Rockstar Genealogist Winners – We’ve Come a Long Way Baby

double helix animation

John Reid, over this past week, has announced the full complement of Rockstar genealogist winners.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the winners in each category and to make a couple of comments, because I found the distribution of winners very interesting.

John divided the competition into several geographies plus DNA.  Really, I kind of viewed the geographies like specialties because you need a different set of skills and knowledge to search Irish records, for example, than you need to search US records.  The same holds true for the DNA category.

Several people placed in multiple categories.  In particular, of the 10 winners in the DNA group, 7 of these folks also placed in the USA category.  That’s pretty amazing, especially because this field is relatively new.  Of the people in the DNA category, 3, I didn’t consider specifically as genetic genealogy specialists, although they are clearly genealogists, and one person I didn’t know at all.  Two are very well known and clearly incorporate genetic genealogy into a genealogy career.

What was my criteria for a genetic genealogist?  If I recognized the name as a participant in any of the several online lists and forums that are specifically focused on genetic genealogy, or know of them to be a consistent contributor on the genetic genealogy topic, I considered them a genetic genealogist.  Pretty simple.

Of the DNA winners, Judy, Megan and Dick were included in 2 or more categories, with Dick Eastman being included in 5 of the 6 categories.  We can certainly say that Dick is well-known worldwide.

For me, though, the take home story in all of this isn’t about who is or isn’t a genetic genealogist, but it’s about blending and assimilation.  When genetic genealogy was first introduced into the genealogy landscape, we were utterly thrilled when one word was uttered in a magazine or newspaper or anyplace public about DNA and genealogy.  We were genetic missionaries, trying to convince genealogy societies and conferences that they needed to allow us to speak about this new brick-wall-crashing technology.  It was always an uphill battle and we weren’t always welcome.

Today, just over a decade later, DNA is all over the news media.  Just this week alone there have been 4 or 5 major stories involving population genetics, found families and other DNA related topics.  And that’s not counting the numerous blogs, some dedicated to genetic genealogy and population genetics, and some incorporating genetic genealogy as a tool.

In another few days, this summer/fall’s second TV series focused on genealogy, including genetic genealogy airs.  Spencer Wells has become a household word, and DNA in words and images is now used in ads, an acronym and image that many adults didn’t even know 15 years ago and certainly wasn’t a part of everyday vocabulary.  Today, everyone knows what a double helix is.

dna ad

From my perspective, assimilation is good.  In fact, it’s the ultimate goal.  For genetic genealogy to become entirely mainstream, DNA testing has to become a tool that no genealogist would be without and everyone knows how to use appropriately.  Every genealogist needs to be a genetic genealogist at some level, because DNA testing can benefit every single genealogist – their own testing and that of others as well.

From the looks of the results this year, maybe we’ve arrived.  We went from no genetic genealogists in the winner’s circle last year to 7 this year.  Of the DNA category winners, perhaps some of those folks have redefined our idea of what a genetic genealogist really is.

In several cases, genetic genealogy seems to be a dual specialty, like Judy and Megan.  People who are considered to be top notch in other categories are ALSO genetic genealogists.  Both Judy and Megan were in the USA winning group last year, but since they weren’t exclusively or specifically genetic genealogists, I didn’t include them as such.  However, the public voting this year clearly shows they are both – and very well respected in both fields.

Perhaps the day has arrived when genetic genealogy is a specialty, just like with Irish or Scottish or English records, under the larger genealogy umbrella, not separate anymore.  Maybe John was right and genetic genealogy is its own specialty “country” in the larger genealogy world and genetic genealogy experts will exist for folks needing specialized assistance, but all genealogists will be a genetic genealogist at some level.

Yea, we’ve come a long way baby.  It feels good to be part of the mainstream.  We don’t have to scrap to be heard anymore, nor do our relatives have to wonder if we are crazy.  Ok, maybe they still wonder….but it’s no longer the genetic part of genealogy that begs that question:)

Here are the top 10 winners in each category, along with links to John’s blog where statistics and more information about each category are given:


1. Roberta Estes
2. CeCe Moore
3. Judy G. Russell
4. Megan Smolenyak
5. Bennett Greenspan
6. Blaine Bettinger
7. Dick Eastman
8. Tim Janzen
9. D. Joshua Taylor
10. Stephen P. Morse


1. Judy G. Russell
2. Roberta Estes
3. Megan Smolenyak
4. CeCe Moore
5. Dick Eastman
6. Thomas W. Jones
7. D. Joshua Taylor
8. Thomas MacEntee
9. John Philip Colletta
10. Bennett Greenspan


1. Janet Few
2. Kirsty Gray
3. Else Churchill
4. Celia Heritage
5. Dick Eastman
6. Debbie Kennett
7. Michael Gandy
8. Chris Paton
9. Nick Barratt
10. Jackie Depelle


1. Steven C. Smyrl
2. Claire Santry
3. John Grenham
4. Fiona Fitzsimons
5. Brian Donovan
6. William Roulston


1. Dick Eastman
2. Chris Paton
3. Thomas MacEntee
4. Lisa Louise Cooke
5. Judy G. Russell
6. Glenn Wright
7. Geoff Rasmussen
7. Megan Smolenyak
9. Brenda Dougall Merriman
10. Lisa Alzo

Australia/New Zealand:

1. Shauna Hicks
2. Judy Webster
3. Jill Ball
4. Chris Paton
5. Pauleen Cass
6. Thomas MacEntee
7. Dick Eastman
8. Cyndi Ingle
8. Sharn White
10. Nick Barratt
10. Kirsty Gray
10. Pat Richley-Erickson (DearMyrtle)

Thanks John for running the poll.  In addition to honoring awesome genealogists, it shows us just how fast the landscape is changing, the progress we’ve made and the impact of social media, in particular, blogs, which makes regular publication and communication easy.  There couldn’t be a better time to be a genealogist!

Mea culpa – I thought John was finished with publishing winning categories.  Obviously not, because just as this article went to print, I received notification of two additional categories, Commonwealth and International.  Obviously these categories are not included in the commentary, above.


1. Judy G. Russell
2. Roberta Estes
3. Megan Smolenyak
4. CeCe Moore
5. Dick Eastman
6. Thomas MacEntee
7. D. Joshua Taylor
8. Lisa Louise Cooke
9. Thomas W. Jones
10. Bennett Greenspan


1. Janet Few
1. Chris Paton
3. Dick Eastman
4. Kirsty Gray
5. Thomas MacEntee
6. Lisa Louise Cooke
7. Judy G. Russell
8. Else Churchill
9. Debbie Kennett
10. Celia Heritage



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15 thoughts on “Rockstar Genealogist Winners – We’ve Come a Long Way Baby

  1. Congrat’s again. You must have written this before you discovered YOU were in the international winners too. YAY for you. And for Genetic Genealogy.

  2. Congrats Roberta!! I sure have enjoyed DNAeXplained blog this year. Especially the
    Roberta vs the shower. It’s amazing to see how you go about your research and how
    much you accomplish. Genealogy on!!

    Elaine Moore Lunsford
    Group 8

  3. Congrats Roberta for heading the DNA List with a second in USA. I was also pleased to see my friend Janet Few in the England category. I feel honoured to know two Rockstar genealogists.

  4. Your pop-up is so annoying. I am already subscribed, yet it kept popping u. In frustration I put in my e-mail to which a pop-up said, “You’re already subscribed” but still no X to delete. Common courtesy, please.

    • I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. I hope you know that bloggers use a platform, such as WordPress or Blogger, and that we have no control over popups or anything else like that.

  5. This is really awesome. I think one other category that should be included next year is Genetic Genealogy Search Angels for those of unknown parentage. Not sure of the title. Lots of headway being made there and mostly starting with only the adoptees amended birth name.

  6. Congrat’s Roberta.

    “When we die, what we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others remains immortal.” -Albert Pike


  7. “…DNA testing has to become a tool that no genealogist would be without and everyone knows how to use appropriately. Every genealogist needs to be a genetic genealogist at some level, because DNA testing can benefit every single genealogist – their own testing and that of others as well…”

    Yes. And this is especially true for professional genealogists.

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