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 Fran.

Fran Weidman became a  WikiTreer in April of 2018.  She’s active in our England Project and loves to spend time connecting people to our global tree.  Fran was also the top scoring winner in our Source-a-Thon a few weeks ago!

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

McHugh, O’Neil, Kirsch, Blum, Fischer, Fletcher, and Graves. To name a few.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Ireland, Germany, Luxembourg, and Lincolnshire, England.

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

My mom kept a baby book from the time I was born. On the page where there should have been a really cool family tree, there were only a few names written down. She didn’t think family history was as important as growing a first tooth. But I begged to differ and would look at that family tree page and wonder – really wonder – who these people were and where they came from. As soon as I was old enough, I began prowling cemeteries and hanging out in libraries every chance I got. So began the addiction.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

I would have to say my great grandfather, Patrick McHugh, and that’s only because he’s one of my biggest brick walls. I guess I had romanticized the whole “coming to the U.S. from Ireland and living happily ever after” thing. Quite the contrary. Supposedly he was dirt poor when he came over, then had to fight in the Civil War. His wife died fairly young and 5 of his children also died young. I’ve learned to admire all the immigrants and the hardships they had to go through. It certainly was not a fairy tale.

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

Well, I can’t take full credit for this one, but it has to be my husband’s 2X great grandfather, Joseph Graves Fletcher, who came from Lincolnshire, England. He was born with the surname of Graves, which we had no idea about, as hubby came from a long line of Joseph Fletchers. I tried going back to Lincolnshire to search and could not find the right Joseph Fletcher, anywhere. We found him with the surname of Fletcher on the ship coming to the U.S., but yet could not find a marriage record. Because he had changed his name back to Graves for  his marriage – then back to Fletcher. I was collaborating with a cousin who figured it out before I did. I told the Fletcher family members that they were originally Graves, and of course now they all hate me.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I enjoy reading just about anything, listening to music, doing various crafts – but most of all gardening. I moved to a small farm from a Chicago suburb 6 years ago and love growing my own food and canning stuff for winter. I’ve become quite the farm wife.

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

I’ve only been on here since April 2018. I really enjoy sourcing, but since the Source-a-Thon, I think I’ve developed Carpal Tunnel, so I have been doing a bit of connecting. I LOVE it. It’s a great challenge, and actually quite fun.

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

I was doing Google searches for ancestors (on and off for several years) and WikiTree kept coming up. I figured it was another bogus family tree site and always skipped over it. One day I decided to check it out, and am very glad I did. I was previously on Ancestry, but I grew tired of it after I found my name on someone’s family tree, being listed as dead since 1975. Not to mention an obscure cousin who wanted to argue with me about my own father’s death date (ummm… sorry dude, but I was THERE!).

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

The PEOPLE, hands down! I love being a part of the England Project and have met so many wonderful people that share the same passion. I also love the concept of “One Big Tree”. Nobody should “own” any ancestor, and that’s the problem with other sites, I think.

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

Hmm… maybe try to convey to new people the importance of sourcing, and that Ancestry Family Trees should never used as primary sources.

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

Thanks to Ros Haywood and the Orphan Trail project, I learned about the GRO indexes, which I had never heard of. Definitely a big deal for me, as I was able to dispute  the notions that my husband was related to some famous painter in London. Which made my in-laws hate me even more!

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Take your time when uploading Gedcom profiles and source as you go along. I didn’t realize what a mess they made until I saw my own.


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Hi WikiTreers,

Welcome to a new installment of “Meet our Members.

Meet Gaile Connolly. Gaile became a WikiTreer in October of 2014 and spends most of her time on our site writing thorough biographies like this one (Devore-1012) and this one (Oliver-8230).

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Gordon, Bresnick, Lichtman, Deitel for my family and Connolly, Lynch, Eichert for my husband’s side.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Lithuania, Hungary, Ukraine, Ireland, Romania.

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

About eight years ago, one of my (adult) grandsons asked about family history.  While trying to answer his questions, I got hooked.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

That’s a tough one because the context of the question suggests that it should be someone too far back for me to have known, but I have not been able to find out anything personal about any ancestors whom I didn’t know personally.  

I suppose I would have to say my paternal grandmother. Although I knew her for the first 20 years of my life, I didn’t really “know” her because she was never all there as far back as I can remember. I have heard all the family stories about her traveling alone from Russia to the United States when she was 12 or 13 years old, then learning English, finding a job, getting married, and being abandoned by her husband when she had two toddler sons.  

About two years ago, from my research, I discovered that there was a good portion of that story that was not true, but the truth still has her overcoming a lot of adversity. I guess that I admire her strength of character, even though it didn’t show through when I knew her; I only wish I had been able to have intelligent conversation with her.

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

“A brick wall” is much too simple for what I have been – and still am – going through.  It’s more like a maze made of brick walls and blind alleys leading to dead ends that have to be broken through, that only lead to more of the maze, followed by another dead end.  Of the ones remaining, I can’t possibly pick just one – all four of my grandparents were immigrants. I am totally stuck at ancestors who remained in the Eastern European countries of their birth (in the cases of my grandfathers, I’m not even 100% sure what countries those are).  I am also just as stuck on my husband’s family as soon as I try to get beyond his immigrant ancestors – one side Irish and the other Romanian.

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

I’ve been here almost four years and mostly add profiles, with as many sources as I can find and writing biographies as full as I can make them.  I also am very appreciative of the incredible genealogy education I have received from so many members with so much expertise and try to pay it forward by sharing my technical expertise – I’m a retired systems engineer, currently a professional web developer, and take great pride in my ability to translate technobabble to English for people who aren’t especially computer friendly.  As a result, I spend a lot of time on G2G, asking genealogy questions and answering technical questions.

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

I saw an article on CNN about AJ Jacobs when he was generating a lot of publicity about the Global Family Reunion (then about a year in the future).  It mentioned WikiTree so I took a look and quickly became hooked.

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

This question is easy – even though there are many things I like here, collaboration is head and shoulders above everything else.  I find it so rewarding to work on profiles with other members. My very best experiences have been working on military heroes with Eddie King – he’s the greatest and I am amazed over and over by the info he digs up from all kinds of obscure sources, and seemingly effortlessly.  He dumps material – facts and sources – in the profile, then I organize it and add eye candy (images and fancy formatting). Sometimes, I run to him when I need more information and can’t find it and he ALWAYS delivers. If I were working alone, I’d probably become discouraged and give up much sooner.

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

As a professional developer of database driven websites, I have a lot of ideas about the way websites should be designed, both for functionality and user friendliness.  Although there are several things I think WikiTree could do much better, I am not privy to the specifics of its database architecture, software design, hardware resources, or the hierarchy of its technical objectives therefore it is not appropriate for me to make a public statement of the improvements that I see as needs.

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

Oh my gosh!  Let me count the ways I have been helped … we can start with learning what genealogy is, then how to do research, how to write biographies, all about sources and why they matter.  When I started, G2G was the conduit for my receiving an introduction to genealogy from Anne B, Jillaine Smith, and Maggie N – the best of the best! Where else could I have found mentors with their expertise and generosity in sharing their knowledge, and let’s not forget their patience with my naivete?

It would be way too presumptuous for me to think I have achieved sufficient competence to be able to help genealogy in any way!

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Ask for help with anything and everything – from finding information to writing biographies and learning the pseudo-coding language called wiki code that we have to use here.  WikiTree members are ready, willing, and able … in fact, anxious … to help newcomers.


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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 Peggy.

Peggy McReynolds became a WikiTreer in February of 2015. She enjoys spending time improving the profiles of her ancestors by adding sources, biographies and categories.  She’s also active in our U.S. Civil War Project.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

I’ve manually input the “easy” profiles for my ancestors. While I haven’t counted, there are many brickwalls. (Yes, I realize there’s a Brickwall App, but for now, “ignorance is bliss”.) Each winter I return to the following family lines, hoping for new leads. The Plunkett family, traced back to Hickman and Perry County, Tennessee, circa 1834. The Pridgen family, traced back to Monroe County, Georgia, circa 1829. The Wright family, traced back to Chester County, South Carolina, circa 1795.    Two years ago I solved my McReynolds family “brickwall”  (stalemated at my GG Grandfather Stephen McReynolds) and was able to connect to profiles created by others on WikiTree, going back to 1600 in Scotland.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Johnson County (today Logan County) Arkansas; Both my parents grew up on small farms near New Blaine, Arkansas. Most of mother’s family lines were living in the area by 1840.   My father’s ancestors moved there between 1830 and 1870.  I also research in Hopkins County, Kentucky, and Bradley County, Tennessee. Recently I researched in Massachusetts and was impressed with the quality of records that could be found, compared to other states. My husband’s family has more recent immigrants from Prussia; however, this family line has already been well researched.

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

When I retired in 2010, my co-workers asked what I was going to do in retirement.   Not once did I say “genealogy”.   But soon after retirement, my mother mentioned I was her successor  to manage a CD, which was being used to fund the maintenance of a family cemetery in Arkansas.   There were less than 100 graves there.   I remembered going there with my grandmother to decorate her parents’ graves.   My interest in genealogy started with the question “Who are these people buried here?”   By the time I got to their Civil War stories, I was hooked.   I had to know why there were both Union and Confederate military headstones.  Where was the Plunkett family farm house that was burned by Bushwhackers?  (My GGG grandmother was tied and locked in the burning house, but was saved by her daughters who had been hiding in the woods.)   Each answer led to a new question.  I gained a great respect for the strength of my ancestors and wanted their stories to be known.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

My gg grandmother Juliet Wise, who was born in 1833 in Bradley County, Tennessee.  Juliet’s relatives were northern sympathizers during the Civil War, as were many residents of Bradley County, Tennessee. She married Stephen McReynolds, who was also a Union sympathizer. He slept in the woods many nights, to avoid being impressed into the Confederate Army. Juliet’s brothers joined Union Army units from Tennessee.  After the war, Juliet and Stephen moved to a homestead in Shoal Creek, Logan County, Arkansas.  They are both buried on the homestead cemetery, with many of their children. The hardships the family experienced were documented in letters Juliet wrote to family in Tennessee. 

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

Just before my father died he and his cousins were researching the McReynolds family line.  They were inexperienced but enjoyed “the hunt”.  This was in 1999 and they were researching the old fashioned way.  They felt hopelessly stuck with my GG Grandfather, Stephen McReynolds who moved to Arkansas after the Civil War.   Dad died in 1999 and his cousins never broke the brick wall.

About 2013 I picked up their search and it took until 2016 to break the wall.    Many ancestry.com family trees had connected our Stephen McReynolds to a couple from Bledsoe Tennessee.   I agreed he was born in Tennessee and his mother’s name was Elender  (from Civil War Claims court documents), but we had an 1880 family letter mentioning his Uncle Sam McReynolds, “who lives 35 miles from us” …… this didn’t fit with the couple from  Bledsoe Tennessee and in 1850 the 16 year old Stephen McReynolds  wasn’t living with this Bledsoe couple.  Where was he?  I just couldn’t get comfortable with the ancestry.com trees, despite the growing number of trees that adopted this position.

I finally broke the wall with a two prong approach:  1) Found “Uncle Sam McReynolds” in Arkansas, tracking him through Missouri back to Bradley County, Tennessee.   2)  Used very aggressive “wild cards” to locate the critical 1850 U.S. Census; it was finally found with the spelling “McKunels”.  In 1850, Stephen was living with his widowed mother Elender and his three younger sisters in Bradley County, Tennessee.   I’ve sent many of the ancestry.com members a memo and sources, but only a few changed their trees.

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

I joined in February 2015. The first year was spent manually inputting my family tree; my skills were fundamental. I began layering in new skills; creating categories and writing biographies. Most of my time is still spent improving profiles and developing new WikiTree skills. In the past few months, I’ve been using G2G more often.  I enjoy getting to know other WikiTree members that are regularly using the forum; what an incredible mix of people willing to help.

What brought you to WikiTree?

I was looking for an internet genealogy site that fit my goals. I found WikiTree through random searching.  (Hmmmmmm,  I won’t admit that’s how all my research is accomplished, surely I have a plan.)

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree?

The “One Tree” concept. What I’ve discovered will continue to expand and improve, even when I can’t use a computer anymore.

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

Greater expectations for sources.

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

Before I started using WikiTree my goal was to document “family research”; now I’m starting to develop skills a genealogist needs.  There’s so much to learn and G2G is there to help, at whatever pace I choose.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Don’t try to learn it all at once. Start with the basic skills required to create profiles and connect them to others.  No need to write bios at first but sources are critical.  When you no longer struggle with the basics, layer in more skills.   If you get stuck, go to G2G.


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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 Steven.

Steven Harris became a WikiTreer in April of 2012 but really got active in 2016.  He is the Project Coordinator for the Categorization Project and spends a lot of time answering questions and helping members in our G2G forum.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

My surname register is continually expanding, but some of the more fascinating and captivating names for me right now are those originating from my overseas ancestors, such as Volčík and Najvar. And of course, we have my own seemingly evasive lineage of Harris.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

I am currently researching the communities of Barrett, Crosby, Highlands, and Huffman, Texas. Through the creation of the Crosby, Texas One Place Study, I am hoping to document the first settlement of ‘Czechs’ to the area, including one of my brick walls, Josef Volcik.

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

While I had only dabbled around in family history for the younger years of my life, I had gathered enough oral stories (mainly by asking questions about antique items lying around my grandmother’s house) to know that her family had emigrated from what is now present day Czech Republic, just before the turn of the century.

Standing beside the gravesite of my grandmother in 2011, I realized that I was not just circled by headstones, I was surrounded by the resting place of my ancestors – and I think that realization has brought me to where I am today – on a never-ending journey in search of my roots.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

If I had to choose just one, it would be my grandmother, Glorine. Growing up, Mimi (as us grandkids called her), was the matriarch of our family. When a holiday rolled around, you could find all of the siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, all packed into her house. The living room would overflow with tables, chairs, food and laughter. A simple grin on Mimi’s face was enough to make everyone’s heart beat with joy. She left a profound impact on all that knew her. Her selfless dedication and love that was shared within the community and her family were not just simple acts of kindness, but were the very fiber of her being. I can only hope that one day, I may be able to have that type of impact on my family and community.

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

I have been fighting a losing battle against the Volcik (later Wolcik) and Harris surnames for many years. It became apparent that I was not the only family member interested in the lineage; however, it did turn out that I was the only person prepared to take up the cause and start searching for answers. Initially, the research was fast and forthcoming – family stories harmonized with birth, census and death records easily found within online databases.

As each generation of the surnames began to unfold, the research quickly took a shift to slow and painful, each new clue leading to yet another dead-end. In April of 2018, I joined the ranks of those fellow genealogists before me and started on the journey of developing a One Name Study, hoping to further unravel the mysteries of my ancestors.

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

I originally joined WikiTree in 2012; however, my community involvement was virtually nonexistent. I had seen WikiTree as just another place to store data – and hadn’t realized there were multiple collaborative outlets until almost 4 years later. Call me a slow learner!

In 2016 I joined in both the Cemeteries and Categorization projects; however, I ended up spending most of the year sitting back – listening, learning and watching. Today you will most likely find me digging around error reports as a Project Coordinator for Categorization, or browsing through the questions in G2G – don’t be afraid to say Hi!

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

I originally stumbled across WikiTree after searching for a free way to maintain my family tree. At the time I was using a variety of online and offline databases for research, but keeping my tree up to date easily in a visual and satisfying manner was proving to be difficult. I was immediately drawn to the wiki-style capabilities of WikiTree.

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

Hands down, my favorite part of WikiTree is the collaborative, community-driven aspect to genealogy. Even though it took a while for all of the options to become apparent to me, I don’t think that there is any site available that would compare to the community here. Browsing through G2G, you will quickly find thousands of examples of members going out of their way to help a fellow genealogist. Diving into the project badge reports, you can observe a large collection of members from all over the world, who are teaming up to participate in a project that is aimed at the overall benefit of the community.

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

This is probably the hardest question on the list. WikiTree really is a unique platform, and there are constant updates and tools being developed all the time – so I would say that most of my and other users concerns are constantly being addressed. If I had to nail down specific topics, I would say that I would like to see advanced capabilities in searches, and better promotion of the tools Aleš has been building through WikiTree+.

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

After being stuck on my family tree for so long, WikiTree has really opened my eyes to a new set of tools and methods for researching that I was never aware of before. For instance, through the One Place Study and One Name Studies, I have started to uncover details of my ancestry that I never had documented before.

On the other side, I now spend most of my time helping others with their genealogy, either through collaboration in Projects, or through simple searches of resources that I have available to me that others may not have access to.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

WikiTree is not your average genealogy software or resource. Learn to collaborate with the community, and never be afraid to ask questions.

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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 SJ.

SJ Baty became a WikiTreer in March of this year.  He is a Project Coordinator for both the Spanish Orphan Trails Project and the William Penn and Early Pennsylvania Settlers projects. In addition, he volunteers as a Data Doctor, Sourcerer and Ranger.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

I’m just wrapping up my research of the Clayton family line.  The most prominent member of this family is Quaker and early Pennsylvania settler William Clayton, my 10th great-grandfather, and a member of the first Pennsylvania Provincial Council.  He migrated to the new world in 1677 (years before the arrival of William Penn).  I spent about the last two months reading and researching about him. I found that there were many inaccuracies in the contemporary history about him (and on his WikiTree biography) and I tried to correct those errors.  In addition to giving his WikiTree bio a makeover, I also created profiles for his newly discovered grandparents and great-grandparents.

I am now working on his daughter’s profile: Mary (Clayton) Beals, and her husband, John Beals.  And this will transition me to the Beals family line this month. I plan to improve other Beal’s profiles including John & Mary’s grandson Thomas Beals (my 7th great-grandfather), a prominent Quaker minister.

When I started my tree I had no idea that I had Quaker ancestors and I have since found them in several branches.  Thankfully the Quakers kept a lot of records and it makes connecting the profiles much easier than some of the other ancestors that I have researched.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

My work on the Clayton and Beals families brought me into contact with the William Penn and Early Pennsylvania Settlers project.  I have since been inducted as the project’s coordinator and I am hungrily reading every book I can find on early Pennsylvania history.  I have since learned that early Pennsylvania had some territorial overlap with parts of Delaware and west New Jersey. And when the colony was founded there were already existing New Sweden and New Netherlands communities.  I am learning quite a bit of history not only about Quakers and other Anglo settlers but about Dutch and Swedish settlers, and also quite a lot about the Native American populations that were displaced by these migrations. Genealogy can provide you with a great education in geography and history if you pay attention to the locations and details!

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

I was a History major in University and I always enjoyed reading about and studying history.  I didn’t know much at all about my own family history but I had always had a desire to learn more.  It was when the internet opened wide in the 90s that I was really able to start looking for records.  I read a genealogy paper that said the best place to start was to interview the eldest members of your family.  

When I started 21 years ago, I knew the names of only my grandparents and two or three great-grandparents.  I didn’t know a single one of my 32 great-great-great-grandparents. Fast forward 21 years and in April of this year I knew 30 of 32.  And through my interactions in the Sweden Project, Eva Ekeblad led me to a record that revealed my last two unknown 3x great-grandparents and now I know all 32 of them!

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

I would have to say that this is Samuel H. Baty, my direct paternal 3x great-grandfather.  Samuel’s parents died when he was a boy and for the last century and a half, our entire family did not know if we were even members of the Baty family; perhaps he was adopted by a Baty family and we were all Smiths. Luckily, there is a wonderful and very extensive Beatty/Beaty/Baty family research group. When genealogy DNA became available, many members of the group submitted their DNA as did I. We were able to determine that Samuel was a Baty and I was able to make contact with some distant relatives.

Samuel settled in Iowa just before the Civil War and raised 14 children.  I probably have spent more time researching him than any of my other ancestors and I feel like he is an old friend.  My family even think I look like him a little 😉

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

Following that genealogy advice I received 21 years ago, “Interview your family members,” I  interviewed my mother (maiden name Ranck) and learned the following from her:

She told me that her father Paul Ranck was born in Wyoming and that he and his parents, Elmer and Faye Mary (Abbott) Ranck came to California in the early 1900s looking for work.  She said that the entire family had originally come from Tennessee. She also told me that Elmer’s father, Oliver Goldsmith Ranck wasn’t from Tennessee. He was in the Union Army during the Civil War and he fought his way through Tennessee and liked it so much that he decided to migrate there after the war.  The only other information she had was that he married one of the Harrison girls, twins, either Adelaide or Adalinda Harrison.

I began searching and found some index entries for Oliver Ranck who served in the Illinois 50th Infantry Regiment (the “Blind Half Hundred”).  Sure enough, this regiment fought their way through Tennessee. I then wrote to the Illinois, Secretary of State, and ordered a copy of his enlistment records. On those records I learned his place of birth (White Deer Township, Union County, Pennsylvania), his height, eye color and all sorts of other details. Later, through paid sites, I found his pension record, being paid to Adalinda Ranck in Tennessee. Searching the census records I found the Harrison family and sure enough, Adalinda had a twin sister, Adelaide. So far, everything that my mother had learned via family legend was accurate. Searching through more online records in White Deer Township, I found Oliver’s siblings, his mother Elizabeth, and his father, Jesse Ranck.

And the trail went cold for the next decade.  I kept researching by digging through the sibling’s records, their children and grandchildren.  I found that Oliver’s brothers and sisters were: Thaddeus, Henrietta (married Josiah Tull), Robert, Elizabeth, and Andrew. I sought out living descendants of the siblings hoping that someone would have a family bible or a detailed tree. I found, through Oliver’s brother, a record of the maiden name of their mother: Elizabeth Fisher.

I had heard that a book, “The Rank of the Rancks,” had a grand genealogy of many of the Ranck families in America. I looked and looked for a copy but as it was privately published, no copies were available. Eventually, after many years, the Ranck Society (Ranck.org) published a copy of the volume online and I quickly went to the index and looked for Jesse Ranck and I found several. I eventually found an entry for Jesse Ranck, son of John Ranck, listing his children including children Henrietta and Andrew. The entry showed that Henrietta was married and her married name was “Cull.”

Allen Ranck, the author of the book, died of cancer while trying to complete the book.  He rushed the best that he could to complete it before his death. The book had many simple spelling mistakes and Henrietta’s married name of Cull instead of Tull is likely one of them.  There were no other Jesse Rancks in White Deer Township in the decade before or after this family, so we are convinced that Jesse Ranck, father of Henrietta Tull is the same Jesse Ranck, father of Henrietta Cull.

The brick wall was knocked down and we learned that Jesse’s line continued for five more generations:

John Ranck, b. 1784, White Deer Township, Union, Pennsylvania
John Ranck, b. 1742, East Earl, Lancaster County, Province of Pennsylvania
John Philip Ranck, b. 31 Jan 1704, Neckerau, Mannheim, Baden (currently Germany)
Hans Valentine Ranck, b. about 1668 in France or Palatine (currently Germany)
Reverend Jean Valentine Ranc, b. about 1641, in France or Palatine (currently Germany)

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

According to my WikiTree profile, I signed up a little less than six months ago (3 March 2018).  Roughly speaking, I spend about a quarter of my time working on the profiles of my ancestors; I am checking to make sure each has at least a primary source and then developing the rest with fully written and sourced bios. When you put your tree into wiki and you link in to existing profiles, sometimes you find dozens and dozens of connected ancestors that you didn’t know about and they are not always sourced well. My goal is that every profile in my tree is sourced well and has a full and developed biography.

About a quarter of my time is spent working on the two projects where I serve as project coordinator: the Spain Orphan Trail Project (a sub-project) of the Spain project, and the William Penn and Early Pennsylvania Settlers Project.  

At these projects, I am led by three amazing leaders: Maggie N., Susie MacLeod, Wendy Sullivan. Maggie is the leader of the Penn Project and we are working on building up the project page and expanding membership.  Susie and Wendy lead the Spain Project and Bonnie Saunders is the coordinator. I work with them also as a member of the Spain Profiling project and I am also helping to build the Spanish Orphan Trail Project. The Spain Orphan project is a direct copy of the England Orphan Profilers Team lead by Ros Haywood.  Ros has allowed me to shamelessly plagiarize much of her work and for that I will be forever grateful.

Another quarter of my time is doing other project work with the Data Doctors and the Sourcerers.  I try to correct errors and source un-sourced profiles.

And I think that the last quarter of my time is spent on G2G posting and reading other questions, comments and answers, emailing cousins and other researchers about work we’re collaborating on, reading background history for profiles I’m working on, and now (new this month) working my shift as a Ranger: I have a time slot on Tuesday (team: Tuesday Ardenaire).

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

I have worked on my family tree for about 21 years and I have huge files full of research and documents. I wanted to publish it on the internet so that relatives (near and far) and descendants could read and enjoy the work I’ve done.  I looked at several platforms and I was very turned off by the sites that are happy to take the research I’ve done, and then charge a subscription to sell it to my cousins.  I have no problem with paying an Ancestry.com subscription to view the records that they have cataloged, but if I find a source document at the Illinois archives, how can I share it openly and freely on the internet?  

I tried several platforms and I was never satisfied. Once I tried WikiTree, I was hooked. It is open, fosters collaboration, and I believe it will be here in the long run. I hope to think that my great-grandchildren will be able to open their tablet and read about their ancestors – work that I’ve researched and/or written – and they won’t need a credit card and a password to access it.

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

Sorry, can’t just choose one.  Two things: first, I love that it is free.  There is nothing more frustrating than finding a record that “might” fit your ancestor but you can’t find out unless you pay a $30-40 subscription fee.  Genealogy is about sharing and it is easier to share when there are no pay-walls. And second, that there is only one profile per person. Some ancestors at the big paid sites may have 100 duplicate profiles.  This makes research very difficult and inaccurate. I very much like that there is competition at WikiTree: if you post something inaccurate, there is a good chance that your 4th cousins will hold you to a higher standard on your shared ancestor’s profile.  And other cousins can “piggyback” your research and add to it. This collaborative work produces a better quality profile than 100 people working on 100 profiles.

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

I would like very much to help others to understand the importance of good sourcing.  While it may be sufficient to merely cite the name of a book or census record, I believe that we should put more effort into the description of the information.  Instead of writing:

Jones, Mike. “The history of the Jones family,” 1938.

Better, would be to add some detail and tell what Jones said.  Make it clear to a reader who may come and read your source in 10 years after the website with the Jones family history has been shut down.  I wish we would more often see:

According to the research of Jones, Mary was the second daughter of George and Mary.  Using the Smith family bible (now in the possession of Margaret Smith) Mike Jones was able to identify that a first daughter, Ellen, died as an infant, as cited in: Jones, Mike. “The history of the Jones family,” 1938.

Just two weeks ago I saw a Find A Grave source for a family line I was working on. On the Find A Grave page, in the bio, I found ancestors that went back several generations earlier than my own previous research.  Unfortunately, the work was not sourced. I immediately scrolled to the bottom of the page to find the author so that I could contact them and ask how they found this information. I found the author, Dorothy Gaston and then clicked on her Find A Grave profile to see if I could email her.  I found this: “Fallen Graver: Sadly, Dorothy Gaston has passed away.” If she did have any sources, it will be a lot harder for me to find them now. I do not know if her children saved her files and/or if they will be accessible. Sadly, we may never know; her years of work may be lost.

This is the beauty of WikiTree: what you post today, will be available for generations.  But, be sure to source your work, and source it well. If you spend the time to build a nice house, be sure to put in the time to build a door on it so that others can come in!

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

When I entered my tree on WikiTree, I found, many times, that some of my ancestors were already in the system and they were sourced with information that I had not yet discovered.  In this way, WikiTree helps me, and helps all of us every day. And there are enormous resources to help you discover your ancestors: WikiTree has volunteers who can help you find records, translate them, look in places you hadn’t thought of, and many other ways to help you research.  When you get “stuck” you can post to the G2G forum and others will help you out. As I mentioned earlier Eva helped me find my last two missing 3x great-grandparents!

Any tips for someone just getting started on WikiTree?

Take notes and save files.  When you come back to a branch of your family tree in 2 or 3 years, there is a good chance you won’t remember much of what you’ve done.  I created a file for each of my grandparents surnames. Inside those four files are file names with each of the surnames in their trees. Inside of each surname file there is a file for each individual saved by year of birth and name (file name: 1641 Jean RANC).  In this way, the names inside of each surname file are kept in order by oldest to newest. This makes it a lot easier to find individuals especially when father and son share the same given name. William Clayton who I mentioned earlier is the third of at least 4 successive Claytons with the first name William.  It can get hard telling which William from the other and starting file names with birth dates keeps them in line. Inside each parent file and individual profile file, I keep a text document and add notes of what I last worked on, links, etc. You will find your notes invaluable when you come back to profiles after breaks of months or years.

And, someday when you die, your grandchildren will be able to pick up where you left off and continue your research.

And lastly, when you see a document, photo, file, anything of value to your profile, save it and also “print to PDF” a screen shot of the index (the page with all the text – this will also preserve the web address and you can get back to that website easily).  Save those photos and files! – you may come back next year and find that the website you accessed earlier has been closed and you lost your chance to preserve that record to your files.


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