The Rockstar Genealogist Contest is a Fiesta of Awkward. Let’s Change This.

throne made of swords in a medieval fair

Here’s a fun fact: I only remember I still have a blog when I want to mouth off about something. In fact, even then, I don’t remember I have a blog. I mouth off on Facebook, and then I get responses and private messages, and I think, “Duh. Should’ve blogged that.”

This time is no exception. Last night, I mentioned on Facebook that I have mixed feelings about the annual Rockstar Genealogist voting thingy that John Reid hosts on his Canada Anglo-Celtic Connections blog. I don’t know John, but he seems like a nice person with an interesting blog, and it’s not my place to tell him how to run it. In fact, one of the great things about blogging is that you can do it any way you want, so I’m out of line from the get-go here. John should feel free to tell me to go to hell after reading this, and he won’t hurt my feelings a bit.

This is the thing, though: I dread this contest every year. I do not like it. I do not vote, I do not nominate, and I try hard to avoid discussing it in public. Seeing my friends ranked in order of popularity—based on what? I don’t even know—is weird. It’s a challenge for the winners, who have to be publicly gracious and grateful for being put in a really awkward spot. It’s even more of a challenge for the runners-up, who have to wonder why they weren’t the most popular (what was that criteria again?). It can be downright painful for the thousands of great genealogists who do excellent work, but aren’t well-known enough to be on the ballot (although I hope those people realize that being popular has little to do with being excellent). That’s a lot of negativity, stacked up against only a few good positive feelings. The balance seems way off to me, and I’m not sure what the point of this exercise might be.

I’m always pleased for the people who win or make the top 10, because the lists are always populated entirely by awesome genealogists who deserve recognition. I’m happy for them, if they’re happy. The thing is, quite a few of them aren’t happy. What I learned from reactions to my Facebook post (public and private) is that a lot of other people dread this thing, just like I do. Quite a few of them are even on those Top 10 lists. I am beginning to suspect that this annual event has become one of those social obligations that no one looks forward to, but that still goes on, because everyone’s too polite to say no.

If that’s the case, let’s collectively agree right here and now that “No, thank you” is a perfectly acceptable response to being asked to participate. If you are invited to be on the ballot, you can say no to that (I’m assuming that candidates are asked in advance whether they consent to being voted on…right?).

You can absolutely participate if you want to, and you don’t owe anyone any explanation. If you’re enjoying this contest, you should continue to enjoy it, without judgment. If you don’t care for it, though, by all means, say “No, thank you.” One perpetual candidate, Elizabeth Shown Mills, has already graciously opted out, and nobody’s mad at her for it. If a Southern Lady can do it, it must be fine. You can too.

If you’re part of the voting public, and you don’t care for this contest, stop voting. Leave it to the people who actually think this is a good idea, because I suspect that’s a very small group. If there were no votes and no blog traffic, there’d be no Fiesta of Awkward, and we could all go back to work.

Get more stuff like this

Don't miss a thing. Subscribe to new posts via email.

23 Responses

  1. Israel Pickholtz 11 months ago
  2. Israel Pickholtz 11 months ago
    • Kerry Scott 11 months ago
  3. Judy Webster 11 months ago
    • Kerry Scott 11 months ago
      • Judy Webster 11 months ago
  4. Denise Olson 11 months ago
    • Kerry Scott 11 months ago
  5. Elizabeth Ballard 11 months ago
    • Kerry Scott 11 months ago
      • Elizabeth Ballard 11 months ago
      • Tessa Keough 11 months ago
  6. William Baker 11 months ago
    • Adrian Bruce 11 months ago
    • Kerry Scott 11 months ago
  7. Janet. Hovorka 11 months ago
  8. gjohns 11 months ago
  9. Anne 11 months ago
  10. Rondina P Muncy 11 months ago
  11. JR 11 months ago
  12. Debbie Kennett 10 months ago
    • Kerry Scott 10 months ago