There was a time when Paul Embley found it difficult to do any meaningful family history work because so much had already been done on each of his lines.
Then something unexpected happened while his family was on a trip to Denmark in 2014. While traveling between Hamburg and Copenhagen, Embley received an electronic notification from FamilySearch.org that led him to discover an ancestor named Anders Jorgensen. A quick search revealed the Jorgensen family had emigrated from Denmark to Utah with the Willie Handcart Company in 1856. Anders' daughter, 10-year-old Maren, was Embley's third great-grandmother.
The Embleys also learned the Jorgensen family had lived in a village close to where they were at the time. The family, who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and from Williamsburg, Virginia, arranged their schedule so they could visit the town.
Making that ancestral connection while they were in Denmark was a blessing, said Lise Embley, Paul's wife.
"For our family, receiving that email on that specific day was not a coincidence, but a tender mercy that helped us feel Heavenly Father's love for our family individually," Lise Embely said. "That message from FamilySearch prompted (and continues to prompt) conversations about faith and sacrifice, and about preserving and sharing our testimonies. That email was just one of a series of small miracles that helped us learn something important."
The Embleys are one of many families to discover ancestors with the help of FamilySearch.org resources, specifically the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel website at history.lds.org/overlandtravels, launched in 2014.
The Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel website, created by FamilySearch and the LDS Church History Library, both owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was recently redesigned with several new features, including a database of documents, journals, photos and other sources. The site now contains records for more than 57,000 individual records and 370 pioneer companies, according to a FamilySearch press release.
"This is an extremely significant database," Keith Erekson, LDS Church History Library director, said in a press release. "It reveals so much about individual pioneers and their experiences, but it also offers fresh new insights about their collective experience."
With the redesign, patrons can now submit family photographs, link to Internet resources, access articles and search various sources for information.
The LDS Church started an international social media campaign with the hashtag #IAmAPioneer to promote the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel website and encourage people to think of themselves as modern pioneers and share their stories with future generations, the release stated.
Patrons can access the website through FamilySearch.org/pioneers or history.lds.lorg/overlandtravels. For accounts of pioneers all over the world in the LDS Church, visit history.lds.org/section/pioneers.
Cris Rees, a senior product manager at FamilySearch, said the website is easy to use and provides something interesting for everyone, whether you descend from pioneer ancestors or not.
"The website helps you to discover who your pioneer ancestors were, what they went through, their faith, the sacrifices and the miracles they experienced," Rees said. "For those who don't have pioneer ancestors, you can still make interesting discoveries. The pioneers were the converts of their generation. If you are a convert, what stronger connection can you have? The pioneers showed a way for all of us to follow."
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