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A Mormon in the Family Tree

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 06, 2009

I know little about Nancy Ann Childress (sometimes Childers) beyond the barest genealogical facts:

She was born 10 September 1848 in Clark County, Missouri, the daughter of John Milton Childress and Nancy Conyers.

She married three times, first to James Osburn on 11 February 1868 in Lewis County, Missouri; he disappears from her life within a couple of years, and I don’t know what happened to him. Nancy married again to George W. Armour, on 12 November 1871, in Lewis County. She raised seven children with him before he died on 12 September 1890, still in Lewis County. And third, she married James T. Turner on 21 December 1897, in Lewis County. Nancy outlived this third husband by many years – he died in 1907, and she lived until 1924, when she died in Illinois.

James T. Turner was no stranger to Nancy when they married – he had been married to Nancy’s sister Sarah Catharine (1844-1897) in 1861, and they raised to adulthood nine of the ten children born to them.

In February 1877, James and Sarah Turner had became members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and both of them remained true to their conviction of the gospel restored by Joseph Smith to the end of their lives. Sarah’s obituary notes that “she has been one of [that church’s] most active and valued members” in the family’s hometown at Deloit, Iowa. James’s obituary identifies him as a teacher, as a traveling elder, and finally as “president and pastor” of the RLDS branch at Deloit. “He loved the religious and Sunday school work and was teaching a class of young people in the Sunday school … He always attributed [his] success on the farm to Christianity, his motto being “to live honestly and upright before all men and to owe no man.” At his funeral, “the draped pulpit showed the vacancy left by the Pastor.”

When the widowed Nancy Ann Childress Armour married the widowed James T. Turner, she and her youngest child moved to James’s Deloit home. Nancy joined the RLDS church; her RLDS membership record followed her for the rest of her life, and so far as I have any reason to believe, she was a sincere member of that church and a follower of Joseph Smith through the rest of her life.

So what? Keepa doesn’t usually highlight members of Restoration churches other than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Why this exception?

Well, it has to do with those bare genealogical facts.

By her marriage to George W. Armour, Nancy Ann Childress was the mother of

Harry Ellington Armour (1874- ), who was the father of

Ruth Lucille Armour (1900-1926), who was the mother of

Stanley Armour Dunham (1918-1992), who was the father of

Stanley Ann Dunham (1942-1995) who was the mother of

A son born in 1961 … who was recently inaugurated as President of the United States of America.

[Late edit: Readers recognize the son, but for the sake of search engines and those seeking information about the Mormon proxy baptism of his mother, he is of course Barack Obama.]



40 Comments »

  1. awesome. this is great information.

    Comment by amanda — May 6, 2009 @ 6:07 am

  2. How wonderful! Thanks for researching this and posting it. So does this mean whoever had Ann Dunham’s temple work done was related (I hope)?

    Comment by Tatiana — May 6, 2009 @ 6:14 am

  3. Well isn’t that something? Send that to the White House–maybe they’ll put it in the purple folder.

    Comment by ESO — May 6, 2009 @ 6:26 am

  4. What is the allusion to a purple folder?

    Comment by Eric Boysen — May 6, 2009 @ 6:55 am

  5. Wow. Great stuff.

    My parents and grandparents (and my wife’s also) have done a great work in geneology. Our local over-zealous family history center director asked us to come in and review where we were at in terms of our geneology. Since we had so many names, so far back, she recommended picking somebody and working back ‘down’. I could see where this would cause our family trees to get pretty darn wide. We could then sort of zig-zag back up, and be doing geneology work for people that really aren’t all that related to us any more. Don’t know quite what to think of all that.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — May 6, 2009 @ 6:56 am

  6. The church rule is that you don’t submit the name of a relative who was born less than 95 years ago *without getting permission from the nearest living relative* — President Obama in this case — which is unlikely to have been done. And in any case, since the RLDS/Community of Christ do not recognize any form of proxy ordinance, it is unlikely that any of Nancy’s descendants would have submitted the name.

    Besides the unexpected fact that one of President Obama’s ancestors was a follower of Joseph Smith, my point in posting this is that family networks are far more complex and surprising than most people realize. Just because someone doesn’t have an immediate family member who is LDS doesn’t mean they don’t have an *extended* family member who is LDS. Sometimes when non-members complain that their grandparents’ temple work has been done, they forget that they aren’t the only descendants of those grandparents: they may very well have Mormon relatives whom they don’t know.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 6, 2009 @ 7:00 am

  7. Eric, in every family, in almost every generation, there are people who have no descendants, either because they didn’t marry or didn’t have children who survived infancy.

    Who can those people look to for temple blessings, if not their great-nephews or their third cousins?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 6, 2009 @ 7:04 am

  8. Eric, I didn’t know about the “purple folder” either, until I googled (see here for one of several results). A member of President Obama’s staff apparently picks ten letters received from random ordinary citizens and puts them in a purple folder on the president’s desk daily for him to read as a way of staying in touch with the thoughts of Americans other than the insiders he’s surrounded by all the time.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 6, 2009 @ 7:31 am

  9. very nice, Ardis.

    Comment by Frank McIntyre — May 6, 2009 @ 7:50 am

  10. Nice work, Ardis.

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 6, 2009 @ 9:39 am

  11. How do you do this, Ardis??

    Comment by Mark B. — May 6, 2009 @ 9:44 am

  12. She has the history gods on her side. She appeases them with obscure rites that involve burying oneself in dark dungeons filled with endless rows of shelving, and riffling through reams and reams of inked cellulose, or so legend has it.

    Comment by Tatiana — May 6, 2009 @ 10:09 am

  13. Shhh! You make it sound so enticing, Tatiana, that everybody will want to get in on my gig! :)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 6, 2009 @ 10:25 am

  14. Nice work, Ardis. Has the LDS church presented Obama with his family history?

    Congratulations on a terrific first year at Keepapitchinin. You’ve shined.

    Comment by Justin — May 6, 2009 @ 10:48 am

  15. I haven’t seen any news reports of the church having done that yet, Justin, although since they’ve given family histories to so many other public figures it won’t surprise me if they do at some point. The specialists the FHL assigns to those projects are so good that it also wouldn’t surprise me a bit if they discover this connection independently.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 6, 2009 @ 10:59 am

  16. “She has the history gods on her side. She appeases them with obscure rites …riffling through reams and reams of inked cellulose, or so legend has it.”

    So, you’re saying all these hamsters I’ve been sacrificing have died in vain?

    Comment by Edje — May 6, 2009 @ 11:16 am

  17. Impressive stuff, Ardis. Thanks!

    Comment by Anne (UK) — May 6, 2009 @ 11:33 am

  18. […] History extraordinaire Ardis Parshall notes that there *are* Mormons in Obama’s mom’s past. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Mormons Asked To Stop Baptism For Holocaust […]

    Pingback by I don’t get the whole fuss with baptisms for the dead « Irresistible (Dis)Grace — May 6, 2009 @ 11:47 am

  19. Great story, Ardis. However, there are even more Mormon connections in President Obama’s family tree. The President’s grandmother on his mother’s side is descended from Allreds who settled North Carolina. Some branches of the Allreds, including my own, moved to Missouri and joined the Church in 1832. The Allreds were very prolific and there are literally tens of thousands of Allred descendants who are Latter-day Saints. You can check out the connections at http://www.allredfamily.org (sorry, I couldn’t get the link to work).

    I was quite delighted to learn that President Obama and I are eighth cousins.

    Comment by blueagleranch — May 6, 2009 @ 11:54 am

  20. I would be, too, blueagleranch. I really enjoy puzzling out the connections, and it almost doesn’t matter to whom — if I can’t take credit for somebody else’s achievements, I also don’t have to take blame for their failures. It’s tracing the connection that I enjoy, both for the intellectual exercise and because it reinforces for me Joseph Smith’s notions of connecting the whole human family for eternity.

    That’s a fun connection to a widely known Mormon name, too. I hope that anyone else aware of a valid connection will also post. (I accept this is a valid connection because I looked behind the scenes and recognized the trusted name of the commenter. This isn’t a general invitation for comic connections — which are starting to come in to Keepa from unfamiliar commenters apparently brought here because of the kerfluffle in the news.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 6, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

  21. It appears to me that almost all references to Dunham in the Pedigree Resource File seem to come from the same researcher in Reno. He even includes a weblink to his rootsweb.com page at http://worldconnect.genealogy.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?db=geolarson2 .

    His website seems to indicate that publishing the genealogical information of famous people is something of a specialty/hobby of his.

    I don’t know if submitting to PRF automatically submits that names for LDS work or not (I obviously need to get me to a FHC for a class or two) but unless he’s related to all of the celebs it’s not gonna go over well.

    Comment by Chad Too — May 6, 2009 @ 12:19 pm

  22. Hmm. I see what you mean, Chad. A few minutes of exploring his bloated database at Rootsweb suggests the typical trophy-hunting downloader. He may not be the one who submitted the name for temple woork — the Pedigree Resource File is a conglomeration of personal databases submitted by anybody who wanted to contribute, non-Mormons included, which is why there is no attempt to merge duplicates, even when someone has submitted at least three separate versions of his database, as this submitter has done.

    My admittedly incomplete understanding of how the discontinued PRF system worked is that submitting a database did not automatically trigger temple work, but of course once a name appeared at FamilySearch through such a submission, it was in the most convenient place possible to be found by anyone who did want to submit it.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 6, 2009 @ 1:33 pm

  23. Great post. As I read and came to the end (“A son born in 1961 … who was recently inaugurated as President of the United States of America”), I felt like I could hear the voice of Paul Harvey saying, “And that’s! The . . . rest of the story.”

    Yeah, Mark B., that was my question. How did you do this, Ardis? Reveal your sources. [wink]

    Comment by Hunter — May 6, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

  24. Hunter, the secret was written in invisible ink on the back of the blueprints of the Manti Temple, which I stumbled upon while dangling from a jungle vine over a pit filled with hissing snakes when a strange man who looked like Han Solo carrying a bullwhip stopped to ask me for directions to the pyramid at the Louvre. Also, Nicholas Cage was involved, I forget just how.

    You know, sometimes I have to employ every trick I’ve ever learned and still can’t find the answer to a puzzle. Other times, answers are practically handed to me on satin pillows. This time I’m going to leave you guessing. :D

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 6, 2009 @ 3:51 pm

  25. For a more serious answer, Obama’s ancestry is available in multiple places on the Internet, although with some inaccuracies and incompleteness, which you can verify by Googling. The Turner obituaries which provided the first clue to the RLDS connection are available from the Obituary page of the Crawford County, Iowa site of the magnificent USGenWeb project, which I recommend to any family historian. The quality of material varies from county to county, but every state and county in the U.S. has a page within this system, which can be a tremendous boost to local history research.

    From that point, it was a matter of following up the clues in the usual places (RLDS membership records, census, vital records, etc.)

    As to why I was even looking at those obituaries, or how I recognized them as pertaining to Obama relatives, I’m going to have to remain mum.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 6, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

  26. If I said you are incredible, Ardis, it would be redundant and obvious – so I won’t. Pretend I did.

    Comment by Ray — May 6, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

  27. Ardis:

    Some people have the touch, and you have the touch. It is inborn, genetic, instinct, wired-in, and talent from on high.

    Kudos.

    Comment by S.Faux — May 7, 2009 @ 7:40 am

  28. I wish more Mormons knew about this connection since I find many of them hostile to Obama. I don’t think you used his name in your original post. Will people looking for this be able to find it on the web? I think we need to know that one of his ancestors believed in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

    Comment by Jeff Johnson — May 7, 2009 @ 8:41 am

  29. Jeff, that’s a good point. I wanted to avoid using his name in the title so that it wouldn’t tip you off to the punch line — but I should probably go back now and add a postscript for the benefit of search engines.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 7, 2009 @ 8:53 am

  30. Yes, I agree, Jeff Johnson, that more people “need to know that one of [Obama’s] ancestors believed in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.” I know the post got a link at By Common Consent and Times & Seasons, but I’d like to see it disseminated even wider.

    Comment by Hunter — May 7, 2009 @ 10:13 am

  31. Why do people “need to know” that Obama has RLDS ancestors? It certainly does not change my antipathy to his policies.

    Comment by Tom D — May 7, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

  32. Any further comment calculated to spark political rancor will be deleted. No exceptions.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 7, 2009 @ 3:08 pm

  33. Should we also add a reminder then that Lynne Cheney (yeah, his wife) is a descendant of handcart pioneers? Might that reduce the antipathy that some have for her husband’s actions? :-)

    Comment by Mark B. — May 7, 2009 @ 9:08 pm

  34. Mark …

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 7, 2009 @ 9:36 pm

  35. Ok, Ardis.

    But I think I had a point other than just stirring the political pot. If we were to do a bit of digging, we would discover that all political leaders, no matter how odious their views, are actually human beings, related to other human beings, some of whom might be our friends if we were to become acquainted, and some few of whom might even share our faith.

    That sharing is not a sufficient reason for tying ourselves to somebody’s political star, but it should remind us of our common humanity, even with those with whom we disagree most vigorously. [Here, in deference to Ardis’s desires, I’m omitting a short list of politicians whose odiousness knows no bounds, but whose humanity I will grudgingly admit.]

    Comment by Mark B. — May 8, 2009 @ 6:16 am

  36. […] But . . . but . . . he might be a Muslim! Or worse–he might have RLDS sympathies. […]

    Pingback by Obama Cancels National Day of Prayer - Page 6 - LDS Mormon Forums — May 8, 2009 @ 10:52 am

  37. Harry Ellington Armour died on Dec. 5, 1953

    http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=32269227

    Cheers

    Comment by Corey — May 13, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

  38. Wow! Thanks for letting me know about this, Ardis!

    Truman had those odd, near connections being from Independence, MO including a “Young” grandfather – just not of the Brigham-type. (But watch me get in trouble here matching wits with a real historian.)

    I’m sure somebody out there must have done some study on Harry’s acquaintances of the various faiths of the Joseph Smith followers in the area? No?

    Comment by Grant — September 23, 2011 @ 8:35 pm

  39. You’re definitely right about his being the grandson of a Young — Solomon Young — but I don’t think there’s any connection between the Young families, at least not in the nearest several generations. Did you know that Grandpa Solomon Young was a freighter who visited Salt Lake several times? Pres. Truman mentioned that in a speech he gave in the Tabernacle in 1948.

    I don’t know of any study about his acquaintance with any branches of Mormonism. He certainly must have been aware of them/us, but I don’t know of any study. Fun ideas!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 23, 2011 @ 8:50 pm

  40. Yep. I think that was in David McCullough’s book. But somehow I knew you would have a link. Thanks!

    Comment by Grant — September 23, 2011 @ 9:14 pm

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