Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter Day Saints
Kewanee IL Branch
Submitted by Susie Martin-Rott
You'll see many reference to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) in Henry County history, particularly in the Kewanee area. RLDS members broke with the
original LDS after the murder of their leader Joseph Smith. Some of those who did not believe in values
brought to the religion by new leader Brigham Young, particularly poligamy, left the LDS. One of the churches
formed was the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This church, as of 2001, is now known
as the Community of Christ.
The RLDS held regular meetings in Kewanee and many families in the
area were at one time members of the church. My great grandparents were RLDS members, though my great grandfather
caused great controversy within (I'm working on transcribing this "scandal" and will make it available at a later
The RLDS has excellent archives and through them I have found MUCH
information regarding my family and Henry County. If you had family connected with RLDS, or were tracking a group
of Henry County ancestors who seemed to drop off the map in about 1882, they may have been part of a group of RLDS
members who left Kewanee and the surrounding areas and relocated in Lamoni, Decatur County, Iowa.
A community and large RLDS college called Graceland (no, Elvis was
NOT in the building) was established, and the Lamoni area, including Harrison County, Missouri became a new home
for many RLDS members.
The RLDS church records and archives are held at their main
headquarters located in Independence, MO. The archive research services cost is $10.00 an hour (plus 20 cents per
copy) and well worth every cent. Most searches do not exceed $25 total, but should it appear as though yours might,
they will notify you before prodeeding.
Their records are strictly by name and family information is not
"linked" together. You will need to submit each individual name you want them to check, as well as the branch you
think the person may have belonged to. This is usually the branch closest to the town your family lived
The RLDS Archives do have a listing called the "The Early Members of
the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" which was compiled by Susan Easton Black and is an
alpha list of early members and gives some information on them.
I also received copies of several family member's obituaries which
appeared in "The Saints' Herald", the official publication of the RLDS. The obituaries held a wealth of
information, often even including the prayer read at the services for the deceased.
The LDS in Salt Lake City now has old RLDS Kewanee branch records and
minutes on microfilm. It is tedious research as the filmed records had missing and deteriorated pages and are NOT
indexed. There is a wealth of data in them if you have the time and patience to read them page by page. These
records are now available by order at your nearest LDS Family History Center.
"RLDS Local Jurisdictional Records"
Microfilm Rolls 50, 51 and 52
Reel Number 1955601 MO 04810
Some Family History Centers may tell you they don't show these films
on their list. I got the numbers directly from the Reorganized Church and when my FHC ordered the films from the
above information, they DID arrive. Some of the FHC libraries may not be working from the most updated film
If you think your Henry County family may have been part of the RLDS,
you may want to contact their archives at:
Community of Christ
c/o Barbara Bernauer
1001 W. Walnut
Independence, MO 64050
A brief outline for researching was obtained from Barbara, who by the way is an
incredible researcher (I owe a lot of my knowledge of my family history to her diligent work):
We have membership records only for deceased members of the former Reorganized
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Very few early LDS or "Mormon" records.
Our records usually show NO family relationships. (in other words,they are not
grouped as families)
We need surname and first name; date of birth & death, if known; area of
residence, if known.
Best to contact us in writing, e-mail or regular. We will provide information at
that time in detail.
Records are open to research in person. Hours: M-F 8 to 5. Closed on Saturdays
Phone: 816.833.1000 ex 2457 or 2401. Headquarters at Lexington and River,
Special thanks to Barbara Bernauer at the Archives for the updated