Black Mormon Pioneer Experiences

Black Mormon Pioneer Experiences

My daughter, Amy Tanner Thiriot, will be presenting at the Church History Museum Theater, 45 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, February 15, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Attendance is free and open to the public. Here is the description of the event.

The first black members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were a vital part of the early history of the Church. They served missions and shared the gospel. As the Church moved west, they helped build Nauvoo and Winter Quarters and drove wagons across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. Once in the valley, they helped rescue the stranded Willie and Martin handcart companies, built roads and communities, and raised families in the Mormon settlements of the West.

Many of them experienced great tragedies and losses, but they lived lives of service and built a strong heritage of faith for their descendants and the Church. Join us for an evening of the stories of early Latter-day Saints, including Green Flake, Jane Manning James, Venus Redd, Samuel and Amanda Chambers, Thomas Bankhead, and many others. 

Family and community historian Amy Tanner Thiriot specializes in the stories of the lesser-known, early members of the Church. She is the author of a blog series, The Eminent Women of the St. George Temple, and is currently finishing a book on the experiences of the enslaved African American pioneers of Utah Territory.

Amy is a co-writer on my blogs and contributes from time to time. She writes our family blog TheAncestorFiles that is an excellent example of a family oriented genealogy blog.

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From Whence and to Thither — Understanding Migration Patterns: Part Six

From Whence and to Thither — Understanding Migration Patterns: Part Six

It is important to not get confused by the terms “immigration,” “emigration,” and “migration.” Immigration is the movement of the people coming to live permanently in a country that is foreign to them. For example, someone coming from Ireland or Denmark to the United States. Emigration is the opposite term used to refer to people leaving a country. When you emigrate from your native country, you become an immigrant in the country of your arrival. Migration is used to refer to any other population movements and is a more general term that encompasses immigration, emigration, and movement within a country. Unfortunately, the terms are often confused and sometimes used interchangeably.

Under these definitions, for example, people coming from England (the United Kingdom) during British Colonial times were not immigrants. They were simply moving from one part of their own country to another part by crossing an ocean. On the other hand, the earliest Mormon pioneers were immigrants because the left the United States and went to Mexico.

I have been focusing on the movements of the people within the confines of what is now the continental United States. It is not that other migrations are not important for genealogical research, but I am using the American example because it is, for me, the easiest one to illustrate.

Returning to the Tanner family, we now find my direct line ancestors living in New York around the turn of the century from the 1700s to the 1800s. In moving from Rhode Island, they were joining hundreds of thousands of their fellow Americans in a movement from the other colonies to New York state that occurred just after the Revolutionary War ended. At the same time, the flood of immigrants from Europe was beginning to make the cities along the Atlantic coast some of the largest in the world.

My Third Great-grandfather, John Tanner, moved from Southern New York state to settle along the huge lake known as Lake George were he became a very prosperous farmer and businessman. This movement was essentially from a settled part of the country into, what was then, the wilderness. It is over 200 miles to the northwest of the town of Hopkinton, Rhode Island where he was born. The migration pattern, at this time, was to the west and north. Why was that?

In the case of the Tanners, the younger men likely left because of the inheritance practices in effect at the time. The oldest son usually received the bulk of the inheritance, leaving the younger sons without much of an inheritance, i.e. farmland or whatever, to become self-sufficient. John Tanner’s father was Joshua Tanner and the youngest son of his father Francis. The older Tanner men stayed in Rhode Island when Joshua and his family moved north. The lack of an inheritance, plus the availability of open land, was a strong incentive to move into the wilderness.

Now, if you are researching your American ancestors, would the fact that so many people moved from the seaboard colonies (states) into the interior help you to understand where to look for your ancestors? In the case of the Tanners, the research connecting John Tanner’s family to Rhode Island from New York was done in the early 1900s. But until recently, no serious research had been done about the family in Rhode Island.

When you begin to speculate about your family’s movements, be sure to remember to check that there was a way to travel and that the time it took to travel was reasonable. More about this to come.

Now, what about the movement from Rhode Island to the Lake George area? Why north and west? Look at a map. Then, think about the time period. At the end of the revolutionary war, travel north and south along the East Coast was becoming easier due to roads becoming established. But if you look at a topographical map of the U.S. you will immediately see that that there is a significant mountain range just back from the coast. Here is an example from Google Earth.

So where were the roads or travel corridors? Here is the same approximate area with the current roads from Google Maps.

If you study these maps, as I have already pointed out, you can see that the Interstate Highway system runs from Rhode Island to Albany, New York and then Interstate 87 runs directly north along the west coast of Lake George. The key here is that the Interstate system was built along the most accessible routes across the U.S. If you want to trace your ancestors most probably routes, look at the Interstate system. So the most probable route for the Tanners was along what would become Interstate 295, then along Interstate 90 and then north along Interstate 87 from Albany. As I continue writing about the movement of the Tanners across the United States, you will see how they essentially lived along the future freeways in many cases.

You can see the earlier posts in this series here:

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What is Intellectual Property?

What is Intellectual Property?

The idea that what someone thinks or produces in the course of communicating with others can be “owned” has evolved over time into a complex web of traditions, laws, privacy claims and a myriad of other beliefs and restrictions.

Intellectual property is an inclusive generic term that has become current in the legal community to designate any work that is protected by statutory laws such as copyright, trademark, patents and any other such regulations or provisions. Every time genealogists look at a record, document, book, or go online to do research, they are becoming involved in intellectual property and all its issues. Disputes about intellectual property rights sometimes end up in court but surprisingly, very few issues arising in the context of genealogical research have been litigated in any of the courts in the United States. Despite this fact, I have found that copyright issues are commonly the subject of questions and concerns by individual genealogists and even commercial entities that are involved in genealogical pursuits.

What is more common than litigation issues are issues arising from record access and control. The statutory limitations form only a small, but important, part of the overall intellectual property issues confronting a historical researcher.

The concept of “intellectual property” has such a broad application that almost anything containing information or communication of any kind can be and is often included. The entire topic has become so complicated that there are now entire law firms that “specialize” in intellectual property law.

The main issues concerning claims to intellectual property ownership are fuzzy in the extreme. What is and what is not “intellectual property” is the basis for constant commentary by the US courts. What is clear is that in general intellectual property rights such as a patent or copyright protects an item, it will be subject to copying. See TrafFix Devices, Inc. v. Marketing Displays, Inc., 532 U. S. 23, 29 (2001). Also, see the following:

The rights of a patentee or copyright holder are part of a “carefully crafted bargain,” Bonito Boats, Inc. v. Thunder Craft Boats, Inc., 489 U. S. 141, 150-151 (1989), under which, once the patent or copyright 34*34 monopoly has expired, the public may use the invention or work at will and without attribution.

Many of the issues surrounding intellectual property claims have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court. One interesting case is that of Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 539 US 23 – Supreme Court 2003. The facts, in that case, are complicated and Supreme Court’s opinion is rather long but if you want an idea of the complexity of the issues, you can try reading the decision of the court.

For genealogists, this issue comes up in the context of copying substantial portions of an original work. I have mentioned this resource a number of times, but it is so valuable that it needs to be part of any genealogist’s reference material. It is the Cornell University Library’s “Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States.” This reference is as short and concise as is possible and provides basic guidelines for copyright issues. The main reference point is that before 1923 in the United States there is no protection for works registered or first published in the United States. But remember that every country has its own laws.

Here are a few of the many books on the subject.

Bainbridge, David I. Intellectual Property. Harlow, England; New York: Pearson Education, 2012.

College of Law (England and Wales). Intellectual Property: An Introduction. Guildford: College of Law, 1993.

Engdahl, Sylvia. Intellectual Property Rights. Detroit, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2010.

Fitzgerald, Anne, and Dimitrios G Eliades. Introduction to Intellectual Property, 2015.

Golvan, Colin. An Introduction to Intellectual Property Law. Sydney: Federation Press in association with Golvan Arts, 1992.

Gregory, Donald A, Charles W Saber, and Jon D Grossman. Introduction to Intellectual Property Law. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of National Affairs, 1994.

Johnson, Stephen, and Economist Newspaper Limited. Guide to Intellectual Property: What It Is, How to Protect It, How to Exploit It, 2015.

Spiers, Duncan. Intellectual Property Law. Dundee: Dundee University Press, 2009.

Vaidhyanathan, Siva. Intellectual Property: A Very Short Introduction, 2017.

Wherry, Timothy Lee. “The Librarian’s Guide to Intellectual Property in the Digital Age: Copyrights, Patents, and Trademarks.” American Library Association, 2002.

World Intellectual Property Organization. Introduction to Intellectual Property: Theory and Practice, 2017.

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65 Million New Searchable Mexican Records Added to FamilySearch

65 Million New Searchable Mexican Records Added to FamilySearch

In a partnership with, FamilySearch has added 65 million new Mexican records, with more than 200 million searchable names. The new records are now available to the general public through FamilySearch centers and affiliate libraries worldwide, or on for LDS subscribers. Search the new family history records in the “Mexico Indexed Historical Records” collection to find your family. If you click on this link, you can read more from the four blog post highlighted above.

We have recently begun working with some Spanish speaking people in Annapolis, Maryland and this will be a great opportunity for them to find their families.

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Remembering George Burns

Remembering George Burns

George Burns
Nathan Birnbaum was born on January 20, 1896 in New York City. He began his career singing harmony with other 6 and 7 year olds while making candy in a basement shop. People came down to listen, tossing coins when they finished. Nathan decided it was showbiz for him from there on out. He began billing himself at George Burns – George was his brother’s name, who was glad to lend it out. And Burns came from the Burns Brothers Coal Company whose trucks George would steal coal from to heat their home.
George partnered with several girls but the chemistry just wasn’t there. One partner was Hanna Siegel whom George married so that they could go on tour together. When the tour ended after six months, they divorced, having never consummated the marriage.
Gracie Allen
Grace Allen grew up in San Francisco but started in Vaudeville in 1909 with her sisters as “The Four Colleens,” a dance act. And then George met Gracie. It was  1923 when Allen met Burns met at a vaudeville theatre in Newark. This time the chemistry was seismic. Billed as Burns and Allen, the two played off each other masterfully with Allen as the “Dumb Dora” character, and Burns as her straight man. Gracie Allen was so witty she ramped up the illogical logic patter to a level all audiences appreciated. The two became a long-running team with Burns writing their comedy, and Allen delivering lines with perfect timing. 
They married in 1926, and continued in Vaudeville until they launched their own radio show in 1932. Their characters were single, but when the audience found out the two were actually married, demand increased that the show reflect it. During the last 1930s, the couple also did several comedic films.
In 1941, The Burns and Allen Show adapted a situational comedy approach, complete with supporting actors. With the rising interest in television, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show debuted on the CBS Television Network in 1950. The show now featured famous actors as guests, and playing local characters. Burns loved talking to the audience during the program, telling jokes and offering amusing asides about the other performers. The show lasted until 1958 when Gracie retired due to health reasons. 
Gracie Allen died in 1964 of a heart attack. Burns was bereft, but friends convinced him that work was the only answer. He toured nightclubs and performed at theatre venues around the country. Then, in 1974, his best friend, Jack Benny was dying of pancreatic cancer. Benny requested  Burns take over his part in a film called The Sunshine Boys. Benny died a few week later. A broken-hearted Burns stepped into the role, playing opposite Walter Matthau. Burns received an Academy Award for best Supporting Actor in the comedy. At the ago of 80, Burns was the oldest person to win an Oscar. With his newfound fame firmly in place, he ushered in a comedy film career for the later part of the century.
In 1977, Burns played opposite of John Denver in Oh, God! The film inspired two sequels, Oh, God! Book II, and Oh, God! You Devil where Burns played both roles of God and the Devil.
Burns went on to make appear on The Muppet Show, and starred in three more films: Just You and Me, Kid, Going in Styleand 18 Again! Burns continued to do regular stand up gigs at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas, where he had a lifetime contract.
George Burns died on March 9, 1996 – 49 days after turning 100. He was interred in a mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale California next to his comedic and life partner, Gracie Allen. Their epitaph reads: “Gracie Allen (1902–1964) & George Burns (1896–1996)-Together Again.” George felt that Gracie should be given top billing this time.
~ Joy

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