Welcome to another installment of “Meet our Members”! It’s time to get to know another awesome Leader who is part of our outstanding community. Meet Heather:
Surnames you are researching:
Locations you are researching:
Portland, Oregon; Denton County, Texas; McAlester, Oklahoma; Scandia, Kansas; Oneida, New York; Logan County and Sebastian County, Arkansas; Plymouth, Massachusetts
When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?
Haha, it started on a dare. Back in 2011, there was this news story about a little girl who had traced all of the presidents except one back to a common ancestor, who just happened to be King John “Lackland” Plantagenet. I had a friend at the time who was very into conspiracy theories, who was convinced that this was somehow proof of the Illuminati or New World Order lizard people or something. I tried to reason with her that King John was king so long ago (1199-1216!), he had thousands, if not millions of descendants. “Heck,” I said, “I’m probably related to him.”
She basically replied, “I’ll bet you’re not, and you probably can’t even prove it if you are.”
Well, that’s how it started. Within 6 months, I found the connection, proving that I was, in fact, directly descended from King John.
Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?
Ooo, good question. I have a couple that really stand out, but I think the one that means the most to me is my great-great grandfather, John Thomas Mayes. He was a carpenter, and a mason. He and his family came over from Texas to Oregon in the late 1880s, and building a house in St. Johns (now Portland). I was born in Portland, and my grandfather was born just across the river in Vancouver, Washington.
I feel very connected to Portland area anyway, and the entire Willamette Valley, and the Mayes family settled all over that area. I actually have a photograph of John, his mother Pernetta (my ggg-grandmother), his daughter Bessie (my gg-aunt), and Bessie’s daughter, Ari, circa 1905 in Portland, OR. He’s sort of my Oregon Trail ancestor, even though he came over after the railroad had been constructed, his family actually came over by wagon.
Tell us about the brick wall you most want to tear down.
I’ve never conclusively found out who the parents of my great-grandfather, James Arthur Morgan, are. Both my mother and I have worked on this for years. He was born in the tiny town of Scandia, Kansas in 1891. However, Kansas did not require birth records until 1911. He was an orphan, and living with his aunt and sister by 1900. Due to the destruction of the 1890 census, I have no record of his parents.
There are a couple of Morgans in Scandia in the 1885 and 1895 Kansas State Census, but I can’t determine if they are the right people. I’ve made an educated guess on who I think his parents are, based on James’ sister’s death certificate, but I know virtually nothing about them, where they come from, etc.
If you could pick one person in history to be related to, who would it be and why?
Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie and Clyde fame)! My father’s family swore that we were related to her for years and years, and I’ve got most of my dad’s family in my tree now, and I’ve found absolutely no connection to her. It’s so frustrating to think you are related to someone that you’re not.
What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?
I collect dolls, and build dollhouses, as well as construct miniature furniture. I’ve even started making miniature food out of polymer clay, but not well enough that I’m ready to show that to anyone yet. I’m currently in college, working toward an Associates in Applied Sciences, and I hope to eventually earn a degree in Veterinary Medicine.
What are some of the features/aspects of WikiTree that you love/don’t love as much?
I’ve been a fan of WikiTree since the day I stumbled upon it in 2011, while trying to find a good way to compile and publish my family tree research. I’ve always found WikiTree to be very easy to learn and use. WikiTree has also given me the opportunity to meet dozens of distant cousins, share information and photographs, and learn more about my family. I also really love the collaborative aspect of WikiTree.
As far as aspects that I don’t love as much…that’s tougher. The development team of WikiTree is making improvements every day, and is incredibly responsive to feedback. Any time I’ve brought up a concern, or the Leaders have requested features, those requests usually become a reality in very short order.
Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?
The key to working in a collaborative family tree site is cooperation. Listen, cooperate, respect, compromise…and document!!!. Citations are everything, and the reliability of a source can mean the difference between a good family tree and a fanciful one.
If you could leave one message for your descendants, what would it be?
It’s better to do what’s right, even if it means doing it alone, than to do what’s wrong with 100 other people.