Ken’s Passing

We are sad to report the news of Ken’s passing and invite you to send your thoughts, wishes, and condolences to the family via this blog or through email (see below).

Kenneth George Aitken passed away April 21, 2007 at the age of 59 in Penticton, British Columbia. He was born and grew up in Penticton, but spent most of his working years in Saskatchewan as the librarian supervisor of the Prairie History Room at the Regina Public Library. Ken was a well-known genealogist and a popular genealogy speaker and educator in western Canada and the United States. Active in genealogical organizations for many years, Ken was the charter president of the Hambrook Family History Society and served for 15 years as editor of the journal of that society. With the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society he served as a branch chairman, a director and as second vice-president of the Society. He also served briefly as the Director of Student Recruitment for Canada for the National Institute for Genealogical Studies.

He was predeceased by his mother Winifred Margaret Hambrook and father George Neil Aitken. He will be greatly missed by his loving wife Christine Mei-Chiang; his son Neil Aitken; his daughter Emele (Adam) Dykes; his grandson Thomas Dykes; and his siblings: Janet Taggart; M. Neil Aitken (Ruth); Peigi Sakota (Jay); and numerous nephews and nieces.

About Ken’s Life:

Ken held a BA in Linguistics, and a Master of Library Science degree from the University of British Columbia. He had also undertaken course work in local and family history with Brigham Young University and with the University of British Columbia.

Ken was a member of the Genealogical Speakers Guild and the Association of Professional Genealogists. Ken had been a professional genealogist for over 25 years, a genealogy librarian for over 20 years and an adult educator for more than 40 years. He was currently focusing on genealogical education and was working on a book on evidence analysis.

Active in genealogical organizations for many years Ken was charter president of the Hambrook Family History Society and served for 15 years as editor of the journal of that society. With the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society he served as a branch chairman, a director and as second vice-president of the Society.

Articles by Kenneth Aitken have appeared in genealogical and family history journals and other scholarly journals in Canada, Australia, the U.S. and England.

As a lecturer, Ken spoke at conferences, seminars and workshops of the National Genealogical Society, BrighamYoung University, Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society, Saskatchewan Genealogical Society, Alberta Family Histories Society, Alberta Genealogical Society, Manitoba Genealogical Society, Ontario Genealogical Society, British Columbia Genealogical society, Kamloops Family History Society, and the Kelowna & District Genealogical Society as well as to local genealogical groups in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia, Washington State and England.

Over the past two decades he had been involved in family and local history. Ken had taught classes for libraries, community colleges, church and community groups. For many years he regularly taught local and family history classes at the Regina Public Library.

A memorial service and celebration of his life will be held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2946 South Main St., Penticton, B.C., Saturday, April 28th, 2007 at 2:00 pm. To send condolences email us at: or visit his blog at


65 responses to “Ken’s Passing

  1. Pingback: The Hermit Poet » Becoming Fatherless at 33

  2. M. Diane Rogers

    I was so very sorry to hear today about Kenneth’s passing. He gave me a lot of encouragement in my genealogical endeavours & was always both enthusiastic & thorough in his lectures & teaching. He will be greatly missed.
    My thoughts are with his family at this sad time, but I know you will have many happy memories to look back on.

  3. Frances Ingram

    I am so sad to hear of Ken’s passing…he will be truly missed in the genealogical world. Ken was one of my instructors at the National Institute of Genealogical Studies. I loved his sense of humour and will miss his incredable knowledge and support. I send my prayers to the family…may your memories comfort you now and always.

  4. I am so sorry to hear of Ken’s passing. He never knew me, but I was a fan of this blog, and I learned so much by reading his posts. He will be missed far and wide.

  5. Laura M. Hanowski

    It is with saddness I learned of Ken’s passing yet joy that he no longer has to cope with ALS. I pray that the family gains strength and courage to face the difficult days you face without his physical presence. Our genealogy family has been blessed by having Ken share his depth of knowledge with humour while challenging us to excel as students and teachers.

  6. May I express my sadness at the passing of a fellow genealogist. I hope the memory of his joy and enthusiasm for life help to ease the sorrow you feel. At least there is no pain and suffering on the otherside.

  7. Neil and family,

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss. We will pray for you this week as you mourn your father’s passing, celebrate his love and goodness, and marvel at everything he accomplished in his short years with us.

    I especially valued Ken’s wisdom regarding genealogy education. His blog was a wonderful outlet for him to challenge and lead the genealogy education community. I greatly enjoyed our discussions and debates here. I hope that you keep the blog “alive” so that others can benefit from his posts.

    Take good care of each other now — Ken’s California friend, Randy Seaver

  8. Christine and family – I am so saddened to hear of Ken’s passing. He was my instructor and mentor in all things genealogical and I am indebted to him. In all the years I knew Ken I never had a conversation with him without learning something of genealogical or historical interest. As a librarian and genealogist he was the best but it is the passing of a friend that makes me weep today. Keep strong, hold onto each other.

    Linda Neely

  9. Ken and I have known each other for a number of years, having served together on the board of the Genealogical Speakers Guild, teaching for the Institute for Genealogical Studies, and as fellow writers and lecturers in the fields of genealogy and library continuing education. The last time we spent together was at the 2006 Ontario Genealogical Society Conference in Oshawa. We shared some meals and some great ideas about genealogy education.

    Ken was a great and compassionate man, and he was very, very proud of his family and his career as a librarian. We are all diminished by Ken’s passing but much richer for having had him as a part of our lives.

  10. Thanks for everything, Ken.

    Dave Obee

  11. Ken had one of the first genealogy blogs that I read on a regular basis, and THE first one I read where I could leave comments and later go back and read his gentle responses.

    I learned much from his articles and regret I never had an opportunity to meet him in real life. Please know that you, his family, are in my thoughts and prayers at this time.

  12. I was saddened to hear of Ken’s passing. Like Miriam, his was one of the first blogs that I found in the genea-blogosphere and continued to read each new post with interest. He was an inspiration and will be missed greatly. His voice has been silenced… I hope you will leave his blog posts out there so that others may benefit from them as well. Goodbye Ken, and may God Bless his family.

  13. Dear Neil and Family:

    I am so sorry for the loss of your father. Ken was a great man. Although I never met him personally, I loved his genealogy-education blog and have incorporated many of his ideas into my own practice. He gave so freely his experience and wealth of knowledge to the genealogical community – his passing creates a hole that can never be filled in the same way.

    May God bless you and your family, and may you find peace and comfort in the words of the many people who loved him.

  14. The blog and the posts will remain up as part of Ken’s legacy to the genealogical world and as a resource to the field. In this way Ken remains active on this side of the veil, continuing to aid and help those seeking insight and advice.

    For us and many of you, these posts are a witness of not just of his extensive knowledge and expertise, but also of his great wit and compassion. Please continue to use them.

    Neil (The Hermit Poet)

  15. This is such sad news. Like many others I never met Ken, but I read his blog, and I feel I knew him a little, and learned a lot.
    My thoughts are with you and all of Ken’s family and friends.

  16. We’ve lost a strong voice in the genealogy community with Ken’s passing. However, I have no doubt he will continue to assist in the work from the other side of the veil.

    My prayers are extended to Ken’s dear family.

  17. To Ken’s Family:

    I corresponded with Ken by email, we never met in person, but he was so kind and giving. The entire genealogical community will miss him.

    He is one of the patches on the “Quilt of Genealogy Bloggers” and will remain so. His picture will remind us of what he gave us and what we will miss.

    My prayers are with your family.

  18. I discovered Ken through this blog. He was a great teacher. This was one of the first blogs which I commented on and I was honored when Ken responded to my comments. I already missed him when he was unable to continue posting, but I’m glad to have the blog as a resource for further research. I’ll sit up straighter as I read it, because that’s what he inspired me to do each time I read the blog. Goodbye, Ken.

  19. This morning while in church I learned of Ken’s passing.
    I was quite shocked, but glad that I had heard of Ken’s death in church through prayer.
    May Ken rest in peace and may light perpetual shine upon him.
    I started work at the Regina Public Library with Ken back in 1984 and we worked closely with the genealogy patrons. I loved his dry sense of humour, his honesty, his forthrightness, his love of God, his love of his family, his stories.
    He taught me so ooooo much. Thank you Ken
    Christine, Neil and Emele- please accept my sincere sympathy.

  20. Barbara Schenck

    I’m very sorry to hear of Ken’s passing. He was a light in the world and lived a life well spent in service to others and to what he believed was important.

    I learned how to learn from Ken. His mentoring in genealogy was always full of insight and humor and the expectation that you could do it, you just had to learn how.

    I’m am very grateful to him for sharing his knowledge and his friendship. I will be keeping him and all your family in my prayers. God speed, Ken.

  21. My prayers are with you and your family as you mourn your husband, father, grandfather, and brother. The genealogical community has lost a powerful voice of kindness, wisdom and humor; but his words will continue to inspire us via his blog and the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) mailing list archives. Thank you for sharing him with us. May God bless you all.

  22. Dick Robinson, CG

    I am sorry to heard about Ken’s passing. My condolences and prayers to his family.

    I knew Ken professionally from the Association of Professional Genealogists. I saw him at conferences. He asked questions. He gave his opinions. He had lots of ideas, and made them known. He impressed me. Ken also reviewed some of my press releases and chapter materials and help me put them into focus. He inspired me with his ideas. I recently credited him in print with inspiring an article I wrote on information kits for professionals genealogists.

    I will miss Ken. The genealogical community will miss Ken. Ken may be gone but his inspiration, ideas, and helpfulness will live on forever.

    Dick Robinson, Certified Genealogist

  23. Ken hadn’t posted to the APG list for a while, so I checked his blog on Friday for news of how he was doing.

    Ken gave, shared, taught, helped. That is what he wanted to do, and he did it so well. Ken’s family and the world have lost a kind, generous, unselfish man.

    My condolences to his family for their loss.

    Joy Rich
    Brooklyn, NY

  24. Dear Chrisine, Neil and Emele:
    I was very saddened to learn of Ken’s untimely passing. Ken and I spent many lunch hours together in the staff room at Regina Public Library. He would share many stories with us ranging from his life experiences near and far to his love for his family. Ken was very proud of Neil and Emele’s accomplishments and would share them with everyone. He was also thrilled when he became a grandfather – we would share grandparent stories (he bragging about his grandson and me bragging about my grandchildren). Ken loved his work at RPL and we were so lucky to have had him as a colleague for so many years. He will be deeply missed for his knowledge of geneology.
    Please accept my deepest sympathy and know that I will keep you in my thoughts as you mourn the loss of Ken.

  25. I was saddened to learn of Ken’s passing yesterday. I only met him once in Windsor where he was lecuring at a conference. His wry sense of humor was what I remember most about that lecture. I think his dry sense of humor sometimes got him into trouble on the very serious APG list that he regularly contributed to. Thanks for reminding us to laugh at ourselves once in a while!

    He was always there trying to get us to be the best genealogists we could be — right to his last post.

    My condolences his friends and family.

    Jan Tripp
    Ann Arbor

  26. Loretta Evans, AG

    Ken will be missed. He made terrific contributions to the field of family history. I always appreciated his comments on the APG web site. Thank you for posting this blog to keep his memory alive.

  27. I found Ken’s passion for and insight into genealogical research inspiring. I only knew Ken through this blog and through his postings to various lists, but I will miss him greatly.

    My condolences to his family on their loss.

    Regina Gualco
    San Francisco

  28. Ken, I’ll miss you. You didn’t know me, but I always read your posts to APG with care, and always learned something, was always impressed with your optimistic yet realistic view of the world.

    To Ken’s family — I’m so sorry for your loss.

  29. I had the pleasure of serving on APG’s Publications Advisory Committee with Ken for several years, and of seeing him at conferences around the U.S. I will surely miss his sense of humor, quick wit, and always probing questions. He stood tall and was never afraid to question or suggest–he actually participated in the organizations to which we belong, when others did not or would not. I’m grateful for Ken’s wise counsel and for the way he lived his life. We will all miss him.

    Pam Porter
    St. Louis, MO

  30. It was a privilege to have known Ken, to have heard his presentations and to share in some of his vast genealogical experience. He was a very open, generous man. We will miss him in Regina, very much.

  31. I am sorry to hear about Ken’s passing and offer my condolences to his family. Being in Houston, Texas, I only knew Ken over the phone through discussions and critiques for the National Institute of Genealogical Studies class work. I enjoyed his sense of humor and his positive criticism that he provided. Based on my own experiences with him, and the posts already provided in this blog, I know he will be missed by many people.

  32. Christine and family, my thoughts are with you.

    I was very fortunate to have known Ken. His RPL genealogy classes were always a great treat to attend. Ken had the most amazing way of sharing his talents and his love of genealogy. He was truely a great instructor.

    His laugh was contagious, his sense of humor a riot, his enthusiasm…sometimes tiring and his presence always filled the room.

    Rest now my friend…you will be missed by all.

    Linda Wiggins

  33. My thoughts and prayers are with family and friends who knew him well.

    I only knew him through cyberspace communications, but his spirit and intellect was always appreciated.

    Ken inspired us all to think inside and outside the box.

    Sharon Sergeant
    Waltham, MA

  34. I had the privilege of serving with Ken on the APG Publications Advisory Committe. We spent many a pleasant hour in conversation at the FGS and NGS conferences. I will miss his helpful suggestions and his friendship.
    Mary Douglass, Salina, KS

  35. I loved Ken’ stories – genealogical, or just plain fun.

  36. My condolences to Ken’s family. He will be greatly missed, not only by his family, but also by his entire genealogical “family”.

    In the last correspondence Ken and I had, he joked about tracking down his elusive ancestors “on the other side” and I offered to give him my list as well!! I’m sure he is busy doing just that, and if , unexpectedly, some of us get sudden inspirations and/or answers to our brick walls, we’ll know where the “help” came from!

  37. I was deeply saddened to hear the news of Ken’s death. Ken and I served together on the board of the Speakers Guild and worked numerous conferences side by side. I always enjoyed his insight and wonderful sense of humor. I will miss him.

    Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.

  38. I am saddened…and lessened to learn of Ken’s passing. I learned a lot from his site–the only one I ever found that dealt with the subject of teaching genealogy. I had more to learn, if only he had more time. My loss is nothing compared to that of his family, friends, and peers. Just know that he touched the lives of those of us who knew him only here.

  39. My heart goes out to his family and friends. He was a great teacher and mentor. He will be greatly missed by all.

    Thank You Ken for touching all of our lives .

  40. J. Brian Gilchrist

    With the death of Ken Aitken, Canada’s has lost another prominent genealogical leader – just a few short months following the death of Ryan Taylor. Ken’s enthusiasm was infectious. We had great conversations over the years. We shared concerns over how to continue educating the next generation of genealogists, especially in trying to encourage people to become more savvy in using the amazing variety of resources that are waiting to be found in archives and also to encourage familiarity with previously published materials in libraries that are often being ignored, and under-utilized. He is now numbered with The Saints and all those who have gone before. Rest Eternal Grant Unto Him O Lord, and may Light Perpetual Shine Upon Him. Prayerfully remembered … J. Brian Gilchrist, Toronto.

  41. While I never met Ken personally, I was lucky enough to attend one of his guest lectures sponsored by the BC Genealogy Society. He so inspired me with his lecture on “Family Reconstitution” that I began what has turned into a quest with my own ‘family’ reconstitution.

    Ken was an outstanding speaker and his gift is his legacy within all of us. We must carry forward his light ..

    With sympathies on his passing.

    C. Murray, Vancouver

  42. I am very sorry to hear of Ken’s passing. I first knew him when we were classmates at the School of Librarianship at UBC. I enjoyed his intelligence and his wit. I was impressed with the fact that he was studying to be a librarian so that he could be a better genealogist.

    I encountered Ken again about 15 years ago, when my work as an archivist led me to make contacts and develop skills in the field of genealogy. Again, I was impressed with Ken’s scholarly, analytical approach to the subject, which was really unique among western canadian genealogists. I was fortunate to have ken as my mentor and examiner for my National Institue of Genealogical Studies courses.

    Ken was a mentor to many. Geoff Burtonshaw, a 91-year-old Métis Genealogy volunteer at the Glenbow Archives where I work, is extremely intelligent but only has a Grade 8 education. Ken encouraged Geoff’s work, which has given thousands of Métis the advantage of having their Aboriginal status legally recognized. When we had a celebration of Geoff’s contributions a couple of years ago, Ken travelled from Regina just for the event.

    Ken was an original, and we won’t see many others like him.

  43. My sympathy to all of Ken’s family and friends. Ken & I worked together as Instructors with the National Institute of Genealogical Studies and he was a non-stop participant in any conversation about genealogy in any form. Those that knew Ken will certainly agree!
    I will miss him and am a better genealogist for having known him, thanks Ken.

  44. Rebecca Poertner

    My condolences to Ken’s family and friends. Though I never knew Ken, from the past chats I’ve read, I can tell I really missed out on knowing him. Thank you, Ken, for everything you’ve done in the genealogical community. You will be missed by many.

  45. To the family of the late Ken Aiken:

    The shock waves of Ken’s passing can be felt all the way to Eastern Canada in Nova Scotia.

    Any of us who took genealogical courses towards a certificate through the National Institute for Genealogical Studies (NIGS) in Toronto had the opportunity at key check points to meet Ken Aiken by telephone. He was our regular interviewer, and an excellent one he was too. But what I perhaps enjoyed the most with Ken, was his approach to professional articles and the “Article Review”, a significant part of the year’s NIGS’ studies. The questions he asked were thought provoking and very much appreciated where one gained tremendous experience. Several organizations have copied Ken’s approach with great success either as in-house discussion groups, or in some other manner.

    NIGS has it set up such that there are online “live” discussions as well through the University of Toronto’s chat system.

    Ken will be sadly missed. I wish to express my deepest sympathies to his family.

    Gwen King
    Lorneville, Nova Scotia

  46. Like so many others, I have been inspired by Ken’s searching and witty approaches to family history. Ken, I have thought of you every time I run into a stinker of a problem, and will continue to do so. Christine, I miss you both in Regina, and mourn your loss of such a fine man.


    Ann Phillips

  47. LaDonna Garner, CG

    It saddens the heart to hear of someone so openly passionate for what he cares about to have passed away. I greatly appreciated the advice & encouragement Ken has shared through his blog and the APG list. I send my heartfelt condolences to your family as he will be missed. “Forever shall his heavenly stardust sprinkle and spread his gracefulness amongst us.”

    LaDonna Garner, CG

  48. It saddened me to learn of Ken’s death. Whether reading his posting on a mailing list, blog, sitting in a class with or at a luncheon with Ken was always an educational fun experience. My thought and prayers go to his family and friends.

  49. On behalf of the Board of Directors and all members of the British Columbia Genealogical Society, I would like to express our sadness in hearing of the passing of Ken Aitken. He spoke to our group, and was a favourite – an informative, interesting and interested speaker. He will be very much missed in the community of genealogists. Our condolences go out to his family and his friends.

    Kenneth Livingstone
    Corresponding Secretary

  50. Ken was one of my (online) mentors and he strongly encouraged me to try new ideas when teaching genealogy patrons at our library. I greatly regret that we were never able to have him speak at the library. He was funny, always thoughtful and very stimulating to know. He will be missed.

  51. Christine and family,
    I was so sorry to hear today of Ken’s passing. I had the pleasure to work with Ken at RPL for nine years as a fellow team leader in Information Services and remember him for his strong commitment to service, his love for his family and his sense of humour in the face of all obstacles. He will be terribly missed. My sincere condolences to you all.
    With my best wishes,

  52. I never met Ken personally but was one of those privileged to have been tested by him via the phone. A little nervous at first he soon put me at ease and helped me understand some things I was unsure of. To the family I send my condolences. He will be greatly missed and extremely difficult to replace at the Genealogical Institute.
    God grant you peace.
    Sister Cleo Haimerl

  53. Carole Murray Williams

    How very sad to learn Ken is no longer with us. Along with his dear family, his loss will be keenly felt in the Genealogy Community. I had the pleasure, every other year, to be greeted by Ken in the Prairie History Room of the Regina Library . He remembered me from one visit to the next, “There’s that lady from Ohio”. Appreciated was his casual, open demeanor which made him so approachable by one who was there to research her family history. He was never too busy to answer questions and give suggestions.
    I send my condolences to the Aitken family and want them to know Ken’s influence has been spread far and wide.
    Carole Murray Williams

  54. I wish to send you my deepest condolences on Ken’s passing. I had the privilege of working with Ken for much of the 15 years I worked at the Regina Public Library. He was a kind man and always had a good story to tell. I will miss him very much.


  55. Such sad news to get early in the morning! My deepest condolences to Ken’s family and to the genealogical community at large, for we have truly lost a Genealogical Giant!

    I never met Ken personally,but he was my mentor for several of my courses at NIGS. When praise was warented he enthusiastically gave it. When criticism was needed it was constructive and helpful. I learned so much from him, and looked forward to our next conversation. I recalled he said he was taking a short sabatical due to illness, but that he would be back. I believe that when his students in the Analysis classes call his replacement, that ken will be there, working through them. He wouldn’t want it any other way!

    Rochester, New York

  56. I was very shocked and saddened to hear of Ken’s passing. I had the pleasure of meeting him when I lived in Regina. I have a passion for genealogy and he helped me several times at the Public Library. My prayers and thoughts are extended to his family.

    Deb Phillips

  57. Carolyn Dougall Merriman

    My sincere condolences to Ken’s family, friends, and colleagues. Rest in Peace Ken.

  58. Christine and family,
    Peter and I were so saddened to hear of Ken’s passing and wish to express our sincere condolences. Ken was such a pleasure to be around at our “Archer gang” dinners/bbqs. He was an amazing storyteller, a devoted family man and just an interesting guy. He will be dearly missed. You are in our thoughts, Christine. I know that the strength of your family and friends will help you through this difficult time.

  59. Ken will be missed. On behalf of his friends here at we send our deepest and sincere condolences. He was always an inspiration and a great supporter of genealogical education and for that we are all grateful. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ken’s family and friends at this time.

  60. I met Ken many years ago, and he has been in my thoughts and prayers ever since. I just heard about his passing, and want to pass my condolences to his family at this time. Be strong, and know he is in a better place.

  61. Michelle LaBrosse Purcell

    I’ve known Ken for quite a number of years as a fellow genealogist and instructor. The world has lost a great teacher and person.

  62. It was with great sadness that we learnt of Ken’s passing. The genealogical community has lost one of its best.

    On behalf of our executive and Members, I extend sincerest condolences to Ken’s family

    Chris Longley, President
    Abbotsford Genealogical Society

  63. Laura Roetcisoender

    I was just reading some old email I had saved from April 2006 when I came upon a message from Ken. He had periodically sent me information of upcoming events which I forwarded to our Genealogical Society of South Whidbey Island. I clicked on his website for the first time and sadly he had passed away one year after his last email to me. I had no recollection of how I knew him until I realized I must’ve left my email address when I was at the Genealogical Society in Regina Sask. doing research. Upon reading about Ken, it sounds like he was such a neat and helpful person, I wish I had known him personally. To his family, I send my most sincere condolences. He was obviously a guy one could be very proud to have as a relative and he left a wonderful legacy.

  64. I had the privilege of working with Ken for a decade at RPL, and he was one of life’s unforgettable characters. I say this because he was a true professional in all his fields, a valued mentor, and an irrepressible raconteur. Ken could always solve a professional problem for us (or point us in the right direction), and always amazed me with detailed stories of his travels and his beloved family. His memory and analytical mind were remarkable. My condolences to his family, and my apologies for my tardiness in this. I will remember him well.

  65. Just wanted to say THANKS for keeping Ken’s Web site going all these years. It’s just chock full of information and I find I refer to it frequently … just what he would have wanted.

    I do miss my friend. Coming to this site today put a big smile on my face. Thanks, Ken.

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