What’s Up With Leland & Patty… And a Bit of Orting History

I haven’t blogged a lot since last fall, as we’ve been totally distracted with getting our “new” old building into shape for the next decade or more of living, working and yes… even gardening.

You may remember that on the first of September, Patty and I bought the old Heritage Quest building in Orting.

After our purchase, Patty and I moved into the attached apartment, set up office spaces, remodeled storage areas, and roofed the patio along the side with fiberglass for a greenhouse. We repainted the entire exterior of the building. We then built raised garden beds along the side. Since it was fall, a good crop to put in was garlic – so we’ve now got hundreds of garlic plants growing beautifully next to the business (we like garlic!).

Finally, we laid a new subfloor, and vinyl throughout the entire front area of the building. This allowed us to upgrade our shelved stockroom area, as well as the purchase of another color digital printing press. We needed the upgraded floor to handle the massive amounts of weight from the print shop equipment, as well as the thousands of books ready for sale. By having two presses, we’re hedging against downtime when the machine is requiring service. The new press is also less costly to maintain – so we win all the way around.

A Bit of History of the “old Heritage Quest” Building.
The building was a Seventh-day Adventist church from 1912 through about 1986. The front portion was the church itself. About 1913, another building was brought in and set adjacent to the back, with the roof modified to slope away from the church. This area was used as a church school for a while. Along about 1955, a 20×30 building was built out back near the end of the lot. This was used for Sabbath School classes. About 1965, a 30×30 addition was added to that building as a fellowship hall, and about 1969 the structures were all tied together with one final addition.

As I remember it, the church typically had 30 to 40 folks in attendance each week. Patty and I started going there to church even before we were married in 1968, and were members there until the church closed its doors. It wasn’t that attendance was down or finances were an issue that the church closed. About that time, the Bonney Lake congregation nearby had grown to the point they wanted to build their own church. By combining the two groups, there would be enough people to undertake that project. So the Orting church closed its doors, and a new church was built in Bonney Lake. Patty and I moved our membership to Bonney Lake, as did most everyone else. By the way, the Church Clerk’s records for the Orting S.D.A. Church are held by the Washington Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Federal Way, Washington.

My brother, Steve, and I had started Heritage Quest five miles outside of Orting in 1985. Patty continued to work as a nurse at Enumclaw Community Memorial Hospital, essentially financing our family while we threw all available cash at Heritage Quest to get it started. A year or two later, we moved the business into town, setting up our editorial offices, print shop, and library on Washington Avenue (Tim’s Kitchen is there today) . The old church sat empty for a while. Eventually, I made the church an offer, which they accepted, and we moved the editorial offices and library into the old church building. That was the point that it became what’s now known as the “old Heritage Quest” building. The library really took off. Patty’s father, Home Daffern, built over 1000 feet of book shelving in the front portion to handle the influx of donated and book review books. That library operated there until the latter part of the 1990s, when it moved to Sumner. It continues to operate very successfully today as the nonprofit Heritage Quest Research Library (HQRL).

Heritage Quest was sold to American Genealogical Lending Library (Bountiful, Utah) about 1992 – and the building went along with the sale. They later sold the building to my brother, Steve Meitzler, who moved his printshop operations into it. Steve remodeled the entire facility, upgrading it from the ground up. The front area became the print shop, and the back areas became an apartment and rental offices. In 2014, Steve again made huge changes to the back, turning the offices and apartment into one 3-bedroom apartment of nearly 2000 square ft.

English Roman Catholic Database 1607-1840 to be Published

A mob protesting the 1778 Roman Catholic Relief Act sets fire to Newgate Prison, London, in 1780. Credits: Getty

A new database, to be released for purchase, and later to be published online has been created by the Catholic Family History Society. The database lists approximately 275,000 English Roman Catholics who lived between 1607 and 1840. The Margaret Higgins Database was compiled by Brother Rory Higgins FSC, an Australian monk, and was named after his mother.

During the Reformation, Anglicanism became the official British faith. Catholics were no longer looked upon with favor. On the 22nd of May, 1767, the House of Lords asked that bishops of England and Wales instruct their parish clergy to “correct and complete lists as can be obtained of the papists or reputed papists, distinguishing their parishes, sexes, ages and occupations and how long they have been there resident”. Is seems that clergy took this to mean that they were to include Catholics and suspected Catholics in their records from then on. It’s thought that more than half of the English Catholics were included in the “Returns of Papists” which were submitted to Parliament. The new database includes these records as well as other lists and published materials listing those of the Roman Catholic faith.

This database will be of importance to those of us with English Catholic ancestry. I look forward to its upcoming release.

For more information, read the article posted at the Who Do You Think You Are? website.

Thanks to ResearchBuzz for the heads-up.

Catholic Records for Ireland, Britain & the USA Being Posted at FindMyPast

At Rootstech yesterday, Patty and I were able to visit with our old friend, Brian Donovan, who is the Licensing Manager at Findmypast. He brought us up to speed on what will be the most comprehensive online collection of Roman Catholic records for Ireland, Britain and the USA. Up to 100 million records. These records are being posted at FindMyPast.

The following is from their news release:

Findmypast is releasing over 3 million exclusive records including sacramental registers for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1757 to 1916 as well as for the British Archdioceses of Westminster and Birmingham from 1657 onwards. This builds on last year’s publication of more than 10 million Irish Catholic parish registers.

Check the collection out by clicking here.

More about The Catholic Heritage Archive
The Catholic Church holds some of the oldest and best preserved genealogical records ever created. However, as many of these documents memorialise important religious sacraments such as baptism, marriage and burial, their privacy has long been protected and access to original copies has traditionally been hard to come by.

In collaboration with various Archdioceses of the Catholic Church, Findmypast is helping to bring these records online in one unified collection for the first time ever. Exclusively available on Findmypast, images of original documents will be completely free to view in many cases. Fully searchable transcripts will also be included, providing family historians from the around the world with easy access to these once closely guarded records.

The next phase of the Catholic Heritage Archive will include records from the archdioceses of New York and Baltimore as well as additional records from Philadelphia. There are over 30 million records in just these three dioceses. The digitization of the whole archive is a monumental undertaking and, when complete, will contain hundreds of millions of records for the USA alone.

Brian said; “The Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination in the world. Despite the popular perception that it had few adherents in Britain, or was not that important in American settlement, it has always been a significant component (up to 25%) of the population. The Catholic Heritage Archive will uncover the history of millions of Irish, Italian, German, Polish and many other nationalities as they made a new home in the USA.”

Archbishop of Canterbury discovers he is illegitimate at age 60

The following excerpt is from dailymail.co.uk


The Archbishop of Canterbury’s real father confessed the priest was his secret son shortly before he died.

It also emerged that Sir Anthony Montague Browne’s dying wish was to see Justin Welby one last time.

The most senior figure in the Anglican Communion discovered last month that the late Montague Browne was his biological father and not Gavin Welby.
Montague Browne, who was Winston Churchill’s private secretary between 1952 and 1965, had told his step-son Paddy Macklin the truth, after years of denying his paternity.

Macklin, 56, is the son of Lady Shelagh Montague Browne from a previous marriage and is a renowned round-the-world yachtsman.
He had growing suspicious that Sir Anthony was Welby’s father and the family used to joke about the striking resemblance between the two.

Read the full article.

New Quaker Records on Ancestry.com Tell the Stories of Our Nation’s “Friends” – The Unsung Leaders of Equality and Peace

The following is from Ancestry.com:

Documents Spanning Over 300 Years Give Insight to the Presence and Influence of Quakers in American History

PROVO, UT–(Marketwired – Apr 28, 2014)Ancestry.com today released 11.5 million new records documenting one of the most prominent groups in American history, the “Religious Society of Friends,” more commonly known as Quakers. Spanning over 300 years (late 1600s – late 1900s), the collection includes birth, marriage, death, disownment, and memorial records, sourced from the Quaker’s monthly meeting minutes.

Quakers have played a key role in American history and society since the country’s earliest days. There are currently more than 85,000 Quakers living in the United States and 350,000 worldwide, but it is estimated that in the 1700s, 50 percent of all people living in the Mid-Atlantic States were Quaker.

Ancestry.com has collaborated with a variety of institutions to compile a robust online documentation of the Quakers’ history. With the help of American Quaker colleges Earlham, Haverford, Swarthmore and Guilford, and The National Archives in England, Ancestry.com estimates that it now has more than 75 percent of all the American Quaker records in existence.

“I was raised in the Quaker religion, attended Quaker schools, and was married in a Quaker wedding ceremony. I feel a deep commitment to spreading awareness of their culture, beliefs and powerful influence in history,” said Lisa Parry Arnold, a professional genealogist, author and lecturer at Ancestry.com. “These new collections will help people who are researching their family history discover or learn more about their own Quaker heritage.”

According to Arnold, Quakers tracked the activities of their members through their monthly business meetings. Detailed meeting minutes are part of the collection now available on Ancestry.com, and can provide important information for those researching their family history, including names, dates, and relationships to fellow “Friends.” Monthly meetings also kept track of where members came from and their destinations when they chose to move to another colony, state or province — a real boon for those tracing their ancestors’ footsteps.

The Quaker Influence
In 1681, after nearly 20 years of persecution for defying the existing religious institutions of their time, William Penn was given land in the new colonies to settle a debt owed by the king to his father. Penn ensured the land became a place where Quakers could live and worship freely, and it was later named Pennsylvania in his honor. Penn enacted a self-limiting government among these early Quaker settlers in the colony, which later inspired legal practices that were eventually incorporated into the U.S. Constitution, alongside the Quaker beliefs of peace and equality.

The beliefs of the Quakers were quite radical for their time and mirror many of the forward-thinking beliefs found in today’s society. They believed in equality among all people in God’s sight, the equal opportunity for education despite race or income level, the empowerment of women, the eradication of slavery, and the senselessness of war. They played an integral role in the abolition of slavery in the United States and are often credited with helping to facilitate the Underground Railroad. When a slave was freed, Quakers often took the freed slave in and their presence would be noted in the meeting minutes from Quaker congregations.

Many Americans have ancestors with Quaker roots. Celebrities like Brad Pitt, Zooey Deschanel, Kevin Bacon and Dave Matthews, and companies like Barclays Bank, Cadbury Chocolate and Sony, all have Quaker origins.

In conjunction with the Ancestry.com Quaker record launch, Arnold, a 10th generation Quaker and descendant of the William Penn family, is also publishing Thee and Me: A Beginner’s Guide to Early Quaker Records, a companion guide designed to help those exploring their family history understand and use Quaker records. To learn more about Arnold’s book, for more information on the collection, or to learn more about your own Quaker heritage visit www.ancestry.com/Quakers.

About Ancestry.com
Ancestry.com is the world’s largest online family history resource with approximately 2.7 million paying subscribers across all its websites. More than 13 billion records have been added to the Ancestry.com sites and users have created more than 60 million family trees containing more than 5 billion profiles. In addition to its flagship site www.ancestry.com, the company operates several global Ancestry international websites along with a suite of online family history brands, including Archives.com, Fold3.com, Newspapers.com, and offers the AncestryDNA product, sold by its subsidiary, Ancestry.com DNA, LLC, all of which are designed to empower people to discover, preserve and share their family history.

Comparing the Similarities Between Byzantine Orthodox & Catholic Religions

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
Genealogists spend a lot of time researching in old church records. In many cases, if it were not for records found within the world’s chuches, genealogists would have no records to turn to at all. Understanding the various religions is impotant to understanding our ancestor’s lives, as their lives were very much tied to their religion.

There’s an interesting website found online called opposingviews.com. It deals with controversial stuff, much of it taken from the day’s news. One of the subjects they deal with a lot is religion. I happened to run across an article entitled “Similarities Between Byzantine Orthodox & Catholicism” that you might find interesting. If you take a look at the side-column, you will note that there are numberous article comparing religions.

Mormon Gold Review Addendum — Index to Nearly 2,000 Names

Just the other day I reviewed the book Mormon Gold. The book tells the story of Mormon and their involvement in the California Gold Rush. Nearly 2,000 individuals are mentioned in the book. This addendum is a complete surname index to those individuals. Click a letter below to more quickly browse is alphabetical list. Click here to read the full book review. [Note: the following quick links work once the entire blog entry has been opened.]

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | V | W | Y | Z |



Abbott, Joshua, 339, 349
Achilles, 121, 123, 130
Adair,  G.  Wesley,  41-42,  59
Adams,  Orson  B.  141
Albon (Albion), Moseland, 229, 335
Aldredge,  Prudence,  151
Alexander, 152,
Alexamder,  Ambrose  P.,  276,  278
Alexander, H. (Horace M.), 42, 186, 206, 239, 309, 341
Alger (Algar), John, 206, 208, 239
Allan, John, 338
Allen,  278
Allen,  Captain  James,  9-10,  353
Allen, Charles, 377
Allen,  David,  346,  348
Allen, Elijah, 42, 277
Allen,  Ezra,  41,  48-51,  60,  355
Allen, George, 333
Allen, James, 346, 349
Allen, John, 333, 338, 346, 348, 349
Allen, Rufus, 42
Allen, William, 265, 346, 349
Allred,  284,  301-302
Allred,  Elzada,  296,  320,  339
Allred, James R., 41, 59, 283
Allred, Jane, 296, 339
Allred,  P.  H.,  153
Allred,  Reddin  A.,  282-283
Allred,  Redick  N.  (P.),  42,  278,  282-283
Allred, Reuben, 199, 206, 296, 339, 283
Ambrosia, Nicholas, 265
Anderson, 239
Anderson,  Washington,  290,  292,  300,  306-307
Anderson,  W.  F.,  290,  292,  306-307
Andrews, William, 335
Angell, Truman, 91
Armstrong, John, 338
Arner, Richard, 346
Arnold, 283
Arnold,  Josiah,  208,  229-231,  291,  335,  348
Arnold,  Elizabeth,  229-230,  291,  335
Arnold, Joseph, 230, 291, 335
Arnold,  Orson,  230,  291,  335
Astray (Esrey), James, 332
Astray (Esrey), Jonathan, 332
Astray (Esrey), Justin, 332
Astray (Esrey), Thomas, 332
Atherton, Emily, 198, 206
Atherton,  William,  198-199,  206,
Atherton, Joseph, 337
Austin, Edward N., 61
Austin,  Julius,  41-42,  61
Austin, Louise Marie, 61
Austin, Newton Francis, 61
Austin,  Octavia  Lane,  61
Averett, See Everett
Ayer, Franklin H., 40

Continue Reading “Mormon Gold Review Addendum — Index to Nearly 2,000 Names”

Mormon Gold

Few people are aware it was the job foreman and half-a-dozen Mormons who first discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. Even fewer are aware of the overall presence and contribution Mormons made during the gold rush years. The Mormon people had been in Salt Lake for less than a year when Gold was discover. A year later the rush to riches was on. People flooded California from around the world in an effort to lay claim to part of California’s rich Gold deposits. Mormon Gold: Mormons in the California Gold Rush Contributing to the Development of California and the Monetary Solvency of Early Utah examines the Mormon people and their participation in the famous Gold Rush of 1849 and the subsequent mining years.

The early years for Mormons in Salt Lake and its surrounding settlements were economically difficult for many. Those who came with Brigham Young, and those who continued to arrive over the next few years, came across the plains with few possessions. Many were destitute and were doing their best just to survive those early years. The temptation to seek wealth and prosperity in the gold rich hills of California was strong. Sensing this pull, and knowing most would not find the wealth they dreamed of, along with understanding the need to keep the new communities in Utah as strong as possible if the Mormons were to survive, Brigham Young ordered the saints to stay, to work, and to follow God’s will. Meanwhile, he also knew that California Gold could be a boon to the struggling economy in Salt Lake. Thus, he selected men to go and seek prosperous enterprises in California, to build businesses and seek opportunities to gain advantage from the flood of gold seekers. Some were to also mine gold and gather tithes and return what they could to Utah. Mormon Gold provides the facts and details about these Mormon participants and their reasons for going to California.

Mormon Gold tries to “identify individuals involved in the gold rush and piece together their lives and interactions. It is extensively illustrated with portraits, landscapes, and maps.” The book is filled with background stories and details. Inset into the chapters are independent, brief, biographies of individuals found within the story. Likewise, added details, historical facts, and explanations are provided in similar manner for key locations, settlements, and interest items. One inset shows and describes the gold mining process using a sluice with a riddle plate. Brief bios are presented for more famous individuals, like John A. Sutter (not a mormon but obviously a major player in the Gold Rush thanks to the discovery of Gold at his mill), Brigham Young, and Orrin Porter Rockwell. Some of the less historically famous individuals, whose presence are noted within the Gold Rush story,  are given individual space with their own brief bios, such as Francis Martin Pomeroy (my own third-great grandfather).

Here are some of the other California Mormon highlights found in the book:

  • “They came, some just before and some just after California became a Territory (1846)
  • They doubled the population of Yerba Buena and helped turn that placid, ‘ends of the earth’ hamlet into a bustling San Francisco
  • They were involved in some of the first gold discoveries (Coloma and Mormon Island)
  • They opened important trails across the Sierra and the Southwest
  • Some brought their families, built homes, and pioneered commercial farming in California
  • Many sent their gold back to help establish a currency for the infant Mormon settlement in the Salt Lake Valley, which without that help might have floundered.”

The first edition of Mormon Gold was published in 1984. At the time, researchers praised the author for “having left no stone unturned in recounting all there is to know about Mormons and the gold rush.” That may have been true at the time. However, in the over twenty-five years since then, much research has been added to the collective knowledge on the subject. Thus, the authors felt the book needed a major update. This second edition make uses of dozens of resources not available at the printing of the first edition. Some of the additional materials include extensive biographies on major participants and leaders among the Mormons in California; plus, annotated diaries, including, the diary of George Q. Cannon, an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, during his California years.



Maps and Illustrations



1. The Stage is Set

2. Gold at Coloma

3. Mormon Island: The First California Gold Rush

4. The Mormon-Carson Pass Emigrant Trail

5. A Message of Gold to Brigham Young

6. The Mormon ’48ers

7. Mormon Valley Currency

8. Mormon Guides to the Gold Mines

9. Amasa M. Lyman and the Mormon Apostolic Gold Mission

10. The Pueblo Saints

11. The Rhoades Mormon gold TRain

12. Apostle Charles C. Rich and the Gold Missionaries

13. The Gentile Pomeroy Wagon Train

14. The Huffaker Company

15. The Salt Lake Trading Company

16. The Joint Apostolic Gold Mission

17. From God to the Word

18. The Last Trains West

19. Home to Zion

20. A Maverick Mormon Argonaut

21. Mormon Station and the Carson Valley Saints

22. The San Bernardino Saints and Gold

23. Proselyting the Gold Fields

24. Missionaries and the Final Exodus

25. Mormon Argonauts: Some Reflections

Appendix A: The Mormon Argonaut Communities

Appendix B: Mormon Argonauts in the Census Records

Appendix C: Mormon Gold Time Line

Appendix D: Historical Background for the Mormon Gold Story


Map and Illustration Credits

Subject Index

Personal Name Index

About the Authors


Avid historians, gold rush aficionados, and Mormons alike will all appreciate the detailed history this book provides. Rich in details, colorful characters, and a sense of truth helps bring light California’s gold rush and its Mormon participants.

Mormon Gold: Mormons in the California Gold Rush Contributing to the Development of California and the Monetary Solvency of Early Utah is available from Family Roots Publishing; Item #: GMP1, Price: $39.96.


Mormon Migration Index Website Has Been Revised

A FamilySearch blog provides the details. Here is an excerpt:

Mormon Migration Index Give you More Than Ever Before

If you have Mormon ancestors who crossed the ocean to join the Saints in America, you may have heard of the Mormon Migration website. In the past, folks have come to this website to find voyage information about people who made this life changing journey to the Land of Zion. Now this valuable website has been revised to include even more historical information than ever before.

This revised internet site is in the 2nd stage of a 3 stage development plan. This phase provides more images of ship manifests and more articles. This collection of articles will continue to grow with the addition of more than 100 articles in the near future.

Find a Voyage:
Using the Mormon Migration site, you can search through the many personal accounts to discover stories, letters, journal entries, and other accounts for each voyage. Links take you to passenger lists, person accounts written by people who were on board each ship, and scanned images of the ship’s passenger logs. This is a remarkable source for learning not only about your migrant ancestors but also about those who traveled with them and events that took place during each voyage.

Share What You Know:
The Mormon Migration database includes thousands of passenger records, stories, journal entries, scanned registry images, and other information, but it is far from complete. It is hoped that users will add information they have about their migrant ancestor. They are especially interested in first-hand accounts of voyages, photographs, and other information.

Click here to read the full blog.

A Guide to Mormon Family History Sources

A Guide to Mormon Family History Sources is, simply, a resource guide to “electronic databases, websites, microfilm collections, indexes, and more” pertaining directly to Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) and their families. Like most genealogists, most members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are well-aware of, if not intimately familiar with, the Church’s Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City. There are, however, other libraries and other resources beyond the FHL which hold many useful collections relevant to searching one’s Mormon ancestors.

Resources covered in the book include both online as well as more traditional sources of information. Chapter one provides an historical background and chronology to major events in the LDS Church’s history. Chapter two is to help get you started. Chapters three through seven effectively list resources with key information. Here is an example of one of the shorter entries in the book:

Nauvoo, Illinois, Tax Index, 1842

A list of taxpayers from Hancock County, Illinois, in 1842.

Format: Online database taken from FHL microfilm.

Location: Internet.

Description: Online database compiled by Lyman Platt, Nauvoo Tax Records, 1842 (Orem, UT: ancestry, 1999).

Contents: Identifies 1842 property owners in Hancock County, Illinois. Shows given name, surname, page number, and coordination (for example, 6N8W).

Internet: <www.ancestry.com/search/rectype/inddbs/4221.htm>.

 Chapter eight is a list of useful websites and nine covers periodicals, newsletters, and newspapers. The author, Kip Sperry, is a professor of family history at Brigham Young University. He is also an accredited genealogist, certified genealogist, certified genealogical lecturer, fellow, American Society of Genealogists, and fellow, Utah Genealogical Association.


Table of Contents




Chapter 1: Historical Background

Chapter 2: Beginning Your Research

Chapter 3: Indexes, Finding Aids, and Guides

Chapter 4: Compiled and Printed Records

Chapter 5: Original Records

Chapter 6: Migration, Emigration, and Immigration Records

Chapter 7: Computer Resources and Databases

Chapter 8: Internet Sites

Chapter 9: Periodicals, Newsletters, and Newspapers

Appendix A: Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Terms

Appendix B: Addresses




About the Author


Obtain a copy of A Guide to Mormon Family History Sources at Family Roots Publishing; Item #: TP012, Price: $16.61.

The LDS Church Puts Up a Virtual Firewall to Access of the Names of Holocaust Victims

The following is an excerpt from an AP article posted in the March 8, 2012 edition of the Palm Beach Post News:

SALT LAKE CITY — Mormon leaders have put up a virtual firewall in their massive genealogical database to block out anyone who attempts to access the names of hundreds of thousands of Holocaust victims the church has agreed not to posthumously baptize.

The move comes amid criticism that the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hasn’t done enough to live up to commitments to stop its members worldwide from performing the baptism ritual on Holocaust victims and other notable Jews.

The new system will immediately block church members’ access should they try to seek out names of Holocaust victims or other notable figures that have been flagged as not suitable for proxy baptisms. The church said the move is aimed at ending the practice.

But critics say it merely serves to block anyone from monitoring whether the posthumous baptisms continue.

“By not allowing public access to the records, it creates the illusion they have something to hide,” said Jewish genealogist Gary Mokotoff, who was involved in negotiations with the church over ending the practice for the past two decades.

Read the full article.

Another View of Mormon Proxy Baptism of Jews

The following excerpt is from an article written by Jeff Jacoby, a Jewish columnist for the Boston Globe. The article is dated March 1, 2012, and is posted at the jewishworldreview.com website. It’s a different take on LDS proxy baptisms of Jews. Interesting…

Memo to the kvetchers: Get a life — especially when dealing with actions by strangers after death

In a column many years ago, I described how I once attempted to chart a family tree. Most of my father’s family had been killed in Auschwitz, and my efforts to trace their genealogy left me, I wrote, with a family tree that “has stumps where branches ought to be” and “gets narrower, not wider, as it grows.”

A woman phoned me the morning that column appeared. She said she was a Mormon, and wanted to add the names of my father’s massacred relatives — the column had mentioned about 18 of them by name — to the Mormon Church’s vast genealogical archives. I told her that I certainly had no objection. Indeed, I was grateful for any gesture that might help preserve some remembrance of these family members whose lives had been so cruelly cut short.

At the time I knew nothing about “baptism by proxy,” the ritual that Mormons believe gives even souls in the afterlife a chance to accept their faith and thus enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only later did I learn that some Mormons, eager to save the souls of dead Jews, had taken to submitting the names of Holocaust victims for posthumous baptism.

The discovery didn’t trouble me at all. In Judaism, conversion after death is a concept without meaning; no after-the-fact rites in this world can possibly change the Jewishness of the men, women, children, and babies whom the Nazis, in their obsessive hatred, singled out for extermination. I found the Mormons’ belief eccentric, not offensive. By my lights, their efforts to make salvation available to millions of deceased strangers were ineffectual. But plainly they were sincere, and intended as a kindness.

Read the full article.

LDS Posthumous Baptism Controversy Includes Polish Catholic Witness To Holocaust

And the controversy continues…

The following is from an extensive article written by Howard Berkes, and posted at the kuhg Houston Public Radio website.

He wasn’t Jewish and he wasn’t a victim of the Holocaust, but the discovery of Jan Karski‘s name on Mormon proxy baptism records has angered those already upset about posthumous Mormon baptisms of prominent Jews and Holocaust victims.

Jan Karski was a Catholic whose mission for the Polish resistance during World War II included sneaking into the Warsaw ghetto, where he witnessed executions and naked bodies piled in the streets. Then he disguised himself as a Ukrainian guard and infiltrated a concentration camp.

Karski biographer E. Thomas Wood credits the former Polish diplomat with providing the first detailed descriptions of the systematic extermination of Jews to Allied leaders in London.

Wood heard last week’s news about the father and grandfather of Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, whose names were discovered on genealogical records used to identify candidates for the Mormon practice of posthumous baptism.

The week before, the Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced the appearance of the names of Wiesenthal’s parents on Mormon baptism records.

So, Wood asked genealogical researcher Helen Radkey to check the records for Karski’s name, and was shocked to find a baptism and other “ordinances” that confirm the Mormon faith of the deceased.

“I know what his faith meant to him, and I know he would be outraged at this effort to appropriate his mortal soul for another religion,” Wood wrote in a letter to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “This act will bring pain to his Roman Catholic and Jewish friends and admirers around the world, among others.”

Wood called on Mormon leaders to remove Karski’s name from church records.

Read the full article.

LDS Church Apologizes for the Proxy Baptism of Simon Wiesenthal’s Parents.

The following teaser is from an article published February 20, 2012 edition of the Calgary Herald.

LOS ANGELES – Simon Wiesenthal’s parents should not have been posthumously baptized, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has acknowledged. And on Monday, an official with the church apologized.

The uproar began last week when it was discovered that a member of the Mormon Church had submitted for posthumous baptism the names of Wiesenthal’s parents, and that the couple, Asher and Rosa Rapp Wiesenthal, were baptized by proxy last month.

Simon Wiesenthal, who died in 2005, was a Jewish rights advocate and a survivor of the Holocaust. He spent decades hunting down Nazis and bringing them to justice. The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, established in 1977, is named after him.

The Mormon Church member, who is not being identified by the Salt Lake City-based church, used a genealogical database to submit the names for proxy baptism. Such baptisms have proved controversial in the past, and the latest incident was certainly no exception.

Read the full article.