Meet our Members: Alexandra Carter

+11 votes

Hi everyone!

500px-Meet_our_Members_Photos-4.jpgIt's time to meet another one of our Wonderful WikiTreers! This week's member is Alexandra Carter

Alexandra became a Wiki Genealogist in August of 2017.  She is very active in our Netherlands (Dutch Roots) project as well as the Canada Project.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Lately I’ve been working more heavily on my maternal ancestry, including surnames Birkhoff, van Brakel, Carpentier, Harvey, Hawk/Hawke, Hoople, de Kan, Lount, Murray, Robertson, Schut, Sheek, and Wheeler.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

Most of my research is focused in two countries: Canada, specifically Eastern Ontario (Waterloo Region, Toronto, Lost Villages along the St. Lawrence Seaway) and Western Quebec (Montreal, Sainte-Sophie), and the Netherlands, with many in Rotterdam and Zuid-Holland. Sadly, I haven’t made any research trips to any of these places… yet!

I also have many ancestors in England, Scotland, Wales, and Italy, but research is on pause for those locations.

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

I had two major entry points to my family history. When I was little, I spent a lot of time at my paternal grandparents’ house. My grandmother kept many family photo albums and loved to tell me stories about the people in the photos. This usually included the story of the time I choked on an apple as a toddler (don’t worry, I was fine), but also anecdotes about various aunts, uncles, and cousins. Later, one of my great-aunts compiled a family history of the Carters, going back to Charles Carter, an English immigrant to Perry County, Ohio. Her work was my jumping off point when I started working on my family tree, which I’ve been researching on and off for about 18 years.

Who's your favorite ancestor and why?

I don’t know if I have a favorite, but I do get really excited when I’m working on a biography and I find an interesting story about an ancestor. When that happens, that person automatically becomes my favorite of the moment. A good example: my 3x great-grandfather John Murray (Murray-11178). He was born in Scotland in 1811 and immigrated to the English colony of Lower Canada with his wife and parents. He lived through multiple changes in government that meant he and his family lived in Lower Canada, Canada East, and finally Quebec, all without leaving their village of New Glasgow. One of my aunts has a framed letter that John Murray wrote to his grandson, my great-grandfather John Alexander Murray (Murray-11113), about his marriage and journey from Scotland to Quebec, which is one of the best primary sources we have. I also made some fortuitous discoveries in digitized public domain books of Canadian history. According to secondary sources, John Murray was friendly with a man named Carolus Laurier, who lived in the nearby village of Saint-Lin. When Carolus sent his son Wilfrid to school in New Glasgow to learn English, he boarded with the Murrays for a short time, and later helped in John Murray’s shop. Wilfrid Laurier (Laurier-128) went on to become Prime Minister of Canada. Laurier wrote in a letter "The pure family life and godly conduct of the Murrays so impressed me that I am convinced a Protestant can be an earnest, true Christian, as well as a Catholic."

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

My Italian great-great grandparents (four of them) are persistent brick walls. I know their names, the names of some of their children, and where they lived. Some of this info came from the backs of photos or the Melaragno family Bible, and some from a family tree my great-aunt Gilda wrote up for me a couple years ago. Without fail, every time I show her my tree, I’m able to add some Melaragno or Lombardi cousins’ names. I’ve relied on her a lot for information about her aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Unsurprisingly, civil records from rural Italy haven’t proven to be super accessible in the US, but I’m sure one of these days I’ll make a breakthrough.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I work full time as a librarian, and I’ve done many different things within the field, including digitizing archives and special collections materials. Right now, I’m a supervisor at a suburban branch of a large public library system. Outside of work, I read a lot—mostly fiction, but a bit of history and social science too. I enjoy making music, on my own or as part of a group. I play several different instruments, but most often the flute. I also sing in the choir at my church and I’m part of a local fife and drum corps. My Oma taught me to knit as child, but I’ve gotten more serious about it as an adult, and right now I’m knitting a baby blanket for a friend. Similarly, my Mom taught me basic sewing, and I’m sewing face masks with my still pretty new sewing machine to practice my skills. I’m a hockey fan, and I not only watch a lot of hockey but listen to several hockey podcasts, and were the playoffs happening right now, I’d probably be scaring my cat by yelling at the TV.

[interview continues in comments]

WikiTree profile: Alexandra Carter
in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.9m points)

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

I joined WikiTree in 2017, and my main activity has creating and sourcing profiles for my ancestors and other family members. I’ve been transferring a lot of information from a tree I started on Ancestry in 2003. It’s slow going, because I prefer to go one by one rather than import a GEDCOM, because let’s face it, the data in my Ancestry tree is sloppy. I started that tree before I knew what I was doing, so sourcing profiles and writing bios one by one is a nice opportunity to check my work.

I’m involved in two projects. I’m part of the Netherlands Project, and when my schedule allows for challenges, I typically participate with Team Flying Dutchmen. Bea and Astrid are great challenge cheerleaders who promote an attitude that every contribution makes a difference. The recent Dutch Roots Liberation Day challenge was a lot of fun. I don’t know a lot of Dutch History, so I enjoyed learning about some WWII resistance heroes and getting them connected to the tree. 

I’m also part of the Ontario Team of the Canada Project. My Canadian ancestors included United Empire Loyalists who settled along the St. Lawrence River in villages that were eventually submerged during the creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway. These Lost Villages of Ontario (Space:Lost_Villages_of_Ontario) are my focus for the Canada Project. Once I’ve completed profiles for my own relatives, I plan to widen the net and add other area families. I also want to learn more about the Native peoples of the area, including the Haudenosaunee and Huron-Wendat.

What brought you to WikiTree?

Oh, gosh, I’m pretty sure it was some desperate Googling about some sort of roadblock I’d hit. I remember I poked around a bit and discovered that WikiTree isn’t just yet another site full of unsourced family trees. I was really impressed by the goal of creating a single family tree and by the community’s commitment to finding and citing good reliable sources, so I decided to sign up and start contributing.

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree?

My favorite thing is the community. My research has really benefited from discoveries made by other WikiTree genealogists, and I’ve built my own knowledge through G2G conversations and community challenges. 

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

I think navigability is top of my wishlist. I’ve generally found that if I have a question, there’s a help page or free space page out there somewhere that has the answer I’m looking for, the challenge is just in finding the right one. 

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

The Dutch Roots project team in particular has been such a boon. I’ve learned so much more about searching for Dutch sources since I joined WikiTree. I’m now comfortable browsing through un-indexed church records in Dutch, something I’d never have attempted pre-WikiTree. I’ve broken down many brick walls in my Dutch ancestry and can even trace one line back to my 7x great-grandmother now. These days on the Dutch side I mostly don’t have brick walls, just ancestors I haven’t researched enough yet to add to the tree.

I’ve also been so impressed by the helpfulness and generosity of Dutch genealogists who have read or translated documents (my Dutch vocabulary is very limited), located sources, and collaborated on profiles with me. Really early on, Jan Terink shared my Opa’s birth announcement from one of the Rotterdam papers. I was wowed that someone I’d never met from thousands of miles away would help out that way, completely unprompted.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Based on my own experience, my advice is to fight your own instinct to add as much as you can as fast as you can. I’ve got loads of information on ancestors and cousins that I’ve yet to add to WikiTree, and even so there are old profiles I created that I want to go back and improve now that I’m more familiar with WikiTree formatting, with relevant projects, etc. Know that you’ll probably make mistakes or hit roadblocks along the way and don’t be afraid to reach out to the community for help, because they’ll generously give it!

1 Answer

+7 votes
Very lovely to read your genealogy story Alexandra.  Good luck with the Italian walls - you may need to pay a visit there.  Or maybe hire a local professional to make some parish visits!  I sympathize with you about having a new favorite ancestor every week - it is fun to jump around from line to line, story to story, especially when you make a new find!
by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
or have a look at the Antenati website if your ancestor's town is in there.

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