Meet our Members: Beverly Benfer

+15 votes

Hi everyone.

imageIt's time to meet another one of our Wonderful WikiTreers! This week's member is Beverly Benfer

Beverly became a Wiki Genealogist in November of 2014. She's active as a Sourcerer and Data Doctor and loves adding profiles to WikiTree's Roll of Honor.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

I originally focused primarily on my Benfer, Noll, Rine, and Reed familes – my grandparents’ paternal lines. I enjoy getting sidetracked on a maternal line as well, such as the Geise and Gemberling families. The Gemberlings were the source of one of the biggest surprises when I discovered through descendency research that I am related to at least nine of my 172 high school classmates plus one of our teachers! Needless to say they were even more surprised when I gave them the family tree at a recent class reunion.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Most of my time is spent in Pennsylvania records because both of my parents’ extended families settled here in the 1700s and most remained here until the present day. They all emigrated from areas that are now in Germany. Yikes! Reading that old German script is a challenge!

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

When the DAR asked my father to speak at the rededication of the burial site of a Revolutionary War soldier, we thought it was because Dad was chaplain and commander of the local American Legion. They said that was a bonus, but they asked him because he was a descendant of that soldier. It was a total surprise for our entire family! I wanted to know more.

Who's your favorite ancestor and why?

Even though my immigrant Benfer emigrated in 1766, I feel like I know him personally. Johann Georg Benfer was the 10th child of a forester, with not much of a future in his homeland. He took a leap of faith and came to Pennsylvania from what is now Germany. In addition to serving in the Revolutionary War, he settled in the wilderness of what is now Central Pennsylvania when it was primarily forest and Indians. He raised 12 kids while he created a farm from nothing. And I’ve learned more than just the statistics. In the online archives for England’s National Maritime Museum, I found a painting of the ship George sailed on. My brother and I recently discovered his farm, which is still working and using the original log cabin that he built in 1776. I found stories, such as surviving an Indian attack that killed both of his brothers-in-law and later making friends with the Indians, even playing with them. He was a strong, courageous man with boundless determination who created a future for himself and his family that would have been impossible in Germany.

Tell us about a brick wall you hope to bust through.

One of my hopes and biggest frustrations is to learn who my paternal great-grandfather was.

Great-grandma Benfer was pregnant at age 16, giving birth to my grandfather. She died two weeks after his birth and a month before her 17th birthday. We have found no records or even family stories to indicate who the father might have been. We are hoping DNA may eventually help us learn at least a surname line.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I spent most of my career in various aspects of education from teaching home economics in public schools to producing educational videos to directing a distance education program in higher education. I still love working with technology to support education. I have a passion for rehabilitating rescued dogs. My other interests include various crafts, nutrition, fitness, and gardening. History was not something that I enjoyed until the genealogy bug bit me and I could see how historical events impacted my own family.

[Interview continues in comments.]

WikiTree profile: Beverly Benfer
in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (2.0m points)

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

I joined WikiTree six years ago. I divide my time between working on my family tree and helping others with their research. I also participate in the Sourcing projects and some of the Data Doctor projects. Recently I realized that a classmate who had died during the Vietnam War had been almost forgotten by those who had been his close friends. To honor others who may be similarly forgotten, I began working on WikiTree’s Roll of Honor. I have focused on adding those from Pennsylvania (my home state) who died during the Vietnam War, researching them, their parents and grandparents to make it easier for a family member to find them later. This effort was reinforced when the first name I selected at random from a list turned out to be one of my college classmates.

What brought you to WikiTree?

I had given up on genealogy for a while after I saw a family tree in Ancestry that said one of my ancestors was born in 1784 and died in 2003. We have long lives in my family, but no one has lived that long since Noah! Numerous researchers were copying ridiculous “facts” between family trees. When I decided to try again, I discovered WikiTree through a Google search for an ancestor and liked what I saw, particularly the dedication to sources for the information.

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree?

I love the environment of collaboration, working together and learning from each other. You all have taught me soooo much. I even found some distant cousins who have since become friends.

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

One thing about WikiTree that could be improved is the import of GEDCOM files. Only statistics are imported, not the sources associated with the facts. Also, they often create duplicate profiles. Yes, there is the GEDCompare report to help. However, it often appears that the person who imported the file may get overwhelmed and never finish merging duplicates and attaching the source citations. This creates a lot of extra work for others to clean up.

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

WikiTree has helped so much by providing a simple way to list all of my sources for a person on one page along with the stories we can glean from those sources. In, we link to the records in the Ancestry database. The same is true in FamilySearch, MyHeritage and other family tree sites. The timelines on those sites include the primary facts associated with those records, such as birth, residence, marriage and death. The additional details are not as readily viewed. But in WikiTree, all of my sources are there including the records on those family tree sites, the Fold3 database, the National Archives, a book in, a local church record, a family Bible, a newspaper article, and more. And I can compile all of those associated facts into a storyline instead of just a timeline. This helps me see gaps in research and ideas for other places to look.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Take a deep breath and take your time. No one expects you to know everything. There are numerous help features available, and you can always ask the other members for help in G2G. That is a lovely aspect of a collaborative environment. Enjoy the journey because the research is never done. There is always someone new to find or something new to learn about an ancestor you thought had been well documented.

We are 26 degrees apart smiley

5 Answers

+6 votes
What a great interview. I really enjoyed this one.

Thank you, Beverly, for all you contribute to our community. I especially appreciate the Roll of Honor work.

By the way, source citations should be imported when a profile is created through GEDCOMpare. Of course, it's always possible there is a bug with one of the export or import systems. If you spot something that may be a bug on the WikiTree import side, report it here and Jamie will put it on the to-do list for the next time we do a round of GEDCOM-related improvements.
by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
Thanks, Chris. I have never imported a GEDCOM file myself because I was starting over when I found WikiTree and began used this site as my base of operations, adding each person and source as I found them. My comment was based on the number of times that I have come across an unsourced profile during a Source-a-Thon or Sourcing Saturday - and it had a notation that the profile was created through a GEDCOM import.
+3 votes

Congratulations Beverly on being recognized as member of the week.

According to WikiTree "relationship finder", we are 7th cousins once removed. We are both descendants of Johann Friedrich Leiby and Maria Magdalena (Mettling) Leiby.  My paternal ancestors stomping ground is Pennsylvania.


by Tommy Buch G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
edited by Tommy Buch

Hi, there, Cousin! I have not worked on my Leibys for some time. Keep promising myself I will dig into the branch again. I've gotten some stats, but I want their stories!

+2 votes
Beverly, it's such an honor to have you here. You had me thinking I better honor the Vietnam Vets in my family up here asap. Thank you. Great interview.
by Maggie N. G2G6 Pilot (999k points)
I'd be happy to help you start on those Vietnam vets. I did not have anyone in my family serve in 'Nam. But, for me, a great place to start was with the local American Legion. They can tell you who served from their local area. I created a template to help me piece things together. Be happy to share it.
+2 votes
I really enjoyed your story Beverly.  I also agree wholeheartedly with the GEDCOM problem.  I had worked on other sites before and wish that all the sources I had found could have been brought forward.  But, alas, it was a "start over", which meant an opportunity to recheck those "sources".
by Brad Cunningham G2G6 Pilot (132k points)

A "start-over" is not a bad thing. Which is why nationally recognized genealogist Thomas MacEntee started his free Genealogy Do-Over program. I've learned a lot - like the research is never done. Each year more records come available and may hold a gem for our own research. Yes, I'm an eternal optimist.

+2 votes
Thank you for sharing a little of what you do and also thank you for doing it.
by Rosalie Neve G2G6 Pilot (132k points)

smiley I appreciate that, Rosalie. I never expected this. I've just been doing what I love.

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