We have been fascinated with the unique ways groups use the Map-N-Tour tool and wanted to share their stories.
The Historical Pioneer Research Group based in Omaha, Nebraska has created the “Crossroads to the West” and “Mormon Pioneer Cemeteries” virtual tours. We interviewed Terry Latey project administrator for the two tours. The genesis for this non-profit group began twenty years ago in an effort to search Mormon pioneers’ names and histories and share them with descendants and other interested groups. Local historians and others wanting to preserve the history of the area joined together to create a database of names and locations. The research expanded with the addition of projects done in the area by Brigham Young University, and support by the LDS Church History Library. “Our early LDS database website (http://earlylds.com/) is genealogically focused,” explained Latey. “To really tell the story we needed to go beyond the people to the places and events. It was at Thurman, Iowa three years ago when we saw a presentation using the Map-N-Tour software that it really dawned on us that this tool was the key to sharing all the information we wanted to share.”
Terry says their audience has expanded. “Many in the area, share in the legacy which is the history of the Mormon pioneers whether of that faith today or not. And interest grows among the descendants of these noble people. People have come to us with information about cemeteries we haven’t known about because there is now a place to put the information. Once the tours came online people with many different interests are paying attention. Our audience has expanded to those who are interested in history as well as cemetery research – pioneer cemeteries in particular. Some groups are becoming more focused on cemetery research spurred on by our project.”
Latey says their vision has also expanded. “We want to expand our cemetery project to include all the trails across the state of Iowa and down into Kansas, Missouri, and other different places along the trails.” This October they plan to hold a webinar to discuss this expansion in hopes of identifying graves along the trails. Anyone interested in collaborating or has relevant information is invited to contact them to participate. “I now know what it feels like to have this spirit of collaboration and cooperation with the groups in our local area, but I can’t imagine how powerful it would be to have that with groups all along the trails in several states!”
The Historical Pioneer Research Group has found their virtual tours “enormously helpful” in accomplishing their goals. When visitors to the area ask where certain historic locations are, they are able to pull up the map and show them. In June they spent a week doing field research and ground penetrating radar. Four days out of that week they met with people who knew of burial sites that the HPRG was unaware of and wanted them documented on their map. A specific goal for the tours is to allow people to have a sense of “being there” as if they were at the place. Latey says, “Viewing a location online is exciting, but to have it on a mobile device while standing there and hear someone like our local historian Gail Holmes explain what happened there, is very powerful. When he says ‘Look to the north or the south,’ you can do that and be in the place where the pioneers stood. Even though Gail may not be there personally, people will have access to his expertise.’”
Today, this small but dedicated group has interacted with a number of historical and genealogical organizations throughout the Middle-Missouri River Valley and feel like using the Map-N-Tour tool to preserve and share the information has opened many doors to make this a collaborative effort. If you have information to share or want to participate in the upcoming webinar on October 26th, please contact Terry Latey at email@example.com