Archibald F. Bennett

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Archibald F. Bennett was best known for his longtime work with the Genealogical Society of Utah and came to be known as Mr. Genealogy.

Early Life

Bennett was born on March 17, 1896, in Dingle, Idaho (Bear Lake County). When he was three, his parents moved the family to Magrath, Alberta, Canada, when they accepted a call from Lorenzo Snow to settle there and work on a canal. They moved to Taber in 1907. Bennett graduated from high school in 1914 and received a First-Class Teacher’s Certificate after attending Normal School in Calgary. He taught school until March 26, 1916, when he enlisted in the 13th Canadian Mounted Rifles. He served in France from 1916 to May 1919.

After he was discharged, he taught at Taber High School for one year and then taught at the Knight Academy.

He married Ella Milner in December 1921, then attended the University of Utah during the day and worked evenings in the office of the Superior Baking Company. He took the Civil Service Examination for Postal Clerk and was appointed a clerk. He worked full-time in the Money Order & Registry Division while he continued his education. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1925 and his master’s degree in history and political science in 1926.

Devotion to Genealogy

From the age of 15 when he helped his mother with a Relief Society course in genealogy, he became interested in genealogical research. He published articles in the quarterly of the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1927 and 1928. In September 1928 he accepted an offer to become secretary of the Society and edited the Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine. A year later he was appointed the society’s librarian.

During his work until 1961, he developed the Pedigree Chart and the Family Group Record used by the Genealogical Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also became a research specialist who helped many people with their family research.

When genealogical instruction was incorporated in the Church's Sunday School curriculum in 1940, Bennett became a member of the Sunday School General Board when genealogical instruction became part of the Sunday School instruction of the Church of Jesus Christ and served until 1962. He also began teaching genealogy twice a week at Brigham Young University and continued for 15 years.

He soon shouldered the work of microfilming by the society. He worked with the officials of record repositories in the Eastern United States to obtain permission to microfilm their records in exchange for a microfilm copy of the records they filmed. He eventually helped microfilm records from nine eastern states.

In 1947 he was sent to Europe for four months representing the Genealogical Society in making contacts in England, Wales, the Netherlands, Norway, and Italy for permission to microfilm extensive collections of parish registers, probate, census, and military records. In 1948 he went to Europe again to complete microfilming arrangements in these countries and in Germany, Switzerland, and France, and he also supervised the copying of the Vaudois Protestant records from Italy.

In November 1962 he was elected a fellow of the American Society of Genealogists. In 1963, he was appointed Supervisor of Genealogical Education for the society and throughout the Church of Jesus Christ. He oversaw the selection of BYU genealogical courses instructors and general courses given by the Genealogical Society. He also served on committees of microfilm planning, records approval, education and publication. He was appointed a member of the Priesthood Genealogical Conference Staff, assigned to go with General Authorities to quarterly stake conferences to stress genealogy.

In 1964 the Board of Trustees of the Society approved a branch library program, and Bennett was appointed librarian in charge of the new program. He organized and guided each of the 21 branch libraries that opened between 1964 and August 1965.

While on his way to a priesthood genealogical assignment in Provo, Utah, he suffered a heart attack and died on August 28, 1965.

Publications and Programs

Among his published works was Saviors on Mount Zion, which was used as a Sunday School manual by the Church of Jesus Christ in 1950. He also wrote genealogy manuals for the Relief Society and BYU. His articles appeared in the Improvement Era, The Instructor, and the Church News.

Alexander Schreiner, Tabernacle Organist and fellow Sunday School Board member asked Bennett to write the words for a hymn on temple service for a new hymn book to be published in 1948. "Holy Temples on Mount Zion" was the poem chosen from the two Bennett wrote and Schreiner composed music for it. It is included as hymn #289 in the 1985 Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Bennett presented a series of 42 half-hour television shows on genealogy in 1954 over KDYL-TV, sponsored by Brigham Young University and the Utah Genealogical Society. He was author and moderator of the program, and was assisted by Mrs. Arta Ballif of the BYU Speech Department. "What's Your Name?" demonstrated interesting phases of genealogical research, and the first one featured the pedigree of President Eisenhower. Other interesting pedigrees demonstrating the principles and procedure of research followed.

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