It's time to meet another one of our wonderful WikiTreers! This week's member is Scott McClain.
Scott became a Wiki Genealogist in March of 2019. He's a Project Coordinator for the US Southern Colonies Project and also active with the Puritan Great Migration and Palatine Migration projects.
What are some of the surnames you are researching?
I have spent a lot of time lately researching the Blevins of southwestern Virginia in the 1700s. This is challenging because every branch seems to include a James, John, Daniel, and William in every family. Lots of confusion in online genealogies and some drama, as some Blevins researchers are quite “enthusiastic.”
What are some of the locations you are researching?
I spend most of my time working in the pre-1700 American southern colonies (and in England) because of my role in the Southern Colonies Project. My personal research interests also extend to colonial New England and middle colonies; German Palatine immigrants; Irish potato famine immigrants; Lithuanian Jews fleeing the pogroms; and Ellis Island immigrants from various parts of Austria-Hungary and Italy. It’s a wide range.
When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?
I’m a history nerd, so it came naturally. My uncle laid a great foundation in the 1980s and passed his work on to me about ten years ago when I expressed an interest. I got hooked immediately.
Who's your favorite ancestor and why?
It’s hard to pick just one, but maybe William Bassett, my 10th great grandfather. He emigrated to Massachusetts Bay in 1635 with his mother and stepfather during the Puritan Great Migration. They seem to have been black sheep though: William’s mother was a healer and midwife, accused of witchcraft in the 1660s (but acquitted). William became a military leader in the brutal wars between the colonists and native tribes during the 1670s & 80s, but then his family was targeted again during the Salem witch trials. His son-in-law John Proctor was executed, and William’s daughter Elizabeth Proctor was also condemned to die but not executed because she was pregnant. Several of William’s other children and grandchildren were also accused, imprisoned, and in one case, tortured into confession. Hard to imagine so much drama in a single lifetime.
Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down.
Margaret Stafford, my 2nd great grandmother, was orphaned as an infant on the Missouri/Iowa frontier in the 1840s and raised by an adoptive family. According to family legend, her father was an Englishman, and her birth mother was an Indian woman he married in New York. It was all just legend though and her origins remained a brick wall for many years. I finally solved the paternal half of that puzzle with triangulated DNA matches establishing that Margaret’s father was Isaac Stafford. The family legends about him turned out to be true: he was born in Gloucestershire and emigrated to America in 1830, along with his twin brother Abraham. Both men apparently did take wives in New York (though the Indian part is still legend), then migrated west to Missouri before 1840. Isaac took his family further west after that to the remote Missouri/Iowa frontier, where both he and his wife died before 1850. The DNA matches that helped prove this connection were with descendants of Isaac’s siblings who live today in America, England, and as far away as Australia! And using the Gloucestershire church records, I’ve traced his family back another four generations to the mid-1600s.
(interview continues in comments below)