Meet our Members: David Randall

+23 votes

Hi everyone!

Meet_our_Members_Photos-90.jpgIt's time to get to know another one of our wonderful WikiTreers. This week's member is David Randall.

David became a Wiki Genealogist in November 2020. He currently oversees the Classic Disney project.

When and how did you get interested in genealogy?

Back in 1979, when I was still a young teenager, my grandfather gave me an original copy of The Randall Genealogy, which had been handed down through several generations since it was first published in 1879 - exactly 100 years earlier. I was mesmerized by all those hundreds of names and the knowledge that each and every one of them was somehow related to me. But like most 19th century genealogies, this book was full of names, dates, and places, but little in the way of narrative. I wanted to know who each of these people were, what their lives were like, and ultimately how their stories came together to influence my own. Uncovering those stories has since become my life's mission.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I love anything to do with history. One of my most unique hobbies is collecting historical autographs. Specifically, I seek out vintage Time magazines in order to get them signed by the cover subject. I began my collection in the 1980s and today it numbers almost 1,000 autographed covers. Some of my biggest names include Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Neil Armstrong, Mikhail Gorbachev, Bruce Springsteen, Marlon Brando, and Michael Jordan.

What is your genealogical research focus? Has it changed over the years?

My goal is to adequately research all branches of my family tree, so my specific research focus does shift frequently. I have done a great deal of research in Colonial America and particularly the early settlements of Rhode Island (I am a direct descendant of both Roger Williams and Rev. John Cotton). Currently, however, I am learning to use Swedish Church records to research my mother's Johnson line and am thrilled with what I have been able to uncover.

Do you have a favorite brick wall breakthrough story?

For the longest time, my toughest brick wall was my grandmother's maternal line – the Herrleins. Her mother claimed to have been an orphan (which turned out to be false) and left the family with virtually no information about her heritage. After years of pouring through through microfilm and microfiche records, the Internet was finally invented. I did a simple search and, low and behold, I found my family at the Smithsonian Institution. Turns out they were a family of rather well-known Philadelphia lithographers whose works are currently hanging in museums across the country. Ironically, my missing relatives turned out to be my most famous! The lesson is, sometimes when it feels like there is simply no hope for tearing down your brick wall, all you need to do is wait. New technologies and new database are being released all the time. What isn't available now, might be easily located a few years down the road.

What is your toughest brick wall currently?

I would really like to learn more about my 3rd-great-grandmother, Sabra Jane Simpson (1848-1917). She was a Shaker and lived in a Shaker community in Turtle Creek, Ohio. Rather than list the residents of the community by family units, the 1860 US Federal Census lists the entire community by age, oldest to youngest. I can find young Sabra and her sister Rose, but nowhere in that community can I find parents with the same last name. I'd love to know more about her back story. 

(interview continues in comments below)

WikiTree profile: David Randall
in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.9m points)

How long have you been on WikiTree? What brought you here and why did you start getting involved?

I've been active on WikiTree for about 2 years. I was invited here by a fellow WikiTreer who reached out to me on Initially, I thought WikiTree would simply be another place for me to park my family history information. But in short time I came to realize that WikiTree is really so much more. I strongly encourage newcomers to spend a good deal of time exploring WikiTree's many links and reading through the G2G postings. By getting involved with projects and communicating with other members, you can get a level of hands-on training on virtually any genealogical topic, unlike anywhere else on or off the Internet.

Which project are you most involved in?

My favorite project is the Notables Project. The objective of this project is to create profiles for famous people from all walks of life and get their families connected to the Big Tree. Participating in this project gives me a periodic break from my own family and allows me to develop skills in researching in areas my own family may not require. Currently, I oversee the Classic Disney subproject, which seeks to connect the voice actors behind all of our favorite Disney characters. I love researching old-time entertainers and learning about their lives. It's amazing how often I've uncovered primary evidence that directly contradicts information published in popular celebrity biographies – and even a few autobiographies!

What inspires you to contribute so much of yourself to WikiTree's mission?

I once read that most young people don't know the professions of each of their grandparents and are unable to name all eight of their great-grandparents. It saddens me how quickly a person's entire life story can be forgotten. My mission in genealogy is to uncover as many these lost stories as possible and to preserve them for future generations. WikiTree provides the perfect place to do that.

What is your favorite feature or function on WikiTree?

I love the fact that each and every human being is entitled to their own independent WikiTree profile page. From monarchs and presidents to peasants and paupers, male or female, every individual is given equal opportunity to have their personal story told. I think that's really cool.

What feature or function would you most like to see added or improved?

If I could improve on one WikiTree element it would be to introduce a simplified "Beginners" program. WikiTree has so many wonderful elements, that I think it can sometimes be overwhelming for the newcomer to take in. I'd like to see a series of "Start Here" beginners lessons that walk people through such features as profile building, formatting, sourcing, G2G, project participation, etc. I realize most of this information is already out there, but sometimes it can be a real challenge trying to find it.

Do you have any tips for someone who wants to get more involved in our community?

As a WikiTree Mentor, my top advice for those who are new to WikiTree is to not be afraid to jump in. WikiTree recognizes that not every WikiTreer starts out as an expert and has some great mechanisms in place for correcting any mistakes you might make. If you do get stuck, simply hop over to G2G and ask for help. One thing is certain about WikiTreers – they love to help.

Thank You Eowyn for another great interview!

6 Answers

+12 votes
Congratulations, David, and thank you for all you do for our tree.  The Rhode Island work you have done is a great resource for those whose roots branch there.  Thank you Eowyn for another great interview.
by Mark Weinheimer G2G6 Pilot (765k points)
+13 votes

"I once read that most young people don't know the professions of each of their grandparents and are unable to name all eight of their great-grandparents. "

Interesting point David, and I am one of those. I knew I had that information but didn't just know it, and I do not know professions for serveral of my great-grandparents. 

Definitely something to bookmark for myself as I tell stories to my family, to include that.

by Jonathan Crawford G2G6 Pilot (163k points)
+13 votes
Congratulations on being nominated as member of the week, David.

The idea "I love the fact that each and every human being is entitled to their own independent WikiTree profile page." I can only support. This is what makes WikiTree so unique. Whether beggar or emperor, each person has their own unique profile with their own story.
by Dieter Lewerenz G2G Astronaut (2.0m points)
+9 votes
Hi David, I enjoyed reading your responses to get to know you better. Congratulations! I very much like your ideas for Beginners, and concerns about young people not knowing their ancestors. BTW...we are 11th cousins through MRCA Mary (Unknown) Hills.
by Carol Baldwin G2G6 Pilot (638k points)
+6 votes
Hi Cousin!  Nice to "meet" you, and I totally agree that the best part is uncovering the story of their lives, not just dates and places!
by Bartley McRorie G2G6 Mach 9 (91.6k points)
+4 votes
Thank You David for opening sharing with us. What a great idea to get the Time Magazine covers.
by Marty Franke G2G6 Pilot (273k points)

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