Meet our Members: Brad Stauf

+23 votes

Hi everyone!

500px-Stauf-1.jpgIt's time to get to know another of our wonderful WikITreers. This week's member is Brad Stauf.

Brad became a Wiki Genealogist in April of 2015. He's currently volunteering as a Project Coordinator for the Puritan Great Migration Project.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Billington, Pickel/Bechtel, Tubbs, Goodale/Goodell, Smith, Müller/Miller.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

England (all counties), Canada around Brome-Missisquoi near Quebec where my United Empire Loyalist ancestors ended up after getting kicked out of New York. Previously Bohemia, Austria, Germany and Scotland.

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

My father-in-law who was a WW2 veteran and spoke multiple languages was interested in genealogy from his own time in Germany during and after the war. Genealogy was so hard then compared to the online resources we have today, it’s amazing what he was able to accomplish. He had gravestone rubbings that he made, he visited churches and towns and kept working on meeting & connecting with his Stressel/Strissel relatives all his life.

Most people nowadays never wrote a letter asking for information and then waited for a couple months hoping to get a reply.

He passed his materials on to his daughter (my wife of 30 years) and eventually I sort of fell into it. Now I’ve been at it for about 20 years and apparently I’ll never be quite done…

Who's your favorite ancestor and why?

My mother who died when I was 17. She grew up poor but was very intelligent; she went to Eritrea (Ethiopia at the time) as a schoolteacher in the mid 50s where she met my father who was in the Army. There was so much more to her than I was ever able to learn about and I wish I could have gotten to know her as a person.

[Interview continues below.]

WikiTree profile: Brad Stauf
in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.7m points)

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

I would love to figure out my Goodell heritage; my documented brick wall is Sally born 1808 in (most likely) New Hampshire. I know her “likely” parents but there is no proof (John Goodell and Sally Webster) and he has been researched extensively by many more people than me with nothing conclusive found, mainly due to records either lacking or destroyed.

The brick wall I’m proudest of breaking through, with the help of a second cousin, Larry Nolte, was our common Nolte immigrant ancestor who came to St. Louis sometime in the early 1800s. He lied about his age at his marriage likely because he was so much older than his bride, his name was super common, his age and place of origin were different on every document we found about him. We spent years tracing every “Heinrich Nolte” in Missouri and contacting researchers in Germany before we cracked this one.

I’ll just give one other brief one because it’s DNA-related. After years of wondering why I had some close DNA connections that didn’t seem to make sense, I figured out by combining records and DNA research that my grandfather was the illegitimate son of the literally-next-door neighbor (so technically I’m a “Billington”, not a “Stauf” at all). Now that DNA testing and data sharing is so common, a lot of people are finding out about “non parental events”, unfortunately that can break up families as much as it can connect long-lost relatives so people need to be careful about doing this research and sharing the results. Fortunately my aunt just thought it was funny, but she has a good sense of humor. I’m not sure how my father would have reacted (he passed away before I discovered all this) learning that his own father was illegitimate.

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

I don’t really have an answer for that, there are so many people who were great scientists or humanitarians or political leaders who created empires, I don’t really have a specific person. And even if I was related to someone famous, or infamous, what really matters to me is what I do with my life, my family and my friends. Unless it was someone rich who left me a lot of money, that would be OK. ☺

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

Playing and watching hockey and golf, meddling in our adult son’s life (ha ha), riding our bikes around Westminster, Colorado and enjoying retirement.

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

I’ve been on WikiTree for almost 6 years but only got active about a year ago. I don’t spend much time researching my own family any more so mostly I work on Puritan Great Migration projects. I joined PGM about 6 months ago and was “promoted” (if that’s the word) to Project Coordinator recently so I’m trying to help new members with standards, editing, sourcing, maintenance etc. I’m still learning about the tools and resources available (thanks Data Doctors!) to improve profiles and perform maintenance and research.

What brought you to WikiTree?

I always used and Family Tree Maker for my own work and just dipped into WikiTree occasionally for hints or research. A couple years ago I started realizing how much work many folks here put into their research and sourcing compared to some other genealogy sites. That got me more involved, and it just snowballed from there. My mother’s ancestors were early immigrants (Colby, Tubbs, etc.) and that made me aware of the PGM project.

[Interview continues below.]

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

The collaborative nature so that we can share research and comments and information on the g2g forum. That’s one thing Ancestry really lacks, if you notice something on somebody’s tree there is no public forum to try and suggest improvements or ask questions so even if the owner responds to a comment, it’s all private communication. But … the downside is the ‘familysearch’ effect where people start making changes with absolutely no thought behind it and no sources or upload impossible gedcoms and do a lot of damage that somebody else has to fix. I don’t have a silver-bullet answer for that problem.

My favorite specific feature is the “undo” or revert-changes.  Anyone who remembers computers before this feature (let alone remembers the “before computers” world) knows what a lifesaver it is.

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

I don’t have a good answer for that but I have 2 ideas to develop a good answer:

  1. Ask people who signed up for WikiTree and then stopped using it or don’t contribute – why not?  What was so hard, or so lacking, or so time-consuming or discouraging that made you quit?

  2. Get people who are cutting-edge thinkers about group collaboration, about unstructured and structured content management, about information publishing and dissemination and consumption, about the factory-like processes involved and how to optimize them and how to maximize contributions.  How would they make WikiTree better? Things like badges and ‘thank-yous’ are classic examples of the endorphin rush used to drive behavior that everyone hates Facebook for (‘likes’, anyone?) that we are using for “good” here on WikiTree. WikiTree is a good passive repository, it’s not a place of primary research (no ‘hints’ which some people might say is a good thing) but it’s good for manual collaboration without much automation. Is this our end goal for WikiTree? What more could it do and be?

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

The G2G forum has been invaluable not just for specific genealogy research topics but to get ideas on how to handle conflicting information, questionable sources, how to do better documentation of sources. And it’s made me think about how to most effectively present information depending on who will be using it and how.  I adapted a NEHGR-style “article” that somebody wrote up with footnotes to a standard PGM-style profile and also recreated the original article as an attached Spaces page. That was a very useful exercise in terms of thinking about how people consume information.

I also recently coordinated with a couple admins of some genealogy profiles on getting and WikiTree information in sync and well-sourced and it was great that everyone left behind any bias about who had the “best” information. I try to do that with people I bump into at ancestry or familysearch too, collaborate with them and let them know about WikiTree resources. 

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Reach out for mentoring!!! I see new-person profiles all the time with “welcome to WikiTree” messages but you can see they are not making contributions, or they are putting up profiles with no sources and following no standards, or leaving behind gedcom messes.  The forum is so active, and so many people are friendly and willing to help, it’s a shame not to use those resources and learn a lot in a hurry. So thing # 2 would be “don’t import gedcoms, do the work by hand”. I think imports don’t really save any time anyway, by the time you look for duplicate profiles, clean up the formatting mess and validate or edit all the data and the relationships that you’ll need to do anyway.

Awesome....congrats to you Brad!

We are 12th cousins through the Nason Martin and Tuttle parentages.

7 Answers

+11 votes
Congratulations, Brad. An interesting interview and a great biography.

Thanks for all your work on WikiTree.
by Dieter Lewerenz G2G6 Pilot (478k points)
+10 votes
Congratulations on working with wikitree.
by David Hughey G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
+9 votes

Hi, cousin Brad. I enjoyed reading your interview. smiley

I was interested to see that you have a brickwall named Goodell/Goodale.  As if you and I didnt already have plenty of cousin connections (we are 7th cousins, and also 3x 9th cousins, 1x half-9th cousins, 3x 9th cousins once removed, etc.), I think it likely that your Goodell ancestor is related to my Goodell/Goodale ancestral line.

I suggest that you create some profiles (even if they have to be unconnected) for folks like John Goodell, his wife, Sally Webster and John Worthington Goodell, who you mention in the profile for Sally Goodell but have not profiled yet. The existence of a profile might support collaboration toward finding your ancestors. wink

by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
+5 votes
Congrats, cousin! And thanks for all the fine work you're doing on PGM - it's really appreciated.
by Bobbie Hall G2G6 Pilot (180k points)
+5 votes
Hey cousin! Great to meet you and thanks for all that you do for the tree.

We're all related!

You and I are 7C2R (via William Hall-696), which makes us both related to Chris Whitten.
by Kay Knight G2G6 Pilot (382k points)
+2 votes

Congratulations Brad!

It appears we’re 10th cousins once removed and share Richard Kimball I (abt. 1595 - 1675) as a common ancestor.

Thank you for all you do smiley

Great interview !

by Andrew Simpier G2G6 Pilot (152k points)
+2 votes
I enjoyed reading your article, Brad, and getting to know you better.  Did you know we're 10th cousins through my namesake ancestor George Aldrich?  yippee!

I am personally so pleased with the work you are doing with PGM profiles, Brad.  Your insight and research abilities are invaluable to all of us.  Especially I appreciate how you "stepped up" to help with the unmerged matches.  Thank you.

Also, you're the perfect person, in my opinion, to help new PGMers acclimate to the project.  Your knowledge in combination with your wit helps people to relax and learn.  Many, many thanks.
by Cheryl Skordahl G2G6 Pilot (220k points)

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