James Winter Petty

Historian, Professional Genealogist, Family Man

James Winter Petty, Class of 1966

James Winter Petty, BYH Class of 1966

Brigham Young High School
Class of 1966

James Winter Petty was born on October 25, 1948 in Fresno, California, to Robert & Medalou Winter Petty.

Jim was the second of six children. Because his older sister Kathleen lived only 3 short days, Jim took seriously the privilege and responsibility in this life of being the eldest to his younger siblings. They include: Cynthia Petty (Tom) Barkume [BYH '69], Douglas (Heidi) Petty [BYH '71], Janice Petty (Steve) Bagley [BYH '73], and Deborah Petty (Brad) Nielsen [BYH '76]. He adored each of them, and they remember him as the kindest big brother one could have.

Raised in Provo, Utah, along with his family and friends in the Park Ward, Jim loved reading, puzzles, camping, fishing, and Scouting, and was a proud Eagle Scout. A gifted artist, Jim received the State of Utah's highest award for a high school artist at his beloved B.Y. High. Self-taught in calligraphy and penmanship, his handwriting and signature were always amazing. He also played the clarinet.

Jim served a full-time mission in Florida for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1967-69.

Upon returning home, Jim enrolled at Brigham Young University where he earned two degrees, in History and in Genealogy Technology. He was a loyal supporter of BYU sports.

While at BYU, Jim's career as a Professional Genealogist began and would span more than 50 years. Early in his career he worked for the Genealogical Society of Utah to identify and secure countless genealogical records from around the country and world.

He helped establish professional genealogical standards. After he founded his own research firm, Heirlines Family History & Genealogy, he provided exemplary leadership in professional genealogy.

While Jim was humble and an unassuming man, he was an accomplished genealogist, serving thousands of clients from all walks of life, all races and ethnicities, the poor and the prominent, including government leaders, business leaders, general authorities of the Church, friends and family.

Jim was known by his peers for his wealth of historical knowledge. He was a mentor and innovator in genealogical research. He served as an expert forensic witness, college professor, noted speaker, and author of numerous genealogical publications, along with thousands of outstanding client reports of findings.

He received recognition for his significant contributions to the genealogy community, including breakthrough discoveries in 17th Century Colonial Virginia Headright Research, Black Slavery Emancipation Research in the Northern States, and Baptisms for the Dead Records.

James W. Petty was particularly accredited for research in the United States New England, United States Mid-Atlantic, United States Gulf South, and United States Mid-South.

Whether you called him James or Jimmy, PC or Jim, Papa or Pa, or Grandpa or Grampy, James Winter Petty was one of the kindest and gentlest men.

He saw everyone through the eyes of love. For those closest to him, he provided the warmest hugs and was always a example of love, patience, humor, and devotion, with a faithful testimony of Jesus Christ.

He spoke no unkind words about others, was without guile, and was full of an unyielding hope and optimism for life. In his final moments, he comforted those caring for him with his last words, "I feel great!"

Not one to seek the spotlight, he had a sharp wit and was always on the ready with an insightful comment that brought smiles.

He wore his BYU sweatshirt to his University of Utah medical appointments. When asked why, he would point to the name of Brigham Young and say, "I am wearing this in honor of the man who founded the U." This is classic Jim!

While Jim was grateful for the professional recognition he received, what truly motivated him was knowing he was serving his Father in Heaven to help unite families throughout eternity. His most cherished moments were the sacred experiences he shared with the ancestors he served in the temples of the Lord.

At BYU, Jim met and fell in love with Mary Ellen Gleason in the original Joseph Smith Memorial Building on November 20, 1969. After nearly three years of dating and college together, they were married and sealed for time and all eternity in the Provo Utah Temple on March 31, 1972.

The following year they welcomed their first descendant as they began growing their own family tree.

Jim loved his children and had a special relationship with each one. He instilled in them a love for history, reading, art, comics, board games, riddles, and puzzles. He was a Boggle and Scrabble master and had no equal in Pictionary. From his youth on, he was a walking encyclopedia, and enjoyed trivia of every sort. He was a source of fun, wisdom, calm, and comfort during the storms of life.

Therefore, early in the morning of Tuesday, March 31, 2020, you may have heard sounds of celebration as Heaven welcomed home one of their beloved sons, James Winter Petty.

After a valiant 14 ˝ year battle with the aftereffects of open-heart surgery and MRSA, during which Jim received the help of countless nurses, doctors and staff at LDS Hospital, IHC, U Health, and South Mountain Dialysis, and many friends, family, and most of all, his wife Mary. They fought the good fight with him, until he passed at the University of Utah Hospital. Coincidentally, it was on the morning of Jim and Mary's 48th Wedding Anniversary.

That morning he joyously reunited with his parents, Bob & Medalou Petty, his sister Kathleen, and countless ancestors and friends on the other side of the veil. He dedicated his life serving them as a full-time professional genealogist, and through temple service as a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ. Together, they now continue serving to enhance lives worthy of all acceptation.

Jim is survived by Mary, his wife and best friend. They are the proud ancestors to their five children: James Robert (Julie) Petty, Melissa Rosemary Petty (Stathi) Floor, John Niels (Stephanie) Petty, Thomas Russell Petty, and William Lewis Winter (Emily) Petty, and 13 grandchildren: Katie, Mikey, Megan, and Luke Petty; TJ Patton, Alex and Sam Floor; Greg, Ellie, and Rosie Petty; Gil, Roman, and Alice Petty.

On April 2, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, in an intimate gathering of 10 people (his wife, his five children, and four living siblings) and hosts of angels, Jim was celebrated and laid to rest next to his parents at the Eastlawn Memorial Cemetery in Provo, Utah.

James Winter Petty
October 25, 1948 ~ March 31, 2020

Deseret News, May 16, 2020

Professional Biography

James W. Petty, AG, CG was a Board-Certified and Accredited Professional Genealogist, “Climbing the Family Tree Professionally Since 1969”.

He was President of HEIRLINES Family History & Genealogy, Inc. (www.Heirlines.com), a professional genealogy research services firm, providing professionally-standardized and verified genealogical and historical research for a world-wide clientele.
This included individuals, family organizations, professionals, businesses, governments, attorneys, lineage, genealogical and historical societies, enthusiasts and LDS clients.

Prepared through formal professional genealogy education, training and work experience, James W. Petty, AG, CG was a qualified professional genealogy researcher, consultant, educator, author, and an expert witness in the forensic genealogy field.

Petty was awarded the prestigious BCG Education Fund 2005 Donald Mosher Memorial Award. With over 40 years of full-time, commercial-career professional genealogy experience, Petty conducted genealogical and historical research services in the heartland of genealogy, Salt Lake City Utah, the home of the world’s premiere family tree research facility, the Family History Library, as well as utilizing the Internet, print, CD, and onsite global archive research.

He personally identified, documented, and resolved thousands of complex kinship and legal next-of-kin family trees, lineages and pedigrees through in-depth Genealogy Research, LDS Family History Work, DNA Genetic Genealogy, and Forensic Genealogy.

He was qualified in US, Canada, North America, South America, British Isles, Europe, Military, Native American, African American, Immigrant, & Ethnic Heritage ancestry and descendancy research services.

In addition to his responsibilities with HEIRLINES, Petty was active in the growth and development of genealogy both for the professional and the hobbyist.

He taught professional genealogy on the college level at Heritage Genealogical College [www.Genealogy.edu] as well as at local and international family history conferences, institutes and seminars.

A recognized author, contributor, columnist, and reviewer, he wrote extensively in print and online for the professional and amateur genealogist alike, including the Ensign, National Genealogical Society Quarterly, New England Historical and Genealogical Register, The Virginia Genealogist, Magazine of Virginia Genealogy, Heritage Quest, Family Chronicle, Utah Genealogical Society Journal, Evertons, People Finders, World Search and the Petty Papers, in addition to his Turning Hearts column and Ancestors are the People of History series for Meridian Magazine.

As a professional genealogy innovator, Jim created Certified Family Trees, Jamestowne & Colonial Virginia Genealogy & DNA Project, Historical Event Genealogy, Bring History Home, Roots of America, CluesLine, Ancestors are the People of History, and Petty’s Paradigm on Prevaricated Pedigrees.

He was a pioneer in the quest to professionalize the commercial vocational career of genealogy research services as a profession called Professional Genealogy by defining, establishing, and encouraging the professional career track of trusted qualifying scholarly academic education, training, competency, membership, and compliance, best practices, standards, ethics, methodology, technology, and science to benefit the practitioner, the profession, the consumer and the public and private domain family trees.

James W. Petty, AG, CG lived by his motto: HEIRLINES Quality – Professionalism First.

His professional career path included education, training, and graduation: Brigham Young University, B.A. History – 1972 , B.S. Genealogy – 1973; maintained highest professional genealogy industry competency: BCG Board Certification – Certified Genealogist (CG), ICAPGen Accreditation – Accredited Genealogist (AG); 7 years professional genealogy employment LDS Family History Department (GSU) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints researcher, consultant, reference librarian, field operations and records acquisition; self-employed professional genealogy research services practice since 1969; Member in good standing Association of Professional Genealogists APG (National and Salt Lake Utah Chapter), 2006-2007 President of (SLUAPG); Current Business License Sandy; Utah; Member Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce; Accredited Business with Utah Better Business Bureau. Jim was married to Mary, his best friend, collaborator, and puzzle-solving partner since 1972. They are the ancestors of 5 children and 9 grandchildren.

The West Point Kid
West Point Kid

BYH Biographies