When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?
I come from a small family with only 8 cousins across both sides of our family (including one I’ve never met). I’ve always wished I had lots and lots of cousins. There were so many gaps on that side of the family that I may have always been interested in genealogy, but it wasn’t until I turned 40 that I started actively researching. My maternal Great Grandfather (aptly named “Tickle Grandpa”) was raised in an orphanage in Ireland and was sent to Canada when he was 18 years old.
When I first started investigating, I accepted a lot of suggestions done by prior amateur researchers, but a lot of things didn’t add up, like 27 children in one family, or children born to a 12-year-old or 67-year-old mother. I didn’t know enough yet to untangle the mess, so I set things aside again for a long time.
Until the pandemic hit, and I had some extra time on my hands. And for a few weeks in the spring of 2020 I jumped in with both feet with the intention of figuring out once and for all the real number of children born to my Great Great Grandmother Annie Ferguson, and hoped I could find out more about her parents and her in-laws.
I quickly became addicted and it wasn’t long before I had spent thousands of hours piecing together all branches of my family tree. While I still don’t have birth information for my Great Grandmother Annie Ferguson, I have found three of her siblings, both of her parents death records and all 14 of her children.
I’ve found 2nd cousins I had no idea existed, connected with older relatives who have helped me fill in stories and scanned thousands of family photos. I no longer feel like I have a “little family”.
Who's your favorite ancestor and why?
I have a few, but Annie Ferguson is a big favorite because it was her who pulled me into researching and helped me feel connected to a much bigger extended family.
What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?
I love camping and unplanned road trip adventures.
How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing?
I joined WikiTree in April 2020 and jumped right into the Connect-a-Thon with the Mighty Oaks (England Project) by adding about 700 profiles before realizing how much of a job it would be to fix up my newbie mistakes later. Since then I’ve worked on profile improvements and sourcing for hundreds of orphaned profiles.
Recently I joined the new Canadian Orphan Trail and loved the process so much that I volunteered to help others go through the process themselves. I hope to help people avoid the same mistakes I made while helping them love WikiTree as much as I do.
What brought you to WikiTree?
Someone told me that I should avoid WikiTree because people make changes to your tree without your consent and/or dump a bunch of garbage in your tree. So, like most things in life, I did the opposite and signed up to figure out what they were talking about. What I discovered was that I did have the control I needed and that I loved contributing to one big family tree that I could share with future generations. Including reaching out to members who may have imported messy profiles and offer to help them get back on track.
If you could improve one thing about WikiTree, what would it be?
I would love to see a wysiwyg editor or an app that allows side by side viewing of a profile. I have dyslexia and struggle with writing inline sourcing. I’ve developed some great workarounds, but that would be my number one improvement request.
What is an example of how WikiTree has helped you with your genealogy or how you’ve helped genealogy with WikiTree?
WikiTree has helped me learn how to properly source my tree, how to find free sources and how to make sure that what I’ve found will be easy for future generations to access again when website addresses inevitably change.
I’ve helped several people track down family members they didn’t know they had, discover their family originated in a different country than their family lore, or due to a 2nd marriage, half-cousins.
Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?
Take the time to go through the Introduction YouTube videos early on. And, sign up for one of the Orphan Trail programs to practice using WikiTree with the help of a guide.