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 Alison.

Alison standing in front of Catherine the Great's Summer Palace in Pushkin, Russia

Alison joined WikiTree in 2014 and became a Leader in October 2014. Currently, she leads the US History Project and the Westward Ho! Project,  and is a Local VolunteerConnectorSourcererRangerArboristData Doctor and Integrator. (She does much, much more as you’ll read later on!)

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

I lead One Name Studies for Andrus, Andrews, Flaugher and McGrew. I’m also researching Benedix, Graul, Wrangham, Nealy, Underhill, Werner, Conant, Harmon, Metcalf, Giles and my Hansen line that dates back to the New Netherlands.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

It seems like every branch of my dad’s family passed through New York at one time or another in just about every county. I also research Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota. I conduct One Place Studies for Dickey County, North Dakota and Kitsap County, Washington and lead the Washington State, North Dakota and Minnesota Projects as well as the Westward Ho! Project. That covers a lot of ground!

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

Two of my mother’s sisters actively researched our family in the 1970’s, visiting libraries and writing letters. I loved hearing about all their latest discoveries and started accompanying them on their research trips when I was still in high school. My own research really took off when I bought my first home computer in the early 1990’s. Back then, the genealogy websites were still in their infancy, so now I feel like a founding member of those early sites like Rootsweb where I joined their Roots-L mailing lists and contributed regularly to WorldGenWeb.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

My paternal great-great grandmother, Harriet Underhill Andrus. When I was growing up, my favorite books were the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Because I grew up in North Dakota, I could really relate to the stories. Imagine my surprise when I later discovered that my ancestor, Harriet Andrus, and Laura Ingalls were second cousins! Harriet left New York with her husband and five children in 1876 and lived for a time in Minnesota before homesteading in the plains of the Dakotas in 1883. I have a picture of her standing in tall prairie grass with the wind blowing in her hair, a true pioneer of the West.

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

My great-grandfather, Melchior Gaspar Balthasar Benedix was born in Saxony, Germany in 1857. He emigrated alone to America in 1883 and married his first wife in Wisconsin in 1884. His marriage record states that his parents were John and Barbara, but I have never been able to trace the family in Germany. 

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

Do I have to pick one? Can I pick everybody? Give us another year or two while we add more profiles to WikiTree and before too much longer, we can say we are related to everyone! 😉 Maybe that’s too much wishful thinking, but I do love the idea that everyone who has every lived can all be connected to each other.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I love to travel, read, watch BBC shows, garden, cook for family and friends, sew, knit, crochet, play board games, go to the theater and concerts, garage sales and auctions and take long walks.

How long have you been on WikiTree and how active are you?  Are you involved in projects/challenges? Which ones? What do you enjoy about them/what are you working on?

I joined WikiTree in 2014 and became a leader in October 2014. When it’s not summer time and the sunshine calling me, I usually exceed my 1000 a month contributions. Currently, I’m leading or helping to lead the US History Project and the Westward Ho! Project, although I’ve also led the Mentors, Greeters, One Name Studies and Black Sheep Projects during my time as leader. I’m a Local Volunteer, Connector, Sourcerer, Ranger, Arborist, Data Doctor and Integrator. I also lead sub-projects for Washington State, North Dakota and Minnesota, as well as the Homesteaders, Lewis and Clark Expedition, Pony Express, four ONS and two OPS. I’m also a member of the Cemeterists, Quakers, Military and War, Penn, Roll of Honor, Great War, Categorization, Presidents, US Civil War, DNA, New Netherlands and 1776 Projects to help honor my ancestors who fit under those classifications.

What are some of the features/aspects of WikiTree that you love/don’t love as much?

People and people! By the very nature of WikiTree being a collaborative website, I have met the most wonderful, caring and kind people on WikiTree you will ever want to meet. They are so generous with their time and talents, I have learned so much and feel so humbled. And then there are the people who are not so nice. Being a huge people pleaser, I never thought I would ever find myself in a situation that I would be cussed out by a total stranger just for trying to be a good mentor, but you really encounter all kinds of people. The trick is to keep smiling, do your best, and don’t let a few bad apples get you down.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Educate yourself! I spent the first few weeks reading through the Help pages to make sure I had a good handle on what I was doing. I wanted to make sure I was doing things right and was worried about messing things up. Even now, I sometimes run across a profile I worked on in the early days, cringe, hope no one else has run across it and edit it as fast as I can.

If you could leave one message for your descendants, what would it be?

You can find all my life’s work on WikiTree! 😉


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