We are sad to relate that George Ely Russell, Jr., passed away 9 January 2013 at his home in Maryland. In 1967 George became the 52nd person to earn the credential Certified GenealogistSM. He retired in 2010 when he reached 82 years of age.

His obituary reads in part:

Beginning at the age of 17, genealogy was George’s avocation for his entire adult life. He was an elected fellow of the American Society of Genealogists and devoted much of his time to genealogical activities. George founded the Prince Georges County Genealogical Society in 1969 and served as the editor of the National Genealogical [Society] Quarterly from 1971 to 1986…. George was the author of more than 140 genealogical writings, articles and books. He was a contributing editor of The American Genealogist, The Russell Register, Western Maryland Genealogy and The Society of the Ark and the Dove.[1]

Many Board-certified associates remember George fondly. Shirley Wilcox, CG, shares:

I first met George Russell in the late 1960s. I had answered a query placed in The Genealogical Helper by Barbara Crissey Dash, because my husband had a Somerset County, Pennsylvania Crissey family. Barbara lived in Bowie and I lived in Lanham, and both were towns in Prince George’s County, Maryland. We discussed our Crissey families and she mentioned that several genealogy enthusiasts in the local area had been getting together informally to discuss their common hobby. They were going to meet at her house in the coming weeks and she invited me to attend. George Russell and Laird Towle, who would later found Heritage Books, were among the handful of people in attendance. At that meeting we discussed forming a genealogical society. Someone made arrangements for us to use a table in the stack area of the Bowie Public Library, and we put a notice in the local newspaper that a new society was being formed. It was very informal at first, but George took the lead and became our founding president, followed by Laird Towle and then I became president.

I was in my late 20s, and I was privileged to learn from these seasoned researchers. When invited to their homes, I marveled at the large personal collection of genealogy books owned by both George and Laird. George had a very dry sense of humor and was fun to be around, and he was often our speaker at our early meetings. He was already certified by the Board for Certification of genealogists and I was intrigued by this credential that he held. I decided I too would like to aspire to this. I was not interested in taking clients, but I was Special Publications Editor for the society and I thought if I could put initials after my name as editor, it would be good for our society publications. So, I put together a portfolio, and received my credential in 1973. Two years earlier George became the editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and I therefore learned about the National Genealogical Society. Before I knew it I was attending the NGS meetings in Washington, DC and joining another genealogical group. Like me, I am sure others in our small genealogical society, became better genealogists because of George’s leadership and example.[2]

Please feel free to add your memories about this important editor and leader in our field.


[1] Obituary of George Ely Russell, Jr., Legacy.com; http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/fredericknewspost/obituary.aspx?n=george-ely-russell&pid=162365921 : viewed 28 Jan 2013; citing The Frederick News-Post, print edition, 14 Jan 2013.

[2] “Obit. on Facebook,” email from Shirley Wilcox to Elissa Scalise Powell, dated 16 Jan 2013, privately held.