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 Mindy.

Mindy Silva joined us on WikiTree in July of 2017 and is one of our newest Leaders!  She is active as a Mentor, Greeter and Data Doctor and is currently working on launching the new Portugal Project.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

I’ve done a lot of work on my mother’s side of the family. Now I’m focusing on my father’s side. After spending all that time researching New England families, it has been an eye opener. My father is from Hawaii, his ancestors from Portugal. I’ve found the parish records simply fascinating! Each record is handwritten in a parish book. The earlier records (dating back to the early 16th century) are short and heavily abbreviated.

As you move to more current times they started including more and more information in them. Some you can find both sets of grandparents in, where each was born and their occupations. I’ve looked at thousands upon thousands of them now. My experience in the early New England wills has helped me with the older script. My skills at translating them have developed through the course of researching.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Most of my Portugal ancestors came from the Madeira Islands. Some of them came from the Azores. The research approach is different there. I’ve found that keeping a map of the counties handy is a big help. If you can’t find a marriage in Magdalena do Mar, you look to see what other parishes are around there. Unlike some of the small villages I researched in England, where each of the sons went outside of the village to seek a wife; in Madeira a lot of them married in the parish they lived in. Or, at the very least, the same county.

The priests kept extensive records for this purpose. If two people were closer than fourth cousins, they were not allowed to get married without special dispensation from the church. It was not only against the churches’ rules, it was against civil law. For those couples that received such a dispensation it was recorded in the parish books. It really helps with the research to know if they are related somehow.

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

My initial interest was as a freshman in high school. I had an assignment (term paper level) to complete a family history. Back then you looked at microfilm and didn’t have the internet for other locations. My maternal grandfather had moved the family from Minnesota to California, due to health reasons. By the time I was a freshman I was living in Oregon. I could not access any ‘local’ records for my family members. That is when I found out that my family did not like to talk about the family and who their ancestors were. Some, I found, simply didn’t know. My mother had always said that that I was French, German, English, Irish and Native American. No mention was made about my father’s side. I had accepted this, but really wanted to know which ancestors had contributed what.

I developed a long-term pen pal relationship with a great-aunt that I am grateful for. Now I only wish I had been given a list of questions to ask her, as she is long gone. I now make ‘books’ up for my mother from time to time, to introduce her to the people that I have found in our tree. She is disabled and not very mobile and is delighted each time she gets one. My mother-in-law has the same passion for genealogy, so we spend a lot of time together looking through dusty courthouse books and talking through our brick walls.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

It’s so hard to pick just one! One of my original favorites was Isabella (Bland) (Austin) Leavitt, a ninth great-grandmother. She was born in England and migrated to Rockingham, New Hampshire. I loved reading about the history at the time. Later I found a photograph on one of those ‘lost photos’ sites. The photographer had made a comment that it was odd she had left the names ‘Bland Leavitt’ when she was clearly not married. She had never gone back to pick up the photographs, and he couldn’t locate anyone with that name combination. It was a descendant of hers and I love to picture her all dressed up, thinking whimsically of her great-grandmother and giving that name.

I wish I had been on WikiTree at that time to document my research progress with her. I suppose she needs to go on my ‘To Do’ list to spruce up! Now I would have to add one from my dad’s side: Alexandrina Amélia da Conceição da Silva Gonçalves Pereira. She was a brick wall that I just kept going back to. She and her husband migrated to Hawaii with several small children when she was twenty-six. They had at least ten children, and I have now proven her name and parentage. I think she was a brave soul for making that journey, and I’m glad that I can honor her by presenting her history on WikiTree.

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

Rachel Hodges, a fourth great-grandmother. I just couldn’t get past her on that line and decided to go back and look at the records I had. I posted a question in G2G for help on deciphering the witness at her wedding, hoping it would be a relative. Several people jumped in immediately and helped me get past that block – a special thanks to Frank Gill and Lynda Crackett with that one! I spent hours pouring over records and learning about Seavington, England. It was a wonderful discovery!

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

I’ve been on WikiTree since the 26th of July 2017 (hey, I’m almost to my anniversary!). I usually split my time up between cousin collaboration, projects such as PGM and Data Doctors, Mentor  and Greeting help, and browsing through the G2G. Lately, though, a lot of my time was spent working with Susie MacLeod on the new Portugal Project. Susie has been wonderful to work with, and I’ve learned a lot about starting up new projects on WikiTree. There are so many wonderful people on WikiTree that are willing to help or offer advice! The project will be fully launched soon, and we have members poised and ready to take off with the profiles and improve them. Then I can just add it to my list of things I work on and return some of my focus to my other projects.

I’m proud and honored to say that I have been recently promoted to Leader. My hope is to continue helping others on WikiTree so that they can find their own way, and their own treasures, through the exciting journey of genealogy.

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

I had gotten my dna done through Ancestry.com and posted it on gedmatch.com. In my search to find cousins, it was frustrating to see how many sites didn’t work with the other ones. I could see who I was related to on Ancestry, but not see the dna connection. I could see the dna connection on gedmatch, but not how we matched. After finding some cousins that I now work with weekly, and sometimes daily, it was frustrating that we couldn’t work on the same profiles. I love to help others, and I wanted to just ‘jump in’ on their tree and find records. I searched around the web and found WikiTree, the answer to my prayers! Now several of the cousins have joined WikiTree as well, and we can collaborate. We work together to find records and can leave research notes for the other to pick up on when we stop. I love it!

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

That is another question that is hard to pick just one answer for. I love the collaboration, the forum when you need an extra set of eyes to look at a problem, and the ‘white space’ on a profile. I can put translations for baptisms, write research notes with handy links, search right from WikiTree for further records, and see each source that someone has found for that person. In the US I love the space to put a Residence and a Family section. This allows me to easily see if the migration pattern matches the children’s birth locations. It also makes it easier for me to then grab information and inline citations for creating the ‘story’ portion of the biography.

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

It should come with a warning sticker: Warning, this site can cause extreme genealogy addiction, add to communication, fill up your email box, encourage you to help perfect strangers, teach you about projects you never knew you were interested in, and can lure you deep into family rabbit holes. Just kidding, but it has become one of my favorite passions! As my email signature says “So much to Wiki, so little time…”

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

I think I’ve covered most of the answer to this question. In the past I have always enjoyed helping others. I take photographs for FindAGrave, index records for FamilySearch, help DAR members and prospective member find records, and now collaborate with others on family members – mine or theirs. WikiTree has been a wonderful experience, and it has added to my perspective on research immensely!

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Read through the G2G often! I found out so much this way when I first started. I pasted the links to answers, or pages like Stickers, in my Scratchpad on my Nav Home Page and it helped me learn my way around WikiTree. Now I feel like an ‘old pro.’


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  One Response to “Meet our Members: Mindy Silva”

  1. Congrats to Mindy! Mindy and I are distant cousins on more then one branch through our Madeiran families! To say she is my mentor would be an understatement. She assists me almost daily, pointing me in the right direction, translating dozens of documents and teaching me how to research and interpret information. I credit Mindy for all the progress I have been able to make over the last few months… she is a valuable member to this group!

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