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Question #90287 posted on 08/26/2017 12:14 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Do we know who the oldest member of the Restored Church is/was? Meaning, of the people who joined the Church around the Joseph Smith era, who had the earliest birthday? I was just curious because I saw in the hymn book that W. W. Phelps was born in the 1700s. That seems strange but of course makes sense.

--Genealogy, I Am Doing It


Dear Doer,

So originally when I saw this, I had vague ideas of wading through early membership records between 1830 and 1844, comparing birth dates, and presenting you with the oldest one. However, I quickly found out that by the time of Joseph's death in 1844, there were already around 30,000 members. As you can imagine, I abandoned my painstaking record-searching ideas (which was kind of a terrible idea to begin with anyways). But I didn't abandon my non-painstaking record-searching ideas.

To make my search not as painstaking, I decided to look at Joseph's father, Joseph Smith Sr. He was born on July 12, 1771 (W. W. Phelps was born in 1792, by the way), and died in 1840. It's likely that Joseph Sr. wasn't the oldest person to join the early church, so I knew that I was looking at some time before the 1770's. Thanks to this info, I started searching for records of early members born in 1765, and kept on pushing the year backwards.

The likeliest candidate I found for the oldest member was William Andrews, who was born in 1752. Two other possible people were Selah Wells, born in 1750, and Zechariah Clow, born in 1747. However, I hesitate to list them as the oldest members because for Selah, I wasn't able to find his baptism date, leaving the chance his work was done after his death, and for Zechariah, I wasn't able to find his death date, leaving open the same possibility. In William's case, he was baptized before he died, so I can say with certainty that the oldest member of the early church was born no later than 1752.


Note on the above links: I found all my sources on ancestry.com, so unfortunately an account is needed in order to view the records. I did make some attempts to find public records to link to instead, but with no success.