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 Walter.

Walter Howe became a WikiTreer in February of 2015.  He is a dedicated researcher of the Howe surname and participates as a Ranger, Data Doctor and Connector.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Howe and the many family names that link to it.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

My immediate male family line lived near Boston, Massachusetts for about 380 years. But other branches moved all over the United States, and I will follow them anywhere. On the other hand, my mother’s family came from Norway about 1900, and I have much to learn about researching Norwegian genealogy.

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

I am a fourth generation genealogist. My grandfather and great grandfather attended a Howe family gathering in Framingham, Massachusetts in 1871. All known Howes were invited, and asked to bring family records, and they gathered from all over the USA and Canada. This led to a Howe genealogy research project that lasted for years. My grandfather, Dr. Oliver Hunt Howe was one of the principal researchers, and his journals describe hitching up his horse and buggy and visiting towns all over New England to gather prime source records in the 1890s. There were no copying machines in those days, but he kept meticulous records written in his spidery hand, using every square inch of whatever paper he was writing on. The two-volume Howe genealogies that resulted were published by NEHGS (now American Ancestors) in Boston in 1929, fifty-eight years after the project started. The project was organized by Judge Daniel Wait Howe of Indiana, and many researchers contributed to the work. 

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

The aforementioned Dr. Oliver Hunt Howe. He worked in a town clerk’s office after High School for about three years before deciding to go to Harvard University Medical School. It gave him an excellent background to become a genealogist. He led a fascinating life, much of it captured in his daily journals. He was an early adopter of technology. As an example, he had phone number 14 in his town, and that was his basic number throughout his life, even though it expanded beyond two digits. He married Martha Dresser Paul, a Boston University graduate in 1889. His journal describes proposing to her in 1888 on September 6th. She then accepted his proposal on October 18th. Things were slower in those days!

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I majored in mathematics in college and then spent three years in the Army as a cryptanalyst. After my enlistment, they hired me back as an Education Specialist and I worked for 32 years in Signals Intelligence. After retiring from that job, I moved on to work with community development on the Internet in its early public days, beginning in 1992. Throughout my life I have participated in music and theatre. I have particularly enjoyed Gilbert & Sullivan operas, and I have played the Mikado, the Major General (from Pirates of Penzance) and many more.

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing? If you’re involved in a project(s), tell us about how you participate in it.

I discovered WikiTree in 2015, and since then have made over 34,000 contributions. I have focused on entering the published Howe Genealogies, at the same time updating, correcting, extending, and better sourcing them. I am continually amazed how accurate and well-researched the original publication was. There are a few errors, of course, but remarkably few. Some Howe researchers traveled to England about 1900 to research local records from the 1500s there and documented them. The same records first appeared in online sources in the past five years.

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

Since I am always searching for good sources on the Internet, I was impressed when searches led me to WikiTree and family records with good sourcing. 

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

The goal of a single, well-sourced tree appeals to me. I never take the view that I own my records. I want to share my work and do everything I can to make sure it is preserved after I am gone. Good research is swamped by bad research in places like Ancestry. I don’t expect my records on my computers or on paper will survive me very long. My records are basically digital, not primarily on paper, and the survival of digital records is a difficult goal to be sure of as technology changes and old media becomes obsolete. I am betting that WikiTree is so good that it will survive beyond its current owners, and if not, there is always the Internet Archive.

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

Provide a utility that would convert a GEDCOM entry to a well written Profile. (Probably not achievable, but I can dream.)

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

One thing I enjoy doing on WikiTree is finding a newly entered, unconnected Howe and then researching and linking the person to the greater tree. I always provide multiple sources when I do this.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Provide sources for everything. Don’t make entries without sources, or at least good notes that explain where the information came from. Research notes can be used much more than they are now. Don’t be afraid to post information that is only probably, not proven, but then discuss the uncertainty in Research Notes.


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  2 Responses to “Meet our Members: Walter Howe”

  1. Noted that their is a we have a connection which is not by blood. Susannah Waggoner was the half sister of Elizabeth Waggoner Hardman, daughter of John Michael and Margaret Bonnett. Elizabeth’s mother was murdered in a massacre and Susanna Richards was John Micheal’s second wife. Not sure it is good news that Henry VIII was a great uncle of ours. It is these “fun” facts so many miss by not accessing the full stories of the lives of our ancestors. Sharon Hardman

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