I can't find Phillip Smith. He was born 8 June 1789 and died 27 January 1869 in Utah. I need to find where he was born. I have tried Family Tree and Tracing Mormon Pioneers. I need to find out who he is and when he came to America or where in America he is from. I need to find his family tree.

  • 4
    Some more background will help people to help you. That is particularly important with a very common family name. How do you know the date of birth? What is the source of that information? Does your information on his date of death mention parents or other family?
    – Fortiter
    Jul 28, 2013 at 0:50
  • FindaGrave has a record matching these details -- burial was in Provo City Cemetery. Is this the source of what you know?
    – user104
    Jul 30, 2013 at 12:40

1 Answer 1


Without more information, it is very hard to provide specific help. Anyway, it's not entirely clear why you "need" to find him. Is he a dead end in a tree you are researching?

But given the limited information you have provided, here are some suggestions on how to proceed.

  1. You must have the date of birth and death from somewhere. If it is an obituary or death certificate, there may be other information you can use, such as a wife or child notifying the death, or a list of surviving children in an obituary. If all you have is second-hand information about the date of death, I would suggest going online to search for an obituary or similar. Ancestry.com and other sites have newspaper archives and it’s possible one of them goes that far back.
  2. Once you have a little more information about family members, it should be possible to work backwards using other records in Utah. These could include Census records, electoral rolls or town directories.
  3. Because Smith is such a common name, you will almost certainly find multiple candidates at first. That's inevitable. Narrow down your candidates, perhaps using some of the techniques suggested in the question of mine titled Managing the Multiple Maybes. Some useful ways to narrow down include:
    • ruling out candidates in the 1860 Census who were still alive in the 1870 Census, or who clearly died in a different year. Remember that the burial and death date need not be the same, so bear in mind that what you have might be burial date, not death date.
    • since you are interested in birthplace, Census records should be quite useful. They include birthplace in most cases, but it's worth knowing that US Censuses of this time usually only record country of birth if not the US.
    • if the likely candidate shows up as foreign born in Census records or obituaries, then you can start checking passenger records, eg on Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org.
    • checking that family members are consistent (bearing in mind that children don't live with their parents forever and people can marry more than once). I am mainly researching people in Britain, but I have found this can be pretty effective.

Finally, remember that others might have got there before. While I never take trees published online at face value, they can often provide useful clues. If your Phillip Smith really was a prominent early Mormon, I'd be very surprised if someone else hadn't already researched his tree.

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