The Magic of Collaboration (and Wikitree)

Have you ever had this experience? You've recently learned about something you previously knew nothing about, and then someone asks a question about exactly this subject? I find this happening all the time, and love it.

The Black Genealogy Research Group of Seattle recently gathered information about an ex-slave, Mary Jane Green of Everett, Washington, for a program. In an effort to gather more information, contacts and help with this research, a Wikitree profile was created for her. 

I soon found that there is a project within Wikitree helping gather information about enslaved people in the US, using sources such as deeds, wills, business receipts, ledgers, even letters and oral testimony, called the US Black Heritage Project. I joined it, since I have other ex-slaves and at least one slave-owner to research. 

Then there was another connection. In the International Society of Genetic Genealogists (ISOGG)  online group, there was a discussion of an article called Linked Descendants: Genetic-genealogical Practices and the Refusal of Ignorance around Slavery. A member mentioned looking for a platform that aggregates these data in a genealogically robust manner [about the enslaved and those who enslaved them]. I replied recommending the USBH Project as an fine example of "aggregation of data in a genealogical robust matter," and linked to Mary Jane Green's profile to show how that can look. 

Glory be, a different member read the post, looked at the profile, and did some research which could be our breakthrough!

This is collaboration in two ways -- a different group being exposed to a new way to contribute their research results, and the contribution of volunteer to one profile.

When I came across the inspiring story of Willie Hudspeth, a man who was led to a neglected county cemetery for freed slaves and decided to clean it up, and to recruit some university students to do research on those who are buried there, in hopes that their families would be able to find them, naturally I sent it to our group, to the BGRG, and to the USBH Project. Mr. Hudspeth is pictured above.

By the next morning, I was happy to see that quite a few people had pitched in, and now nearly all the people known to be buried there have profiles: St. John's Cemetery. Every Wikitree member who has signed the Wiki Genealogist Honor Code can help! This collaboration is what makes the work fun.

We also connected to the students who created this amazing site about the cemetery, church and surrounding community at Uncovering St. John's. We've asked for permission to use some of their photos on our cemetery page and hope to work with them in the future.

Finally, I plan to write to Dick Eastman, in whose newsletter I read about Mr. Hudspeth's inspiring project, to thank him for his work, and let him know about all of this collaboration springing from just one article. Perhaps he'll include our story in his newsletter! Another full circle of collaboration.

When you need help, speak up and ask! And when you hear about someone else's effort that you think needs support, spread the word. It really *does* work!

Valorie Zimmerman


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