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 Julie.

Julie has been a member of our community since 2011 and is one of our outstanding Leaders! Julie is co-leader of the Greeters project and active in the G2G forum as a Moderator.

Surnames you are researching: 

Courson —  my maternal grandmother

Fiscus — my maiden surname

Fulk — one of my paternal lines that has been convoluted for a long time with lots and lots of spelling variations

Hauser — same as Fulk

Uhlin — my biological maternal grandmother

Locations you are researching:

Sweden — my mother was a first-generation American. Her parents immigrated in the early 1920s. I still have 1st cousins in Sweden, and someday I will go visit them!

Pennsylvania — my paternal ancestors came from Germany and Switzerland to Pennsylvania. Then, many of them migrated to …

North Carolina — here they either joined the Moravian church or settled in the same areas. A group of them then moved on to …

Owen County, Indiana — where my paternal grandfather was born. He then moved on to Illinois where he met my grandmother. Her side of the family has German, Dutch and English roots, and their journey in America began — I think —  in Virginia. They also migrated to North Carolina, Tennessee, and then many of them settled in Illinois.

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

Many years ago, my mother bought my father a copy of Owen County Cousins which traces the genealogy of several branches of his family. I sat down with that book and tried to make sense of it, and I was immediately hooked on trying to understand how one person was related to another.

This was back before the Internet. So, I didn’t really get too far into understanding what it all meant until I graduated from college and began looking around online to see what sorts of things I could find. The pickings were kind of slim back then when it came to online repositories of records, but I worked on Rootsweb a little and corresponded with a variety of distant cousins who had put together research on some of the lines I was not familiar with. A mixed blessing was the GEDCOM files that were passed on to me with my family’s genealogy. I’m still working to sort all of this out and verify it.

In 2011, I found WikiTree. There were very few people here then, and I muddled around and tried to figure out what I was doing. It wasn’t until about 3 or 4 years ago that I really sank my teeth into figuring it out.

Once I started getting more involved, I felt pretty comfortable with the technical side of WikiTree, but I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing genealogically. I remember reading posts in G2G by some of the more seasoned genealogists and thinking, “Wow, I have no idea what I’m doing. Why do I need to be so fussy about citations for sources?”

By this time, more and more profiles were being added, and as I got further into my own family branches, I started running into duplicates. There were spelling variations, birth and death date discrepancies and on and on. As I began trying to figure out what was right and what was wrong, I answered my own question about why we need to be so fussy about citations! They need to be easily accessible for everyone; otherwise, we end up running in circles unable to be sure that we’re connecting to the right ancestors.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

I’d say that changes from week to week, and my favorites of the moment may not actually be my ancestors.

I spend a lot of time researching abandoned profiles on WikiTree. I have found some incredible stories while doing that. Last year, I found an author of children’s books in my tree. Another time, I was working to connect an abandoned profile to the big tree and discovered a tragic story of a family who had lost a son to suicide, and then the father, and then an uncle. The stories that are hiding in our big tree are endless.

If I had to nail down a favorite ancestor, though, it would probably be my paternal grandmother, Lillie (Courson) Fiscus. She died when my father was only 12 years old. So, I never knew her, but I was born on her birthday, and I’ve always felt close to her.

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

My maternal grandmother’s story has been a mystery for decades. We knew that she was adopted and that she had a twin sister who was adopted by a different family. They were reunited at some point, but that’s about all we knew.

It wasn’t until after my mother passed away in 2006 that we discovered who her grandmother was. My father discovered a picture among my mother’s belongings with the name Edla Uhlin written on the back along with the Swedish word for grandmother: “mormor.”

I have a friend who lives in Sweden, and by coincidence, her next-door neighbor is a genealogist. He took the information I had and began digging around. He discovered where my great grandmother lived and worked when the twins were born, and more importantly, he discovered who their father was.

Having this information once again piqued my interest in genealogy and brought me back to WikiTree in a more serious mindset. I asked a question or two in G2G, and two of our wonderful Swedish genealogists graciously stepped up to help me. Both Lena Svensson and Magnus Salgö unselfishly spent their time helping me find details about my great grandmother and great grandfather.

What they discovered was that at the time the twins were born, my great grandmother was 40 years old, unmarried and working as a cook and maid for a rather well-to-do family. The head of this family — Erik Rosén — is listed as the father of the twins in the church books.

Edla was either unable or unwilling to care for the twins, or maybe her family pressured her into giving them up for adoption. Her sister and brother-in-law took one of them — my great aunt, Ingeborg– and another family adopted my grandmother. From what I have been told, different members of the family remained in touch with the adoptive families despite the disapproval of other family members.

After giving up the twins, Edla went on to be a nurse’s aid, and never married. I have so many questions for her.

I took a DNA test about a year ago or so, and coupling those results with all of the information and connections that Magnus put together for me, I have found at least three living cousins on this branch of my family.

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

My lighter side says Carol Burnett. My nerdy, science-loving side says Albert Einstein.

People who know me know that I’m pretty goofy, which is why I relate to Carol Burnett. It was rare that we missed her show on Sunday nights when I was growing up. I was inspired by her when I got to play the Queen in our high school’s production of Cinderella. By the way, I see she’s not connected to the big tree yet. I think it’s time!

As for Albert Einstein: He has intrigued me for years for obvious reasons. He was a fascinating man who wasn’t afraid to show his goofy side. If I had a time machine, I would go get Albert and bring him to now. I wonder what he would have to add to the recent discoveries confirming gravitational waves, black holes, and all of the space exploration that has occurred since his death.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

Lately, it seems like most of my time is spent on genealogy and WikiTree. 🙂

BUT … I’m trying to make time to read more and write more. I also really enjoy working with my wonderful puppy dog and constant companion, Casey. I’m signing up to get her into a “rally obedience” class which may ultimately help us to get into competitions, which would be SO much fun!

Oh, and I’m kind of an education junkie. I listen to a lot of podcasts. Most of them have to do with science and human nature. Some favorites are RadioLab and Freakonomics. Now, I can add a number of genealogy podcasts, too, since we had such a great response to the Question of the Week in G2G the past couple of weeks.

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

I initially joined in Sep 2011. I wasn’t very active for a long time.

But now? I’m here all the time. All. The. Time. 😉 I’ve made some really great friends here

Also, I am one of the leaders of the Greeter Project. I find a great deal of satisfaction from helping new people get started here, and I really love the camaraderie of the Greeter Group. They’re such a dedicated, selfless crew of volunteers!

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

The most fundamental thing that I love about WikiTree — and the most misunderstood by new members — is the One Profile Per Person philosophy. The more I work in this sort of environment, the less I understand why anyone would want to work on their family in any other way. We have the opportunity to connect with so many more people by working together. It’s so gratifying to see how you connect to people who share your ancestors.

There aren’t really any areas of WikiTree that I dislike, but there are those that pose more of a challenge for me. The DNA features, for example. I have a lot to learn there.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Yes, and I’m very excited to have this opportunity to say them out loud! 🙂

First: READ THE HELP PAGES!!! Start with How to Use WikiTree. Click all the links on that page and read those pages. If you don’t understand something, go out to G2G and ask questions. We all really appreciate new members who take the time to understand what’s going on before diving in with both feet. There is a learning curve on WikiTree, but it’s not insurmountable. There are many, many people here who want to help you and want you to succeed.

Second: We know that you want to hurry and find out how you connect into the big tree, but please take your time to work through your connections carefully. Include lots of information about where you found your facts, and don’t be afraid to muse about your thought processes on your profiles. This is not only helpful to others who run across your profiles later, but you will be doing yourself a favor, too. When you come back later, you will thank yourself for writing down what you were thinking while you were working.

Third: There are people who have been here working to develop policies and standards for a very long time. Please take the time to understand how the community works before you start trying to change things. Think about it this way: Would you walk into a stranger’s house and start rearranging the kitchen cabinets?

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

Spend time with people who don’t look or think like you. Respect them and learn from them. You’ll probably discover that you have much more in common than you first thought. If we focus on our sameness, our differences will become insignificant.

Also, you’re never too old to learn something new.


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  2 Responses to “Meet our Members: Julie Ricketts”

  1. Julie is my hero! She invited me to become a Greeter & I am thrilled to participate in this way. Now I know even more about Julie & am even more in awe of her! Thank you Julie!

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