In 1978 James Peden moved into a house in Wigan, Lancashire, England, and found a large, leather-bound Bible that weighed 2.5 kg which had been left behind by previous occupants. The Bible then moved from house to house with Mr. Peden until 2022 when he challenged his long-time friend, William Dunbar, to find living descendants to pass the Bible on to.
William, a retired Scottish police officer, is a dogged family researcher. He likes to hunt down ancestors and descendants to be able to enrich their lives with the knowledge of their family history. So, he accepted the challenge!
The family pages inside the Bible revealed that is had once belonged to Peter Latham who was born in 1850 in Ormskirk, Lancashire, England. Mr. Dunbar, a temple worker and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, began by starting a family database in Ancestral Quest so he could keep everyone straight and see where information gaps were.
As he was researching English records, he found a gravestone for the Latham family at Holy Trinity Church in Bickerstaffe, Lancashire. Flowers had recently been placed there, so he left a message for anyone to contact him. While waiting to see if he would get a response, he continued his research and exhausted all the family lines in England. His last hope was a daughter of Peter Latham, Ann Latham, who had married Harry Walmsley Jones and had emigrated to British Columbia, Canada.
It was here that the intrepid researcher lost the trail and turned to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints FamilySearch Library in Osoyoos, British Columbia, Canada for help in finding Latham descendants.
We at the FamilySearch Library in Osoyoos took on the challenge with great excitement. This is just the type of research that FamilySearch Libraries excel at – finding and reuniting families. Pam Ruschke, an avid and determined researcher in the community, who volunteers at the FamilySearch Library, stepped up to the plate and within two days had found the family. Her thorough research included sources, photographs, and interesting dialogue. We commend her for her outstanding research abilities and personal interest in connecting families.
Contact was made with Chad Jones of Ainsworth, who is a direct relative. He assured us that Lex, his father, and Terry, his uncle, would be most anxious to receive the Bible. A 4.5-hour trip was arranged to meet the Jones family of Kaslo and Ainsworth, British Columbia, and to give them their family Bible. Pam Ruschke, Maryjoy Harris, and Sandy Leavitt, family history researchers, prepared for the personal delivery of the Bible that had been mailed from Scotland to Canada.
There is joy to be found in family history participation
Upon receipt of the Bible, the family stood in reverenced awe as pages were tuned and inspected. Gratitude filled the air. The great-granddaughter of Ann Latham, Casey Jones of Kaslo, in soberness said, “We didn’t need to travel to find our family, they came to us.” It was a joyous occasion in which William Dunbar, in Scotland, shared the experience via FaceTime. He saw his incredible gift being presented to Latham descendants. He saw the happy ending to the journey of a Bible that is more than 150 years old that contains the handwriting of Latham family ancestors.
A binder to accompany the Bible was also presented to tell the journey of the Bible from England to Scotland and then to Canada. William Dunbar’s research included 186 Latham family members (seven generations) and was documented in family group sheets, ancestral charts, and census records. The binder also included research used to find the Latham descendants that was done by Pam of the Osoyoos FamilySearch Library.
Also helpful were Canadian civil registration documents such as baptism, birth, marriage, death, census records, local newspaper articles, Google searches, Ancestry.com information, and printouts of various websites such as the “Jones Boys Boats” business website. This last site gave us a history of the business and the family which helped confirm that this was the correct family. The research and preparation for the presentation were completed before contacting the Jones family.
Is there anything more important than families and the human connection? Why does finding out about our ancestors touch our heartstrings so profoundly? A great place to find out about how to research your family is through training found at RootsTech.org. The focus this year at RootsTech.org is “Your story is worth remembering.”
Our prophet, President Russel M. Nelson, has stated that “the Lord is hastening His work to gather Israel. That gathering is the most important thing taking place on earth today. (Russell M. Nelson and Wendy W. Nelson, “Hope of Israel” [worldwide youth devotional, June 3, 2018]). (Russell M. Nelson and Wendy W. Nelson, “Hope of Israel” [worldwide youth devotional, June 3, 2018]).
If you are wondering how to start your family history, want to add more sources to prove your records, or if you have hit a brick wall with a family line, perhaps your local FamilySearch Library can help. Visit https://www.familysearch.org/centers/locations/ to find a location near you.