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 Sandy.

Sandy Patak joined WikiTree in March of 2016.  She was one of the winners in our 2018 Spring Clean-a-Thon and is very active on WikiTree as a Cemeterist.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Bonar/Bonner, Gregory, Hamrick, Dodrill, Ware, Wamsley, Arbogast, Linger, Lance/Lantz and Patak

What are some of the locations you are researching?

I’m researching the Highlands and in particular Stirling area of Scotland.  While tracing my Bonar/Bonner family back to Scotland, I am also tracing my brother’s Craig side of the family.  There is much debate in our family on whether the Craig’s came from Scotland or went through Ireland first.

I’m also researching my husband’s family, the Pataks, back to Hungry.  This has been a challenge due to language and the movement of the country’s boundaries.

I am always researching the Central West Virginia region which is where all of my family hail from.  I am the first family member to not be born in Wild Wonderful West Virginia. I am often in the state researching, talking to relatives and friends as well as surveying and documenting cemeteries.

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

My Uncle Drex!

From a very early age, he would tell stories of our ancestors in such a way that you would swear that he knew them personally.  Instead, he obtained all the stories and details by visiting his older generation and asking detailed questions. This was way before the internet so he would go door-to-door and stay for hours collecting information.   I was hooked with genealogy right then and there! When Uncle Drex gifted me with his genealogy work before he passed away, I actively started to update our family records and put our family trees on the Internet.

Later in life, I decided to take a DNA Test to prove that I was Italian.  Most people assume that I am and, well, I do eat my fair share of pasta. I was quite shocked at the results… they showed no Italian ancestry.  It did show some Scandinavian, which we can all guess how that happened. So my current quest is to trace my line back far enough to find where my Beloved Bonar/Bonner family came from in Scotland.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

It would easy for me to pick my beloved Grandmother but I think my favorite is her Great Grandmother: Sarah Folks Bonner.

Sarah’s husband, Samuel Bonner, briefly served in the War of 1812 for Johnathan Wamsley and Col. Booth in Virginia (now West Virginia).  Samuel was suppose to be granted a pension that included land in Randolph County, WV. For over a decade she fought, as his widow, to get the land grant.  She was denied over 50 times but persevered until finally, shortly after her death in 1880, she (and her heir) were granted the land rights. There are over 75 pieces of historical documents that show she never gave up on her right to the land.  The claims denials were fairly harsh. She even employed attorneys at a great expense to correspond with the Pension Office in DC. Each document she signed had her mark of “X” because she could not write.

Sarah paid money to the attorneys to protect the land that Samuel was buried on and so their son could inherit.  She fought the good fight and eventually won. Something that is incredible for a woman to do in that era. Currently, the land has been divided and sold many times over but my husband, son and I go there often to fly fish on the mighty Elk River and walk the land that they farmed.

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

With the help of a fellow WikiTree member, I was able to break the Brick Wall on my Husband’s Great Grandfather: Fredrik Ludvig Carlson.  I posted for Swedish research assistance and a member of WikiTree from Sweden researched some very old documents and was able to find Fredrik’s parents.  Not only was the Brick Wall torn down but I got an insight to their lives in Sweden before they emigrated to the U.S.

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

Sophie Friederike Auguste Romanov aka Catherine the Great.

Catherine the Great was extremely well read, brave and had more guts than most men of her time.  For someone to integrate into another country, learn the language, learn the religion, learn the history and work on making a nation prosper practically on her own is impressive. She had her faults but her progress far outweigh the bad throughout the political minefields.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

Our family camps in our Vintage Airstream Argosy a lot.  It was a childhood dream of mine to buy an Airstream and completely renovate it.  Eight years ago, the right trailer at the right price came along. It took us over two years to get it completely renovated with a lot of hands on work and dirt!  Now, we take short weekend trips or long haul trips to the beach and beyond. It’s incredibly easy to load up the teenager and pups and go for an adventure. As a result of our work, I write and manage a blog on the renovation process for Vintage Trailers.

I am also fairly obsessed with hockey.  Our family are season ticket holders to our local team, the Atlanta Gladiators. We can be found at hockey events from October to April every year.

Otherwise, I am on the golf course cheering my son on during his golf tournaments which have taken over our summers.

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

I’ve been on WikiTree since March 2016.

I spend most of my time adding ancestors and uploading picture of tombstones.  I have over 2000 pictures of family cemeteries and local cemeteries that need uploaded.  As a Cemeterist, I am trying to complete the task of matching the photos with people.

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

Oddly enough, my son was researching U.S. Presidents and found WikiTree before me!  Once I read about the Honor Code and that it was free to use, I was hooked.

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

The collaboration between members as well as Projects.  I love the ability to put a category on a profile and have everyone connect in a specific category on one page.  I use that a lot for researching variations of names.

I read the g2g forum whenever searching for answers on a topic that I need advice.

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

GEDCOM!  I would love to have Gedcom uploads paused until a new member completes at least 20 Profiles… with sources.  Once those 20 are completed and reviewed, then the Gedcom can be uploaded. Throughout my Family Tree on WikiTree are so many Gedcoms that are simply outright incorrect, abandoned and not sourced.  There is a learning curve with WikiTree and that should be understood before a massive dump of ancestors.

A related issue would be if there was a way to not include all the Ancestry “Junk” when uploading a Gedcom.

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

I am a check twice, then respond type of person.  WikiTree is my solid backup. It’s very easy to look at the Family Tree and track it.  The DNA Team has been a tremendous resource for knowledge in an area that I was just learning.  With that information, I was able to work on tearing down my current Brick Wall as well as other people’s.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Go SLOW!  Take your time building your first couple of Profiles.  Treat your ancestor’s profiles as a full life and not just a bunch of sources and data.  Do not be afraid to add to an existing profile. At first, I thought I would be stepping on someone else’s toes but I found that most truly collaborate.

Join a Team during the Clean-A-Thon or Source-A-Thon… the Captains and Leaders are always so supportive and mentoring.  I can’t stress this one enough!


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  3 Responses to “Meet our Members: Sandy Patak”

  1. Hi Sandy, keep up the good work. Just a note to say that we are just 18 degrees from each other. The best part is that the last eight is in my Harvey line. My main research is in Mineral, Grant Counties , West Virginia and Garrett County, Maryland.
    If I can be of any help from this area, let me know. Thanks, Charles

    my WikiTee site is:

  2. Sandy Patak is 23 Degrees from Cynthia Mangiafico

  3. Hi, Sandy!
    As a career Surveyor and Mining Engineering Technician, the grandeur of the West Virginia mountains, still astounds me, and those visions from the mountaintops, from all times of the day, are locked in my heart. I have been interested in genealogy since I was 12. my Grandfather left his home in Lebanon when he was 8, to make his way to America by the age of 13, learning 6 other languages along the way, besides his Hebrew and Arabic. He was my Hero…always will be.
    I really like the work you’ve done. And I appreciate that. Keep it up, girl! Members like you make Wikitree, so much better!
    don c. (Crum-348)

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