In the last three years, the Joseph Smith Papers website has added biographical sketches of more than 300 individuals who interacted with Joseph Smith. The number of biographies on the website now totals more than 950, and the number continues to grow. These sketches give information such as birth and death dates, places of residence, leadership callings in the church, and missions. Each biography also links to the Joseph Smith Papers documents in which the individual is mentioned.
In addition to providing this biographical information as a resource for scholars and historians, the Joseph Smith Papers is collaborating with FamilySearch to connect the descendants of the people listed on the Joseph Smith Papers website with their ancestors. "Though the primary audience for the Joseph Smith Papers is scholars," said Ben Godfrey, product manager for the Joseph Smith Papers website, "an important secondary audience includes members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have an interest in the church's history. This collaboration with FamilySearch helps us reach members of this important audience." The effort will also serve people who are interested in their family history and who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In January 2018, FamilySearch will email over one million people to inform them that their ancestor is listed with more information on the Joseph Smith Papers website. The emails from FamilySearch will show descendants how they are related to these ancestors and how their ancestors' lives lined up with the life of the prophet Joseph Smith. They will also provide the links to the documents on the Joseph Smith Papers website in which the ancestors are mentioned. The purpose of the partnership between The Joseph Smith Papers Project and FamilySearch is to help descendants access documents, stories, and additional information about their ancestors found on josephsmithpapers.org.
The collaboration will also help members in their effort to bring family names to the temple. In January 2015, FamilySearch emailed hundreds of thousands of people who were identified as living descendants of the 600 individuals found on the Joseph Smith Papers website at that time. Hundreds of temples ordinances were reserved and performed as a result.
The collaboration could not happen without the work of team members in the Church History Department and at FamilySearch. This includes the employees and volunteers who researched biographies for The Joseph Smith Papers Project; Paddy Spillsbury and her team of volunteers at the Church History Library, who linked the biographies to the FamilySearch records; Ben Godfrey of the Joseph Smith Papers, who organized the data; and Kathy Warburton, Roger Dickson, and a talented team from FamilySearch, who made the process possible with the FamilyTree database.