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 Dave.

Dave Rutherford joined WikiTree in November 2012 and is one of our newest Leaders! He helps keep vandals away by volunteering as a Ranger and is active in several projects including our Canadian History and United Kingdom projects.  He recently started the Palatine Migration project.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Lots of names! Between my tree and my wife’s, we have 55 of our 64 3x great grandparents identified. Some of the names include Rutherford, Scott, Fenwick, Wood and Gearveiss from northern England & the Scottish borders; Cornish families Jaco, Pinch and Downing; Palatine lines Boyer, Moyer, Ribble, Teeple, Young and Teeter; plus colonial lines Pherrill, Russell and Tidd. Then there are Samson, McBrayne and Milne from Scotland; Harriott from Sussex and Bush (Bosch) who were originally Dutch.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Much of my research is centered here in Canada, especially Ontario. Also I’ve found deep roots for both my wife and myself in the Palatine settlers of the Mohawk valley of New York and the Delaware valley of New Jersey. And I’ve done a fair bit of poking around the online records of the UK, especially Lancashire and Cornwall.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

Tough one. I guess I would select my 4x great grandmother Eliza (Jaco) Fenwick. She was a writer and teacher in late 1700’s London. Her novel “Secresy” is still in print and featured in some college curricula. She and her husband were close friends of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft and she was nurse to Mary in her final days. She took Mary’s baby (the future Mary Shelley) home to look after her when Mary died. Eliza also wrote children’s books as well as various fiction and non-fiction works. She ended her working life teaching at King’s College in Upper Canada and caring for four grandchildren, including my great great grandfather.

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

How about one of each?

The first ancestor that I researched in any depth was my 4X great grandfather Jacob Russell, a Loyalist in the Revolutionary War who ended up in New Brunswick. I was able to learn a great deal about his life during the war and afterwards, but could find nothing regarding his parentage. He was represented on numerous Ancestry trees, but none that provided any sensible ancestors. It was by connecting with another researcher here on WikiTree, a distant cousin from Virginia, that we finally broke through the brick wall, finding his baptism in Huntington Harbor, New York. We can now trace the line back to Charlestown in 1637.

One of my most frustrating brick walls belongs to Jacob’s son in law, my 3x great grandfather Stephen Pherrill. Stephen married Jacob’s daughter Elizabeth and they moved to Upper Canada, becoming among the first settlers of Scarborough. (Now part of Toronto.) Stephen was reportedly born on the upper St. John River in New Brunswick and his parents supposedly came from Maine. But I have found no trace of his ancestry, and indeed, have not really been able to find much of anyone with his surname. All the Pherrills on WikiTree are his descendants.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I like reading sci/fi & fantasy, and the occasional murder mystery. As well as history and current affairs. I like tennis and I watch the occasional hockey game. (Ice hockey, of course – is there really any other kind?) I love to cook. And I like to walk a few kilometers every day whenever I can. A few extra hours each day would be nice.

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

I’ve been on WikiTree since the fall of 2012. I try to spend part of the time helping out the community through my Ranger shifts and work on projects. But a lot of my time is still spent on my tree. I split the time between making improvements to existing profiles and adding connections to new cousins as they contact me. I am online just about every day, but for some reason, my “to do” list never seems to shrink, but rather continues to grow!

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

Beginner’s luck. I was just looking for a free place to build my family tree, without any clear idea what I was getting into!

WikiTree was smaller then. I actually entered several hundred profiles before I bumped into anyone else, so it took a while before it dawned on me that I was only part of a much greater whole.

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

I guess if I had to sum up my favorite thing about WikiTree, it would be its accessibility.

From the moment that I started, I was impressed with the layout of the profiles: data, family connections, sources, family stories and photographs all accessible on the same page.

But that is only a small part of the picture compared to its accessibility on the web. I have been astonished at the number of folks who have contacted me over the years. And not just distant cousins. I’ve heard from historians, museum curators, professors and old friends of people who I’ve profiled in my tree.

My wife’s great grandmother had a cousin who married a man here in Ontario early in the last century. She left him a widower at a very young age and he went off to war and died in France just before the armistice in 1918. A couple of years ago, I heard from a school teacher in Iwuy France whose class was researching the soldiers buried in their local cemetery. I sent him the information that I could about the man in question, and then a few months ago, I heard from one of the soldier’s family members here in Canada. I put her in touch with the man in France, and now her family is planning a trip in the fall to a ceremony in Iwuy which will commemorate the Canadian soldiers’ sacrifices in the Great War. Making that connection wouldn’t have been possible without WikiTree.

I have heard from people on every continent (except Antarctica of course). I’ve worked with folks from Chengdu, China to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Every day is a new adventure. I don’t know who I will hear from when I turn on my computer!

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

If we could get rid of some of the limitations, especially the 5000 profile limit. I am constantly having to orphan profiles that I have researched and worked on. I would like to be able to keep tabs on them.

I’m also at the point where if I want to add a following tab, I must make a decision about which one to drop, as we are only allowed to follow twenty at a time. 

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

Oh my! Where to start? WikiTree members have been my education in genealogy from the beginning. I was pretty green when I started. I’m still no expert, but thanks to all the help from others here, I’m finally starting to learn how much I don’t know. The friendliness and willingness to help a newbie that I experienced when I started here is something that I try to emulate.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Take it slow. Read everything the greeters send you. We are a little bit different from other sites and there is a bit of a learning curve. Ignore the impulse to import a big gedcom. Build your tree one profile at a time, adding your sources as you go. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Not only do you learn stuff, but you meet people that way too.


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  2 Responses to “Meet our Members: Dave Rutherford”

  1. I have Rutherfords in my tree. Thomas Rutherford, my 2 x great grandfather (born circa 1839) had a different place of birth on each of his children’s birth records. He is definitely my brickwall. He was from Northumberland, UK. I suspect he was born out of wedlock, and made up (lied!) about his mother and father’s name and occupation on his marriage certificates. He ended up coming to Australia where my great grandmother, Hannah was born.

  2. Dave,
    Good to see you on WikiTree this morning. I have many lines going back to England, Ireland and Palatine. My Palatine lines came from Ireland to Canada in the early 1800’s. The names are Glazier, Steep and Brown. They settled in Ontario. I would sure like to hear from you. My e-mail address is j_lemley@juno.com.

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