Meet our Members: Laurie Giffin

+25 votes

Hi Everyone,

500px-Meet_our_Members_Photos-2.pngIt's time to meet another one of our wonderful WikiTreers! This week's member is Laurie Giffin.

Laurie became a Wiki Genealogist in July of 2016. She's active in several projects including Canada and Categorization. She's the Team Leader of the Atlantic Canada team.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

I’m currently working on the Besançon and Bouteillier families of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia as part of a new project. Otherwise, I’ve identified 127 surnames over 9 generations in my family tree. The most common include Giffin, Trefry, Hurlburt, Andrews, Archibald, Freeman, Bangs, Hoben, Gorham and Kempton.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

I was born in France to an American mother and a Canadian father, but discovered that my ancestors are clustered in Atlantic Canada and New England. My mother’s side were scattered across the Maritimes and my father’s side lived in Liverpool, Lunenburg and Yarmouth, on the south shore of Nova Scotia. Most of them migrated from New England before 1800, so check out the Connection Finder. If you have links to colonial Massachusetts, Connecticut or Long Island, NY, we’re probably cousins.

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

It all started when I was a small girl at my grandmother’s knee. When I learned that she was born in the days of kerosene lamps and stagecoaches, I immediately began to pester her with questions about the olden days. She gave me some stories on the spot, and then asked for time to think. I treasure the set of letters that she wrote in answer to my questions.

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

Terse family stories gave my ancestor Jonathan Robinson as a Scottish Presbyterian, and nothing more. He is barely mentioned in his children’s later records. His widow had remarried by the census, and stated she was Episcopalian, born in Ireland in 1806 and emigrated to New Brunswick at the age of 10, so likely not with Mr. Robinson. Those were my only clues.

I searched for him everywhere! I looked at every Robinson family in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island before the first census in 1851. I scoured the internet, purchased books, joined genealogical societies, made queries and succeeded ... in ruling out every possibility. Every single John Robinson I could identify was too old, too young, or married to someone else at the right time. Exhausted, I gave up and worked on other ancestors.

Then a DNA match nudged me to the Acadian Catholic records, behind another paywall. I cracked open my wallet another smidge, and immediately found one of their children’s baptism records in Tracadie, then two in Bartibogue and more in Newcastle. It took me a while to realize that the missionary priest was moving, not the Irish Catholic family. But where were they, and who was he? I mined the last seam in the coal mine, and came out with no gold.

In 2019, I travelled from my home on the West Coast to New Brunswick as part of a family vacation, and carved out one precious day to spend in the archives. It started with disappointment, as I ticked the other John Robinsons off on the probate files, the vital records, the vertical files and the newspapers, and found nothing left behind. By late afternoon I was sifting listlessly through the land petitions. Closing time was approaching when I opened the last one, filed under A, the one that I had set aside as the most unlikely of all. And you guessed it, that was the document that I was searching for all along!

I still don’t know who his parents were, but my other questions have been answered. And I can hardly blame Alicia for lying about her age on the census, because that seems to be a family trait.

[interview continues in comments]

WikiTree profile: Laurie Giffin
in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (2.0m points)

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I’m interested in people and the great outdoors. My kids are all adults, happily pursuing their own life’s goals. I work in human resources, and I look forward to resuming my dinner parties, post COVID. I try to work in the garden or ramble in the woods every day. I’m afraid I’ve become that eccentric lady who talks to herself while walking and gardening, because I’m also a storyteller, and telling stories live, without written notes, takes preparation. 

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

I joined WikiTree in July 2016. I’m interested in stories, so I wonder why and look for answers to any puzzles that I can’t explain. This means I’m sourcing, connecting, searching out duplicates, writing biographies, categorizing, and inching my way along.

Aside from my own ancestors, I contribute to the Canada Project as the Atlantic Canada team leader, and I contribute to other projects that overlap these activities, such as the Montbélliard Emigrations to Nova Scotia, 1749-1752, recently started by Mags Gaulden, the Categorization project and le Portail Francophone.  

Did you catch the cool bilingual categories we’ve begun to use in bilingual locations, such as Tracadie, New Brunswick?  C’est grâce aux efforts d’Isabelle Martin, parmi les autres membres qui partagent l’espoir de pouvoir collaborer, chacun dans la langue de notre choix.

What brought you to WikiTree?

Over supper my father asked me an idle question about an ancestor, but my boxes of paper were 4,500 km away. He teased that I use my phone to answer most other questions, why didn’t I look his up on the internet? A few minutes later, I stumbled across WikiTree, and the rest, as they say, is history.

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree?

I am all about open source and collaboration, and I wouldn’t be a member of WikiTree if it was any other way. I think the best feature is the single shared tree. We all save a lot of time and effort when we build on each other’s research. I have met so many wonderful people, and have learned so much more about my ancestors than I could ever have achieved alone.

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

In 2018 I completed a survey of the founders of Liverpool, Nova Scotia, and discovered fistfights, business transactions, and shared church business between my father’s ancestors and my mother’s, which no one could have imagined. It wouldn’t have happened without WikiTree.

Liverpool was founded by New England Planters, a wave of migrants to Nova Scotia before the American Revolution who have been rather neglected, genealogically speaking. I have over 80 planters in my family tree, and I knew that finding sources was going to be a big job. I was hesitant to bite off more than I could chew.

That was when WikiTree kicked in. Brad Foley suggested I focus on one place only and gave me an example. Soon I found others, and I’d like to give a shout out to Sean BenjaminJason ClarkMarcel Muise and Rick Pierpont for setting an example and laying the groundwork, each in your own way.

When I tentatively started, WikiTree happened again. Other members responded to my additions and suggestions and in the end, my ‘impossible’ task was completed in under 9 months, plus the seeds that were planted collaboratively have spread well beyond the scope of my own little garden. The number of profiles categorized as New England Planters has increased enormously beyond the dozens I added, and now includes settlers from across the original twenty English townships.

I’ve just finished a similar survey in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and am starting to focus on Lunenburg, but the job keeps getting easier because so many other members are putting their sources in before I get there.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

I have two. First, when you edit a page, don’t be surprised if you see some symbols that aren’t usually visible in a modern word processor (but they’re always there, telling the computer to make a list, a heading or a footnote). Please don’t be shy. The standard commands for a wiki were designed for simple storytellers like me to use, and I swear on my dyslexia that no special computer skills are required. The same codes are used in every wiki on the internet, including Wikipedia, and other genealogy sites like FamilySearch, but this tips page is the nicest cheat sheet I have found, and now its yours:

Second, have fun!

Hi featured WikiTree Member Laurie; enjoyed reading your 'blog'! I'm lucky enough to hike and chat with Laurie, always learn something new.
Heya Cathi - its always nice to see you!

8 Answers

+8 votes

Yay, great answers! Laurie is my closest featured cousin to date, at 6C2R. Interesting tidbit: our common ancestor Hannah Nelson is an ancestor of Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush and a descendant of Mayflower passengers John and Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland and John and Joan (Hurst) Tilley.

by Barry Smith G2G6 Pilot (241k points)
Thank you for this Cousin Barry!  I was aware of the Mayflower passengers, but not about the Bush connection.
+9 votes
Nice to learn more about Laurie! She's a Canada project star!
by Peggy Watkins G2G6 Pilot (631k points)
As are you Peggy!  I'm so lucky to have people like you to collaborate with.
+9 votes
Great choice for a "Meet the Members!" Laurie has done some really great work for the Canada Project. Haven't found an Atlantic Canada connection to her but she's my 9C1R by way of some early Massachusetts ancestors.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (464k points)
Most of my work is thanks to your mentorship and model, Doug McCallum.  I suspect some of our New Brunswick ancestors rubbed shoulders in the Miramichi.
+4 votes
Hi Laurie,

It is great to meet you through this Meet the Member mode! I checked and we are 10th cousins through shared ancestor James Bishop. Thank you for sharing your impressive background!
by Carol Baldwin G2G6 Pilot (731k points)
So nice to meet you too Carol!  I didn't intend to impress - among my thousands of ancestors there are a handful who make for interesting stories, and it seems to me there are many more simple farmers or lazy ne'er-do-wells that we don't have much to say about.  Probably about the same mix as anyone.
Hi Laurie,

Thank you for your kind response. Yes, most of us come from simple, hard-working, upstanding immigrants who wanted to make a better life for themselves and their children. I totally agree! Along, the way for some/many of us, we are bound to have some 'royal' ancestors way back when if we came from Western Europe. You take care and stay safe! Cousin Carol
+5 votes
Wow Laurie, we are 9th cousins through Gov. Hinckley.  Hooray for us!!  -Brad
by Brad Cunningham G2G6 Pilot (141k points)
+7 votes
Laurie is great.  she helped me with some elusive Nova Scotian ancestors; Lydia Weeks of Barrington.  Thanks again cousin!
by Brad Cunningham G2G6 Pilot (141k points)

You're very welcome cousin!  Pay it forward smiley

+5 votes
Laurie has consistently been one of my favorite people to work with in WikiTree (our areas of interest overlap a lot). She's made a bunch of high level contributions to categories across the area, and her free space page on Lunenburg, Nova Scotia is still one of my favorite for clarity, and usefulness.

She's done a huge amount of good work, and I look forward to collaborating with her, and learning from her, for years to come.
by Brad Foley G2G6 Mach 5 (57.3k points)

I should scold you for this, Brad Foley!  Instead, I'ma hold up a mirror:  as I recall, you reached out to me with suggestions about how I could use YOUR page for Liverpool, Nova Scotia to organize my ancestors, and then you explained the key points about category structures, introduced me to Doug McCallum, and asked for my help.  So thank YOU for your leadership.

+4 votes

Well, Laurie is one person I can't call cousin, but considering how good she is in collaboration and helping solve puzzles, making her an honorary one here. wink Here's to many more years of tree climbing. laugh

But seriously, thanks for being here Laurie G., even if I get you confused with the other Laurie. cheeky

by Danielle Liard G2G6 Pilot (495k points)

Aw shucks Danielle, thank you for the generous words!  You're my cousin from another family.angel

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