Summary of Jared Pratt Family Association’s Descendancy Search
Prepared by Robert and Matthew Grow
The Jared Pratt Family Association was founded in 1881 by Apostle Orson Pratt to engage in ancestral research, as well as to keep track of the Pratt descendants. Jared Pratt was the father of one daughter and five sons, four of whom joined the early Mormon Church, including Apostle Parley P. Pratt. The five Pratt brothers had 94 children (we currently have extremely limited information about the daughter), of which 58 likely have living descendants. We estimate that Jared has over 40,000 descendants, of which over 26,000 have now been identified and computerized by the family organization. (Additionally, we have documented 8,000 other descendants of Lt. William Pratt, who immigrated to Connecticut in the early 1630’s.) The Pratt Descendants Search was begun in the fall of 1990; over the next year, we gathered the majority of the descendants currently in the database. The relatively short-term goals, which we set, had the effect of immediately motivating people to compile this record; a concentrated effort over a short period of time yielded better results than a more dispersed, longer effort.
I. GATHER PRE-EXISTING DATA
1. Ancestral File: Getting descendancy information from the Ancestral File was a difficult, though necessary, task. No function existed then (or exists now) to facilitate this process; the Church Family History Department assisted us by providing a chart listing all of the descendants of Jared Pratt in the Ancestral File. Using this chart, we then made innumerable pedigree charts, placed the GEDCOMs with the pedigree information in a temporary PAF directory, used the PAF Automatic Match/Merge function, and then made descendancy GEDCOMs and placed them in a permanent database. This served as the foundation for our descendancy database.
2. Published Material: We then searched out all published material on the Pratt descendants, and entered them by hand into our growing PAF database. We found the 1967 book by Arthur Coleman entitled The Pratt Pioneers of Utah, which was an attempt to catalog all of the descendants of Jared Pratt. Coleman found approximately 5000 Pratts, many of whom we already had in our database. We also found branches of the family in other published descendancy books, including a large branch of the family in a book regarding the Driggs.
3. Four-Generation Family Group Sheets: We then printed descendancy charts on each grandchild of Jared Pratt from our database and spent several days in the Church Family History Library searching the family group sheets submitted during the Church’s four-generation program. While the addresses on the family group sheets were too old to be helpful, this effort yielded much new descendancy data.
4. Family Organization Material: The Jared Pratt Family Association had other existing family records which we entered into our computer database. Among these records were four large books of family group sheets and a book which had been kept by the Pratt descendants from 1880 to the 1920’s. The book was first presented to Orson Pratt in 1880; he gave his family a charge to keep track of the descendants of his father in the book, which they did for a number of years.
II. GATHERING NEW DATA
1. Direct Mail: When we began the Descendants Search project, we possessed a mailing list which was almost eight years old; only about half of the addresses were good. We mailed a letter to these individuals explaining who we were, containing historical information about the Pratts, and proposing the Descendants Search project. We also attempted to clearly explain why we felt this project was necessary; since this original group contained mainly members of the Church, this included a discussion of temple work. In later letters to the general family, we discussed temple work much less, as we estimate that 20-30% of the Pratt descendants are not members of the Church. In the original mailing we also included a questionnaire to establish where individuals fit in the family and if they were willing to help. We requested additional addresses of other Pratt relatives; we then mailed our original letter and questionnaire to these additional relatives, who, in turn, provided even more contacts. Additionally, we requested that they send us genealogical information regarding the descendants of Jared Pratt.
2. Targeted Direct Mail: Our next attempt at gathering data was a series of letters in which we divided the family members into descendants of specific grandchildren of Jared Pratt. We mailed these individuals specific letters requesting genealogical information and additional addresses; we included family group sheets to facilitate this process. If the individuals were already in our computer, but with incomplete information, we mailed them copies of their incomplete family group sheets, for them to fill out and send back. We also included a descendancy chart, with the contacts on each line underlined, so people would know who else was receiving our letters, and which addresses we still needed. Also, the descendancy charts allowed people to witness where the gaps were in our records. If we could not determine which grandchild of Jared Pratt a particular individual was descended from, we sent them a more generalized letter, explaining that we could not determine where they fit in the family. We then requested information that would link them in with the family, and we included family group sheets to facilitate this process.
3. Publicity: The key to finding new descendancy information is publicity, both within and without family avenues. We approached the Church and asked that a reunion notice be published in the Church News; this request was denied, but we are convinced that this would have been very helpful in finding more descendants. We also published an advertisement in the two major Salt Lake City newspapers and many other local newspapers throughout the state, announcing the upcoming reunion. However, this produced only a few new contacts. After the reunion, both the Salt Lake Tribune and the Church News ran articles regarding the reunion and the Descendants Search. These articles were more helpful in producing new contacts among the descendants.
4. Phone Books: To further our range of Pratt contacts, we mailed a variation of our original mailing to all of the Pratts in Utah phone books. Though many of these were not descendants of Jared Pratt, the majority were relatives, and this proved an effective way of contacting new descendants.
5. Reunion: In our first mailing, we set a date for a Pratt reunion, which provided an effective deadline for the first phase of the Pratt Descendants Search. The reunion was attended by over 800 people in 1991. At the reunion, we set up two computer displays: the first was a demonstration of PAF, to familiarize family members with the software; the second was a demonstration of the Descendants Search, where family members could proofread or add information directly into our computer database. Also, at the reunion, we made wall-size descendancy charts to help people visualize the Descendants Search project. In lines where there were particularly large gaps, we placed red “HELP” signs to signify that we needed extra assistance on these lines. At the reunion, we also held two large family meetings, one to explain the descendancy research, and the other to organize Pratt ancestral research. The family divided ancestral and descendancy research, and we focused solely on the descendants. We also had historical displays (including the original Pratt descendants book, started by Orson Pratt, on loan from the Church Historian’s Office), sold books and pamphlets regarding the Pratts, and distributed a map marking the Pratt graves in the Salt Lake City Cemetery through the first three generations. We also conducted a reunion in Nauvoo two years later, which was attended by about two hundred family members and stressed the historical connections of the Pratts to Nauvoo and the importance of the descendants search.
6. Grandfather Organizations: We have made attempts to establish working relationships with grandfather family organizations. At first, our Descendants Search project was met by some resistance by grandfather family organizations, who feared that we would usurp their support. To dispel these fears, we have only held reunions every two years, and explained at our first reunion that the purpose of our organization was to enhance the effectiveness of grandfather organizations by providing a central clearinghouse for genealogical and historical information. With a little explanation, most of the grandfather organizations were willing to employ their resources to establish their own descendancy information, which they then willingly shared with us. The grandfather organizations now regularly send us updates (usually only when requested by us) which they are more able to compile because they are in closer contact with the individual families. Many of the grandfather organizations have also provided financial support for our umbrella organization.
7. Temple Work: A project which significantly motivated members of the family was an effort to provide Pratt family names to temples across the country. Family members could request that names be sent to any temple. By so doing, over 2300 deceased individuals received temple work. While some of the temple work was for descendants of Jared Pratt, a majority was found in an 1864 book which had attempted to compile all of the descendants of Lt. William Pratt, the immigrant ancestor of Jared, who was one of the original founders of Hartford Connecticut in the 1630’s. Orson Pratt and his family had done most of the temple work in that book, but a significant amount remained because many of the people in the book were of Orson’s generation, and thus were alive when Orson did the other temple work.
8. Disks: Throughout our project, but particularly at the first reunion, we offered our descendancy information on individual grandchildren of Jared Pratt, either on disk (GEDCOM) or in printed form. We have been reluctant, however, to give any individual the entire database, because we promised the descendants that we would never use the database or mailing list for commercial purposes. We provided the disks for the amount of money it took to make and mail the disks.
9. Ancestral File Submitters: Before we mailed our original letter, we pulled off of the Church’s Ancestral File all addresses of individuals who had submitted information to build the Pratt descendancy data. Though many of these addresses were outdated, the contacts we made through this technique were very valuable, because these submitters already were interested in genealogical work and possessed family history records.
10. Internet: We have made limited excursions in the Internet, but were not technologically equipped at the time to make full use of this resource. However, we are convinced that the Internet can be a key area for finding descendants and new contacts, particularly those spread over a wide geographic area and those who do not have contact with the Church. We are currently preparing a Home Page, and we are currently having a family discussion on how best to distribute the database to ensure privacy. Our tentative solution is similar to the Church’s Ancestral File: no addresses, no phone numbers, no information on descendants who may still be living. With the proliferation of access to the Internet, we are confident that individuals can be found in every family who are competent to use this resource.
III. ORGANIZATION STRUCTURE
1. Leader: To lead a descendancy search project, a leader is needed who ideally has credibility, both within the family and within the community.
2. Database: We used one individual who consistently oversaw the database, who became familiar enough with the data to recognize inconsistencies, and who was able to tie in the various sources of data. A single individual, or small group of individuals, is necessary to oversee the database so that familiarity with the database is achieved, which allows the “big picture” to be seen. Additionally, this increases the accuracy of the record because all changes must go through a very limited number of individuals who are able to know the history of other changes to the database.
3. Submitters: We currently have a mailing list of 2200 people, and approximately 400 individuals have gathered and submitted information to the central database. The key to doing descendancy work on large pioneer families is not expert research by a small cadre of genealogists; rather, it is locating and involving as much of the family as possible, whose personal family records are able to fill the holes in the record.
4. Financial support: To avoid taking the funding from grandfather organizations, and in an effort to include those who could not contribute monetarily, our dues were strictly voluntary, with a suggested ten dollars per reunion for those who attended. Most of the financial resources were donated by one family.
1. Ancestral File: With a few minor modifications, we believe that Ancestral File can better facilitate descendancy research. First, there is no simple way to obtain descendancy data from the Ancestral File. The ability to make GEDCOMs of descendants (a feature that PAF currently has) would greatly speed this process, while still protecting privacy. Second, the ability to print descendancy charts past five generations would also be helpful. Third, a feature that would allow you to access all of the submitters on a particular descendancy would greatly improve the process.
2. Personal Ancestral File: Some other genealogical software, such as Family Tree Maker, has features which PAF does not, which would facilitate descendancy research. For instance, the ability to link a mailing list and a computer descendancy database, which Family Tree Maker allows, would aid the process. Also, a field in the PAF screen to allow a submitter or number of submitters to be listed would be helpful; when a database is built from literally hundreds of submitters, it would be good if individual submitters could be listed on individual records.