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A wee bit of info to help you in your journey to discover your Scottish Ancestors and maybe even crack a brick wall or two!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Top Ten Canadian Genealogists Are .....Well.... NOT CANADIAN

This has been a week of celebration in the Genea-World. The annual Rock Star Genealogy Awards have been announced. This is a "People's Choice" of Genealogy awards, thanks to John Reid of Anglo Celtic Connections (http://anglo-celtic-connections.blogspot.ca/). John has rounded up nominations across the genealogy globe, has hosted online voting, and most importantly, has tallied the results.

Some genies don't like the awards. They find them frivolous, not adding value to the profession, perhaps even 'tacky', But those of us who were nominated have been delighted. We have unabashedly engaged in self-promotion, have crossed our fingers, toes, eyes and waited with baited breath for the winners to be announced. What we also understand is that this "People's Choice" award, whether a nomination, a top 10 placement, or a win, adds credence to our genealogy repertoire in terms of getting speaking engagements. Attendees at such talks have spoken by their vote and have let the planning committees of the genealogy and local history societies know who is popular, who will draw a crowd to their event and who will be engaging enough to hold the audience's attention. So, thank you John, for allowing all of us this opportunity. 

The categories are International, US, Canada, UK (Scotland, England, Wales), Ireland, Australia/New Zealand and DNA. The winners in each category are announced according to where their voters reside. Not where the genealogist resides or where the area of specialty for the genealogist is.

The Bronze and Silver winners were announced on Monday. Results can be found here:

Gold winners in each category were announced on Tuesday. The results of the Genealogy Super Stars can be found here:

The genealogy world has been a buzz of congratulatory messages, accolades and thinly veiled humility from the winners ("oh my, I never thought...." "Really? Me?" "Oh gosh, thank you") Of course in reality we were all screaming "WE ROCK!!!" WE. ROCK!!

Over the rest of this week, John will share the "top ten" in each of the categories outlined above. Those nominated, but not awarded the top three coveted awards, are all hoping they placed in the top five but will take anywhere in the top 10. The placement on these lists adds a boost to their marketability. 

The top 10 for Canada were announced today and the results were nothing short of disappointing:

1. Dave Obee
2. Christine Woodcock
3. Dick Eastman
4. Thomas MacEntee
5. Chris Paton
6. Lisa Louise Cooke
7. Judy G. Russell
8. Kirsty Gray
9. Gail Dever
10. Maurice Gleeson

Don't get me wrong. These are among the top genealogists in the WORLD. Not just in Canada. The genealogy elite in many respects. Those we all rush to hear when they give talks, or host webinars. We devour their written advice on blogs, in magazines, quick guides, books. If my own sense of self-worth were not so incredibly (perhaps pathologically) intact, the fact that MY name is on this list should be incredibly surreal. Little old me. From Canada. And there's the kicker. Only 30% of this list of top 10 genealogists, held in such high esteem, are actually FROM Canada. And, if you take me out of the equation (my specialty is Scotland, after all), the showing for Canada is nothing short of shameful. TWO out of 10. TWO.

How does that work? Easy peasy when you look at the big picture, and when you contrast it with the other top 10 list announced today - that of Australia and New Zealand where 70% of the top ten are actually from the area.

Canadian genealogists are not well promoted in the genealogy world. Those of us who are promoted and well known, have engaged tirelessly in self-promotion. We have not been held in esteem by our own genealogy society. The Ontario Genealogical Society is the largest in Canada. They have an annual conference. The "headliners" are rarely ever Canadian. Ok, Dave Obee might be the exception to that statement. But give Dave his due, he has been in the biz for a very long time.

This past May, the headliners for the conference were from the U.K. and the U.S. The conference for 2016 has already been announced. The headliners are, again, U.S. Why? No, really, WHY?

No offence to my U.S. or U.K. colleagues. As I said, these are the genealogy elite. Some of them, I even consider to be my friends. (The ones I don't are because they have no clue that I even exist, and to consider them friends would be unfair to them). 

Why is it that the OGS doesn't spend the effort in promoting their own? The handful that have been well promoted in the past are promoted because they already worked hard to make their mark. ONLY after they have tirelessly promoted themselves to make a mark in the genealogy community, will the OGS think, "oh, maybe we should give them a try. BUT not as a headliner. We need to hedge our bets, so let's import the main speakers and fill in with our own". Making us wonder if we are really just an after thought. 

Contrast the OGS conference, with the BIFHSGO conference this coming weekend. Out of 11 speakers, 6 are local. LOCAL. Sure, none of us are headlining, but some of us get equal time to those who are headlining. BIFHSGO actively promotes and supports their members. They have their own members speak at their monthly meetings. This builds confidence, allows exposure and gives back to the members. The exposure to the talent that is among the membership really IS a benefit of membership. 

OGS, take a page out of BIFHSGO's book. Look to your members. The people who PAY to be in your organization. Support them. Promote them. Let them shine. When you do, they will make you shine in return. It's a win-win. 

The 2017 conference is in Ottawa, for the 150th birthday of Canada. The conference theme is: Our Canada - Your Family: Building a Nation. PLEASE OGS, don't insult the intelligence of the Canadian genealogists by importing speakers. Look locally to members who excel in their knowledge of:

The Loyalists
French Canadian Research
Scots Immigration
Scots-Irish Immigration
British Home Children
Eastern European Immigration

The people who are the fabric of OUR country. The people who built OUR nation. The people we proudly call our ancestors. 


  1. Wow Christine! Tell us how you really feel! LOL. Seriously though. Well said! I'm relatively new to all this genealogy business and welcome workshops and lectures by our Canadian experts. Hope people are listening.

    1. Thanks, Diane. Yes, not really one to hold back. I also hope people are listening. Chances are they will get their backs up instead, which will be a shame. After all, a solution is being offered.

  2. I welcome your post Christine. I too was wondering why so few Genealogists specializing in Canadian records are not represented at conferences including those in the USA. Almost Americans I talk to acknowledge a French-Canadian ancestor. Then there are those who had family immigrate to Canada. Let us support our Canadian genis workshops, blogs, and reports, eh ��

  3. Thanks so much for your comments, Linda. Yes! Let's not forget the Americans with ancestral ties to Canada who could also benefit from the knowledge of our Canadian genealogists. Great point!

  4. We are fortunate in Canada to have ready access to top US speakers and naturally Canadians want to hear them - especially on topics which are "generic" like DNA and web facilities (Evernote, Dropbox, social media). As a nation of immigrants we're naturally interested in learning about resources in "the old country." It's hardly surprising someone who works there with contacts, access and knowledge would be selected.

    There are 10 times more of them than us (in the case of the US) so chances are the best speaker on a given "generic" topic will not be Canadian.

    Counting the speakers at the Barrie OGS and the BIFHSGO conferences, just the Saturday and Sunday programs, OGS had 13 appearances (including the panel) for non-Canadians vs 28 for Canadians. BIFHSGO has 12 appearances by non-Canadians, 8 by Canadians.

    OGS, and BIFHSGO, do promoted local speakers giving them many opportunities to shine at monthly meetings as well as at conferences. Organizers of those events don't have anything of which to be ashamed.

    1. Well, I'd say to JDR, that the term 'best' is actually relative, depending on how the clientele/members want to relate to the speaker's information. I would question the statement: 'naturally Canadians want to hear them.' I really do. Sometimes, it's just 'easiest' to find the top US people because they are such good marketers.

  5. And that is where we shall continue in agreeing to disagree!

  6. I'd wondered about that. I'm new enough that I didn't know for sure on all of the names listed. It's ironic, too. I'm American, and currently at the NY State Family History Conference and spent the reception talking to a lovely couple from Ontario trying to find out when an Ontario conference might be held because I have a slew of ancestors in Ontario and need to learn how to find out more about them.

  7. Hmmm. When I voted I didn't consider that I was voting for the best Canadian genealogist. I was just a Canadian voting for the people I'd be interested in seeing. Had the criteria been to vote for my favourite Canadian genealogist the results may have been different in my opinion.

  8. Jackie, you were correct in your thinking. The "prizes" are later tabulated to reflect the country where the voters resided. Interesting skew.