Eric Jonasson Award of Merit 2021

Eric Jonasson Award of Merit

Established in 1987 as a principal award of merit it was changed in name in 1999 to honour Eric Jonasson for his contributions to MGS. As a founding member of the Society in 1976 he was member No. 1. He served as the first President until 1980.

He wrote his first genealogical guide “Tracing Your Icelandic Family Tree” in the 1970’s, followed by “The Canadian Genealogical Handbook” in 1976. In 1983 he published “Untangling Your Family Tree”. Eric was involved in many community and cultural organizations in Manitoba. His wife, Liz, served as Secretary of MGS for a number of years after his death in 1998.

The Eric Jonasson Award is the highest award that MGS can offer.  It was awarded at Annual General Meeting held Saturday, May 13, 2023, in grateful acknowledgement of exceptional service to MGS. Due to the pandemic, the 2021 Eric Jonasson Award of Merit was given this year.

The 2021 Eric Jonasson Award of Merit goes to William “Bill” Curtis.

Bill joined MGS officially in 1994 but he had volunteered at the MGS table at the Scottish Pavilion before that.  He is an interesting person to talk to as well as a great presenter.  He worked for Xerox for most of his life, taking early retirement, and then continued to work for them as a contract employee.  Being born in Ontario, this employment took him to many places in Manitoba which needed his services until 2003 when he retired.  He then got a position working at Standard Aero until 2005 before completely retiring.

Bill is a family man and with his wife at his side, took many opportunities over the years to visit and speak about genealogy wherever requested.  Some of the places he did visit and give genealogy classes were:  Brandon, Dauphin, Carmen, Steinbach, Anola, Victoria Beach, St. Andrews to name a few.  It was always to a packed audience which in turn encouraged membership in MGS.

Bill developed three (3) different genealogy presentations that he presents when he gives is seminars.  These sessions are:  Beginning Genealogy, Finding Your Genealogy Information, and DNA Testing in Genealogy Research.  Bill has developed these programs soley through his own research and has spent countless hours updating them annually.

In Winnipeg, Bill has presented seminars at the Chapel Lawn Funeral Home, at a number of Winnipeg Libraries and Senior Centres, and is a repeat presenter at the McNally Robinson Bookstore classroom.  He has also presented to some diverse groups such as:  Transcona Friends and Neighbours, Domain Women’s Institute, Association of Manitoba Land Surveryors, River East School Division and more.  On an annual basis, Bill man’s tables representing MGS at Manitoba Day at the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, the Highland Games in Selkirk, Forklorama (at least for the past 20 years), and at the Manitoba Social Science Teachers’ Association (MSSTA).

Bill is a forward thinker.  A few years back he came up with a logo “Grow Your Tree with the Manitoba Genealogical Society”.  He had this printed on a number of t-shirts and baseball caps.  He dons his t-shirt and cap and wanders around the different Folklorama pavilions.  This gives him a chance to talk to others and answer questions from them.  He passes out our business cards and brochures which may attract new members, but his t-shirt is the key to initiating conversations.

For the out-of-town sessions, Bill will take his wife Lesley and drive to the location to help set up and stay overnight in a motel before returning home.  I do not think he has ever asked for any reimbursement for these trips and lovely meals.  When the seminars pay him for his time or as an honorarium, it all is given to MGS.  For his time at the Highland Games, he even bought himself his own gazebo to keep the sun and rain off himself while representing the Manitoba Genealogical Society.

With over twenty (20) years of service representing the Manitoba Genealogical Society all over the province, Bill Curtis is very deserving of our highest honour—the Eric Jonasson Award of Merit.

In true Bill Curtis fashion, he was unable to attend the Annual General Meeting to accept his award because he was doing a class for the River East School Division.  Chris Irwin, President, visited him personally later that day to present the award.


Thank you to Chris Irwin, Past-President of MGS for his work as Awards Committee Chair and for writing the bios on our winners.

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