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 Robin.

Robin Helstrom became a WikiTreer in January of 2018.  She participates in several projects including French Roots,  Canada, and United Kingdom. She recently became the Project Coordinator of the North America Cemeteries Team in our Global Cemeteries Project.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Dudgeon, Young, Brownlee, McBain, Aspevig, Olman, Syverson, Neighbour, Mack, Sandercock, Lawlor, Tilsley, Boyd, Wilson, Warden, Murdock, Broome, Pittman, Grawbarger, Chamberlin, Fraser, LeBas, and Marchand.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Hastings, Ontario; Renfrew, Ontario; Hull, Quebec; Newbury, Vermont; Yetminster, Dorset; Clun, Shropshire; Radner, Wales.

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

From a young age I was always excited for family gatherings. My paternal great-aunt always showed me pictures and told stories of our relatives. She had these old drawings in her guest room that were scary looking to me as a child but I knew not to be afraid because she told me what great people these ancestors were. Then when I was about 12 my great-grandmother made me a binder full of photos and information on her side. I caught the bug and soon other family members sent me memoirs and photos. And it’s just snowballed since about 2000 or so.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

I’m partial to my Tilsley and Heighway ancestry at the moment. I find chasing down Tilsley vicars in Wales and unraveling the mass of Heighways in Shropshire to be a fascinating challenge that keeps me interested.  I’m ever swayed by my curiosity.

But if I had to pick just one that been long lived it would be Maggie (Warden) Boyd, my maternal great-great grandmother. I remember pictures of her when I was a child and she was so young and beautiful. She died in her early 30s in 1919. Family lore said it was a botched gin bath abortion. I ordered the death certificate and it only suggested she died at 3:00 am of cerebral hemorrhage and inhaling emesis. And we knew little about her background in England. I’ve slowly been finding bits but so far the mystery prevails.

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down or one you hope to bust through.

I’m really hoping to bust a brick wall about my Jones relations: My 2x great-grandmother, Mary (Jones) Heighway, and my 3x great-grandmother Margaret (Jones) Neighbour. Of course Jones in Wales is an incredibly popular surname but I’d love to find the right Jones and finally carry those two lines further back.

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

Henry VIII. I have always been fascinated with him since I was a child. I read so many books and did research papers in school. I know his family quite well and they’ve always just spoken to something in me. So far no luck haha.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I love doing crafts, yoga, meditation, all things Benedict Cumberbatch (yes I’m a member of the Cumber Collective) and The Beatles (lifelong Beatlemaniac). I enjoy playing music although I’m hardly proficient at any instrument, I love crosswords, period dramas, lots of British television, and reading classic literature.

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing? If you’re  involved in a project(s), tell us about how you participate in it.

I started on WikiTree in January of 2018. I have spent most of my time building out my own family tree, categorizing all things, trying to make DNA connections, and bouncing between projects including French Roots, European Aristocrats, 1776, one name studies, Notables, Canada, and United Kingdom. I have put the most work into Categorization, where I am a project member, and Global Cemeteries, where I was newly minted Coordinator of the North America Cemeteries Team.

What brought you to WikiTree? (In other words, how did you find us?)

I fell across WikiTree in Google. I had come across an ancestor and discovered I had a false lineage in my tree and signed up to see what else I could prove or disprove.

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

The fact that it’s free really speaks to me. I find the paywall genealogy sites to be infuriating – charging us for our own history, I think it’s criminal. It should be public knowledge.

I also really love the philosophy of a free resource that connects us all – and we can physically see those connections through the relationship finder, through DNA connections, and categorizations. It’s so thrilling to me to be able to connect with other users and to see my work is making a difference not only for myself, but for the Genealogy community in general.

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

I can’t think of much off the top of my head. Sometimes I wish I was interested in less things and I could stay more focused on a topic. There’s too many rabbit holes to get lost in in WikiTree lol.

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

WikiTree has put me in connection with so many knowledgeable folks and allowed me to really grow as a researcher and continue to learn new things.

My contribution to Genealogy at large is the site allows me to collaborate just for fun. I can expand lines, chase celebrities, categorize others’ profiles, clean up GEDCOM junk, and work on so many things unrelated to myself and know it will be helpful to someone and fun for me at the same time.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

 I would say don’t be afraid to make a mistake or to ask questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question, errors can be reversed, and just learn and have as much fun as you can.

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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 Cory.

Cory Fulmer joined WikiTree in February of 2018.  She is active in several projects including the Czech Roots, Sweden and Norway projects and is often in the top 10 of our weekly Data Doctor Challenges.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Tuma, Mott, Vasilakes, Snidow, Collen, Bender

What are some of the locations you are researching?

A large part of my recent ancestry comes from Minnesota, which is where I was born. Branching backwards from there, I’m always digging in Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut. Even further back, I am looking in Sweden, Norway, England, Wales, Germany, Greece, and the Czech Republic.

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

I have always had a strong love of history of any kind. It was my favorite subject in school and I even thought about becoming a high school history teacher for a long time. I enjoy reading and learning about anything history related even to this day. I’m not picky… if it’s history, I’ll read about it! Similarly, I have a strong love of my family. Genealogy is the perfect marriage of two of the big loves in my life. I have dabbled in genealogy since high school, off and on.

However, it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I began to become serious about genealogy. I really started asking my mom a lot of questions about the family and she told me to get in touch with her cousin. She has been doing the family history since before I was born. So, we have been a great genealogy duo since.

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down or one you hope to bust through.

From the moment I started doing our family history, my big brick wall was my Bender branch. My cousin had only been able to research it back to my 3rd great-grandfather, William B. Bender (1816-1896). We both scoured the internet, made phone calls, sent emails, and yet we could not find anything on his parentage. I had a strong feeling he was related to a Sgt. Christian Bender in Bethlehem, NY, but we could not find the missing link. After many years of searching in vain, I contacted a researcher in NY and she was able to find the list of children to Christian’s son, William K.’s probate records. Online I had searched the wills, but this list was not included! It was able to prove my William B. was Sgt. Christian Bender’s grandson and opened up a number of generations backwards on his grandmother’s side.

My current brick wall is my Vasilakes branch. I have family history of my great grandfather that was written by his daughters that detailed his life from Urla, Asia Minor to Minnesota, USA. I know the names of his parents and siblings, but I have very few dates. The family was largely torn apart when the Turks invaded Smyrna during the Greco-Turkish War. A couple of the family members were killed, one died trying to swim to safety, one daughter died at the age of 16 from cancer during this time, and the rest fled to safety. It wasn’t until many years later that my great-grandfather found that some of his family survived the attack and was still living. Because of the great turmoil in the area of Turkey and Greece, as well as the reluctance of the culture to divulge personal information freely, it has been very hard to get any information on my Greek ancestry.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I love reading, crossword puzzles, and my flowers. I grow African violets and Christmas Cactus inside and have loads of different kinds of daylilies in my outside flower beds. I also quilt in my spare time.

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing? If you’re  involved in a project(s), tell us about how you participate in it.

I am a newbie! I just officially started on WikiTree on November 12th of this year. I am involved in the Data Doctors, Czech Roots, 1776, Sweden and Norway projects right now. I am helping to build profiles on my ancestors using church records and census records, when available. I am also taking part in the weekly Data Doctors challenges to help clean up profiles across WikiTree.

What brought you to WikiTree? (In other words, how did you find us?)

I have used WikiTree as a helpful guide for years. I have been able to find additional information and their sources on many of my ancestors thanks, in large part, to WikiTree.

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

I really like the G2G forum. It helps clear up questions I might have on any given thing related to anything WikiTree! It also allows me to help further when I can by answering questions others might have.

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

There is certainly a large learning curve when it comes to WikiTree. It is not as simple as just adding people to your tree. It would be nice if there was more of a tutorial when you are first signing up and adding people to help you learn the guidelines a little better. This would help down the line to reduce the number of errors that may need to be fixed.


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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 Herbert.

Herbert Tardy became a WikiTreer in June of 2017.  He loves helping members and answering questions in G2G as well as working on Unsourced profiles.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?  

My own people are Tardy (originally Tardito), Rodrigue, Barrett, Stanley, Stacey, O’Connor, Bourgeois, and Cassidy.  These days, I research anyone, any time, anywhere, as long as there are on-line records in a language I can read.

What are some of the locations you are researching?  

I’ve never been a location-based researcher, except to the extent that my ancestors came from Louisiana, Acadia, the Carolinas, and Appalachian South.  Otherwise, I’ll go anywhere for any reason or no reason.

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

I was curious about my family’s history from childhood, but never knew anything beyond my grandparents.  Ten or fifteen years ago my mother surprised me with a handwritten tree she worked out from memory. It only added one more generation plus part of the next, but of course it meant a lot to me.  Not long after, I joined Ancestry and became an addict.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?  

If I have to choose one, it would be my great-great-grandfather Michael John Barrett.  He was an Irish immigrant, prisoner of war, New Orleans politico, saloon keeper, and Fenian. He owned a bar on Algiers Point, directly opposite the French Quarter.  Legend has it the bar disappeared when the river changed course. Now there’s a ferry terminal at the site. My cousin, a Barrett expert sadly not on WikiTree, has collected newspaper articles about Michael and his brother-in-law Dennis Kirby engaging in fisticuffs with the police, and other ‘riotous’ behavior.  How can you not love a colorful ancestor like that?

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down or one you hope to bust through.

Of course, the first one is always special.  I had to leave my Ancestry comfort zone to find the probate papers of my 5x great grandfather, Elisha Nelson at the wonderful Greenville County, South Carolina website.  It felt like striking gold. Those records have since become available on Ancestry and FamilySearch, which makes me a little sad.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

By day, I have a small tax consulting practice.  When not doing that or genealogy, I play fingerstyle acoustic guitar, regularly commit origami, brew an occasional batch of ale, and maintain a small collection of carnivorous plants.  Other hobbies come and go without notice.

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing? If you’re  involved in a project(s), tell us about how you participate in it.

I joined WikiTree in June 2017, and spend most of my time either answering questions on G2G or chasing rabbits through the Unsourced list.  I like working on ‘nobodies.’ I think they are every bit as important as celebrities, and they have the advantage of freedom from conflict and drama.  As one of my favorite fictional detectives, Harry Bosch, says, “Everybody counts, or nobody counts.”

Being an independent kind of person, I avoid joining anything organized, including projects.  I think of myself as a free-range WikiTreer at large, doing the usual WikiTree things – sourcing, connecting, improving, etc – but only in a lower-case way.

What brought you to WikiTree? (In other words, how did you find us?)

I stumbled on WikiTree while googling for a brick-wall ancestor.  After years of frustration with the nonsense and wishful thinking in Ancestry trees, the single shared tree concept had an irresistible appeal.

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

I love the ideal of a single, documented, accurate tree, perhaps someday the global ‘reference’ tree, the first place anyone goes to find genealogical information.  One tree to rule them all! We have a long way to go, but a lot of people diligently working toward that end. And of course I love the camaraderie of working and sharing ideas with the terrific people I’ve met here.  

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

I would raise the standard for minimum input on new profiles.  We already require at least one source, and I think we should expand that to require at least one location (even if only a country) [in addition to] at least one estimated date.  Mark it all ‘uncertain’ if necessary, but if you can’t commit to those basic facts, you are not ready to create the profile.

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

WikiTree has improved my genealogical skills beyond imagining, and there’s always much more to learn.  We have the benefit of learning from some true giants here. Whenever I work on a profile, I’m aware of the giants looking over my shoulder and try to live up to that.  I pick up something new every day on G2G, and try to pay it forward.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Take your time.  There is a lot to learn and you don’t have to do it all at once.  In fact, you don’t have to do all of it ever, because collaboration means there are dozens of people to do the parts you don’t do.  Focus your skills where they will have the most impact for you and for WikiTree. Don’t do a GEDCOM import right away, because that’s actually one of the more difficult WikiTree activities.  Save yourself enormous frustration and learn the ropes by building some profiles and connections manually before leaping into file imports. Keep it simple, especially at first. Learn to make a solid profile with accurate dates and locations and proper source citations.  Inline referencing, categories, stickers, and pretty biographies can wait. Mastering the fundamentals will serve you and WikiTree much better in the long run. Jump onto G2G and read all the good advice, and don’t hesitate to ask! We love to help. Be nice to the people giving high-quality advice for free.  


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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 Paula.

Paula Hawkins joined WikiTree in June of 2018.  She’s active in several projects including the Australia and Military and War projects and she participates in challenges with the Integrators and Data Doctors.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Clark, Reinke, Engler, Frerichs, Neider, Matthews, Mullins, Riggs, McCubbin, Watson, Cobb, Hildebrandt, DeVries, & McMillan.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

I’m pretty much all over the globe when researching locations. Mostly United States: Arkansas, California, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin. Other countries include: Germany, Ireland, Italy, United Kingdom, France.

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

On 07 December 1989, I read an article in the Los Angeles Times newspaper, “Shaking Your Family Tree, Building Your Genealogy Library” by: Myra V. Gormley. I clipped it out of the newspaper and saved it in a clear sheet protector, started acquiring my forms and bought more sheet protectors and a heavy duty D ring binder. As time went by, I had moved, divorced, and bought a new car! I’ve remained friends with my ex-mother-in-law and a few years ago she gave me her Family History Group Records with photographs. July of this year I found WikiTree. I’ve remained with WikiTree because of the name. Wiki is well respected in the virtual world – good to know.

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down or one you hope to bust through.

There are two, #1 : Frank Oscar Clark, male – born 02 December 1882, Muntag County, Texas, passed away 16 June 1960, Orange, Orange County, California. Married Jennie May (or Mae) Matthews 18 April 1907. #2 : Johanna Wilhelm August Reinke, male – born 12 May 1890, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, passed away 09 November 1949. Married Matilda Amelia Engler 02 July 1913.

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

I believe we’re all related in one way or another, but if I could pick one person, oh brother, that’s a hard one. Hero of Alexandria. If only the man had realized what he had with his invention, the Aeolipile—a primordial steam engine capable of making a metal ball spin—the industrial revolution might have started in 50 CE instead of 1750 CE! Alas, he thought it merely a toy and besides, with slaves around to do all the menial labor, what did you need steam engines for?

Of course, Hero—probably one of the finest minds in the Roman Empire—also developed other useful items, including a force pump , the first syringe, a fountain capable of operating off hydrostatic electricity, a windmill operated organ, and even the first coin operated vending machine—all during a pre-industrial age—making him something of an early Thomas Edison. Too bad he didn’t take his inventions a little more seriously or develop them further; if he had, we might live in a very different world today.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

What? There are other interests outside genealogy? *tender smiles* Interests and hobbies: Cycling, collecting George Brett (Kansas City Royals third baseman) sports/baseball rare-hard-to-find oddball cards, secret collection of milk caps aka: Pogs with slammers, quilting, wedding gown/formal wear model, and listening to Hans Zimmer. Current favorite piece: The Dark Knight Melody.

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing? If you’re involved in a project(s), tell us about how you participate in it.

I’ve been on WikiTree about five months. I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to correctly add/post photographs. Thanks to those who have been so helpful by emailing me and letting me know they can’t see my post pic. I promise I’ll get it down soon. I’m getting familiar with some of the WikiTree projects and sub-projects. Those who are new to WikiTree, you’ll find me participating in the weekly challenges, this is how I learn and have fun at the same time. I also like to add COLOR to all my posts, comments, and answers.

What brought you to WikiTree? (In other words, how did you find us?)

I found WikiTree through Google search and stayed because it’s honest, positive, free, and it’s never ending challenges to correct.

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

The ability to earn virtual badges in a great feature.

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

It’s a well put together site however, it does need to be updated. Perhaps, new coding where the yellow box doesn’t pop up when adding locations telling you that you don’t have to follow the suggestions. Also, the drop down suggestions for the locations get in the way of saving (have to click out first). It’s helpful to verify your city, county, state, province, etc. to see correct spelling.

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

WikiTree helped me connect with a long lost cousin. Thank you. How I have helped? I surely hope so (if not, please bring to my attention).

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Those who are just starting out on WikiTree, save &/or bookmark WikiTree on your desktop with an icon &/or other devices, please remember United States didn’t become a country till after 04 July 1776 (you’ll need to know when adding birth, death, marriage dates), participate in challenges &/or perhaps join project(s).

Last but not least, be consistent and follow basic principles when citing sources. Thanks for allowing me to share.

Seasons Greetings!

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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 Sharon.

Sharon Caldwell has been a WikiTreer since July of 2017.  She participates in several projects including the Dutch Cape Colony, South African Roots, United Kingdom and England projects.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Oh my – a lot. I can’t bear having gaps in my tree!

So on my father’s side:

CaldwellFarrelScottMallisonClackDawRobinsonCubin

On my mother’s side:

GrantWalkerLeePretoriusDe Beervan Tondervan Wyk (those are the main ones)

My husband’s family:

WebbFutterHartLloydKing – Casey – van Wyk – Graham (and more)

Then I am also doing Maria Montessori.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

South Africa – all over as my family moved around a lot.

England – mostly Cornwall, Dorset and Liverpool.

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

I have been interested as long as I can remember. My great grandfather was attributed with discovering the Witwatersrand (the world’s richest goldfield) but was quite an enigma in terms of history, and growing up with lots of stories I became interested. I remember doing a project on him in Grade 4. I am interested in history generally so this is just part of a broader interest – the personal portion of a bigger interest.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

That’s really hard. What I do find is that there are some I feel a connection to, and others who are just names and dates. Two are not direct ancestors, but relatives. One is Walter Scott Caldwell, my grandfather’s cousin. His story is so sad. He was so very young when he went to the other side of the world and somehow set up a life and got married only to end up dying in France just a few months before the end of the first world war. His wife was pregnant when he left, and the baby died shortly after birth. I would love to know more about him but doubt that there is much more to find.

He was likely named after his uncle, Walter Scott. Walter was one of a large family, and son of Sarah Scott (another favorite, because she seemed to take all the orphans from the extended family living in the Liverpool slums). Walter seemed to be something of a hope for the family, somehow getting work as a stockbroker’s clerk (at age 19 in the 1861 census). By 1871 he was blind and was a music teacher. In 1881 he was living alone. He must have been quite a person to do this in that context and I would love to know how he came to learn to play an instrument and become a teacher. From a research point of view, the blind music teacher Walter Scott has helped me find other family members because of his association with them in the Census documents – names that I would never otherwise have been able to confirm.

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down or one you hope to bust through.

I want to find out more about Alice Mallison, and I would also like to find out Robert Caldwell’s parents but my most important brick wall is Elizabeth Johanna van Tonder. She is my direct maternal ancestor. I have the U2c1 haplogroup that links me to Catharina van Malabar, but I do not know which of Catharina’s daughters was the direct female ancestor of Elizabeth Johanna de Beer. Would love to tear down that brick wall.

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

Mmm that is a hard one. I know which historical person I would love to meet though – Richard III –  but not sure if I would have liked to be related because things did not end well for any of his relatives!

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

History as a whole, particularly South African history, Irish history and the Wars of the Roses.

Montessori education and curriculum theory.

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing? If you’re  involved in a project(s), tell us about how you participate in it.

I joined in July 2017. I am a member of the Dutch Cape Colony, South African Roots, United Kingdom and England projects. I help where I can but have not been as active as I had hoped because work keeps getting in the way. I hope to be able to spend more time researching next year.

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

Looking for information on my tree, I found that the WikiTree links were way more accurate than any other family tree sites. I love how collaborative people are and how respectful the more experienced members are of each other, and the attitude of extending help to one another.

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

The reports and printable pages. It would be nice to be able to print nice looking reports for one’s own files. The profiles really don’t look good printed. Fan charts would be nice.

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

WikiTree has been invaluable in helping me extend my lines back because I know that they have been (mostly) well researched, and that if a link isn’t there it is likely not accurate. I still check but it is much easier than with other sites. I find WikiTree quite user-friendly (although I know others don’t). I think I have helped by adding a lot of well researched new profiles from my own tree.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Go slowly. Take time to search for existing profiles before creating new ones. I got carried away and created dozens of profiles that had to be merged. Everyone was very patient with me, for which I am grateful, but would have been less confused if I had been more careful. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. WikiTree is about collaboration, which is what I like the most.


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