Meet our Members: Scott McClain

+22 votes
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Hi everyone!

500px-Meet_our_Members_Photos-51.jpgIt'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)

WikiTree profile: Scott McClain
in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.8m points)

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

I joined WikiTree in March 2019. My initial goal was just to build out well-written and fully sourced profiles in my own family tree. I’m still not half done with that project alone! But in recent months, I’ve also become active in the Southern Colonies Project, where I serve as the Project Coordinator for managed profiles. That job probably consumes about 90% of my WikiTree time these days. I have also been active with the PGM Project over the past year – where I met and was tutored by some of the most skilled genealogists you could hope for as mentors -- and recently joined the Palatine Migration Project to help in its work on early German emigrants as well.

What brought you to WikiTree?

Like many genealogists today, I started out on Ancestry.com and without realizing it, initially incorporated a lot of junk into my tree by mindlessly copying the errors of others. Once I realized that, I resolved to start from scratch, test every claim, and strip what I had down to include only what was proven or at least based on reasonable speculation and sound sources. Around the same time, a genealogist I was collaborating with on Ancestry told me she thought I would find a home at WikiTree in that process. She was right.

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

I love the collaborative aspect of WikiTree, and the emphasis on careful, serious genealogy that so many members share. I have had the chance to learn from some outstanding mentors – especially the crew on the PGM Project. That’s given me an opportunity to learn and hone research skills and then pass those lessons on to others as a mentor myself. The chance to work with so many talented genealogists in a supportive environment like this is priceless. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s also free!

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

The process for dealing with nonresponsive profile managers. I’ve gotten used to submitting the form required to deal with it, but for the profiles of individuals likely to have lots of descendants – say for individuals born more than 200 years ago -- I think it would be more efficient to automatically orphan those managed by members who have become inactive – say, those who have made no contributions to WikiTree for a year or two. That would make it easier for active members to adopt them and relieve some of the administrative burden on the WikiTree team.

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

The PGM mentoring mentioned above.  For example, back in February 2020, I posted on G2G questioning the dismissal by R.C. Anderson of a published English pedigree for Daniel Abbott, one of my PGM ancestors.  The post is here:  https://www.wikitree.com/g2g/984647/this-valid-source-for-adding-parents-daniel-abbotts-profile ...  In a nutshell, my question was: If I find a baptismal record in England with the same name as my ancestor born around the same time, it’s probably the same person, right?  As you can see from the resulting G2G feed, I was promptly schooled otherwise!  And since then, I have tried to gently break the same bad news to others making the same common error. 

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Take the time to write an accurate narrative biography for each person whose WikiTree profile you work on…collaborate…and cite your sources!

6 Answers

+10 votes
Congratulations, Scott, being nominated as Wonderful WikiTreer of the week.

When I read your research interests, first line USA and then pretty much everything that emigrated from Europe to the USA: England, Austria-Hungary, Lithuania, Ireland, Italy, Germany (Palatinate), then you could write a history of the European emigration waves to the USA with your research.
by Dieter Lewerenz G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
+8 votes
Congratulations Scott. on being member of the week. It was an interesting interview and we're lucky to have you.
by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+6 votes
Congratulations on being the Member of the Week, Scott! I really enjoyed reading your interview and appreciate your work here on WikiTree!
by Virginia Fields G2G6 Pilot (702k points)
+5 votes
What an interesting journey your genealogy has taken you on, Scott! A pleasure to read about your experiences.
by Maggie N. G2G6 Pilot (881k points)
+3 votes
Congratulations, Scott, on your recognition, and thank you for all you do for our tree.  It's great to hear about your work and your family.
by Mark Weinheimer G2G6 Pilot (406k points)
+4 votes
Congratulations Scott on being member of the week. I especially liked seeing your family tree. With most of my family in western Oklahoma, I had to read the wonderful biography you did on your remarkable grandfather James Harold McClain. Glad you are a part of WikiTree.
by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (428k points)

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