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 Margaret.

Margaret Summitt became a WikiTreer in January of 2018. She enjoys fleshing out biographies on profiles as well as adding categories. Margaret also participates in our 52 Ancestors challenge each week.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

The Robe family—starting with my father’s ancestry back to my third great-grandfather William Robe (1719?-1801) of Monongalia County, formerly Virginia, now West Virginia. I have been tracing all his known descendants.  Along the way I’ve added WikiTree Robe profiles that appear unrelated. Other surnames I frequently work on are Kirk, Shields, Sweeten (on my father’s side) and Schilling, Koerth and Lipke (on my mother’s side).

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Annual visits to relatives in Oregon acquainted me from an early age with stories of the Robe and Kirk families pioneering in Linn and Lane Counties in Oregon. Brownsville, Oregon and its history since 1847 is a major focus of my research. From there I reached back to Robes in southeastern Ohio and Monongalia and Marion Counties, West Virginia. The Kirk family is from east Tennessee (Knox County) and southwest Virginia (Montgomery/Giles Counties). My mother’s side consists of German immigrants from Prussia (present-day western Poland) to Outagamie and Manitowoc Counties, Wisconsin.

Since I moved from Los Angeles to Snohomish County, Washington I have also done a lot of research in the local area. I edited and wrote for a research journal of a local genealogical society (2009-2016) and am now writing for two or three local papers and magazines, as well as the Mukilteo Historical Society newsletter. Due to the book I wrote on the Mukilteo Pioneer Cemetery in 2017, I am populating the cemetery with WikiTree profiles and trying to find out as much as I can about their ancestry. Most of my unconnected profiles come from this research. It makes me happy to connect a “lost” member of a family in the West with antecedents back East. In the photo, by the way, I’m dressed in costume for a cemetery tour.

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

The stories that my uncles told—with my great-grandfather’s clock ticking over the fireplace—on our annual visits to Eugene, Oregon have stayed with me for years. Visits to my maternal grandmother, uncle and maiden aunts, living in the McMinnville and Portland area, brought to me stories about my Wisconsin ancestors. The web of community in those old places was very real to me even as I was growing up in Los Angeles. Once my relatives discovered I was interested in these things, they started giving me treasures: photographs, letters, diaries, and of course the mantel clock, which great-grandpa Rev. Robert Robe bought in Eugene in 1868.

When I began graduate school in the 1970s, I learned to do library research and inter-library loan. When I wasn’t studying English literature, I spent a lot of time in the Family History Library at the West Los Angeles LDS Temple. In the meantime, I was working as a research assistant for a history professor and developed a method of annotating British women’s autobiographies to extract biographical data and comment on their storytelling. On the historic day that I met my husband Chris, we hit it off right away because I mentioned that sometimes I feel nausea when cranking microfilm readers, and he knew exactly what I meant, having been a National Park Service ranger and researcher at Custer Battlefield in Montana. We often do local history together.

Who is your favorite ancestor and why?

I always come back to William Robe, my 3rd great-grandfather, if only because I have tried so hard to find pieces of his life. He was born about 1719, probably in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and is said to have studied for the Presbyterian ministry. When and where? Was his wife Sarah, LNAB said to be Blair, a relative of one of his teachers? Y-DNA tests of my Dad and brother revealed close connections to two Robb families of Chester County. How did the surname get changed? How did he end up in the Monongahela valley? Many fascinating stories, mostly tragic, are associated with him and his children. How many are true? Was William really found dead with a nail driven through his temple? Was his eldest son struck by lightning, and did his eldest daughter hang herself? The slave who was taking care of the eldest son tried to murder him, confessed, was sentenced to be executed, declared herself pregnant, was examined and found not to be, and ultimately hanged (but THAT story I found on my own, through the county court records).

Banner Shields (1772-1846) of Blount and McMinn Counties in Tennessee is another fascinating ancestor. I have been tracing the descendants of his seven daughters. Through them I found that sisterly bonds were often the driving force in westward migration, whether toward Oregon or toward Arkansas and Texas. The families that went through the Civil War and its aftermath in Texas had a tougher time of it, and only a few members are to be found in records on the other side.

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

Sebastian “Boston” Nosler lost both his parents on the voyage from Germany to America in the 1730s. I would really like to find his parents, who were probably from the upper Rhine valley. I am descended from three of his children: Sophia, Eva and Boston Jr., who were born in southwest Virginia.

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

The question asks, I think, whose legacy I would like to continue. When I think of my models in genealogy, I think of two saints: Saint Matthew and his contemporary, Saint Luke. Both left us genealogies of Christ. Saint Matthew, being a tax collector, was more of a bean counter, I imagine, and thus represents the type of genealogist who focuses on data. Saint Luke, on the other hand, was more of a storyteller and, legend has it, an artist. Good genealogy needs both aspects, but I lean more towards Saint Luke as my model in genealogy because good stories inspire us and make us love genealogy.  

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I sew many quilts for Project Linus, a national charity, to be distributed here in Snohomish County. Chris and I are active in our local Toastmasters club and mentor many people in public speaking.  

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

The first part of this question is answered in my comments on what brought me to WikiTree. Adding and sourcing profiles is what I spend most time on. I flesh out biographies and add categories. Lately, I’ve been able to reach 1000 contributions during the first half of the month and the second half of the month I spend on profiles that need more time and extra digging. Also, I read the G2G postings (from my phone) several times a day. I participate in the 52 Ancestors challenges and check into the Weekend Chat every week.

What brought you to WikiTree?  

It started when I Googled the name of a cousin and found that there was a profile for her on WikiTree—and I had a photograph of her. I shared it with the PM and soon decided that WikiTree was a place I could store and share the research I’m constantly doing. A day or two later my husband was slightly injured in an auto accident and I decided that since life is fragile, I’d better get serious about sharing the 20,000+ profiles I have on my old Personal Ancestral File database. On January 22, 2018 I created my own profile and started building my tree one profile at a time. I haven’t much patience with GEDCOMs and I was going to check all my sources anyway. It wasn’t long before I found myself connected. My watchlist grew to 5000 and presently I am orphaning most profiles I create. I go down rabbit holes several times a week and practice Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness and make connections for others.

During 2019 I slowed down a bit as I am obliged to dig deeper to find sources. I have not finished entering the folks in my database and have found that my years of name collection have left most of them poorly sourced or unsourced. I am still mainly keeping my head down and digging and entering new people. I jump from one thing to another. I learned to do inline sourcing, but on the whole I haven’t much patience with projects and challenges and stickers and templates. If something proves too difficult, I jump to something else.

Along the way, as I do more research for others, I’ve been less concerned about “my” relatives and more focused on shared relationships. WikiTree helps with that as it’s a single shared tree. I wish I could personally thank all the people who shared information with me by email and snail mail over the years.  I never throw anything away!

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

The fact that it’s a single shared tree makes it unique. I also love that I can jump in and improve profiles with sources and biographies. I also like the social and chat aspects. I learn many things from reading posts to G2G and considering issues in worldwide genealogy.

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

Finding categories and searching for profiles can be very frustrating. Finding locked profiles when I have information or connections to add is also frustrating. I think the new method of commenting on profiles may help draw attention and improve communication.  

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

I’ve worked on a few notables and improved their sources. When I’ve done this I usually ask for help on G2G and am amazed at how quickly the community responds and helps out.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

My advice to a new person on WikiTree would be to create the profiles one by one, keep improving them, and to ask any and all questions on G2G. If you hit a brick wall in one place, work on a collateral line or on in-laws.

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  3 Responses to “Meet our Members: Margaret Summitt”

  1. Congratulations Margaret on your family racconto and how you became interested in genealogy !! I also have a Kirk ancestor, i.e.: Jane Newham, nee Kirk, born circa 1725 in Gedling, Notts.; possibly had a brother John, of Gedling, married to Elizabeth Savage, the dau. of George Savage / Savidge and Elizabeth Wing. The Newhams come down from a long line of Newhams of Sutton-in-Ashfield, Notts. (c. 1550’s), later established in Arnold, Notts. and Carlton, Notts. Jane Kirk was married to Samuel Newham, Sheriff of Nottingham (1775-76). Regards. Enrique (Harry) Martin

  2. Hello Margaret.I also have Kirk ancestry.Jane Newham,neeKirk,b.c.1725,Gedling,Notts.Married Samuel Newham,of Gedling,Sheriff of Nottingham(1775-76).Jane had a brotherJohn, of Gedling,married to Elizabeth Savage, dau. of George Savage and Elizabeth Wing. The Newhams of Sutton-in-Ashfield, Notts. (c. 1550’s).Regards. Enrique (Harry) Martin

  3. McIntosh is being used by slaves that where white but is connected to Fezzes that are Egyptians non Africans people that are free before the Revolutionary war. There Loyalists. Panama is Connected to CT Dominican Republic and Haiti and Jamaica they did the Panama Canal And Prussia did Defacto USA There is a small percentage of people that are hopefully Italians Romans aka Lombardy it’s 5 percent of them it’s non Africans dna not Related to slaves. Another thing Scavella is from Italy. I noticed everyone is trying to be a Lombardy for some weird reason. Not related to majority of the Antilles people’s in Carribean. Hopefully you figure out your family tree enjoy 😉

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