Meet our Members: Betsy Ko

+29 votes

Hi everyone!

500px-Meet_our_Members_Photos-100.jpgIt's time to get to know another one of our wonderful WikiTreers. This week's member is Betsy Ko.

Betsy become a Wiki Genealogist in June of 2019. She is a WikiTree Ambassador and is active in our Scotland Project.

When and how did you get interested in family history?

My interest in family history started when I was about 8. My middle name is Tudor which was the maiden name of one of my great-grandmothers. My mother told me that we were descended from Henry VIII which I found to be both intriguing and a little distressing as I learned about the fate of his many wives! I remember asking my parents to take me to the New York Public Library thinking that I could get to the bottom of things. When I first walked up to the reference desk, the librarian didn't seem very interested in helping an 8-year-old. However, when I explained my question, I got immediate respect and her assistance! I've never forgotten that moment.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

Music and music education are what I do professionally. I'm a high school band director and flute is my main instrument. I also indulge in yoga and reading every day.

What is your genealogical research focus?

I've only been pursuing genealogy in a serious structured way since 2015. At first, I pursued my Tudor line which is deeply rooted in the South Gloucestershire region of England. Next, I started examining a line through my maternal grandfather. This Menzie line ultimately leads me back to Scotland and I have some truly fascinating characters on this branch of my family tree. A mystery with one of these ancestors led me to order his Civil War pension file which solved the puzzle and was also a great genealogical learning experience.  

At this point, I should mention that I am of English and Scottish descent through my mother and Taiwanese descent through my father. Given the language barrier, researching my paternal ancestry is significantly more challenging. Taiwanese records are also frustratingly scanty when it comes to documenting women. I just finished a book project centered on the 100 descendants of my grandparents. Although this concentrated on only the last 125 years (from the birth of my grandparents), I learned so much from talking with my aunts who are in their 80s and 90s. I currently have the sketch of a tree that has names going back to my 5th great-grandfather, but I'm hoping to build this up with sources and more details. Ultimately I think this will require a trip to Taiwan, reaching out to distant cousins who may have information and photos my family doesn't have, and relying upon the help of my most patient cousins to help me with language issues.

Are you interested in certain surnames or locations?

Surnames that always make me take another look when spotted include Tudor, Menzie, McMurray, Ratnour (Rattenaur), Shaft (Schaff), Redwood, Chandler, Ealy, Perkins, Mackay and Ko (柯).  To put these into geographical context, my main areas of research are in:

  • South Gloucestershire, England

  • Niagara Falls, Canada

  • Madison County, NY

  • Northern Taiwan

Do you have a favorite genealogical discovery? 

I was lucky to be able to take a two-week trip to England in the first part of July. I spent two days at the National Archives and looked at records for one of my fourth great-grandfathers, Matthew Redwood.  I was able to find his death duty record which was on microfiche.  This indicated that he was a seaman and provided the name of his ship. My second day was devoted to looking through the muster logs for the Peruvian, a British sloop. I couldn't believe that I was handling books that were over 200 years old! I ordered three volumes to examine and started with the earliest one. To be completely honest, going through these was tiring enough that a little voice in my head suggested packing it in after the second volume. Good thing that I didn't listen because my ancestor was hiding out in the third volume.  Once I researched the year, vessel, and captain's name further on Wikipedia, I now know that my 4th ggf had adventures in the West Indies as part of the War of 1812.

(interview continues in comments)

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

What is your toughest brick wall currently?

Taking my Menzie line back to Scotland. I've seen other online trees say that they came from Dull, Perthshire, but I haven't been able to prove this with records yet.

How long have you been on WikiTree?

I first joined WikiTree in June of 2019, I found out about WikiTree when I was doing a Google search on one of my ancestors and her WikiTree profile came up. There was a very thoughtful research note attached and that piqued my interest. I had some reservations about a collaborative tree, but once I understood WikiTree's commitment to research integrity, that made all the difference for me. Like many people, I was initially intimidated by the learning curve and I didn't really get deeply involved until December of 2020. I found people to be extremely helpful on G2G, but I would really credit the Saturday morning Livecasts with helping me to understand what you can do on WikiTree. That said, I'm still learning and know that I will be for the foreseeable future!

Which projects are you most involved in?

I've completed all three levels of the Scotland Project's Tartan Trail under the fabulous mentorship of Jackie Prentice and Jennifer Hutton. I can't recommend this learning experience enough to any WikiTreers with an interest in Scotland!  Among others, I spent time with a salmon fisherman's wife, an earl, and a physician. The trail took me to Angus, Aberdeenshire, Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Roxburghshire, and Perthshire, so my comfort with Scottish geography grew considerably. Post-Tartan Trail, I've joined the Clan Menzies team and I can't miss being a part of the Twisted Thistles whenever there's a Thon. I've completed two levels of the Trans-Canada trail and look forward to completing Level 3 soon. I'm also a member of the Ambassadors Project and try to talk up WikiTree to any and all genealogists who cross my path.

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

Aside from WikiTree's commitment to accuracy, the other thing that I find to be exceptional about our community is that I've really been able to genuinely connect with others. That's an elusive experience online, so WikiTree is definitely doing something right to foster those kinds of interactions. Seeing the amazing things that other WikiTreers are accomplishing is a continual inspiration to me. I also value being part of a community where kindness, helpfulness, and humor are to be found in abundance. The strength that comes from knowing the stories of my ancestors is one of my main motivators in investing so much of my time and energy into genealogy. Sad as it is that I will never meet the ancestors that I research, it's a thrill when a discovery draws back the curtain for an instant allowing a vivid glimpse into their lives. WikiTree's design is the best that I've found for sharing what I discover with others. It's amazing to know that the profiles I have worked on will be there for many generations to come.

What is your favorite feature on WikiTree?

I can't miss checking out my Connection Finder results each week and the Saturday morning livecast regularly highlights these profiles of the week.

What feature would you most like to see improved?

This is a very minor request, but could watchlists be sorted by death date too?

Do you have a story about how you were helped through the work of others on WikiTree?

My Menzie line through my maternal grandfather's mother has led me through many little genealogical obstacle courses. I knew that my second great-grandfather Andrew Menzie was born in Madison County, NY in 1816, but I was having a hard time confirming my theories about who his parents were. Over time I compiled a list of supporting evidence of sibling relationships drawing upon census records and newspaper articles. I also made a research trip to Canastota, New York in the summer of 2020 where I found other helpful tidbits at their small public library.  A few months ago I sent a message to the profile manager of Julia Menzie Tryon and asked for his thoughts on the case I had built. He agreed with me that it was convincing enough to link the siblings to parents Thomas Menzie and Anna Perkins Menzie. Not only was I very grateful to have a second opinion, but Mike then also spent some time helping to spruce up this twig of WikiTree by adding sources and creating profiles.  As a fun side note, this development connected me to the Perkins line which is part of the Puritan Great Migration Project. All of a sudden my weekly WikiTree connections got much more interesting.

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

I remember my initial months on WikiTree. It felt as if I had wandered into a palace the size of the Taj Mahal. I barely dared go far from the entryway for fear of getting hopelessly lost!  But it helps to remember that mistakes can be undone and help is just an ask away. There are many avenues for learning: posting questions or simply browsing G2G, watching the Saturday morning livecasts, or joining Discord to chat with other WikiTreers in real-time. Subscribe to the WikiTree YouTube channel where you'll find a wealth of content, including very helpful and concise videos put out by the Data Doctors Project. Follow your interests by joining a project, contributing to Question or Photo of the Week, or joining a team for one of the Thons.  

What could we do to inspire more people to participate?

Find ways to make the learning curve less intimidating. In addition to the fantastic job that our Greeters do, perhaps we could offer a monthly Zoom session or livecast for new members that would walk people through the basics of building a profile. There are probably videos on the WikiTree YouTube channel that serve this purpose, but an event in real-time would give the audience the chance to ask questions and direct the content towards their specific interests.

Congratulations, Betsy, on becoming member of the week and sharing your family history.

11 Answers

+15 votes
What a great interview.

I'd been hoping to get to know you better, Betsy, since my own family has a close Taiwan connection.

Live Q&A sessions for beginners is a great idea! You should lead that. If it were on Discord, Zoom, or YouTube on Wednesday nights (once a week, once a month?) it would get the most traffic from the newsletter, since that goes out Wednesday mornings.
by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
Thank you so much, Chris!

I remember that you've mentioned your Taiwan connection from time to time.  I haven't been back to Taiwan since 2014 and hope I can go again soon.  When I think back to trips from when I was a teenager and met my grandmother's sister and visited the family graves, I wish I had paid better attention!  I suppose we all have missed opportunities like that.

I would really love to lead the live Q & A sessions.  I could draw on my teaching skills and, most especially, what I learned from teaching online during the pandemic.  The only wrinkle is that I couldn't do Wednesday evenings due to a standing large ensemble rehearsal that runs 10 months of the year.  If Thursdays could work, then I'm in!
Great, Betsy! I just sent you an email.

Just a side notice: We're having monthly WikiTree meetings held in German every fourth Wednesday of the month where we also discuss technical and style issues every once in a while (but I assume that's too special interest for the newsletter).

Great interview by the way, Betsy

+13 votes

Congratulations Betsy on being the “Meet our Members” this week. I enjoyed reading your interview, and I have always loved seeing your photos in the Challenges. I have felt that we have become friends, and we are 8th cousins 4 times removed.               Betsy Ko and Alexis (Lovelace) Nelson are both descendants of Ann Barlow (1604-1685).

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (572k points)
Alexis, I'm so happy to know that we're cousins.  I see that it's through my recently confirmed Perkins line which has brought me so many new interesting connections.  

When I wrote about the friendships I have made through WikiTree, you were one of the first people I thought of.  You're always so kind and generous with encouragement; I smile when I see a comment from you on my photo posts!
Betsy, I feel we have a bond with our photos, both of us being teachers, and you and my daughter are about the same age. I smile when I see your photos,
+11 votes
Hi Betsy, I very much enjoyed your interview and learning more about you. I, too, like the idea of 'beginner' classes for novice WikiTreers. We are 11th cousins/1xr through MRCA Martha (Unk) Hale. I had the privilege of visiting Taiwan back in 1991 when I lived in East Asia teaching for the U.S. military in Korea and Okinawa. I spent most of my time in Taipei. What I remember most, in addition to the wonderful people, are the natural rock formations at Yehliu! I happened to be going through old photographs (um...cameras and film in those days) a few weeks ago and here you are with your interview which reminded me of those very pleasant memories of Taiwan!
by Carol Baldwin G2G6 Pilot (655k points)
Hello Carol,

Thanks for sharing memories of your time in Taiwan.  I got to visit Yehliu on my most recent visit in 2014.  It's quite striking.

I just looked at our relationship path and Martha Hale's profile: interesting!  And always glad to meet a new WikiTree cousin.  :-)
+10 votes
Great interview, Betsy! You've come so far on WikiTree now and are a great addition to the community!
by Mindy Silva G2G6 Pilot (796k points)
I was very lucky to meet you early in my WikiTree journey, Mindy.  Thank you for all of your patient help and encouragement over the last few years!
+9 votes
What a wonderful interview, Betsey! It was a joy working with you on the Tartan Trail, and we are so happy to have you in the Scotland Project. Slainte!
by Jen Hutton G2G6 Mach 4 (44.7k points)
Thank you, Jen.  I really enjoy helping the efforts of the Scotland Project and and am very proud to be a member of the group!
+9 votes
It was wonderful learning more about you, Betsy and your challenging Taiwanese side. I enjoyed looking at the photos you have on the existing profiles. I hope you'll have much success in building that side out further.
by Emma MacBeath G2G6 Pilot (895k points)
Thank you, Emma!  I have the feeling that the information is there, but perhaps needs to be accessed through different strategies than what we use in "Western" genealogy?  One thing I am certain of is that there is great reverence for ancestors in Asian cultures, so that bodes well for preservation of records.
I agree that it may take different strategies. When we work on African-American genealogy for the US Black Heritage Project, we have to use very different strategies from traditional genealogy to find success.
+9 votes
Great interview! I have a friend from Taiwan and your interview gave me hope that maybe I can convince her to get into genealogy after all! ;) Also, I played flute through middle school and have IMMENSE respect for all band directors.
by Sarah Kroh G2G6 Mach 1 (16.7k points)

As I am currently winding down a 3 week band camp for middle schoolers, your comment made me smile, Sarah.  It's a rewarding profession and one is never bored.  smiley

I hope you can convince your friend to work on her Taiwanese family tree.  Maybe one day WikiTree will have a Taiwan Project!!

+8 votes
Congrats on Member of the Week. I saw the PGM Perkins reference and had to look. Perhaps someday my Perkins PGM line will connect with yours.

Also, thank you for taking the Tartan Trail. We do try to give a good experience. You did great work there.
by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (443k points)
Thank you, Doug.  I often learn interesting things from your comments on Discord, btw.
+6 votes
Congratulations to Eowyn and Betsy for a wonderful interview.

I enjoyed my business trips to Taiwan. The food was outstanding and the people were all very nice to me.

One thing Scotland and Taiwan have in common is that the are both islands. Now I am writing to you from my home island, Maui, Hawai'i. Keep up the good work, both of you.
by Marion Ceruti G2G6 Pilot (195k points)

Thank you, Marion.  

I adopted the profile of George Leslie Mackay who served as a Presbyterian missionary in Taiwan from the early 1870s to the time of his death in 1901.  Mackay was Canadian, but his parents had both emigrated there from Sutherlandshire.  Mackay married a Taiwanese woman and one of their daughters married the first cousin of my great-grandfather.  There is still some contact even today between these two branches of the Ko family.  This is one project that I turn to when I want to feel like I'm contributing to both the Scotland project and Taiwanese representation on WikiTree.

I've never been to Hawaii, but it's on my list of places I'd like to visit.

+5 votes
Betsy, thank you for sharing your story, and thank you for all your involvement in the Scotland Project.  It is great to get to know you!
by Robert Clark G2G6 Pilot (517k points)
Thank you, Robert.  BTW, I really like the tartan you have as your profile background!
+4 votes
Glad to meet you cousin!  We are both decendants of Joyce (Botetourt) Pershale abt. 1348.  Making us 18th cousins 2x removed.
ago by Marcia Hardin G2G1 (1.7k points)

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