Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Family history moment: A diligent search

Published: Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013

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It was an interesting question from a cousin: "Do you know where the grave is of our Mormon pioneer ancestor who died while serving a mission in England?" When I was a young man my parents once told me that I had a relative who had crossed the plains as a Mormon pioneer and later died while serving a mission in the British Isles, but until this inquiry I had never really investigated the matter.

Using several Church-related websites I soon learned that my pioneer missionary and second great-grand-uncle, Jesse Yelton Cherry, was born in 1840 in Illinois. The website Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel stated that Jesse traveled with his family from Nebraska to Utah in 1847 in the Charles C. Rich Company. The book Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia mentioned that Elder Cherry was "set apart for a mission to England by Apostle John Taylor and arrived in Liverpool" on July 1 by way of the steamship Virginia. He "labored in the Norwich conference" and the "Nottingham conference" and served "faithfully in the land, gaining the confidence of the saints. He was seized by smallpox May 7, 1865," and although "every effort was made to retard its progress" it was "without avail. Bro. Cherry died May 20, 1865, and was buried the following day in the Nottingham cemetery." Also, the Deseret Weekly News of August 15, 1896, reported that an LDS Church member "visited the grave of Elder Jesse Yelton Cherry" in June of that year.

Unfortunately, the specific location of Elder Cherry's grave site in Nottingham became lost over time and no known photograph of his gravestone existed. However, with the help of British consultants at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and the president of the Nottingham Family History Society, Elder Cherry's grave site was eventually located in the "lower northeast section" of the large Nottingham General Cemetery. The Brough Family Organization of Utah then commissioned pictures to be taken of his gravestone, which is weathered but still readable and states: "In affectionate remembrance of Jessie Yelton Cherry from Utah USA who departed this life May 20th 1865 aged 20 years."

Today, a brief history about Elder Cherry and pictures of his gravestone have been placed on the Church's FamilyTree website, which accommodates historical accounts and photographs. Thankfully, modern advancements in communication and technology have now made it possible for my cousin and other family members to learn more about the faith and service of one of the few Mormon pioneers to have ever died while serving a mission outside the United States. — R. Clayton Brough, West Jordan Utah Park Stake