person's ancestors were Hall of Fame sluggers or simply those who liked attending games in person, the FamilySearch campaign was set up in hopes that, with a little digging, users can discover new details about their ancestors’ hobbies.
"Because of when the records happened, you’re not going to find a lot of things that tell people stuff, like ‘so-and-so’ is a baseball player,' " Svare said. "(But) there’s a lot of things you can find by a closer examination of the records that can lead to some real insights.”
Though it may be hard to determine whether an ancestor played baseball by looking at documents such as a census or a draft registration card, Svare said a lot of helpful hints can often be found by looking through things such as travel inventories, photo albums and family heirlooms.
"We want to get people to contribute information about their family to help preserve the memories and share the stories of people who bring them together, help them understand how people are related," Svare said. "We might be separated by time and distance from these people, but I don’t think we’re separated that much by experience. There’s a lot of commonalities of things that people go through every day ... and knowing about those things helps make them more real to a lot of people.”
The campaign, which can be found online at FamilySearch.org/campaign/baseball, allows FamilySearch users to easily add a story about an ancestor and attach a photo to go along with their entry.
New York native Patrick "Patsy" Dougherty, who played in the first World Series, had his story documented, along with a photo, by FamilySearch contributor Russ Dodge in November 2013.
"In the Inaugural Fall Classic, which pitted Boston against the Pittsburgh Pirates, (Dougherty) hit only .235, but single-handedly won game two for the Sox when he hit two home runs, the first World Series multi-homer game," Dodge wrote. "His Boston team, which also included Hall of Famers 'Cy' Young and Jimmy Collins, won the first series, five games to three."
Some players with Utah ties have also been highlighted by the new campaign. Roy Castleton, who the Society for American Baseball Research reports was the first member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to play in the Major Leagues, is listed in five census reports from 1900-1940 while he lived in Salt Lake City. The 1967 death record for the former New York Highlanders and Cincinnati Reds pitcher is recorded online under his given name, Leroy E. Castleton. His body was returned to Utah, where he was buried at the Salt Lake City Cemetery, according to SABR.com.
Free resources for family history research are available to the public and can be found online at familysearch.org, at the LDS Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City or at a local family history center.
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