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 Tara.

Tara Wildes became a Wiki Genealogist in December 2016.  She loves participating in our challenges and coordinates the Wildes One Name Study.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Wildes, Walker, Anderson, Wood, Kato, Rouse, Bowen, Lanier

What are some of the locations you are researching?

I focus on the Wiregrass Region of the Southern United States, but do not limit research to that area. I go where the records take me.  

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

My great-aunt, Hazel Wildes Mancil, was one of our family historians, and her lifelong interest and research was something I admired.  She encouraged and mentored many family members in genealogy.  I was a history minor in college as well and believe in preserving and learning from our past.  

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

Hard to pick a favorite, but my 4g grandfather Maximillan Wildes is one of my most intriguing. There’s unsolved mystery about his origin; family lore has him stowing away on a ship and arriving in America from Scotland. Another theory is based on correspondence from the early 1800’s that implies he may have been a son of a Massachusetts judge. He was a pioneer in the Okefenokee Swamp area of Southeast Georgia and was killed along with his wife and most of his children in a raid on his homestead by the Seminoles during the Second Seminole War. Four brothers were away hunting and survived the raid, and most of the Wildes/Wilds of the southeastern United States are descendants of Reuben, Jesse, John, and James Wildes.

It is hard for us to imagine these days the leap of faith it took to strike out into the unknown, especially when we have so much knowledge immediately accessible. It’s even harder to grasp the survival skills that were common to the men and women in our past, especially those in the wilderness with no corner store, no biweekly paycheck, no electricity or phones.

Various members of our family have been using Y-DNA to attempt to determine Maximillian’s origin, but have yet to gain any conclusive knowledge.  

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

I still have a lot of walls, and while I know many may never be breached, I enjoy the search. It’s very satisfying to find even the smallest clues.  

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

I admire a lot of people – and figure I’m related to them all, somehow! 

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

After a 30-plus year career in criminal justice, I work on reforming that system these days, through my own consulting business and continuing to serve as our local reentry coordinator for people returning to society from jails and prisons. I also enjoy photography, all of nature and have fun trying to grow things from tomatoes to sourdough cultures. 

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

I have been on WikiTree since 2016, and I divide my time between researching my family, cleaning up my early mistakes and helping where I can with various projects. I try to take part in most of the challenges and found doing so has really helped my own growth in understanding best practices. 

I started the Wildes One Name Project and would love to have more people pitch in! 

What brought you to WikiTree?

A distant cousin told me about it, and I was hooked at first look. I love being able to share research and collaborate with others in an organized manner. 

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree?

Because WikiTree is free it provides instant access for anyone curious about their family history and the overarching goal of one accurate shared tree is aspirational. There is no better way to show we are one expanded family, no matter how distant the links. There are so many ways to get involved, it’s hard to choose what to do!

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

This is not a direct answer to that question, but it is great how many of the members’ suggestions get incorporated into positive changes. There are so many talented volunteers on this site.

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

Making connections, whether with my own relatives or anyone with common interests. It is wonderful to preserve and curate information on the lives of people, regardless of their fame or fortune. Each profile made is there for others to take from what they wish, while tombstones may crumble and paper records fade.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Explore first, read the FAQ, watch the tutorials, see if you have connections in existing profiles and don’t hesitate to ask questions.  This is a welcoming and considerate group.

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