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 Don.

Don Howard became a WikiTreer in April 2019.  He loves finding new cousins and is active as a Sourcerer and in our Germany and Notables projects.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Howard, Dorsey, Goodnight, Loving, Turnbough, Dugger, Lopez, and Ranalli.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Maryland (Colonial times), Deep South, Kentucky, Missouri, Nuevo Leon (Mexico) and Abruzzo, Italy.

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

In the early 1990s, genealogy became a special hobby that I shared with my mother. She worked on her side and my father’s side;  I worked on my daughter’s mother’s side. That was in the days of having to go to libraries, and searching through microfilm. And studying paperwork. Living in Nashville, TN, I spent a lot of time in the state museum there.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

My favorite ancestor is Matthew Howard (1609-1659), my 9th great-grandfather. He is my direct male-to-male immigrant ancestor. Matthew and his sons have been written about by the well-known authors, J.D. Warfield, and Harry Newman. In those books, he was said to have been descended from the English Norfolk dukes. That claim has since been refuted, and his parentage is now considered unknown. I do find it interesting that some of his sons used wax seals that portrayed the Royal Norfolk Howard crest.

Regardless of Matthew Howard’s parentage, he and his sons were among the most prominent of the founders of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, Maryland; an interesting family with noted friends and neighbors. I have had my Y-DNA tested to be sure about my lineage, and have been placed in the Matthew group, at FTDNA’s Howard Project.

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

Finding proof that my 3rd great-grandfather, Henry Howard, was the father of my 4th great-grandfather, John Beale Howard Jr. was difficult, as the son had moved from Kentucky to Missouri. Census reports didn’t give children’s names during the times that I needed. Eventually, I found the son in the father’s will that was indexed with a misspelling, and hard to find. Also, my DNA matches all point to both families.

My most frustrating ongoing brick wall is my wife’s great-grandparents, whose children immigrated to America from Italy. There are few indexed Italian sources for the names that I need. Italian handwritten cursive records are problematic. And her DNA matches stop at 2nd cousins, and start again with 4th cousins or higher.

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

Johann Sebastian Bach, of course! I am a retired touring musician and public school teacher. Currently, I teach piano part-time. On my father’s side, I have quite a bit of German. Goodnight (Gutknecht), Young (Jung), Turnbeaugh, and more.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

Just music; classical and jazz. And family (my descendants).

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

I joined WikiTree on April 1, 2019. Just over a year ago. Lately, I spend a lot of my time checking my email activity feed for possible cousins (by using the relationship finder, and checking gedmatch kits). I have a Facebook group, Howard And Allied Families, with over 400 kinfolk from all sides of my tree. Several members have been found on WikiTree. Also, I participate in the Clean-A-Thons.  I enjoy the group activities, and plan to get involved in more of them.

What brought you to WikiTree?

A DNA 9th cousin match (found on Ancestry.com) told me about WikiTree. His name is James Stratman (Stratman-17), a good genealogist. And now, a special friend.

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree?

I like WikiTree because high standards of sourcing is promoted, and there are a lot of group activities.

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

It would be nice if there was something quick you could do about a profile that is flawed, and the manager is unable to be contacted. Also, something to do about profiles that are orphaned, horribly flawed, unconnected, and abandoned.

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

WikiTree has helped me become more disciplined about having proper sources.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Check the Style rules, and study them really good. Don’t be afraid to ask others. Go slow and sure. Don’t leave so many unfinished profiles, that you can’t remember them all.


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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 Todd.

Todd Stanton became a WikiTreer in April of 2018.  He currently coordinates our Rhode Island project as well as Westward Ho and several of its subprojects.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Stanton, Bond, Culpepper, Griffin, Husted, Newby, to name but a few.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Colonial Virginia, Colonial New England, Yorkshire, Wiltshire, Wales.

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

I first became interested in genealogy in junior high school after finding an 1885 manuscript history of the Bond family (going back to 1704 Wiltshire) in a great aunt’s estate papers; little did I know at the time the historical importance of that Quaker document.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

My favorite ancestors are the nearly 70 so far identified as part of the Puritan Great Migration and the dozens of others who arrived Jamestown, the Albemarle, and Carolinas before 1700. They left Europe for differing reasons but all came in the pursuit of a better life. That great collective leap into the unknown is, for me, awe-inspiring. 

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

James Stanton who died 1719 Surry County, Virginia Colony is my current brick wall. He is always seen as the grandson of John Stanton who supposedly arrived on the George in 1635 but there is no trace of John nor documentation to supposed grandson James. I am so appreciative of several WikiTreers who help me with this pursuit from time to time. 

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

Not that I want to be related to him but the most fun I have had constructing a profile is that of early Dodge City five-term mayor Adolph Gluck, a Hungarian Jew who came to American and became mayor of the town at the center of the Wild West. What a character! He was impeached (it was a sham) and immediately voted back into office! 

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

Historical preservation, architecture, ancient history, my ‘boys’ still at home whose pics are found on my profile page.  

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

I joined WikiTree in early 2018. I currently coordinate Rhode Island as well as Westward Ho and several of its subprojects. A special project of late has been building profiles of early residents of where I live (so almost all of them fall into Westward Ho). To date that has involved building over 200 profiles and connecting as many as possible, over time, to the larger WikiTree. I am now working with one local county historical society which has decided to use WikiTree as its platform for building profiles of its early county residents. I am hoping an adjacent county historical society also undertakes a similar effort. It is my hope that this small project becomes one that other members can show their local historical societies as a template. 

What brought you to WikiTree?

I stumbled upon WikiTree one day trying to find answers about an ancestor when what I was being shown as suggestions by Ancestry.com were, how shall I put this…, ridiculous. 

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree?

By far the best aspect of WikiTree is the ability to use G2G to communicate with all kinds of researchers who are always willing and eager to help or apply their collective brain power to thorny road blocks or questions. I received so much help from so many people when I joined WikiTree. Now I try to pay it forward by helping others at least part of each day.

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

End the system that tries to make you match things to Find-a-Grave! 

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

There are often questions connecting colonial American ancestors to their families elsewhere. G2G has helped document some of those connections and in other cases helped prove that frequently seen connections to the Old World are the stuff of fantasy.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

First, ask all kinds of questions of your Greeter who is always willing to help you. Second, jump right into the fray in G2G as there are no wrong questions and so many people willing to help you both learn the WikiTree ropes (Yes, Virginia, there is a learning curve!) and help you with your genealogical pursuits. Remember, when you get back only a few generations there may be hundreds or thousands of descendants who will be interested in what you discover.


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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 Katie.

Katie Goodwin became a WikiTreer in February of 2018.  She really enjoys working on profiles of her direct ancestors and is also one of our Rangers. Twice a week she takes a shift to help protect our shared tree!  If you are attending RootsTech this year, come and meet Katie at our booth!

What are some of the surnames you are researching? 

Murray, Goodwin, Chamberlain, Wilson, Barnes, Mason, Shields

What are some of the locations you are researching? 

Various areas in north Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee; Wood County, Ohio; Isle of Wight, England

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

In 2009, I was in my fourth year of college and decided to procrastinate by building my family tree. I was lucky to have several living grandparents and a great-grandmother to help me get started. My great-grandmother in particular had a lot of interesting stories and photos to share. I was hooked in no time!

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

I don’t think I can pick an overall favorite! My favorite person to research has been my husband’s great-great grandmother, Alice Augusta (Newbery) Goodwin, a British Home Child. She’s interesting to me because she was a recent immigrant – rare in our families – and involved in a lesser-known and tragic piece of history. I finally saw a photo of her last year and it was a very special moment.

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

Currently working on a very stubborn brick wall. George E. Murray from northeastern Alabama/northwestern Georgia was supposedly orphaned around the time of the Civil War. My friend, Jen, and I are hoping DNA can point us in the right direction.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I really like to bake and take nice photos. 

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

I’ve been a member for almost two years. Currently, most of my time is spent improving and adding profiles of my direct ancestors. I am a Ranger so I have two shifts a week that I really enjoy. It’s always fun to spot unusual names in the activity feeds!

What brought you to WikiTree?

I was searching for 1) a free site 2) where people could see my work without logging in and 3) looked like it was going to be around for a long time. I also liked the biography section and the focus on sources.

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

I love the community! I have encountered so many generous and knowledgeable WikiTreers. The quarterly community challenges are some of my favorite weekends of the year.

As for features, I think the Relationship Finder is a really powerful tool. I wish more people knew about the “Explore More” feature.

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

I’d LOVE to be able to reorder photos on the sidebar! To use Alice as an example, I want to see her lovely face at the top instead of the death certificate and funeral card I uploaded earlier.

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

It’s been a great help to see how others tackle tough research problems and brick walls. Joining WikiTree really inspired me to improve my skills.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Take it slow. Read the New Member How-To pages. Start by adding a few family profiles manually, and get comfortable with how sources are handled. Look around at a variety of profiles and be inspired by what’s possible on WikiTree. If you ever need help, don’t hesitate to ask on G2G!


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In WikiTree’s Connection Finder we feature a different notable each week so you can see your family connection to them.

This week we are featuring the three individuals behind the iconic Star Wars roles of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Obi-Wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).  Since the ninth and final movie of the Star Wars trilogies, “The Rise of Skywalker,” comes out this Friday, we thought it would be fun to have our own “stars war” and see who is more closely connected to whom.

There Is Another

Carrie Fisher was born October 21, 1956, in Beverly Hills, California. As the daughter of two icons, singer Eddie (Tisch) Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, Carrie was often referred to as “Hollywood Royalty.” However, after Star Wars debuted in 1977, Carrie achieved newfound royalty as the galaxy’s favorite princess, Princess Leia.

Carrie’s paternal grandparents were Russian Jewish immigrants, while her mother’s family were Scots-Irish and English. Sadly, the Princess passed away December 27, 2016.  Her mother, Debbie, passed away the next day.

“Old Ben Kenobi”

Sir Alec Guinness was a notable British actor born April 2, 1914, in London, England, to Agnes Cuff.

Alec’s birth certificate shows his mother’s name as Agnes de Cuffe. The space for the infant’s first name says Alec Guinness. The column for name and surname of father is blank.  The identity of Alec’s father has never been officially confirmed, though he believed his father was a Scottish banker, Andrew Geddes, who paid for Guinness’s public school education at Fettes College. Geddes occasionally visited Guinness and his mother, posing as an uncle.

Sir Alec was well-known for several roles, amongst the most notable for his portrayal of Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi.  He died August 5, 2000, in Midhurst, England.

Best to Let the Wookie Win

Peter Mayhew was born May 19, 1944, in Barnes, England, to Walter Mayhew and Constance Yeates. He grew to be 7’4″ tall! Though he started in the engineering field, Peter thought he was better served for hospital work and got a job as a hospital orderly in the radiology department at King’s College Hospital.

It was there that he was discovered by George Lucas, who offered him the role of Chewbacca, saying all he needed to do was show up and the gig was his. Well, Peter did show up and became our beloved Wookie, returning to reprise the role in several Star Wars films. He loved his Star Wars family and put everything he had into being the best Wookie he could be, going so far as to study the movements of bears, gorillas, and monkeys.

Peter died earlier this year, April 30, after a heart attack.

The Connections

Now the fun part. First we’ll share how they are connected to each other. Then we want to know how you are connected to them!

The Princess and the Jedi Master

Only 24 degrees separate Carrie and Sir Alec! This connection has some fun twists. It starts through her father, Eddie Fisher, and then jumps to his second wife, another Hollywood Royal, Elizabeth Taylor.

Also in their connection path is William Byrd. William is credited with the founding of the city of Richmond, Virginia. His son, also a William, was accused of squandering away the family fortune, which goes to show, like in Star Wars, all families have a light and a dark side!

The Jedi Master and the Wookie

There are 32 degrees between Peter and Sir Alec. Their connection is through their wives’ families. Though they may not have the high ground when it comes to this connection, they did have a friendship that lasted their lifetimes.

Interesting note: Both Carrie and Peter have Stirlings in their connection path with Sir Alec.

The Wookie and the Princess

Though their connection in real life was quite close, their connection here is far, far away. There are 28 degrees between Carrie and Peter. This particular connection stems from Carrie’s mother Debbie and through Peter’s wife. As Chewbacca would say, ” RRRAARRWHHGWWR.” I think we can all agree.

In this Star Wars showdown, it’s Carrie and Sir Alec for the win! Just 24 steps apart. (We knew Obi-Wan was our only hope!) So what about you? Are you more closely connected to the Princess, the Jedi or the Wookie? Check your connections and then tell us here!

May the Source be With You!

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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 Walter.

Walter Howe became a WikiTreer in February of 2015.  He is a dedicated researcher of the Howe surname and participates as a Ranger, Data Doctor and Connector.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Howe and the many family names that link to it.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

My immediate male family line lived near Boston, Massachusetts for about 380 years. But other branches moved all over the United States, and I will follow them anywhere. On the other hand, my mother’s family came from Norway about 1900, and I have much to learn about researching Norwegian genealogy.

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

I am a fourth generation genealogist. My grandfather and great grandfather attended a Howe family gathering in Framingham, Massachusetts in 1871. All known Howes were invited, and asked to bring family records, and they gathered from all over the USA and Canada. This led to a Howe genealogy research project that lasted for years. My grandfather, Dr. Oliver Hunt Howe was one of the principal researchers, and his journals describe hitching up his horse and buggy and visiting towns all over New England to gather prime source records in the 1890s. There were no copying machines in those days, but he kept meticulous records written in his spidery hand, using every square inch of whatever paper he was writing on. The two-volume Howe genealogies that resulted were published by NEHGS (now American Ancestors) in Boston in 1929, fifty-eight years after the project started. The project was organized by Judge Daniel Wait Howe of Indiana, and many researchers contributed to the work. 

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

The aforementioned Dr. Oliver Hunt Howe. He worked in a town clerk’s office after High School for about three years before deciding to go to Harvard University Medical School. It gave him an excellent background to become a genealogist. He led a fascinating life, much of it captured in his daily journals. He was an early adopter of technology. As an example, he had phone number 14 in his town, and that was his basic number throughout his life, even though it expanded beyond two digits. He married Martha Dresser Paul, a Boston University graduate in 1889. His journal describes proposing to her in 1888 on September 6th. She then accepted his proposal on October 18th. Things were slower in those days!

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I majored in mathematics in college and then spent three years in the Army as a cryptanalyst. After my enlistment, they hired me back as an Education Specialist and I worked for 32 years in Signals Intelligence. After retiring from that job, I moved on to work with community development on the Internet in its early public days, beginning in 1992. Throughout my life I have participated in music and theatre. I have particularly enjoyed Gilbert & Sullivan operas, and I have played the Mikado, the Major General (from Pirates of Penzance) and many more.

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 discovered WikiTree in 2015, and since then have made over 34,000 contributions. I have focused on entering the published Howe Genealogies, at the same time updating, correcting, extending, and better sourcing them. I am continually amazed how accurate and well-researched the original publication was. There are a few errors, of course, but remarkably few. Some Howe researchers traveled to England about 1900 to research local records from the 1500s there and documented them. The same records first appeared in online sources in the past five years.

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

Since I am always searching for good sources on the Internet, I was impressed when searches led me to WikiTree and family records with good sourcing. 

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

The goal of a single, well-sourced tree appeals to me. I never take the view that I own my records. I want to share my work and do everything I can to make sure it is preserved after I am gone. Good research is swamped by bad research in places like Ancestry. I don’t expect my records on my computers or on paper will survive me very long. My records are basically digital, not primarily on paper, and the survival of digital records is a difficult goal to be sure of as technology changes and old media becomes obsolete. I am betting that WikiTree is so good that it will survive beyond its current owners, and if not, there is always the Internet Archive.

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

Provide a utility that would convert a GEDCOM entry to a well written Profile. (Probably not achievable, but I can dream.)

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

One thing I enjoy doing on WikiTree is finding a newly entered, unconnected Howe and then researching and linking the person to the greater tree. I always provide multiple sources when I do this.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Provide sources for everything. Don’t make entries without sources, or at least good notes that explain where the information came from. Research notes can be used much more than they are now. Don’t be afraid to post information that is only probably, not proven, but then discuss the uncertainty in Research Notes.


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