Thursday, January 3, 2013

Who's Who

Many of the people that read this blog are beginning genealogists. I wanted to introduce them to a few of the top genealogists out there today. I think it is important to know who's who. It would be impossible for me to name everyone that has made important contributions so I had to limit the list. I am only including living American researchers and I also focused on those that have a particular niche within the field. I have put them in alphabetical order with a very short blurb about them along with a link for further information. I could easily write an entire blog post on each of these people detailing their achievements. I originally decided to post a top ten list and then thought maybe I should do 20. I went back to just ten because no matter how many I put on the list I will always be leaving some deserving people off. In the future I will periodically showcase a particular researcher dedicating a full blog post to their accomplishments. I had the help of the Association of Professional Genealogist's mailing list and the Transitional Genealogists Forum mailing list when compiling this list. You might notice that I have left off researchers that specialize in African-American research. I did this on purpose because there are several I want to mention so I am going to showcase them in a separate blog. I just can't narrow it down to one person for this list. African-American research presents many challenges that the average researcher doesn't encounter.

Dick Eastman
Dick Eastman has been around forever. He and Dear Myrtle were the original genealogy bloggers. Dick will keep you up to date with what is going on in the world of genealogy as well as give you sound researching advice. Over 60,000 people read Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter. You can read more about Dick at Dick's Bio.

Val Greenwood
Val Greenwood's book, The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy (now in its third edition) is the one book every genealogist should have. The book was originally published in 1973 and it showed people that genealogy was a valid scholarly field of study. Even though technology changes over time, sound research practices do not. You can read more about Val at Val's Bio.

Cindy Howells
If you have been genealogy for any length of time at all you are familiar with Cyndi's List. Cyndi has been an indispensable part of the internet since 1996. Whenever you want to find anything genealogy related on the internet you need to go to Cyndi's List first. She has done all of the work for you. Her web site is a collection of thousands of links in every category imaginable. You can read more about Cyndi at Cyndi's Bio.

Thomas MacEntee
Thomas is the genealogy technology expert. Thomas has introduced the genealogy community to software programs and hardware devices that will bring your research to new levels. He also runs a clearinghouse for all of the genealogy blogs on the web. You can read more about Thomas at Thomas' Bio.

Marian Pierre-Louis
Marian is a relative newcomer to the national scene but what an impact she has made. She is a very engaging genealogy lecturer/speaker. Her area of expertise is researching the histories of historic houses but she is very knowledgeable on many topics. You can read more about Marian at Marian's Bio.

Elizabeth Shown Mills
Elizabeth is THE professional genealogist. Through her books and lectures, she has motivated researchers and historians to take their research to the next level. She is a prolific author but two of her books are considered the bibles of professional research, Evidence Explained, Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace and Professional Genealogy, A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians. You can read more about Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Bio.

Kip Sperry
Kip taught us how important it is to actually spend time learning how to read old handwriting scripts. How people wrote in 1600 is very different than how people write today. Even when comparing 1600 with 1700 you will find differences. Kip's book Reading Early American Handwriting is a must read to get you started. You can read more about Kip at Kip's Bio.

Pat Richley-Erickson
Pat is better known as "Dear Myrtle." She has been blogging before there were blogs. She started her Dear Myrtle column in 1995. She has been the genealogy answer woman for gazillions of beginning genealogists. She gives sound advice with a touch of humor. You can read more about Pat at Pat's Bio.

Judy Russell
Judy Russell is The Legal Genealogist. With a law degree in hand she analyses genealogical issues from a legal standpoint. She writes a daily blog to which I subscribe. She is always willing to answer questions. Her expertise is invaluable. You can read more about Judy at Judy's Bio.

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak
Megan does many special things but the one that intrigues me the most is her work as a forensic genealogist for the United States Army, NCIS and the FBI. She is one of the researchers that track down the living family members of fallen soldiers of wars past. If you have ever seen the show, "Who Do You Think You Are?" then you can thank Megan because she is the consulting genealogist for the show. You can read more about Megan at Megan's Bio.

If you would like to bring attention to any other researchers that are inspirational, just post a comment with a short blurb and a link to that person's homepage or bio.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


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  2. Great list, but it would be incomplete without Dr. Thomas W. Jones. While not active on social media, he has done much to improve and elevate the field and science of genealogy methodology.
    Here are his credentials:
    Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS, has co-edited the National Genealogical Society Quarterly since 2002. He is a former trustee and a past president of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, past board member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, and recipient of its 2004 Grahame T. Smallwood Jr. Award of Merit. Professor emeritus at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and retired from a thirty-year career in higher education, Tom works full time as a genealogical researcher, writer, editor, and educator. In addition to SLIG, he coordinates a writing course at Samford University’s Institute on Genealogy and Historical Research, and he teaches evidence evaluation and documentation in Boston University’s Genealogical Certificate Program.

    1. I would agree that this was a serious omission. :-)

    2. Valerie did a great job with his bio :)

  3. What a fantastic summary. I've had the privilege of hearing several of the genealogists on your list and agree with your assessment.

  4. Please add Lisa Louise Cooke who is the finest podcaster and interviewer in genealogy. She has four podcast programs available on iTunes and on her website . They include a basic genealogy program, Family Tree magazine's monthly podcast, Genealogy Gems, and Genealogy Gems Premium (the only one for which there is a fee). She is an expert at Google search strategies and has recently branched out into iPad tutorials, newspaper research. She had published books on all those subjects. In addition, she is a very popular speaker at conferences.

  5. Great list, Bill. Of course, as pointed out already before this comment, there are many great genealogists who do regular blogging and have written genealogy books, but your list will certainly help any newcomer in genealogy research! Thanks for taking the time to post this.

  6. Thanks for adding some additional names, Valerie and Emily, and thank you, Kathy and Celia for your very kind comments. I wanted to expose the newbie researchers to some of the people that have paved the way for them :)

  7. Thanks for this wonderful information. Very helpful to those of us who are looking to increase our knowlegde and become more involved. Could you comment on any Canadian genealogists? Susan Inwood

  8. Thank you for your kind comments, Susan. I have done absolutely ZERO Canadian research so I do not know who is prominent in that country. If you join the Rootsweb Transitional Genealogists Mailing List (free) you can ask that question to the list and I am sure someone will know it. There are genealogists from all over subscribed to that list and I will bet there are some Canadian researchers on there. Here is the link:

    This list is open to anyone wanting to take their research to the next level. I can't tell you just how informative this list is. You have a mix of beginners all the way up to the top of the top and I know for a fact that at least a couple of the people I listed on this blog post also subscribe. I hope to see you there :)

  9. Having been a professional researcher for over 30 years, I completely agree with everyone you have identified. Wonderful list! Thank you for creating it. I would add that not everyone who is a great genealogist is well known. Those who write books or blogs tend to be the best known, but there are many who silently go about doing marvelous research. Two of the best researchers I have ever met are Kate Eakman and Jan Edwards. Kate (owner of the History & Heritage research firm)specializes in telling the story of Civil War soldiers and has expertise in U.S., British Isles, and Italian genealogy. Jan is one of the lead researchers for the Rootsonomy research firm and achieved distinction as one of the leaders in launching the FamilySearch Skype research community and in training the numerous FamilySearch consultants.

  10. Excellent, Jim! I am so glad people are commenting with their picks :)

  11. Michele, I am confused by the second book title you attribute to Elizabeth. Is it so new we haven't heard of it yet (or have I been hiding under a blanket of snow)? ... I'm also a Canadian genealogist, author of several books :-D

  12. BDM, thank you so much for pointing this out! I made an error. I copy and pasted the info from one of my other pages and I copied and pasted the wrong line. I can't believe I didn't catch it when I proofread (and I can't believe no one caught if before now!) I have fixed it :)