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 Saundra.

Saundra became a WikiTreer in August of 2017.  She spends a great deal of time adding to and improving our Ohio profiles.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Right now I’m working on my Murchland and Van Sickle ancestors.  I have the wills for the Murchlands but don’t yet know how they are all connected.  With the Van Sickles, they moved around a lot and changed the spelling of their names so much that I’m having to deeply research the locations to find connections.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

I’m working the entire state of Ohio and profiling the early settlers of each town, township, and county.  Right now I’m in Jackson county which led me to create a special category for Welsh Settlements in Ohio.  That is a perfect companion to the African American Settlements in Ohio which I started to record the freed slaves who relocated in the state.  It all will come together when I get farther along with my work in Ohio.

I’m also presently working the pioneers of “Ten Mile Country”.  This will hopefully fill in some of the blanks with my own ancestors.

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

My Aunt Jan did all the preliminary work for my direct ancestry.  She took our line back to James and Mary (Lafferty) Stuart of Cow Pasture, Virginia the hard way.  Door to door, cemetery to cemetery, and handwritten letters to county court houses. . . it took her years to accomplish what I can accomplish in a handful of hours today.  Today, many people are using her work without knowing how hard it was or how long it took for her to accumulate.

Aunt Jan saw my interest in our history on a trip to Point Pleasant when I was about 12 and she planted a seed in  me hoping I would  take up where she left off.   Apparently,  I wasn’t the only family member she touched, either.  Since I’ve now the time to work the ancestry I’ve found many cousins who’ve built on to her original work.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

That would be my Dad.  He’s West Virginia hill people through and through and it makes me proud to be descended from Appalachian Scots-Irish settlers.  But, other than Dad, I don’t have a favorite ancestor.  Some people have more interesting lives than others and it’s just fun to learn more about them.  I’m always amazed when a woman has more than 6 children.  I love the families who left their established towns and moved to newly opened territory. . . the courage it took is a testament to the human race.

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

Working the African American Settlements in Ohio is tough.  The records are scanty. . . the names aren’t complete. . . and there’s little chance of tracing them back to their origins.  Alex Haley was very lucky.  With so-called “brick walls” of Caucasians, I figure time and collaboration will eventually open doors and family Bibles so I just tell myself that the universe will help fill in the blanks and keep on truckin’.

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

I’ve been on WikiTree a little over a year and I’ve learned that I have Genealogical ADD.  I’ll work a specific name or location for a time then, when everything starts mushing together in my brain, I move to another name or location.  I keep my overall focus on mine and my husband’s family and the state of Ohio so I don’t stray too far and can easily come back and continue previous work.  Since I have the entire northern half of Ohio still to work, I figure I’ll be fine for at least another year.

What brought you to WikiTree?

That was my Dad.  I was floundering looking for a decent free site to work and Dad said he liked WikiTree.  I signed up almost immediately and began working.

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

I love the freedom.  I can add backgrounds, photos, sources, and even music and videos if they add to the profile of the person.  My husband and late father-in-law are musicians and I was free to add their music through YouTube videos.  Bob Evans, the late pork and restaurant mogul of Ohio, has a video series so I added that.  I can connect unrelated persons who traveled together to settle a specific area.  We can really flesh out history on WikiTree.

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

Right now, there’s so many profiles on WikiTree that I’d change the name search protocol.  When searching to see if an early settler is already on WikiTree–“John Russ” for example– then John Ross, John Rust, John Russo, etc. shows up and barely 100 years are covered on the search page.  I have to go to the bottom and ask specifically for “John Russ”.  It would save time and confusion if I had to specifically ask for similar surnames rather than having to specifically ask for exact surnames.

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

I hope I’ve helped genealogy by being specific.   Aunt Jan taught me that it’s “Location, Location, Location”.  There are thousands of John Smiths in New Jersey and if you don’t know their exact location you can’t know if it’s your ancestor John Smith.  So, I work hard to make sure that I narrow my locations to the smallest common denominator possible to help those who see the profiles know if it’s their ancestor.  If I can find the information, I will give a street address of the deceased person.  (I prefer not to work on those born after 1910 if I can help it.  I don’t want to mess with privacy issues.)

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Just go for it!  Create, Learn, Have Fun!  In the short time I’ve been here I’ve learned so much from other profiles and, more importantly, from the other genealogists here.  It’s OK to make mistakes because everyone knows what it’s like to be new at this.  Like it says on the page. . . Be Bold!

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  13 Responses to “Meet our Members: Saundra Stewart”

  1. Hi Saundra,
    I had a website for over 10 years on the now defunct MyFamily site that was dedicated to helping those researching Belmont County, Ohio surnames.
    Your project on early African-American settlements made me think of an old cemetery I first visited in the 1990s. Here’s a link to a recent article http://www.barnesville-enterprise.com/news/20170222/captina-african-methodist-episcopal-church-cemetery-restoration-remembered-during-black-history

    Please feel free to contact me anytime at jmagyar2@comcast.net
    Best regards,
    Joseph “Skip” Magyar

  2. I see that you are working around area that my father-in-law is from his mother’s last name was Harris his father’s last name is prophet proffitt if you have any insight on this it would be very much appreciated

  3. Congratulations, nice to meet a long distance cousin in the spot light.

  4. Hi, My gg grandparents married in Trumbull Co., Ohio 2Apr1828. Does that qualify as an early settler of Ohio? Thanks!

  5. If you are looking to enlarge this database, there was an African American settlement somewhere in the Darke/Miami Cos area. This is referenced in one or more articles on my German Baptist ancestor, Philip Younce, who was a preacher to small house churches in the area. He included an African American group among his regular stops. He was at Lower Stillwater in Miami Co and can be found in a few reference books. He arrived with young family shortly after 1810. Sharon Mills

  6. Hi Saundra
    I’m new to the geneology stuff and when I saw that your last name is Stewart I thought maybe you could point me in the right direction!I’m trying to find out about one of my Great Grandmother her name was Lydia Stewart. She was born 1817 and I believe married to William Miller. She passed in 1910 after having been about 19 children! Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  7. Thank you

  8. Has your research gotten to Muskingum County. My Butler and Baker lines were there. I haven’t worked too much on the Baker’s, but would like to have some pointers on where to search on line for info.

  9. I think I may have toured the last stop on the underground railroad
    downtown Erie PA

  10. Hi, I dont know what my Wiki tree is doing I type in the name Elizabeth bowes lyon see if I connection and it sends me to a page or something and says this
    Connection Anchor: Queen Victoria, monarch of the United Kingdom from 1837 to 1901.
    or something what do Anchor meant someone please tell me what is it. thanks!!.

  11. Keep an Eye out for an Alzina Matilda Simpson Born around 1840 supposedly in Ohio..but I haven’t been able to find anything…except her marriage and death (grave location missing too). I have no idea on race or nationality.or if Alzina is her Birth name…it’s driving me nuts!

  12. My 3rd GGfather, Cornelius Austin, born 1804 Henrico Co. Va, rec’d land according to Act of Congress 24 April 1820 signed by Pres. John Tyler 10 April 1843. Land in Jackson County. Map of property near Swiftville, Ohio. Cornelius died 1846 in Jackson, Ohio. I grew up near Richmondale, Ohio and did not know of my ancestry until 2017.

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