Saturday, November 22, 2014

Journey to Ishmael Phillips' Past (Part 1)--Looking for an LDS Baptism in 1800s England

In recent weeks, I have undertaken a major project that guarantees me months and months of research: writing a biography on Ishmael Phillips. The first fact I have sought to uncover was proving that my 4th Great Grandfather was indeed baptized into the LDS Church by then Mormon Apostle Wilford Woodruff on May 29, 1840. I have found several family histories claiming Elder Woodruff was Ishmael's baptizer, but I wanted more solid proof. Taking the information I already have, I sought to dig deeper on this matter.

Since Wilford Woodruff was a major figure in early LDS history, his records would be easily accessible for me being in a location with a major LDS repository. With Elder Woodruff being a prolific journal writer in his day, that is the first place I went. I only met with slight disappointment as I found a short entry for the date Brother Phillips was baptized for. The entry read:
"We met at the Creek & I Baptized 2 & Elder Richards Confirmed them & walked to Shucknell Hill. After meeting I Baptized 3, one a preacher on the plan. We Confirmed them & ordained one priest Benjamin Williams making 5 Baptized and Confirmed."

This gave me slight hope though. Shucknell Hill was in fact a location that Ishmael is associated with in some of his early church records. Deciding not to give up right here, I pressed on. 

A wonderful feature of the FamilySearch website that many people take for granted is the Family History Library Catalog. When you type "" into the URL, you come up with the home view:
Under the "Search" link, you will find "Catalog." Click here and it takes you directly to the Family History Library Catalog:
You can change the way you want to browse the catalog, but in this instance I will use location--I normally like to start out basic and narrow down to specifics, so when researching England, I will start by looking at the records under the county. Choosing "Herefordshire, England," I will then be directed to a page of categorized links  associated with Herefordshire. Looking under the Category "Church Records," I see a microfilm I have access to, "Wilford Woodruff's Baptism Record, 1840."
Eager to view this microfilm, I confirm that the library indeed has it--which it does! Looking through it, I start looking at the baptisms performed in April, working forward. When I reach May 29, I saw for myself from a photographed version of a primary source, the proof of Ishmael's baptism I was seeking. Look for yourself on May 29, his name is with another, identifying the two individuals that Wilford Woodruff wrote in his own words that he baptized at the location he provided already:
Thanks to modern technology and the ease of finding available resources, I am one step closer to writing Ishmael's biography. I now have a more concrete date, place, and name to attach to an important event in his life, his baptism into the LDS Church. Miracles happen when you persist. If you do not know how to find something though, do not be afraid to ask for help or to try other avenues. 

Now I can say with irrefutable evidence that my 4th great grandfather Ishmael Phillips was baptized by the hand of Apostle Wilford Woodruff, who would later become the 4th president of the LDS Church.