The story of Catherine Horner

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The Story of Catherine Horner

“There is something contagious about her smile, something cheerful about her attitude; she has learned the secret of being happy.” – Gordon B Hinckley

Throughout her life, Catherine Horner acted as a committed disciple of Jesus Christ. Born on 9 August 1907 to Thomas and Emily Horner, in Wollaston, near Stourbridge in Worcestershire, Catherine was one of eight children. The first link between the Horner family and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints occurred with the baptism of Catherine’s mother, Emily, on 10 April 1904. Catherine’s father, Thomas, shortly followed Emily’s example and was baptised on 19 June 1904, with other family members joining later.

Catherine’s abilities and interests were broad, and inclusive of the arts. Two poems were submitted to the 1930 centenary celebrations of the founding of the Church.1 By 1932, Catherine had moved to London. It was during this time that she won a poetry competition between the London and Birmingham districts. The winning piece was entitled ‘Nature Speaks’, a poem that communicates that God lives and that He can be found in the world around us.2

During this time, Catherine could be found at the heart of activity and leadership.3 On 13 April 1934, she became president of Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association.4 In 1935, Catherine was one of the leaders behind the organisation of the British Mission’s first Mutual Improvement Association conference in Kidderminster.5

The centenary celebrations of 1937, commemorating the arrival of the Church in Britain, were a time of personal satisfaction and celebration for Catherine. Her poem, ‘To President Heber J. Grant,’ won the centenary prize and Catherine had the opportunity of reading it to him.6

The following year, Catherine was asked to work for the Genealogical Society of Utah and to assist American members in their genealogical research.7 Catherine moved to London, where she trained in genealogy and began conducting searches on behalf of North Americans. She gained a strong testimony of the importance of family history. During February 1940, after two years of training and working as a genealogist, Catherine moved to Edinburgh. Having a trained researcher to help in genealogical research, at an affordable price meant many more families could stretch their family trees further back in time. Her appointment to Scotland led Catherine to becoming a British Mission genealogical supervisor.8

(Picture) Catherine Horner, far right, British Mission Relief Society presidency secretary, c. March 1933.9

While working in England, Catherine charged between five shillings and ten pounds for her services as she travelled to various parishes and institutions locating records. However, in Scotland it was far easier, as Scottish records were held centrally at Borthwick.10 Catherine was able to access records that would have been impossible for most other members. Catherine declared, “I like my work very much. I have great satisfaction in knowing that the people I trace are being baptised into the Mormon faith.”11

Despite the seriousness of the work, humour can be found in the most unlikely of places when searching historical records. In 1969, at the age of 62, Catherine wrote an article for The Improvement Era, where she catalogued witty, humorous, and strange finds she had made over the years.12 For example: “Married at Marown after a tedious courtship of nine days, Thos Collister of the Hew, Rushen, a sporting widower of 60 to Mrs Ann Lewin, a bouncing widow of 50 of Marown. Five weeks have scarcely escaped since the bridegroom buried his former rib.”

Following her mother’s death on 4 December 1947, Catherine set sail for America from Southampton, arriving in New York on 10 December 1947.13 Her stated occupation on her entry documents was genealogist. One month later, on 4 January 1948, now settled in Salt Lake City, Catherine was endowed. In June 1949, Catherine was sealed to her parents, both of whom had been unable to make their temple covenants before they died. In Utah, Catherine continued to be involved in genealogical research and in teaching others how to do their family history.14 In addition, Catherine pursued undergraduate studies at the University of Utah, graduating in 1957 with a major in Latin.

For most of her life, Catherine, although English, was a leading authority on Scottish genealogy.15 On 1 December 1974, at the age of 67, Catherine died in Salt Lake City, and was buried in Salt Lake City Cemetery. Catherine left behind her a rich example and legacy of gospel living and of Christian service.