Skillbuilding: Ann Fleming’s Cast of Characters

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this Skillbuilding lecture, presented Friday, 15 May 2015:

F301: Ann Carter Fleming, CG, CGL, FNGS, “Problem Solving: Using a Cast of Characters,” reviewed by Melissa A. Johnson, CG.

In her problem-solving lecture, Ann Carter Fleming demonstrates how genealogists can use Elizabeth Shown Mills’s “FAN” principle to learn more about their ancestors.

She emphasizes that all researchers—not just professionals—should put this concept into practice to break down brick walls. She also notes the importance of reasonably exhaustive research, and that this approach should be used for difficult problems that cannot be solved with direct evidence. “If it’s easy, don’t bother with this,” she tells the audience.

Ann likens her research subject’s FAN club (friends, associates, and neighbors) to John Wayne’s “cast of characters”—the bartender, hotel owner, and sheriff, to name a few. She believes that every research subject has a cast of characters—the group of people who surrounds him or her. She encourages her listeners to discover who these people are and to study them in depth. “Research unrelated people . . . as vigorously as you do your own,” she says.

Ann goes through her step-by-step process for discovering and researching an ancestor’s “cast of characters.” She covers the initial research phase, how to gather facts, different ways to organize information, and, of course, citing sources. She uses examples from several families to illustrate her points. Ann also warns researchers that this process may take time, but looking at an ancestor’s “cast of characters” will lead to records that otherwise may have been undiscovered. Thank you, Ann, for sharing your expertise through this informative lecture.

A recording of this lecture may be ordered from Jamb Tapes, Inc.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Skillbuilding: Staley on Historical Context and Personal Details

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this skillbuilding lecture, presented Friday, 15 May, 2015:

F341: C. Ann Staley, CG, CGL, “The Everyday Life of Our Ancestors,” by Nancy A. Peters, CG.

In a room filled to capacity with enthusiastic family historians, C. Ann Staley, CG, CGL, enlightened us on how to add personal details to our family stories. A show of hands found that most in the audience were first-time conference attendees who were eager to take their genealogical research beyond the basics of birth, marriage, and death information. Ann talked about ways to put “flesh on the bones” of our ancestors.

C. Ann Staley, CG, CGL

Ann explained how timelines can not only place our ancestors in their cultural, geographical, and historical context, but also help differentiate individuals of the same name. She showed examples of various timeline styles and suggested websites that would be useful when creating them. She reviewed several aspects of everyday life and where to find information on food, clothing, weather, occupations, medicine, and more. Her advice was to “read, read, and read some more” to understand our ancestors’ lives. Ann offered several suggestions for books and articles for researching local history and geography.

Any family history researcher will find this lecture packed with ideas and sources for learning about the past and bringing ancestors’ stories to life.

If you missed Ann’s lecture, a recording is available from Jamb Tapes, Inc.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Skillbuilding: Jones on Newfound Evidence

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this skillbuilding lecture, presented Friday, 15 May 2015:

F321: Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS, on “When Does Newfound Evidence Overturn a Proved Conclusion?” reviewed by Sara Anne Scribner, CG

We’ve come to expect adept analysis and a clear presentation from Dr. Thomas W. Jones. This lecture is no exception. It explores a little-seen topic. Focusing on finished genealogical products, Jones details why newfound evidence may appear and how to proceed when it does.

Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS

Jones notes that both expert and less-experienced genealogists may find a previous conclusion affected by new evidence. This may be due to insufficient research, a “reasonably exhaustive research” that missed something, or to newly available evidence, such as a DNA test result. “Meeting the GPS [Genealogical Proof Standard] neither requires nor ensures perfect certainty.”[1] After explaining the GPS, Jones moves onto methods for handling newfound evidence.

New findings often augment or enhance previous work, especially when the original conclusion meets the GPS. Sometimes newfound evidence invalidates earlier work, but Jones notes he has not seen an example of this where the researcher correctly implemented the GPS in the original conclusion.

How one proceeds with newfound evidence depends on who uncovers it. With luck, the original researcher will make the discovery. The lecture provides next steps for the original researcher to authenticate and evaluate the new evidence, essentially by using the GPS to re-evaluate the conclusion in light of the new information. Examples illustrate the use of article updates, useful when a researcher discovers the existence of new evidence either post-publication or just as an article goes to press. Jones also provides tactful and effective strategies to follow when the person with new evidence is someone other than the original researcher.

If you missed this lecture at the 2015 NGS Conference, a recording is available from Jamb Tapes, Inc.


[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014), 3.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Skillbuilding: Eagleson on Conflicting Evidence

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this Skillbuilding lecture, presented Wednesday, 13 May 2015:

W151: Pamela Stone Eagleson, CG, “Confronting Conflicting Evidence”, reviewed by Patricia Hobbs, CG.

Pam Eagleson advises that conflicts in our research must be resolved—we can’t just believe what we want about our ancestors. When we encounter a conflict, we conduct further research and carefully compare and analyze the sources used and information obtained. Although we are not always able to resolve the conflict, when we can, we describe our resolution in writing.

Pam’s talk begins with a short overview of sources, information, and evidence. She references Elizabeth Shown Mills’s research process map and a “Quick Lesson” from the Evidence Explained website. Pam also discusses the Genealogical Proof Standard.

Eagleson presents six examples of conflicting cases with wide-ranging outcomes. For each case, she identifies the types of sources, information, and evidence evaluated. One problem was resolved after compiling and correlating information from several sources. This resulted in the discovery of an error in a transcription, emphasizing the need to look beyond the easy-to-find indexes. Other cases were solved by consulting experts, by understanding the mindset of people in certain social situations, and by bringing a healthy level of skepticism to bear in identifications made by earlier generations. The most amazing solution was identifying a woman who at various times was referenced by four different surnames. Understanding the culture of the research locale was essential to solving this challenging problem.

We all face conflicting evidence in our research, and Pam Eagleson’s examples from her experiences help us to understand better the principles underlying the process towards resolution.

A recording of this lecture may be ordered from Jamb Tapes, Inc.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

BCG Luncheon: a Lighthearted Retrospective

S451: Pamela Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA, and Rick Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA, “Then and Now: Changes in Methodologies and Sources,” reviewed by Malissa Ruffner, J.D., CG.

Poodle skirt and saddle shoes? Leisure suit and medallion? Pam and Rick Sayre’s delightful luncheon entertainment was a humorous reflection on genealogical research then and now—with a message.

Our ability to wait has grown rusty. Our abstracting and microfilm-turning muscles are withering. Our tolerance for mold has declined. Some acronyms, such as SASE, are out, while others, such as DNA, are in. And DNA is a double-edged sword: you might gain a new half-cousin, but lose your Indian-princess great-great-grandmother.

If you think Rick and Pam want to return to life before Google Earth, think again. Online access (at 3:00 a.m. in your jammies!) brings immediate gratification and the ability to study whole series of records for context. Basic truths haven’t changed. Indexes still point to underlying archival documents. There is no substitute for reading instructional and introductory fine print. Evidence Explained may be a presence on Facebook, but its author won’t write your citations for you.

The new standards manual is smaller, but don’t be fooled. The standards have not been lowered. Unlike saddle shoes and leisure suits, doing things the “right way” will never go out of style.

 

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Skillbuilding: Bloom on The Art of Negative-Space Research: Women

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this skillbuilding lecture, presented Saturday, 16 May 2015:

S451: Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG, “The Art of Negative-Space Research: Women,” reviewed by Debbie Mieszala, CG.

Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG, is equal parts determination and enthusiasm as she guides her audience through a case study entitled “Three Graves under a Few Small Trees” within her BCG Skillbuilding presentation, “The Art of Negative-Space Research: Women.” Bloom’s interest in a trio of eighteenth-century burials was not dampened by the fact that they now lie under a parking lot. Inscriptions and remarks about the gravestones were documented over a century ago.

BCG President Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG

With the humor required to fortify a genealogist through the most complex of research problems, Bloom explains the methodology she used to determine how the man and two women lying under the tarmac were connected. No record for either woman names her parents. Spelling and name variations added complexity to the research. Facing an unfortunately-common dearth of female-specific records, Bloom began by identifying and researching the men in the women’s lives—using the negative space around the women to form images of their identities. Others sharing their surnames were researched at length, and a community of family and associates provided valuable evidence.

As the “spaghetti family” strands are unwound, primarily through extensive work in probate and wills, Bloom paints a vivid picture of a family emerging from hiding. “It really does take getting down to the documents, looking at them and reading them,” she declares. Extensive document analysis and correlation were crucial to the problem’s solution. Bloom’s research strategy allowed her to identify parents for the two women, put a name to a previously unidentified child, and connect the trio of family members forgotten under a parking lot.

Bloom advises that “Just because researching women can be challenging, it shouldn’t be ignored.” Her problem and solution format inspire genealogists to look more closely at the elusive women who represent one half of our ancestry.

“The Art of Negative-Space Research: Women,” session S451, was recorded by Jamb Tapes, Inc.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Certification Workshop at NGS 2015

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer an overview of this certification workshop, presented Thursday, 14 May 2015:

T211: Certification: Measuring Yourself Against Standards, presented by Michael S. Ramage, JD, CG, Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, and Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

Why certify?

How to certify?

What are the components of a portfolio?

What characterizes a successful applicant?

What are the common mistakes made by unsuccessful applicants?

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

These are among the questions addressed by trustees of the Board for Certification of Genealogists in its workshop “Certification: Measuring Yourself Against Standards,” conducted at the 2015 National Genealogical Society conference in St. Charles, Missouri.

Michael S. Ramage, JD, CG

Trustee and Board Treasurer Michael S. Ramage, JD, CG, Trustee and Executive Committee member-at-large Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, and Trustee and Past President Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, reviewed the certification process in depth for a packed room at the St. Charles Convention Center.

Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions about all of the required elements of the portfolio, the application process, and the judging rubrics.

Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL

They also were among the first to learn of two changes in the application process, adopted by the Board of Trustees at its meeting last week:

First, the resume requirement will be updated, effective when the 2016 application guide is published, to require new applicants to “List the genealogy-related activities that helped you prepare for certification and in a sentence or two discuss how each activity helped you improve your (a) attainment of genealogical standards, (b) knowledge of genealogically-useful materials and contexts, (c) skills in reconstructing unknown or forgotten relationships, families, people, groups, and events, and (d) abilities to present your findings to others. Your discussion should cover formal and informal development activities in which you engaged. {Standards 82–83}.” This requirement, which will be evaluated by judges in the portfolio review process, is designed to ensure that applicants focus on the wide variety of educational opportunities available to assist in preparing for success as a genealogical researcher.

Second, and again effective when the 2016 application guide is published, new applications will be capped at 150 pages in length. This change will bring both electronically-submitted and hard-copy portfolios onto an identical footing, with both forms limited to 150 pages. (Double-sided printing is allowed, but each printed page counts: seventy-five pieces of paper printed on both sides equals 150 pages.) It will also serve to reinforce the guidance given to applicants that excellence is not inconsistent with brevity.

The two-hour, two-session workshop was recorded, and the audio tape will be available shortly for purchase through Jamb Tapes, Inc.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Skillbuilding: Dunn on Indirect Evidence

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this Skillbuilding lecture, presented Saturday, 16 May 2015:

S442: Victor S. “Vic” Dunn, CG, “Beating the Odds: Using Indirect Evidence in Problem Solving,” reviewed by Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, CG

Vic Dunn, CG

Vic Dunn’s informative lecture focuses on using indirect evidence to solve genealogical problems. Evidence, “a tentative answer to a research question,” may be accurate or incorrect and it may be direct or indirect. Direct evidence is information that states the answer to a research question, while indirect evidence must be combined with at least one other piece of information to answer the question at hand. Vic reminds us that negative evidence—the absence of what we expect to see under a given set of circumstances—may be important in solving a genealogical problem. For example, if a man is not listed in a certain tax list, it might indicate that he moved away from the area.

Vic walks through five examples of problems that were solved using indirect evidence. The examples include cases where relationship linkages were used and cases where relationship linkages were not available. In the latter, research focuses on the subject’s associates. Vic also presents an example where direct evidence is available, but was obtained from questionable derivative sources.

The talk concludes with a reminder that to correctly solve a problem, all relevant evidence must be correlated; source citations must be complete and accurate; conflicting evidence must be resolved; and a sound conclusion must be written. These are the last four criteria of the Genealogical Proof Standard. The first is to conduct a reasonably exhaustive search, and it appears that Vic has done just that in his examples. Thank you, Vic, for this instructive presentation.

A recording of this lecture may be purchased through Jamb Tapes, Inc.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Skillbuilding: Hait on Reasonably Exhaustive Research

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this Skillbuilding lecture, presented Friday, 15 May 2015:

F351: Michael Hait, CG, “What Is a ‘Reasonably Exhaustive Search’?” reviewed by Nancy A. Peters, CG

Michael Hait, CG

Michael Hait, CG, began his lecture by reminding us that any single record can mislead or contain errors. Many genealogical researchers have heard about the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) and its role in preventing us from coming to wrong conclusions and chasing the wrong ancestors. Michael briefly reviewed the five elements of the GPS, the first of which tells us that “reasonably exhaustive research” is a prerequisite for sound conclusions. Yet some researchers might ask: What is reasonable? How do you conduct reasonably exhaustive research? In his lecture Michael answered those questions and showed an example.

In a humorous way, he first told us what is not the answer to the first question. He promptly discredited the myth that three is “the magic number” of sources needed to ensure an accurate conclusion. Michael then gave us some practical guidance for how to go about meeting this important first element of the GPS.

Michael gave another wise piece of advice—expand your horizons—and followed it with an example of what that means and why it’s important to our research. He illustrated his points with a case study example using direct, indirect, and negative evidence, which was taken from his own research and writing on the Hait family.

Any family historian who is serious about producing accurate work and determining sound kinship connections will find this lecture full of useful ideas and guidance.

If you missed this lecture at the 2015 NGS Conference, a recording is available from Jamb Tapes, Inc. In addition, Michael will repeat his talk for the upcoming BCG Lecture Series on 9 October 2015 at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. This series of six lectures sponsored by BCG is free and open to the public. No prior registration is necessary.

 

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Skillbuilding: Bettag on Historical Resources for Petitions to Congress

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this Skillbuilding lecture, presented Friday, 15 May 2015:

F348: Claire Bettag, CG, FUGA, “Petitions, Memorials, and Remonstrances in Early America,” reviewed by Amy Larner Giroux, Ph.D., CG, CGL

Claire Bettag, CG, FUGA

Claire Bettag’s informative lecture entitled “Petitions, Memorials, and Remonstrances in Early America: Good Genealogical Sources” covers historical resources concerning petitions to Congress. Her examples focus on the First Federal Congress of the United States, which ran from 1789 to 1791.

More than 600 petitions were processed in this particular congressional session. Claire explains that there were two main reasons for citizens to petition Congress: to request redress for grievances and for monetary or property loss (“petitions” or “memorials”) and to request that Congress not take certain actions (“remonstrances” or “addresses”).

Claire covers online and offline published sources. She stresses that published sources, such as the U.S. Serial Set, are derivative resources and should be used as a step towards locating the original records. Her selected examples and extensive knowledge of the subject make it clear that there is a wealth of historical and genealogical data available in these records. They include not only document transcriptions, but also analytical essays on context. Claire uses an example of “Dependent Survivors of Deceased Soldiers” listed in Revolutionary War claims that identify widows and children. Another example is a record related to a twice-married Revolutionary War widow, which lists birth and death years for both husbands, the widow’s birth and death information, and both marriage dates.

It is very helpful to hear about the background of petitioning, which is rooted in English history and the Magna Carta. Petitioning in the United States continued through the nineteenth century and Claire’s explanation of how the process became the basis of today’s lobbying efforts is intriguing. Both the names of the petitioners and the historical context found in these records make them an excellent resource for researchers.

A recording of this lecture may be ordered from Jamb Tapes, Inc.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.