Genealogy Rock-Star War of the Tom-Toms

Genealogy Rock-Star War of the Tom-Toms

There has been a lot of talk about “Genealogy Rock Stars” recently. John D. Reid recently wrote on his blog Anglo-Celtic Connections regarding the results of a poll taken from “676 [polled]in number from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the UK and Ireland, Mexico, Spain and Sweden voted to select “rock star genealogists, women and men who give ‘must attend’ presentations at genealogy conferences and/or write ‘must read’ family history articles or publications.” …just in case your interested, no – I didn’t vote.

No surprise about numbers 1-3 (Elizabeth Shown Mills, Megan Smolenyak and Dick Eastman respectively). This is brings us to No. 4 – Thomas MacEntee and No. 5 Thomas W. Jones. This battle of the Toms provides a good illustration about the importance of branding and use of social media.

First, let me perfectly clear – I am a HUGE fan of both! I took Dr. Jones class last week at SLIG and have worked on projects with Thomas MacEntee and think they are both tops in my book. This is not a post about who should be a rock star and who shouldn’t be, frankly I think the whole idea slightly silly and being somewhat familiar with both men, I think that while there may be a part of them that might be flattered with the moniker, for the most part I think they both might be a tad uncomfortable with being referred to as a “rock star” – especially in comparison to each other.

My interest in this is from a marketing perspective, as this is a great example of how to create and use your personal brand as a genealogist and how to use social media to your advantage. The compare and contrast here is too delicious to avoid.

Thomas Jones Thomas MacEntee
Certified Genealogist yes no
Website no yes
Blog no yes
Twitter no yes
Published yes yes
Webinars no yes
Conference speaker yes yes
Online Presence no yes

While Thomas Jones has been around for years and years and has built a solid reputation in the both the academic and genealogical spheres, his influence extends mostly to those  who read scholarly journals, attend large national conferences or institutes and are serious or advanced genealogists.

Thomas MacEntee in comparison has only been around for a few short years, but in that limited time he has built a solid reputation online on Facebook, Twitter, BlogTalkRadio and the blogosphere, as well as through his personal contacts, speaking at genealogical societies, and conferences big and small. His audience is not only larger (as it includes the novice to advance genealogists), but Thomas is a pro at cultivating a relationship with his audience and knowing the ins and outs of marketing himself and creating a unique brand.

Recently, I had a conversation with 2 experienced genealogists, who were worried about what little chance they had in the genealogy “business” when there were so many “well-known” qualified genealogists. I think the 2 Toms illustrate perfectly the importance of knowing your brand, capitalizing on what you do best and wielding social media tools like a Gibson…notice the rock reference there? Yea, I’m hip like that!     

Gibson Guitars

“Rock Star” status isn’t about credentials or who is the smartest genealogists – its more like American Idol, not who is the best, but who has the most votes due to appeal to the audience. Social Media has the power to win friends and influence people and is worth learning along with your genealogical methodology skills.

If you want to hang your shingle out as a genealogist, take a lesson from the 2 Toms. While they got to where they are via different routes, have different talents and objectives,  they both know who they are and what they are trying to achieve. We can also see that you can achieve name recognition and results if you are willing to work at as hard as these two Toms do.

Love to the two Toms, who will always be stars and to all those who are seeking to find their inner Mick Jagger – rock on!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Valerie, great post. Gives me alot to think about! Tina

  3. Well who would have ever thunk – you are a “Hipster!” I am a faithful reader of your blog Valerie and am thrilled to see that you have the “moves like Jagger!”

    Great post and yes you could not have used a more perfect example with the Tom-Toms.

  4. You may find the analysis of the results for US voters only, to be posted at midnight EST, of interest as it shows a pattern compared to the international results, although nothing too surprising. If the survey, with its provocative title, has done nothing more than stimulate the type of understanding of the value of different skills as exemplified by Thomas and Thomas it will have been worth it.

  5. Thanks Tina and Sheri. More than a few people are surprised with my hipness! lol Again, thank you for your comments.

  6. Excellent post, Valerie! I couldn’t agree with you more. Seriously.


  7. Nice post, Valerie. Congrats!

  8. Great post.
    As a foreigner who relies a lot on the internet and social media to connect with the genealogy world and hear news of happenings over the seas I must let you know that I didn’t know about Mr Jones until I saw his name on the rockstar list.

  9. JDR I enjoyed your post and the title. Having a clever title is part of succeeding in blogging. I enjoy your blog and thank you for it.

    JiLl, Dr. Jones is legendary here in the states. Hope you get the chance to hear him one day as he has the ability to totally overwhelm you. Genius is not an overused word when describing him.

    Thanks Carolyn and Susan. Love you both!

  10. Rock on, Valerie! Great post. I learned some things about the two Toms that I didn’t know. I didn’t know MacEntee wasn’t a CG (always assumed he was) and I didn’t know Jones wasn’t online (always assumed he was, but never did a search for him).


  11. Definitely some food for thought here.

    I would like to clarify, however, that while Dr. Jones doesn’t do “webinars” per se, he DOES still have an online teaching presence with some recorded courses on the FamilySearch website (Learn > Research Courses)

    Also – for the record, I did vote – and I didn’t vote for anyone in the top 3. Each of the two Toms did get a vote from me.

  12. Great post.. The two Toms are very different from each other. If you get a chance, they are both great speakers and I wouldn’t miss either one. But it really does show how quickly effective branding works. For the first time I see genealogists who are a household name. Interesting.

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