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 Alex.

Alex Stronach became a WikiTreer in 2012.  He loves giving back to the community by participating as a Connector, Data Doctor and Sourcerer. He’s also Project Coordinator for the Saturday Sourcing Sprints.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

I’m working on quite a few names, MacRae, Stewart, Fayers, Waugh, Saddlemire, Rudderham. The Stewart family has been challenging, as it’s such a common name and thus tough to research. But like all genealogists, I persist and keep at it.

The Saddlemire family tree on my mother’s side is of particular interest to me. Early on in my genealogy research, I got in touch with Gerry Saddlemire, who had been researching the Saddlemrie family for several decades and had done a spectacular job with his family tree. Even though we never met in person, we got along well, and he was an encouraging voice for me as a budding genealogist. Before he passed away, he sent me a copy of his family tree, which started with Johannes Sedelmyer and his wife Ursula Bassler, and includes 2500 descendants. I carried on with his work, and now the tree has expanded to 4500 people. I’m in the middle of making sure everything is properly sourced, and I’m moving as much of that as I can over to WikiTree.

The MacRae family is also a major focus for me, as I am closest to this side of my family on a personal level. I’m writing a book on my grandmother MacRae and her family tree, although that’s taking me much longer than I expected. A lot of that will eventually wind up on WikiTree.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

I have to admit don’t really focus on locations. As someone who’s family heritage is made up English, Irish, Scottish and German immigrants, and whose families have spread all over Canada, the U.S. and Australia, there is simply too much geography to cover.  

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

I started to get interested in genealogy in 2011, after my grandmother had passed away. My grandmother was the local family historian, and she knew a lot about the family tree. She also had this amazing collection of old photos from the late 1800s of various family members. I knew that someone needed to document all these old photos, and preserve their memories; I just didn’t think it would be me.

At the same time, my immediate family tree is kind of mixed up – both my parents have been married more than once – and I have one brother, seven half siblings, and several step sibs. It can be very confusing for people to figure out who is who in my family tree. If some future historian were to look at my family tree, they would be scratching their heads in disbelief. They would probably get the family tree wrong. Again, I thought someone needs to write this down, but didn’t think it would be myself.

I had been halfheartedly thinking about how to document my family tree for several months when I came across an ad for the Ancestry.com iPhone app. I immediately recognized that this was exactly the tool I would need to put everything together, and quickly jumped on it and started filling in my family tree. I figured that it would take me a few months, then I’d be done. Here I am, eight years later, and I’m still working on my family tree.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

Way too many to choose from, any answer I give wouldn’t do this question any justice.

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

Figuring out my dad’s birth parents was a huge breakthrough, that’s been interesting and amazing.

The real brick wall for me is the Stewart family, as I mentioned above. My great great grandfather, William Norman Thomas Stewart, 1852-1914, is said to have come from upstate New York. His father’s name was Frances Stewart. I don’t know much more about him or his family. And of course, with a name as common as Stewart, it’s very difficult to research his family tree. There simply is too much information to wade through, and I can’t find the needles in the Stewart haystack. I’ve had some clues, but the overall results have been mixed and confusing.

If you could pick one person in history to be related to, who would it be and why?

Oh wow, this is a tough one. There are so many amazing people to choose from! I’m a musician, so finding out that I am related to John Lennon would be great. Although, I’m not sure he counts as a historical figure. Finding out I was related to Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, or Thomas Jefferson would also be cool. Three of my half siblings are related to Lizzie Borden. … not sure what that says about our family.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

As I mentioned above, I’m a musician. I play bass in several bands, and I’m playing a show with one band or another almost every other weekend. As well, I am working towards my black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

And of course, I can’t forget to mention my kids. I have four of them, and they keep me pretty busy (and vice versa). They’re amazing kids, and I have a ton of fun being their dad.  

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing? If you’re involved in a project(s), tell us about how you participate in it.

I started in 2012, but didn’t really get involved until late 2016. Since 2016, I’ve taken the time to really learn how WikiTree operates, why they do what they do, the philosophy behind WikiTree, etc. Now I have a much better handle on things, although there is still much for me to learn! I’ve been going back and improving my profiles from 2012. Many of them need a lot of work, and better sources, better biographies, and such. I also spend a lot of time adding relatives from trees that I have inherited along the way.

Once I got the idea of WikiTree, I became interested in projects outside of my extended family. As I learned how to do more and more tasks, I decided to get involved with other projects within WikiTree.  I joined the Connectors, Data Doctors, and 52 Weeks: Photos, although most of my time on WikiTree is spent with the Sourcerers projects. Helping out in those projects is my way of giving back to the WikiTree community. I also try and be supportive of new members when I see their questions in the G2G forum. Not only will contributing to a positive environment help new members, but it will help build a stronger WikiTree community for everyone moving forward.

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

I found WikiTree by accident. I was researching  my great great grandparents Samuel Fayers and Jane Rudderham, when I came across a Rudderham cousin who had posted his tree on WikiTree. Jane Rudderham was part of his tree, so I signed up in 2012 to collaborate with him. Thankfully we’ve remained in touch since then. (Shout out to Joe B!)

In the beginning, I didn’t really grasp the WikiTree ethos, and I wasn’t very active at first. Several years ago I became rather disillusioned with Ancestry.com (and MyHeritage) and managed to wander back to WikiTree. This time I put more effort into understanding WikiTree, and now it’s become my favorite genealogy site to work with. The other sites have their pros and cons, and I’m not dismissing them, but once you get the hang of it, WikiTree is where it’s at.

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

Lots of things. The community feel is better than any other genealogy page I’ve been using so far. The fact that everyone is working on a single shared tree, not just poaching info for their own tree, is an admirable philosophy that I completely respect and appreciate. As well, there are always people willing to help out. I’ve asked many questions on G2G and have gotten great answers, usually within a few hours.

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

I’ve found that one of the toughest parts of genealogical research is locating obituaries. It’s a real skill knowing the right place to look to find a missing obituary. Lots of members are far better at this than I am, and lots of people have helped me find obits that I wouldn’t have found on my own. It’s been a great help. So much so that I find myself refraining from asking for too much obit help, otherwise I risk overrunning the G2G forum with my requests!

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Be patient. WikiTree is a great place for genealogy, but it does take time to learn and get used to how things are done here. There is a learning curve that may seem daunting at first, but is worth it once you get the ball rolling.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions on G2G, we all started out somewhere, and someone gave us guidance along the way. Someone will do the same for you if you ask.  

But most of all, the best thing you can do is provide details that no one else has. Census reports, vital records, obituaries, these can all be looked up by almost anyone. But if you have some family knowledge that might not be documented anywhere, write it up and put it in the biography. It’s those details that really give insight into who someone was. That’s where the real heart of genealogy exists, and it’s those stories that really help bring your family tree to life. Hopefully future generations to come will find your work, read what you wrote about some long lost ancestor of theirs, and gain insight and appreciation of their heritage.

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  3 Responses to “Meet our Members: Alex Stronach”

  1. It was cool to find out that my 3x great aunt Sarah was married to Robert Lewis. Then I saw our connection. I still have a lot of work to do but I agree with you that this is a great site.

  2. Hi Alex,
    My great grandmother was Naomi Stronach McNeil from Nova Scotia!

  3. I’m not sure about our relation but I am definitely related to Litzy Borden I also have Stewart ancestors going back to Scotland Funny you and I are from the same heritage as far as ancestral area of origin I will look at my tree more as it’s very extensive and get back to you about Stewart

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