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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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 Richard.

Richard Shelley became a WikiTreer in March of 2016.  He is a Project Coordinator for the New Zealand project, with his focus on New Zealand politicians.  He’s also active in several other projects including the Integrators, India, and the Great War.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

SHELLEY, LOCK, the MOSLEY variant of MOSELEY and VALPY.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

In regards to categorization: England and New Zealand.

In regards to generic interest, I’d probably have to say the Channel Islands as both the Valpy and Lock lines trace back to there. The Lock line traces as back to South Carolina at around 1755/1756 and the Valpy’s go back to c1500 in the Channel Islands.

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

My interest in our family history was flamed by the many comments that either my parents and/or grandparents would make regarding being connected to a past historical figure or a person in particular. It got to the point where I had a list of individuals that I would later research to uncover the connection.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

I have a ton of people who are notable for various reasons (both good and bad), for this, I have to say my great grand uncle Peter Hans Jorgen Fahrin, (1895 – 1918), who was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme at the age of 22. Peter was the first enlisted man that I knew about in the family.

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

The ancestry of my 3rd great grandfather James Shelley. For the record, this was major brickwall, because the records were destroyed decades ago, for some unknown reason. Anyway, I started looking for information and through cross-examination this line was extended back to my 7th great grandfather Uriah Shelley. By now, I had came across a couple of Shelley forums and connected with a number of people (extended cousins) over the globe confirming my accumulated research to that point and pooling everything together.

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

I joined WikiTree on the 27th of March 2016. I am a project coordinator for the New Zealand Project. I lead the New Zealand Politicians subproject which also connects to the British Politicians. I am a part of the Notables, Integrators, Categorization, United Kingdom, England, India, Great War, Euroaristo and the Scottish Clans projects.  Basically, I move between projects when and where I can lend a hand.

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

I took a gamble roll because I was looking at sites to join, and the pick was out of Geni, Ancestry, and here (WikiTree).

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

Collaboration (I’ll explain why in a below answer).

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

The one thing I can not get people to do. Read! There are instances where questions are asked on the G2G forum, and answers only just touch upon part of the question and leave 80% unanswered. Or questions regarding subjects which are discussed in really helpful tutorials on the topic in question (I’ve never used them, but I’ll still promote them!)

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

When I joined, I was one of many who supplied a GEDCOM. I was fortunate in a way that a large number of these profiles were flagged by the system as already existing by other users. It was in these very first days where I found myself building down to Her Majesty QE II and discovering that the story I had been told about being relating to her via The Queen Mother was not a story but in actuality, truth.

Since last year, the number of emails I get from people both a part of WikiTree and also just scrolling through Dr Google (Google) for research information come across a profile relating to the person they are after and ask if I have any additional information that can help them. 4 out of the 5 cases there is success and the teamwork helps both our causes: WikiTree for the generic accuracy of information and the individual with discovering information.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Have plenty of paper and a couple of pencils near your laptop or computer. With how many profiles are on WikiTree now, it will be likely that someone may join and have intermittent generations with a gap variation between them and so keeping a note of them (profile id, with general information like birth date and date of death) helps both the site (fewer duplicates) and the new user (less stress). If you’re using the G2G forum, stay calm – chances are you’ll be misunderstood, just remember everyone is human.

 

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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 Mary.

Mary Richardson joined WikiTree in May of 2014.  She is active as a Ranger and Greeter and as Project Coordinator for the Texas, 1776, French and Indian War, World War IIKorean Conflict, and Vietnam War projects.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Richardson, Ralls, McAlpin, Stewart (Paternal) and  Cate and Hodges (Maternal)

BRICK WALL: James J Richardson   — never have been able to find a death date or burial in Texas. He was born in Watkinsville, Georgia, emigrated to South Texas where he worked for Richard King, who owned the King Ranch in South Texas. He married Frances R McAlpin of Greene Alabama, and children were born. I have an 1870 Census placing him in South Texas on the King Ranch. By 1880 there was no James J to be found and his wife was recorded in 1880 census as wife of Thomas Hines Clark  (who had been a neighbor)…  I have researched him for years.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Texas and its 254 counties, Georgia and its 100 counties, South Carolina counties, North Carolina counties, and Colorado counties where I have visited.

History is my interest.  I developed and gathered the profiles that were already written and wrote the remaining for WikiTree for the Defenders of the Alamo. If you click on the page there is a large table with all of the Alamo Defenders listed there.   As a personal project I researched each man, including the land bounties their heirs received, then began working on their families.   <Alas>  some of the families have not connected to WikiTree’s main trunk completely so they are still branches out there waiting to connect!

One man crawled out of a window of the Alamo and ran away.

One man talked his way out of death by saying he had been a prisoner. The other 187 men were killed by General Santa Anna and the Mexican Army. Their ashes are reported to be in a memorial in the San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas.

I have worked with a group of people who first created the US Southern Colonies Project. That is when I created the Defenders of the Alamo. After working for a year on the Defenders of the Alamo, I then worked with the same people on the wars as part of Military and War project. I am Project Coordinator for Texas, 1776, French and Indian War, World War IIKorean Conflict, and Vietnam War. I have  researched and written part of the space pages for those projects as well as the War of 1812. I am not including the names but they are the best at creating informative space pages and projects. I am so grateful they taught me how to do as much as I can. I am also interested in the Civil War.

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

I always liked history during college (a few years ago).  I had a cousin who developed the Cate genealogy 30 years ago but after her death and her daughter’s death, her genealogy work seems to have been lost.  Then I thought perhaps she was doing the work without the internet. Thus after retiring, I began developing both sides of my family genealogy from scratch.

A couple years ago, my husband and I had our DNA tested by Ancestry.com.  I felt it was interesting as the DNA merely confirmed what I had found with research.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

Perhaps James J Richardson since he seems to have been an enigma. Also my gr grandfather David Hamilton Cate who had moved with family to Texas.  He joined the Confederacy during the Civil War in Texas.  He was injured at Davis Mills Bridge battle, left behind when the Confederates moved on, was captured by the Union army, then in hospital for the injuries. After this he was in two different prisoner of war camps: in Gratiot Prisoner of War Camp, Missouri, and Alton Prisoner of Camp, Alton, Illinois.  He was exchanged in a year or two for an equal rank soldier, and returned to Texas in 1865. He was one of 100 men to return home out of 1000 men who volunteered in 1862. Then his family survived a tornado which blew away the town they lived in (Worldwide Disasters Project).  He married with children. I have David Cate and other members of my family on the WikiTree Honor Roll.

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

There are many that I hope to bust through but it would be nice to go further back past James J Richardson’s father (Richard RICHARDSON) who was from Virginia.  This is my paternal line.  The DNA did not help me for the paternal line. As this is my paternal line, I have done as much DNA testing as today’s technology provides but there has been nothing.

I accidentally was looking at the McAlpin family. On Rootsweb there was a post for Ann Eliza Carraway. I followed this which led me to my family. It connects back to the Stewarts of Ledcreich and Glenbucky Scotland. It goes a long way back.

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

I joined WikiTree in May, 2014.  By the way I did not upload a Gedcom. I put my family and all of the Alamo men on WikiTree manually.  That method immediately alerted me to a profile with no sources or a need for better sources. I strive NOT to have Ancestry.com trees as sources. I have researched for actual sources (as you may derive, I am opposed to the Gedcoms which leave no sources on the profiles or only a partial part of Ancestry.com source).

Originally all of my time was writing profiles for my family and the Alamo Defenders with their sources.

2015, 2016 : I worked on the war space pages and research with the images.

2017: Revamped the Alamo Defenders  20 hr/week, Texas counties history 20 hr/week.

2018: Working on US history projects, Rangers 3 hr/week, Greeters 10 hr/week.

I spend the most time working on projects. Pre-1700’s take me about 9 hours/week.

Weekly there is a question usually about one of The Alamo Defenders.  People both from WikiTree and the internet are always asking about one man or another to try to connect to one of those men.

The other things I do are Pre-1700’s project recommendation messages as part of Greeters 3 X Week, and Worldwide Disasters Project.  The wars have been completed except occasional new disaster tweaks.

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

I came from Ancestry.com looking for a source, and found WikiTree on the internet.  I knew one person, Gordon Ralls, who had put his tree from Genealogy.com onto WikiTree.

My family married one of the the Ralls family. At this time it was easy to join WikiTree. I joined and immediately was able to start adding my family one by one…(with sources and locations).

Now WikiTree has (1) free, (2) wiki, (3) one shared tree with controls to manage malfeasance and misfeasance, (4) and collaboration features. I would say WikiTree provides those and more (such as DNA hooks and synchronizing with other sites).

However we still need to work on ensuring all people add sources and locations.

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

I like all of WikiTree. I like the common ancestors, the feeling of “belonging” and the relationship finder.  I like the extra work we all do to make the place perfect.

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

If I could improve one thing I would make it a requirement to add researched sources (complete with the full URL), not just the words “biography handed down to me” or Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org.  All sources need the complete URL.

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

WikiTree has helped me connect to the distant members of my family known as the Stewarts. WikiTree has also given me the interest and stimulus to work with all groups of people rather than just on my own. I learned from the leaders I worked with. Now I try to share what I know with others.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Do your research. Come on in, roll up your sleeves, and be prepared to work hard. We do not have a pretty leaf to catch your eye! Be interested in genealogy. We strive not to create duplicates! We connect!


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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 Karen.

Karen Butler became a WikiTreer in June of 2016.  She is active in several projects, including the England and Worldwide Disasters projects, and is one of our wonderful, friendly Greeters.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

I am researching, Richardsons from Birmingham and London and Getterick from Manchester and Ireland. The Finnertys/Coopers/Lallys from Ireland are my brick walls, I am looking for a bigger sledgehammer to break them down.

What are some of the locations you are researching:

Mainly from Birmingham, where I was born, and Ireland, which is my brick wall, I need a bigger sledgehammer to break this one down, Australia and America.

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

It is a subject that I have thought about doing on and off. I was watching a Who Do You Think You Are programme and saw the link to Ancestry.co.uk, so I decided to have a go and see how far I could get. That was 12 years ago, and I haven’t stopped. One of my mother’s cousins had been doing research into the family and she gave me a lot of help and information. What she didn’t tell me is how addictive genealogy can be. Even now after so long, each new name I find is as exciting as the first.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

I would have to say my grandparents, who gave me the love I needed as a young child, and I used to spend a lot of time staying with them when I was young, and I always had a great deal of fun staying with them.

If it comes to names then I would have to say the husband of my 5th cousin 3x removed, because he has the most fabulous name I have ever heard, Cluse Cluso Clues Daft.

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

I haven’t managed to break down my brick walls yet. My 3x great grandmother Ann Hole from Plymouth, Devon, I would love to find more information regarding her family and my Irish ancestors, who are being very elusive.

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

I signed up in June 2016 but did little to begin with. It wasn’t until the following year I really got into adding to the site. I spend most of my time transferring names from the Ancestry site onto here. I also do greeting of new members, which I find very enjoyable. I like helping people, in the way I was helped when I started. Also with some of the questions I have been asked, the new members are helping me. By finding the answers for them I am learning with them, and if I cannot find the answer then other members of the team are very helpful with providing them.

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

I saw a link to it on another genealogy site, so I decided to give it a go. I thought it would be like all the other sites, but it is much better.  I found I was dealing with real people and would get an answer to my question, not just an automated general reply.

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

I like the relationship finder. It gives you a link to people you never thought you would be related to. The G2G forum is very helpful with answers, and everyone is so friendly and helpful. I have made some real friends through the site.

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

This is just a silly quirk of mine but I don’t like the months abbreviated. I like them written out in full.

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

WikiTree has helped me, because I am always learning.  The projects I have joined, for example the England Project, taught me a lot about biographies and sourcing, which has helped me improve my profile biographies.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it is a Greeter or on the forum, even if you think your question is trivial, others may have the same problem. We are all here for the same reason, and there is a wealth of knowledge within the membership. Don’t get upset by making a mistake. Others (most likely me) have made the same mistake before you, and others will make the same mistake after you. You are not alone.

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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 Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Winter became a WikiTreer in February of 2015.  She has over 160,000 contributions and spends a lot of time working with our Cemeteries Project. She loves connecting individuals to our global tree!

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

There’s a few dozen of them I’ll follow to try & connect when I come across them: FairchildMallett, EddyHungerford, Kellogg & Shumway are examples of those. Not the super common names so much (Wheeler, Smith, Jackson), nor the rare ones (Wiehle, Psotta, Kofoid, Rodie.) Just the medium ones.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

1) I got curious about the anti-government Bundy family who participated in armed occupations of public lands & facilities in recent years. It led to spending a few months looking at their family ties, particularly the Mexican Colonias that came when the Mormon church discontinued polygamy to gain Utah statehood. We don’t usually study that aspect of American history in school, but I think it’s fair to conclude that you cannot really understand the expansion into the American West without looking at LDS settlement patterns.

2) I’m descended from many of the first settlers of towns around Bridgeport, Connecticut. Having worked through thousands of cemetery pix, I’m pretty solidly knowledgeable about that area. To a lesser degree, along the Connecticut River through Connecticut and Massachusetts,  New London, Connecticut & Essex County, Massachusetts. I’m coordinator for Connecticut cemeteries. Ask me!

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

On Sept. 11, 2001, my uncle in Denver went into major medical emergency, due to Alzheimer’s. All planes were down, and I was the only relation close enough to drive. So I got in the car to take care of his new arrangements going forward, and close down his life as it had been. What’s relevant here is 3 boxes of genealogical papers found, representing 50 years of work by my grandfather, his brother, and their father. I put it into software, and it was over 4500 names, going back 10+ generations to the Puritan Great Migration. Their work is thoroughly sourced, including contemporary correspondence with second cousins back in the late 1800s. Because I had so much to start with, I don’t mainly research my own ancestors any more.

In general, I’m interested in the patterns and puzzles and what they show about history and culture.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

Not ancestor, cousin: Some years ago, I came across a man called McGregor Curry who married a distant cousin.  Born of Bahamian immigrants to the US, he became the Chief Customs Officer at Key West, Florida during Prohibition. This strikes me as a great premise for a TV series. Miami Vice meets Deadwood, some such. I suppose that some day, I ought to follow through and do something about him here on WikiTree.

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

I have a pair of passed down oil portraits of a couple of ancestors born in Scotland. (In other words: When my mom died, nobody else was interested, so I brought them home. She got them by a similar process.) I see these people every day on my actual wall. I was given some passed down names to go with: Hamilton Steele – what a name! – and Ann (Anderson) Steele, parents of Elizabeth (Steele) Schneider, after whom I am named. But that’s a mistake. I’ve found plenty of info about Hamilton & Ann, but there’s too many discrepancies for them to be Elizabeth Steele’s parents. Furthermore, the Scotland Census shows Hamilton as “farm laborer” and “ploughman”, and I don’t think he’d be as prosperous as portrayed in the portraits. Maybe there’s another Hamilton Steel/e that I’ve not uncovered yet, or maybe someone made a mistake. There’s nobody left to ask any more.

In looking for a picture of myself for this Meet a Member entry I came across a carte-de-visite of “Mary Howell, sister of Elizabeth (Steele) Schneider.” Oddly, I’d never noticed it before, despite having it for years. And I found the correct Schneider clan in New York City. The family lore got off track a little but, but it wasn’t entirely wrong.  Elizabeth’s father was William Steel, and her MOTHER was Hamilton “Hammy”(Marshall) Steel. If I’m to believe the info on FindAGrave, they were successful in the fashionable shoe trade.

So, thank you Meet our Members for helping me find the right names for the portraits! Meanwhile, I didn’t find the picture of myself I was looking for, showing three-year-old’s a bat-out-of-hell tricycle ride. There aren’t very many pictures of me extant – the one I picked is a screen shot from when I was on Jeopardy! awhile back.

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

I joined on 3 Feb 2015. My approach is, primarily, connecting. I spent a few months on people who have counties named after them in the USA. I did about half the c.1500 people in that category, profiles & connecting. It was illuminating, if somewhat depressing, to realize that most of the counties in the USA were named after slave owners, Indian killers, or in many cases, both.

For well over a year now, my main activity has been placing and connecting thousands of cemetery pix. Primarily, they were from the Bridgeport, CT area, with a few from elsewhere in CT & MA. I finished them recently. I also just finished on a cemetery in Kingston, New York . For now, the Texas cemetery pictures are on the back burner, but I’ll get to those before long. It feels good to get bucket list tasks like this finished!

From time to time, I work on Notables, particularly musicians. I’ve also gotten interested in #resistancegenealogy: It’s a topical and potentially controversial activity, so I don’t bring it up in discussion on WikiTree generally. The purpose is related to current immigration debates and controversies in the US. When public figures make statements, journalist Jennifer Mendelsohn & others check against their family history to see if their own family meets their stated standards.

For example: Conservative commentator Ann Coulter says she’s descended from settlers, not immigrants. I’m not sure the differences between the 2 in her thinking, but 3 of her father’s 4 sets of g-grandparents came as refugees fleeing the Irish potato famine.

I came across a fair amount of info on slaves & slaveowners doing cemetery pix, building a sense of how to identify that info in the records. Now that I’ve put the Kingston, NY cemetery to bed my focus is slaveowners in Connecticut. By the time I’m done, Fairfield County’s maybe going to look like a hotbed of slavery. I don’t know that it was compared to nearby areas, but I do think it’s good for these historical facts to be looked at honestly, and to be available for public review. It may be a little harder to get at those who were in the slave trade on ships, but it might be worth following up for those who died in the Caribbean.

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

I read an article about the Global Family Reunion that showed up in my FaceBook feed from Vox. It made sense instantly, so I signed up.

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

Not just WikiTree, but genealogy generally: It’s the serendipity. You never know what you’ll come across. For one example: Bridgeport was home to PT Barnum, which might be why I came across an immigrant family of circus performers. Since they toured throughout Europe, every child was born in a different country! In general, I also enjoy the patterns and the puzzles of it all. Best of all, WikiTree is public. I have an ancestry.com account, but it’s not so easy to share with family members as sending them here. And there’s always the cousins you have never met yet.

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

Working on cemeteries, one encounters lots and lots of military veterans. For awhile, I tried marking their profiles or the benefit of those working on projects like the US Civil War or 1776 for the American Revolution. I gave that up and here’s why: People in those projects seem to expect everyone to be as interested and involved as they are. I’m not! I thought it would be helpful to just mark them so others would follow through, but instead I kept getting instruction on how to research every battle and military unit and so on. Thing is, I don’t want to go that far off on a tangent. So I quit trying. I think it would help if there were an “Inbox” for projects so users could put a simple tag for project specialists to follow up on.

There’s always room for improvement on search, too. The one that pops to mind is for alternative spellings on first names (e.g. Alan, Allan, Allen) like there already is for last names.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

It’s never perfect, and it’s never finished. Different people have different approaches, priorities, and POVs which is a strength of WikiTree, in my opinion. I don’t worry too much about making profiles perfect; leaving it better than I found it is good enough for me. Don’t worry too much about unsolicited advice because you can’t please everybody. Take what helps and leave the rest. Learn how to use G2G.


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