February 6, 2016

Introducing Penny Allen, Canadian Genealogist

Recently I wrote a blog post called Where (and Why) Are Canadian Genealogists Hiding?

I issued a challenge to Canadian Genealogists to speak up and promote themselves better. As part of my challenge I crowdsourced a list of Canadian Genealogists which you can view at Update on Where Are the Canadian Genealogists Hiding?

Next I invited any Canadian Genealogists on that list to participate in a Guest Biography post here on Olive Tree Genealogy. I'm pleased to introduce you to  Penny Allen, a Canadian genealogist living in the U.K.

I asked Penny some questions about here role as a Canadian Genealogist and here are her responses.

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


Quite a while ago, I was bitten by the genealogy bug when researching family history meant writing letters, using microfilm and ‘horrors’! – books. My parents are first generation Canadians and I was curious about the stories that I heard about my grandparents.


2.      What is your main genealogical focus?  


I have many interests in genealogy, but most of the time I delve into emigration, land ownership and early settlers to Canada. Because of my work, I enjoy learning about maritime history – the navy and merchant navy, WRENs and anything similar. I have yet to pursue my Scandinavian roots and am keen to start uncovering that branch of the tree.


3.       What are your website(s) and blogs? 


I have had numerous over the years, but my blog, ukcdngenealogy.blogspot.com is the most current.

4.      Do you have a Social Media presence?  


This information is available via my blog. 

5.      Do you believe a Social Media presence is important? 


Although I am aware of and support social media use in genealogical circles, I don’t embrace it fully, as I have had some negative personal experiences. However, I recognize its importance as a quick way to stay in touch with the genealogical community. It is valuable in its methodology, but I would stress that people do take care when using and providing information online. 

6.      Are you a member of any genealogical societies or organizations? 


At the moment, I am a member of the Alberta Family History Society and the Society of Genealogists (London).  Over the years I have been a member of various family history societies and I like to rotate my financial support amongst them as I feel that their work is very important. I regularly recommend their services to anyone who asks me for help.


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


There is a quote (loosely interpreted) that basically says ‘You need to understand from where you came in order to know where you’re going.’ Family connectedness and knowing your roots does give a sense of belonging and purpose.

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


There is no question that the use of DNA research in genealogy is one of the most popular ways of connecting with long lost family. It helps to pinpoint an area where a family originated and can put you in touch with other family members as well as researchers in the area. 


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


Digitization of archival records seems to be expected as the norm nowadays and will be needed long into the future. However, many do not realize that there is a long process of implementation in most organizations, and these decisions can sometimes take years to manage. Not every resource is online and researchers will still need to make a physical visit to an archive, so my hope is that people will continue to support the valuable work of archives. A number of important archives in London have been impacted by researchers seemingly doing a large percent of their research online as demonstrated by the services that were recently cut at the Imperial War Museum. 


10.   Please feel free to add anything you would like to say that hasn’t been addressed by the questions above. 


I am concerned by the numerous cuts to local studies services in the UK which is often times connected to council library (public libraries run by local authorities) cuts. Often the council is trimming library services in general, and the local studies services are affected in the ‘downsizing’. This is purely an administrative action, saving costs, but in turn, cutting jobs means losing staff whose local knowledge has been built up over the years. The result is that many libraries are staffed by volunteers, and when faced with genealogical questions aren’t able to help customers (this has happened to me personally). It is disappointing that this knowledge base will be lost and more advocacies from users are necessary. My hope is the councils running libraries will realize how much this type of service is needed (as a result of positive action taken by the users) at local libraries! 


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