“Remembering Christopher Layton: A Report from an Ancestral Family Organization,” Ensign, June 1982, 27–28
On 8 March 1898, five months before his death, Christopher Layton formed an organization that is still functioning today—the Christopher Layton Family Organization. His posterity has grown to more than 15,000 family members.
What were the purposes for organizing and for continuing the family organization? At that first meeting in Thatcher, Arizona, committees were formed to write Christopher Layton’s life story and to research his genealogy. Since then, the family has worked together to complete those assignments. His autobiography was printed in 1911, and from the 1920s to the 1950s the family did genealogical and temple work for Layton names, although most of them weren’t on his direct lines. In 1958 a committee was also formed to search out his posterity.
On 4 April 1965, a historic family reorganization meeting took place in Salt Lake City. Several goals were set: to hold reunions more consistently, to edit and reprint the autobiography, to bring the posterity lists up to date, and to earnestly seek out the direct ancestors of Christopher Layton. I was appointed family genealogist, and research began. After several research trips to England, we completed the genealogical work on Christopher Layton’s direct lines as far back as we could go—into the 1600s. We printed pedigree charts and family group records and made them available to the family at reunions.
Then when members of the Church were asked in 1980 to verify and resubmit four-generation records, the family organization submitted the records in behalf of the whole family—even records extending beyond four generations. Over the years since our initial research, we have uncovered new facts, dates, and sources of information and are making this material available to the family. And although we went back as far on Christopher Layton’s lines as we could at the time, we’ve now found some more possibilities for further research.
As a large ancestral family organization, we’ve encouraged family members to form their own smaller family organizations. We’ve told them that we’ll take care of genealogical research as a larger family group, but that each smaller organization is to keep the posterity lists up to date and to have frequent reunions to encourage family fellowship and togetherness. Those kinds of activities are more successful on the smaller, more personal organizational levels.
The large Christopher Layton Family Organization generally has a reunion every two years now. The purposes are mainly genealogical. An important part of the all-day reunions is the business meeting, where we let everyone know the status of the genealogical research and where we report on how family funds have been spent. Members of the family have written skits, plays, poems, and songs relating to Christopher Layton and his family and have presented them at reunions. I prepared a slide presentation on his life—and a second one with a “then and now” theme, looking at his homes in his day and what they look like now. We always display documents, pictures, artifacts, and other items relating to him and his family. We have drawn maps showing the location of his homes, businesses, mills, and cemetery lots for tours for family members at the reunions.
We incorporated the organization in 1976 to qualify for a bulk postage rate and to make it possible for family members to deduct contributions from their income taxes. The board of directors includes representatives from each of the nine main branches of the family. Of course ours is a nonprofit organization: all money is used for genealogical research, family reunions, and family history projects. Periodic newsletters—with a circulation of over 1,200—keep family members informed about reunions, activities of relatives, family history, and new genealogical information.