Hi WikiTreers,

Welcome to a new installment of “Meet our Members.” It’s time to get to know another awesome member of our community: Meet Karen.

Karen joined WikiTree back in 2011 and is one of our wonderful Project Leaders.  Currently, she is leading our Puerto Rico Project.  She just recently participated in our Source-a-Thon where she sourced 190 profiles in 72 hours. She is also an active Connector.

What are some surnames you are researching?

Lowe / Low / Lau, Groomer / Gromer, Kimmel, Bordeleau, Butler, plus loads of cousins who want to connect to the global family tree.

What are some locations you are researching?

I enjoy researching my own ancestry in eastern Tennessee and southern Indiana, USA. I also love the Québec parish registers, as they provide a wealth of information and allow me to practice my rusty schoolgirl French. I studied a bit of Spanish as an adult, and enjoy connecting families from Puerto Rico. I’m definitely more comfortable making connections within the last 200 years, and haven’t ventured into the Magna Carta surety barons and European aristocracy. Maybe someday!

When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?

My grandfather Harvey Lowe did quite a lot of work on his Lowe ancestors. For many years I thought they were perhaps Scotch-Irish like many other southern Appalachian families. My grandfather believed they were German (he was right – they were Alsatian), and that the name was German for “lion” (he was wrong; it was Lau and not Löwe).

As a teenager, I once persuaded my mother to drive me to a local library for a genealogy society meeting. When I opened the meeting room door and saw a sea of white heads, I was too shy to enter. Looking back as an adult, I can only imagine how warmly welcomed I would have been by the members of the Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society. What a loss!

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

Oh, how to choose? I suppose I am fond of my great-great-grandmother Emma Victoria Burdalow, because my discovery that she was baptized Amelie Victoire Bordeleau at Saint Francis Xavier in Vincennes, Indiana, opened up a whole world of French Canadian ancestors. I can only imagine what it was like for her ancestors like Marie-Catherine Caron and Antoine Bordeleau to migrate as French colonists to the farmland around Vincennes in the 1740s, only to become British and then American citizens in the coming years.

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down.

While it’s fun to find my own direct ancestors, I really enjoy helping contemporary cousins make connections. I’m especially proud of helping a fourth cousin reconnect with her grandmother, uncles, and cousins years after family ties were severed by divorce. I made heavy use of newspaper collections and even Facebook to connect with the younger cousins.

If you could pick one person in history to be related to, who would it be and why?

With Outlander in full swing, how about a dashing Scottish Highlander? Honestly, I’d pick someone from a new community that’s not well represented on WikiTree, as I really love making new connections with our cousins. We sometimes joke about marrying our children into faraway cultures just so we can all get a little closer in the Connection Finder!

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

When I’m not on WikiTree, I’m often knitting, stargazing, watching films and British TV, or reading a novel or interesting non-fiction book.  In the last year I’ve also spent an embarrassing amount of time playing the mobile game Ingress, a location-based game that inspired last year’s hit Pokémon Go. But honestly, I’m still busily recruiting my fellow gamers and knitters and book club members to genealogy.

How long have you been on WikiTree and how active are you?

It looks like I created an account back in 2011, but became active in June 2014. I quickly discovered the G2G Forum and Connection Combat, became a volunteer leader, and got to meet several staff members and leaders when they inspired me to attend RootsTech, my first genealogy conference, in 2015 and again in 2016 and 2017. I’m currently leading our Puerto Rican Roots project, enjoying our Source-a-Thons and challenges, and averaging over 1,000 contributions per month, so I’d say I’m quite active!

What are some of the features/aspects of WikiTree that you love/don’t love as much?

I really love the collaborative focus of WikiTree. I have met so many knowledgeable and generous researchers, and am awed by how much time they are able to share with others. I don’t love it when we disagree strongly, so I’m glad we have a dispute resolution process to help us remain calm as we work through complex genealogical puzzles.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Ask good questions, and write down the answers. Question your assumptions. Play well with others. Cite your sources!

If you could leave one message for your descendants, what would it be?

I do hope that by contributing to online genealogy sites like WikiTree, I am leaving messages to my descendants about our family history. But I’d also say, ““Spend time with your elders while you can. Remember when they’re driving you crazy that you’ll miss them someday all too soon. Test your DNA! And your uncle’s, too!”


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  3 Responses to “Meet our Members: Karen Tobo”

  1. Hi Karen, I’m fairly new to Wiki Tree and love it! It’s definitely near the top of my list of genealogy sites. I’ve been building my tree on FTDNA with the help of several cousins. Now that I’ve discovered Wiki tree, I’m trying to convince them all to migrate their trees over to Wiki Tree. It makes so much more sense to have one global tree then to build them in Silos. I’m a computer database programmer of 30+ years, so the need for data integrity is firmly embedded in my brain. Everyone having their own separate tree is the opposite of that.

    Anyways, today I received my first issue of Wiki News and saw the mention of the connectors project – wow, what a wonderful idea. I have been doing this family research off and on for nearly 20 years now. It’s only recently though that I’ve made significant progress via the Autosomal DNA tests at FTDNA and help from newly found cousins. I was born and raised in Windsor, Ontario, Canada and am Montgomery-8771. Last fall, I finally worked my ancestry back to my 3rd Great Grandfather (George Montgomery), on a specific farm (Octomore) on the island of Islay in Scotland (a huge breakthrough for me). Because George had founded the Octomore Distillery on the farm, there was some historical information easily accessed on the internet, conveniently provided by the recently reopened Octomore distillery. So we’ve worked our way back a few more generations to my 5th Great Grandfather Archibald Montgomery (Montgomery-8779). One of my 2nd cousins (Annette Rossman) kindly entered some of the ancestors, but it ends at Archibald. I’m fairly certain that Archibald’s father was Robart. So now were back to the 1600’s on the island of Islay in Scotland. As you probably know, the Montgomery family was a very prominent Scottish family of Nobility and there’s lots of historical documents relating to the family. My haplogroup is J2A1A, which supposedly is the same as the Montgomery nobility. I feel I am so close to connecting into some profile of the European Royalty and Aristocrats that I can almost taste it. I just can’t figure out how my Montgomery family ended up on Islay, the closest I’ve come is that Lady Agnes of the Isles was from Islay and she married one of the Montgomery nobles. Perhaps it’s one of her children that returned to Islay? Anyways, when I saw that you were a “connector” I figured there was no harm in asking for some guidance, any help would be appreciated! I’d love to link my Montgomery family line into the global tree.

    Lastly, growing up in Windsor Ontario, one of my friends was a Corey Lowe (phenomenal drummer). His grandfather was a fairly famous rum runner – Harry Lowe (running rum across from Canada to the US during the dry period). Harry used to own a famous mansion in Windsor-Walkerville (home of Hiram Walkers – more Whisky). Years later, former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin also owned that house. I believe it’s referred to as the Lowe-Martin House. I thought this might interest you as I see your maiden name is Lowe.

    Hope I haven’t bored you, I look forward to your reply!

  2. I am new to wikitree. I am getting frustrated in setting up and correcting profiles. For instance my great grandfather is shown as the brother of my grandfather. Also I asked for permission. To work on the Native American project. I don’t know where to begin. I have lots of info. Can you help or give me a link?

  3. Karen, It was good seeing our connection on WikiTree. Your father and I are 7th cousins. You and my children, David, Sarah, Joshua and Heidi are 8th cousins. So good to meet you. I look forward to hearing from you. My e-mail address is j_lemley@juno.com. I do have a brick wall you could maybe help me break through. John Lemley, Vancouver, WA 98660

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