Hi WikiTreers,

Welcome to a new installment of “Meet our Members.” It’s time to get to know another awesome member of our community: Meet Mindy.

Mindy Silva joined us on WikiTree in July of 2017 and is one of our newest Leaders!  She is active as a Mentor, Greeter and Data Doctor and is currently working on launching the new Portugal Project.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

I’ve done a lot of work on my mother’s side of the family. Now I’m focusing on my father’s side. After spending all that time researching New England families, it has been an eye opener. My father is from Hawaii, his ancestors from Portugal. I’ve found the parish records simply fascinating! Each record is handwritten in a parish book. The earlier records (dating back to the early 16th century) are short and heavily abbreviated.

As you move to more current times they started including more and more information in them. Some you can find both sets of grandparents in, where each was born and their occupations. I’ve looked at thousands upon thousands of them now. My experience in the early New England wills has helped me with the older script. My skills at translating them have developed through the course of researching.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Most of my Portugal ancestors came from the Madeira Islands. Some of them came from the Azores. The research approach is different there. I’ve found that keeping a map of the counties handy is a big help. If you can’t find a marriage in Magdalena do Mar, you look to see what other parishes are around there. Unlike some of the small villages I researched in England, where each of the sons went outside of the village to seek a wife; in Madeira a lot of them married in the parish they lived in. Or, at the very least, the same county.

The priests kept extensive records for this purpose. If two people were closer than fourth cousins, they were not allowed to get married without special dispensation from the church. It was not only against the churches’ rules, it was against civil law. For those couples that received such a dispensation it was recorded in the parish books. It really helps with the research to know if they are related somehow.

When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?

My initial interest was as a freshman in high school. I had an assignment (term paper level) to complete a family history. Back then you looked at microfilm and didn’t have the internet for other locations. My maternal grandfather had moved the family from Minnesota to California, due to health reasons. By the time I was a freshman I was living in Oregon. I could not access any ‘local’ records for my family members. That is when I found out that my family did not like to talk about the family and who their ancestors were. Some, I found, simply didn’t know. My mother had always said that that I was French, German, English, Irish and Native American. No mention was made about my father’s side. I had accepted this, but really wanted to know which ancestors had contributed what.

I developed a long-term pen pal relationship with a great-aunt that I am grateful for. Now I only wish I had been given a list of questions to ask her, as she is long gone. I now make ‘books’ up for my mother from time to time, to introduce her to the people that I have found in our tree. She is disabled and not very mobile and is delighted each time she gets one. My mother-in-law has the same passion for genealogy, so we spend a lot of time together looking through dusty courthouse books and talking through our brick walls.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

It’s so hard to pick just one! One of my original favorites was Isabella (Bland) (Austin) Leavitt, a ninth great-grandmother. She was born in England and migrated to Rockingham, New Hampshire. I loved reading about the history at the time. Later I found a photograph on one of those ‘lost photos’ sites. The photographer had made a comment that it was odd she had left the names ‘Bland Leavitt’ when she was clearly not married. She had never gone back to pick up the photographs, and he couldn’t locate anyone with that name combination. It was a descendant of hers and I love to picture her all dressed up, thinking whimsically of her great-grandmother and giving that name.

I wish I had been on WikiTree at that time to document my research progress with her. I suppose she needs to go on my ‘To Do’ list to spruce up! Now I would have to add one from my dad’s side: Alexandrina Amélia da Conceição da Silva Gonçalves Pereira. She was a brick wall that I just kept going back to. She and her husband migrated to Hawaii with several small children when she was twenty-six. They had at least ten children, and I have now proven her name and parentage. I think she was a brave soul for making that journey, and I’m glad that I can honor her by presenting her history on WikiTree.

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down or one you hope to bust through.

Rachel Hodges, a fourth great-grandmother. I just couldn’t get past her on that line and decided to go back and look at the records I had. I posted a question in G2G for help on deciphering the witness at her wedding, hoping it would be a relative. Several people jumped in immediately and helped me get past that block – a special thanks to Frank Gill and Lynda Crackett with that one! I spent hours pouring over records and learning about Seavington, England. It was a wonderful discovery!

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing?

I’ve been on WikiTree since the 26th of July 2017 (hey, I’m almost to my anniversary!). I usually split my time up between cousin collaboration, projects such as PGM and Data Doctors, Mentor  and Greeting help, and browsing through the G2G. Lately, though, a lot of my time was spent working with Susie MacLeod on the new Portugal Project. Susie has been wonderful to work with, and I’ve learned a lot about starting up new projects on WikiTree. There are so many wonderful people on WikiTree that are willing to help or offer advice! The project will be fully launched soon, and we have members poised and ready to take off with the profiles and improve them. Then I can just add it to my list of things I work on and return some of my focus to my other projects.

I’m proud and honored to say that I have been recently promoted to Leader. My hope is to continue helping others on WikiTree so that they can find their own way, and their own treasures, through the exciting journey of genealogy.

What brought you to WikiTree? (In other words, how did you find us?)

I had gotten my dna done through Ancestry.com and posted it on gedmatch.com. In my search to find cousins, it was frustrating to see how many sites didn’t work with the other ones. I could see who I was related to on Ancestry, but not see the dna connection. I could see the dna connection on gedmatch, but not how we matched. After finding some cousins that I now work with weekly, and sometimes daily, it was frustrating that we couldn’t work on the same profiles. I love to help others, and I wanted to just ‘jump in’ on their tree and find records. I searched around the web and found WikiTree, the answer to my prayers! Now several of the cousins have joined WikiTree as well, and we can collaborate. We work together to find records and can leave research notes for the other to pick up on when we stop. I love it!

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree, or which feature(s) do you like the most?

That is another question that is hard to pick just one answer for. I love the collaboration, the forum when you need an extra set of eyes to look at a problem, and the ‘white space’ on a profile. I can put translations for baptisms, write research notes with handy links, search right from WikiTree for further records, and see each source that someone has found for that person. In the US I love the space to put a Residence and a Family section. This allows me to easily see if the migration pattern matches the children’s birth locations. It also makes it easier for me to then grab information and inline citations for creating the ‘story’ portion of the biography.

If you could improve one thing about WikiTree, what would it be?

It should come with a warning sticker: Warning, this site can cause extreme genealogy addiction, add to communication, fill up your email box, encourage you to help perfect strangers, teach you about projects you never knew you were interested in, and can lure you deep into family rabbit holes. Just kidding, but it has become one of my favorite passions! As my email signature says “So much to Wiki, so little time…”

What is an example of how WikiTree has helped you with your genealogy or how you’ve helped genealogy with WikiTree?

I think I’ve covered most of the answer to this question. In the past I have always enjoyed helping others. I take photographs for FindAGrave, index records for FamilySearch, help DAR members and prospective member find records, and now collaborate with others on family members – mine or theirs. WikiTree has been a wonderful experience, and it has added to my perspective on research immensely!

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Read through the G2G often! I found out so much this way when I first started. I pasted the links to answers, or pages like Stickers, in my Scratchpad on my Nav Home Page and it helped me learn my way around WikiTree. Now I feel like an ‘old pro.’


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Hi WikiTreers,

Welcome to a new installment of “Meet our Members.” It’s time to get to know another awesome member of our community: Meet Saundra.

Saundra became a WikiTreer in August of 2017.  She spends a great deal of time adding to and improving our Ohio profiles.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Right now I’m working on my Murchland and Van Sickle ancestors.  I have the wills for the Murchlands but don’t yet know how they are all connected.  With the Van Sickles, they moved around a lot and changed the spelling of their names so much that I’m having to deeply research the locations to find connections.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

I’m working the entire state of Ohio and profiling the early settlers of each town, township, and county.  Right now I’m in Jackson county which led me to create a special category for Welsh Settlements in Ohio.  That is a perfect companion to the African American Settlements in Ohio which I started to record the freed slaves who relocated in the state.  It all will come together when I get farther along with my work in Ohio.

I’m also presently working the pioneers of “Ten Mile Country”.  This will hopefully fill in some of the blanks with my own ancestors.

When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?

My Aunt Jan did all the preliminary work for my direct ancestry.  She took our line back to James and Mary (Lafferty) Stuart of Cow Pasture, Virginia the hard way.  Door to door, cemetery to cemetery, and handwritten letters to county court houses. . . it took her years to accomplish what I can accomplish in a handful of hours today.  Today, many people are using her work without knowing how hard it was or how long it took for her to accumulate.

Aunt Jan saw my interest in our history on a trip to Point Pleasant when I was about 12 and she planted a seed in  me hoping I would  take up where she left off.   Apparently,  I wasn’t the only family member she touched, either.  Since I’ve now the time to work the ancestry I’ve found many cousins who’ve built on to her original work.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

That would be my Dad.  He’s West Virginia hill people through and through and it makes me proud to be descended from Appalachian Scots-Irish settlers.  But, other than Dad, I don’t have a favorite ancestor.  Some people have more interesting lives than others and it’s just fun to learn more about them.  I’m always amazed when a woman has more than 6 children.  I love the families who left their established towns and moved to newly opened territory. . . the courage it took is a testament to the human race.

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down or one you hope to bust through.

Working the African American Settlements in Ohio is tough.  The records are scanty. . . the names aren’t complete. . . and there’s little chance of tracing them back to their origins.  Alex Haley was very lucky.  With so-called “brick walls” of Caucasians, I figure time and collaboration will eventually open doors and family Bibles so I just tell myself that the universe will help fill in the blanks and keep on truckin’.

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing?

I’ve been on WikiTree a little over a year and I’ve learned that I have Genealogical ADD.  I’ll work a specific name or location for a time then, when everything starts mushing together in my brain, I move to another name or location.  I keep my overall focus on mine and my husband’s family and the state of Ohio so I don’t stray too far and can easily come back and continue previous work.  Since I have the entire northern half of Ohio still to work, I figure I’ll be fine for at least another year.

What brought you to WikiTree?

That was my Dad.  I was floundering looking for a decent free site to work and Dad said he liked WikiTree.  I signed up almost immediately and began working.

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree, or which feature(s) do you like the most?

I love the freedom.  I can add backgrounds, photos, sources, and even music and videos if they add to the profile of the person.  My husband and late father-in-law are musicians and I was free to add their music through YouTube videos.  Bob Evans, the late pork and restaurant mogul of Ohio, has a video series so I added that.  I can connect unrelated persons who traveled together to settle a specific area.  We can really flesh out history on WikiTree.

If you could improve one thing about WikiTree, what would it be?

Right now, there’s so many profiles on WikiTree that I’d change the name search protocol.  When searching to see if an early settler is already on WikiTree–“John Russ” for example– then John Ross, John Rust, John Russo, etc. shows up and barely 100 years are covered on the search page.  I have to go to the bottom and ask specifically for “John Russ”.  It would save time and confusion if I had to specifically ask for similar surnames rather than having to specifically ask for exact surnames.

What is an example of how WikiTree has helped you with your genealogy or how you’ve helped genealogy with WikiTree?

I hope I’ve helped genealogy by being specific.   Aunt Jan taught me that it’s “Location, Location, Location”.  There are thousands of John Smiths in New Jersey and if you don’t know their exact location you can’t know if it’s your ancestor John Smith.  So, I work hard to make sure that I narrow my locations to the smallest common denominator possible to help those who see the profiles know if it’s their ancestor.  If I can find the information, I will give a street address of the deceased person.  (I prefer not to work on those born after 1910 if I can help it.  I don’t want to mess with privacy issues.)

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Just go for it!  Create, Learn, Have Fun!  In the short time I’ve been here I’ve learned so much from other profiles and, more importantly, from the other genealogists here.  It’s OK to make mistakes because everyone knows what it’s like to be new at this.  Like it says on the page. . . Be Bold!


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Hi WikiTreers,

Welcome to a new installment of “Meet our Members.” It’s time to get to know another awesome member of our community: Meet Bonnie.

Bonnie Saunders became a WikiTreer in February of 2015.  She likes to participate in our weekly challenges and is very active in our Spain Project.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

I am researching six family lines: Saunders/Sanders, Alford/Alvord, MacLeod, Ball, Simmons/Simon, Kousch/Kausch.  I’ve been able to trace their movements once they came to the New World in the 17th-19th centuries but have not found many documents from their areas of origin, namely England, France, Germany, Netherlands & Scotland.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Apart from the places mentioned above, I have looked into New England and Michigan settlements since a lot of my family’s history occurred in or near those areas.   I have spent time also researching Spain. My husband and daughter were both born in Spain and I’ve lived in the country for almost 47 years, which has led me recently to join the Spain Project led by Susie MacLeod and Wendy Sullivan.  I heartily recommend it to anyone who has family roots in Spain and/or who is interested in the country!

When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?

My interest began one morning when I was looking for my Aunt’s obituary.  I hadn’t been in touch with my mother’s family for years and while I figured my Aunt must have passed away, as indeed she had, I decided to look around the web.  I quickly found the information, and one thing leading to another, I started looking up other family members. Soon I connected to popular genealogy haunts – mainly Familysearch.org. Ancestry.com and WikiTree.com – and before I knew it, I was knee-deep in censuses, Find-a-Grave searches and quaint town histories. With the internet, I had scores of puzzle pieces easily within reach, what was lacking, unfortunately, was background information about who my family is.  I see now, how very little I know about my ancestors, and am truly sorry I never took the time to quiz my parents and grandmothers about those who preceded me. It took a fluke search to bring some of that family history to the surface but I’m having fun piecing it together!

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

I have a lot of favorites, although I must admit that I’ve found myself quite enjoying the Alford family.  It would appear that the Alfords arrived on New World shores early from England, one Benedict Alvordborn around 1619 in Whitestaunton, Somersetshire, England, died in 1683 in Windsor, Hartford, Connecticut.  How he got there or the exact date of his arrival remain mysteries, but from there on out, the English colonies in America were blessed with colorful Alford/Alvord family members.  They were a flamboyant family, educated people who had a penchant for religion (several were Reverends). All in all, I’ve found them to be an unconventional and refreshing collective!

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down or one you hope to bust through.

There are a couple of brick walls, more like barricades, that I haven’t been able to breech, but the one that bothers me the most is the parentage of Green Saunders, (1767-1845), who was my fourth great grandfather.  I’ve combed the internet, read histories about the towns he was in – St Lawrence, Nicholville, and Dickenson, New York – and even have a Family Bible where he appears with his wife Sarah Chamberlain …. but the documents that link him definitively to his parents have eluded me up to now.  

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing?

I joined WikiTree in February of 2015 and started building profiles the following September. Since then I’ve been working on and off in WikiTree, primarily on my own family.  In 2017, I participated in the October Source-a-Thon, and this year in the April Spring Clean-a-Thon. I have also worked on some 10 or so Weekly Challenges in 2018. As mentioned earlier, I just joined the Spain Project, and am a member of the Profilers Team in that group.

What brought you to WikiTree? (In other words, how did you find us?)

It was a happy coincidence, I was looking for information on the web and WikiTree popped up in my queries.  

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree, or which feature(s) do you like the most?  

The database is very well designed.  A lot of thought and effort have gone into streamlining it and improvements are being made continuously.  It’s all rather amazing! One thing that never ceases to mystify me is how well it handles merges. The relationship finder is a delightful tool, as well.  The philosophy behind WikiTree is innovative: in most genealogy sites you are obliged to wade through countless trees, because your one ancestor appears in a myriad of different user posts, but in WikiTree, there is just one entry, or at least there should be! (which is why there are merges.).  The WikiTree Community is a boon in itself, people are gracious and helpful and are extremely generous with their time and expertise. Last, WikiTree will be here when we are all long gone, I appreciate that continuity.

If you could improve one thing about WikiTree, what would it be?

I wouldn’t mind having fields for the Cemetery Name and Cemetery place, and maybe even a third for the Memorial # (if it’s a Find a Grave entry), and since there’s no harm in wishing, ditto for Baptismal info, Church name and place.

What is an example of how WikiTree has helped you with your genealogy or how you’ve helped genealogy with WikiTree?

I have had several people contact me via WikiTree about specific ancestors, asking for information or scans, and they in turn have provided me with all kinds of useful data, anecdotes and pictures that have enriched the profiles I’ve posted.  One such story happened in January 2018, when a person who was renovating an old house in Ypsilanti, Michigangot in touch with me.  He was researching the previous owners, had come across some of the profiles I manage and e-mailed me, requesting information about the family and any old pictures I had of them or the house.

My father’s family had built the house themselves (they were carpenters), in the 1860’s, and only they had lived there until my grandmother died in 1974.  It’s a home we all loved and enjoyed, and had fond memories of, but it was my understanding that it had been torn down after her death. Much to my glee, not only is it still standing, it’s being lovingly restored. We were able to exchange ample information, I provided the “before” pictures and the new owners the “after” images, and all of this was possible thanks to WikiTree.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Previously, I expressed my regrets that I hadn’t asked my family enough about where we came from.  If you are lucky enough to have family still living, don’t make the same mistake, and talk to them now before chapters are irreversibly closed.  


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Alfonso I of Portugal (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

July 25 was apparently a big day for crownings and successions!

Other notable events that happened on this day:

What happened in YOUR family on this day in history?  Check your anniversaries and find out!  Any births, deaths or marriages? Share their profiles on social media so your family can remember your ancestors too!

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On July 24, 1847, after walking 1031 miles, Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers reached the Salt Lake Valley in Utah.  Fleeing persecution, they took that difficult journey and in the years that followed, 70,000 men, women and children charted similar paths to the West.  They uprooted their lives and took an incredible leap of faith into the unknown.

Do you have pioneer ancestors in your family history?

Other notable events that happened on this day:

  • 1567 – Mary, Queen of Scots, was forced to abdicate and was replaced by her 1 year old son, James VI
  • 1802 – Alexandre Dumas was born in Paris, France
  • 1862 – 8th President of the United States, Martin Van Buren died in Kinderhook, New York
  • 1897 – Pilot Amelia Earhart was born in Santa Fe, Kansas
  • 1911 – Explorer Hiram Bingham III rediscovered Machu Picchu
  • 1980 – Actor and comedian Peter Sellers died in London, England

What happened in YOUR family on this day in history?  Check your anniversaries and find out!  Any births, deaths or marriages? Share their profiles on social media so your family can remember your ancestors too!

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