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February 25, 2015

Introducing Ken McKinlay, Professional Genealogist

Introducing Ken McKinlay, Professional Genealogist
Ken McKinlay is an Ottawa Ontario based genealogist. Olive Tree Genealogy recently interviewed Ken so that I could introduce him to my readers. 

I've seen Ken's meticulous research on various Facebook groups and am very impressed with his research skills and citing of his sources. Read on for my questions and Ken's responses:

How and when did you become involved in the field of genealogy?

I first became involved in genealogy and family history due to my curiosity. I had always heard stories that a branch of the family was descended from Loyalists, another branch came to North America on the Mayflower, and yet another branch came to Scotland from Ireland. I wanted to find the truth behind each of these family tales. Amazingly enough those stories have all turned out to be true. I have been able to document that I am a descendant of Lt. Caleb Howe of the Queen’s Rangers (I have three or four other Loyalist lines I’m working on too), I can trace one of my lines to Elizabeth Tilley of the Mayflower (I’m also looking at a possible Brewster connection), and the McKinlay family that settled in Thornliebank, Scotland did come from Londonderry, Ireland around the late 1830s.

What is your main genealogical focus?

Over time my genealogical focus has gone from researching my own roots to doing research for clients and also helping out those that post to certain genealogy related groups on Facebook. What I enjoy most is sharing my knowledge. What I’ve found is that I enjoy teaching people how to do research, whether it be speaking at a society meeting (a little stressful for me but I do enjoy it), blogging, or telling someone where I found the information I had posted in response to their Facebook query. If I can educate someone as to how the information can be found that then means they can better learn how to do their own research.

What are your website(s) and blogs?

I do have a blog called Family Tree Knots found at There the focus is on the methodologies of genealogy research and where to find those oftentimes elusive records. When I’m dealing with my own research my blog becomes a “lessons learned” post plus a way to share the findings with family members.

Do you have a Social Media presence? 
I can be found on various social media sites including:




Do you believe a Social Media presence is important?
I find that a Social Media presence is important since it allows me to interact with a much larger audience than just that found in the Ottawa region. It may be that I have information that someone is looking for or, more often, someone else has the information I’m trying to find. A simple post or query using the applicable site can lead to the key answer or document to resolve an outstanding problem.

Are you a member of any genealogical societies or organizations?

I’m a member and director at large of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO), a member of the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS), a member of the United Empire Loyalists’ of Canada (UELAC), and a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG).

What does genealogy mean to you? Why do you believe it is important?

Genealogy is not only a way of learning about where the family came from but also the impact that history and society has had on each of us. We all have heroes and villains in our tree and they make the research interesting. Yet it is the common person that has helped bring us to where we are today. Finding out the causes of why the family moved from Ireland to Scotland or from a village in Yorkshire to the industrial city of Glasgow can make the history that they teach in school much more interesting.

What do you believe is the most exciting development in genealogy today?

I think there have been two important and exciting developments in the past several years. The first is the increased amount of documents that are now available to researchers without the need to either visit an archive or library or to send away and way weeks or even months for a response. That isn’t to say that archives and libraries aren’t important. Those brick and mortar buildings are a vital component to our research. However, with more records available at relatively low costs or even free anyone can start research their family tree. The second is genetic genealogy. As an adjunct to tracing the various lines using the well-known paper records, DNA testing has helped make connections to possible distant cousins.

Do you have a prediction or hope for the field of genealogy in the future?

In the near future I think that with the continued digitization projects more “lost” clues on our families will be uncovered. However, I don’t think it will be a rosy future 50 to 100 years from now when it comes to future genealogists trying to figure out our lives. So much of what used to be recorded in newspapers or even in letters is now being done electronically. Yet we don’t know if that information will survive us.

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