Meet our Members: Michelle Detwiler

+30 votes

Hi everyone!

500px-Meet_our_Members_Photos-94.jpgIt's time to get to know another one of our wonderful WikiTreers. This week's member is Michelle Detwiler.

Michelle became a Wiki Genealogist in February of 2021. She is active in our US Black Heritage and US Southern Colonies projects.

When and how did you get interested in family history?

As a child I often daydreamed of log cabins, Conestoga wagons, and life on the old frontier. I’m an avid reader, and American history has always been a favorite. It all started with... "Your family came across the country to California in a covered wagon." When I was a young teen I started asking my family for information and the bug bit me!

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

I enjoy making paper crafts, cards, and especially junk journals. I enjoy canning and smoking a lot of foods, and consider this my favorite hobby craft right now. I also love football and have a fantasy football team. I have been the only woman in our league since 2015, and was the champion one year! Usually, I rank in the upper 6 spots in our league.

What is your genealogical research focus? 

For my own family tree, my focus was to get each line back to immigration to America. In my family, this occurred in the 1700s for all lines.

Has the focus of your research or work changed over the years?

My research focus has greatly changed in the last year. Currently, I work on Plantations and record the enslaved who were born and lived on them.

Do you have a favorite ancestor?

No, I can’t say I have a favorite ancestor.  Each family line has a wonderful history.  I have enjoyed researching and recording them.  One thing I found recently was that my father’s family went from Iowa to the California gold rush for a few years and then back to Iowa and from there to Tennessee. It was 3 more generations before my father met my mother in California!

What is your toughest brick wall currently?

My toughest brick wall is my Page family. Born in 1803 in upper NY, the parents of Archelaus Page have never been located. He had 1 brother named Ezekiel Page. I have researched that line for 40 years, found most of the sources available on his family, posted to different online trees, and proved who isn’t the father.   

(interview continues in comments)

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

What brought you to WikiTree?  

My brick wall family is the reason I came to WikiTree because sources are required here. The other online family tree websites do not require sources, and sometimes people tend to post whatever and whoever, all without sources. I took it personally when they did this to my Page family line. It was as if they didn’t care about the truth, they just wanted to link a family, because someone else linked a family, etc.

What do you spend the most time doing on WikiTree?

I spend most of my time sourcing and creating plantations and profiles for those who were enslaved, working with the US Black Heritage Project. I also recently joined the Southern Colonies project as well since they often overlap with the plantations I work on. In Southern Colonies, I edit and update profiles that have no sources, and take at least 1 day a week to work on something from their project list.

How can others help those projects?

Both projects that I work with are always looking for volunteers. US Black Heritage Project has a small skill-building training called PATH. This training helps volunteers learn to properly record African-American profiles and those who were enslaved. I went through the PATH training and have been working on Plantations for the last 6 months. We have hundreds of enslaved persons on these plantations who need profiles created. And there are hundreds of plantations that need plantation pages created with the USBH Plantations project standards.

What inspires you to contribute so much of yourself to WikiTree's mission?

I remember when I first started working on my own family history, how excited I got when I found a document or was able to connect a new person to my family tree. When I realized how very difficult it is for African-Americans to research their family history I wanted to help. Working for US Black Heritage, recording the enslaved and their families, gives more people the opportunity to trace their own heritage.

What is your favorite feature or function on WikiTree?

I love sources, real sources, with real links to real documents.  WikiTree and WikiTree Sourcer app makes my research and family stories real because I can easily attach sources.

Do you have a story about how someone was helped through your participation on WikiTree?

Through my work of recording plantations, I have had someone find their ancestor on a plantation I had recorded. Helping someone connect is the ultimate prize!

Do you have any tips for someone who wants to get more involved in our community?

If you are looking for more information on things that interest you on WikiTree, join the G2G email list, adding tags for those things that interest you, e.g.: Slavery, Black_Heritage, South_Carolina, American_Revolutionary_War etc.  You will start getting emails that include those categories. Then don’t be shy. You will find a new community of friends who enjoy working on the same things as you do.

What could we do to inspire more people to participate in our mission?

I was drawn into the communities on WikiTree by the Challenges that are offered each month.  At that time I had no idea so much was going on at WikiTree.  The first Challenge was really fun, and it created a desire to see what else was on at WikiTree besides my own family tree.

Great interview! Your work on enslaved persons profiles is a labor of love. And that's what makes Wikitree great.

10 Answers

+14 votes
Best answer
How to great to get to know more about you, Michelle. I had no idea you were into fantasy football!

You have been such a powerhouse setting up and growing our plantations. This work is going to connect so many people with their ancestors!
by Emma MacBeath G2G6 Pilot (895k points)
selected by Valorie Zimmerman
+15 votes
Congratulations on being nominated as member of the week, Michelle.

You are absolutely right, the participation in challenges inspires one and leads at least with me to the fact that I very often look at the localities again exactly, where the people come from and read up the history of the corresponding localities in detail (at least as far as it concerns German / German-speaking areas).
by Dieter Lewerenz G2G Astronaut (2.1m points)
+13 votes
Great interview, Michelle! And congrats on the football!
by Elaine Martzen G2G6 Mach 6 (67.7k points)
+12 votes
Congrats, Michelle.  Good to learn a little more about my fellow USBH Project coworker.  I bump into you occasionally, especially when I am working on plantations.  Keep up the great work, and good luck on your fantasy football league.
by Carolyn Martin G2G6 Pilot (217k points)
+9 votes
Congratulations, Michelle!! It's a real pleasure to work with on the USBH Project. I'm in AWE of how much you do!

We are 19th cousins!
by Kate Schmidt G2G6 Mach 4 (44.4k points)
+10 votes
Congratulations, Michelle! So glad you dove in and did the interview. I learned some new things about you! :) I have so enjoyed our collaboration on team USBH! You are an amazing asset!
by Gina Jarvi G2G6 Mach 2 (25.5k points)
+9 votes

Thanks for this interview Eowyn and Michelle!

Michelle, we are 14th cousins 4x removed. Our common ancestors were Thomas and Margaret Meade, living circa 1400. (Meade-655)

I'm also developing an interest in recording history and genealogy of the Indigenous and Black people who lived near my ancestors. Recently, I've discovered a few cases in which children of my direct ancestors married interracially in New England in the mid to late 1600s. 

by Anonymous Reed G2G6 Mach 5 (59.1k points)
+9 votes
Fabulous interview, Michelle!  It's great to get to know more about a USBH teammate. :)  Thanks for all your excellent work!
by Cheryl Cruise G2G6 Pilot (104k points)
I just realized that your 5th great-grandmother's brother (James Anthony married my 5th great-grandmother's sister (Nancy Tate )--just one marriage between us, but far enough back that it's 17 degrees.  Fun to find this connection between our families!
+7 votes
Hi Michelle, I really enjoyed your 'Meet our Members.' Thank you for your contributions. I very much like your response regarding sources (and sourcing). It is a feature that I like about WT as well. Bye the way, we are distant cousins (19th/2x removed) through MRCA Eleana (Thornton) Dutton!
by Carol Baldwin G2G6 Pilot (655k points)
+5 votes
Congratulations Michelle, thank you for your amazing work on the USBH Project!
by Denise E G2G6 Mach 1 (11.2k points)

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