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 Gillian.

Gillian Thomas became a full WikiTreer in January of 2017 and has been busy ever since as an Integrator, Mentor, Connector, Arborist and Data Doctor!  She became a Leader in January of 2018 and not only co-leads our UK and England Projects but just stepped up to lead our Worldwide Disasters Project.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

My main surname interests are Thomas (from Breage N Falmouth in Cornwall) and Walter (from Bath, Somerset, and probably earlier from Monmouthshire in Wales). In addition, Wignall, Eldridge, Scobie, Veitch and Claringbold are some of the surnames where I have a brick wall that I would love to break through.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Australia is the key location for me, mainly Sydney, and some country areas of NSW. All my ancestors have all been in Australia since the 19th century. They came to Australia from England and Scotland, with a couple of ancestors from Ireland. Some of the places where I am researching in England are Cornwall, Devon, Kent and Essex. In Scotland I have ancestors from Edinburgh, Port Glasgow, Stirlingshire, Dundee and the Shetland Island. I am dying to visit the Shetland Islands! My maternal (mitochondrial DNA) line goes back to Perth in Scotland in the mid 18th century.

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

I picked up the research of a few other members of my family about 20 years ago … and ran with it. It was initially a great diversion at a challenging time in my life and gave me a secure sense of identity when my life felt like it was being turned upside down. Since then, it has been a wonderful way of sharing with both my mother and father, as they were both really interested in their family history and I was able to work with them to discover more about their ancestry.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

My favourite ancestor… hmmm… that’s a hard question. I know about my ancestors in their historical context and in terms of the events that happened to them. But there are only a few of my ancestors that I know a bit more about as people. Of those, none of them jump out as being my favourite. So, after thinking about it for a while, I think I’ll nominate Jane Thomas, wife of Richard Thomas. She came to Australia from Cornwall in 1857 at the age of 51 with 5 of her 11 children (her husband and 4 eldest sons and a daughter had already travelled to Australia a couple of years before). I can’t imagine how she coped with the horrendous conditions on that awful overcrowded boat. I don’t know much more about her life, and stories about her haven’t passed down through the family, but I greatly admire her self-sacrifice and forbearance, all to give her children a better life.

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

The one that is giving me the most trouble is Emma (Woodman) Walter. She was born about 1810, probably in Portsmouth, Hampshire, but maybe in Chatham in Kent or maybe overseas in Ireland or the West Indies?? I have literally left no stone unturned searching for her. My mother drives me nuts coming up with new theories for who she may be related to or places or names we need to search. So, if nothing else, for my sanity it would be excellent to find her!

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

Caroline Chisolm – The Australia Project have created a beautiful profile for her. She was an amazing woman, who worked tirelessly to support immigrant women coming to Australia in the 1840s and 1850s.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

My favourite things are sailing, bushwalking, kayaking and reading. I was running (well … jogging really) for a while a year or so ago, and felt so good while I was doing that. I loved it! I need to get running again.

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

I have been active on WikiTree for about a year. For most of the year I’ve been slowly adding my own tree. I’ve also had a great time giving back to WikiTree by helping out with profile improvement activities. I’ve enjoyed connecting, ‘arboring’ and data-doctoring (and sourced as I needed to as part of those activities). In the future, I would like to spend more time writing up bios. Recently, most of my energy and time on WikiTree has been focused on contributing to the WikiTree community. I have been very active in a project coordinator role for the England Project, which has been keeping me very busy, and I’m also a Mentor and Integrator.

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

I first registered for WikiTree a few years ago but didn’t take it any further at the time. I must have become aware of WikiTree from Google searches for ancestors. However, it was contact in 2016 with a (hopefully) relative who was already on WikiTree that brought WikiTree to my attention again. Thank you Henry! It was perfect timing, and I haven’t looked back. WikiTree is amazing!

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

My favourite thing about WikiTree is that we are creating a whole genealogical resource for the future. I love the vision of WikiTree and am excited to be part of bringing that vision to life.

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

Maybe its my own lack of skill, but if the search facility were able to including searching by location, that would be really handy.

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

With my own genealogy, WikiTree is a great discipline, but in reference to the example, I think anything I do in my own small way to contribute to accurate, well-sourced profiles on WikiTree and be part of encouraging others to do ‘good genealogy’ – and enjoy it – absolutely helps genealogy.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Take it slow. Don’t feel like you need to get your whole tree up on WikiTree in a few days. Also, there is a huge amount to learn to be confident on WikiTree, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are wonderful people in the WikiTree community, who are only too willing to assist. And don’t be embarrassed if you don’t pick it all up in the first few weeks, or months.


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  4 Responses to “Meet our Members: Gillian Thomas”

  1. Gillian, you are a truly awesome wiki-tree’er. I am glad we are related (I did a “Connectio Finder” and found a second path between our families.)


  2. What is URI?
    THANKS, GILLIAN. I love your biographical talk above! You’re a champ!

  3. Gillian ! Congratulations on being selected as a featured Wikitreer on “Meet Our Members”. I enjoyed reading your bio sketch and learning how you got started in Wikitree. It was a bit of a slow start but wow did you take off when you finally jumed in. It was also interesting to learn about your favorite ancestor, Jane Thomas and her husband Richard. That must have been quite the journey back in 1857 to travel from England to Australia. It must have felt like traveling to another planet, full of unknowns but spurred on by hopes for a better life for their (your) family. I admire the strength and resolve of our ancestors. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

  4. I note you would like to be related to Caroline Chisholm & I happen to be reading her biography now. Lots to be learnt from this great organiser! She has a great profile but is not connected. I’ll try to connect her over the next couple of weeks so maybe you can be connected, even if not related.

    Thanks for all the work you have done 🙂

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