Exploring Reasons Why to Certify

New audio clips of associates giving candid remarks on their certification process are on the BCG website’s “Why Certification?” page. In addition to David McDonald, CGSM, Beth Stahr, CGSM, and Michael Hait, CGSM are three associates with widely different paths who were taped at the 2012 FGS conference. Eileen O’Duill, CGSM, from Ireland, gives her perspective as an international Board-certified genealogist. Warren Bittner, CGSM, from Utah, talks about what methods he used to gain experience before applying. Linda Woodward Geiger, CGSM, CGLSM, from Georgia, gives her reasons for seeking certification.

These short clips should resonate with a variety of people. Perhaps one of their reasons or paths is similar to yours?

Using Established Patterns (and Records Access) to Find Answers

Established Patterns

The Editors’ Corner points out that the December 2012 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly has a theme, Six Degrees of Separation. Editors Melinde Lutz Byrne, CGSM, and Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CGSM, CGLSM, discuss using established patterns and networks to find not only relationships but also records. Burned courthouse? Remember that attorneys using that courthouse also kept records. Lost vital records books? Remember that midwives, ministers, and gravestone carvers also kept records.

The last issue of the 100th volume is rounded out by contributions from other Board-certified genealogists:

  • Michael Hait, CGSM, “In the Shadow of Rebellions: Maryland Ridgelys in Slavery and Freedom”
  • George Findlen, Ph.D., CGSM, “Resolving Duplicate Roman Catholic Parish Register Entries: French Canadian Examples”
  • Allen R. Peterson, CGSM, “Living on the Edge: A Hyde Family of Cheshire and Derbyshire, England”
  • James W. Petty, AG, CGSM, “Black Slavery Emancipation Research in the Northern States”

Michael blogged about the genesis of his article, which tied as a winner of the 2011 NGS Family History Writing Contest. Read his story here.[1] His co-winner was F. Warren Bittner, CGSM, “Without Land, Occupation, Rights, or Marriage Privilege: The Büttner Family from Bavaria to New York,” published in the previous NGSQ issue.

Records Access

Melinde and Tom remind us that records — including workarounds for missing records — are only part of problem resolution. Access to those records is also critical.

Identifying active nexuses is not enough to complete the workaround. The archivist, descendant, institution, or government that preserves records is the final component. Without repositories in every sense, activities that greater nexuses chronicle might as well never have happened.[2]

Budget issues regarding the Georgia Archives and high-tech solutions to accessibility at the National Archives were highlighted in social media this week.

  • The Records Access and Preservation Committee reminds us that the Georgia Archives is a budget line item and attention from genealogists is still needed on this issue. RPAC wrote directly to Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia about the need to preserve the historical record.[3]
  • David Ferreiro, Archivist of the United States, was interviewed about NARA’s evolving use of digitization. The post and a sequence of short videos can be found here.
  • Pamela Wright, NARA’s Chief Information Officer, appeared at the 2013 Summit: Advancing Citizen Engagement, which was part of Social Media Week 2013. A blog posting NARA’s use of social media to create better records access is available here.

[1] Michael Hait, “Writing the Ridgeleys,” Planting the Seeds, posted 17 Feb 2013; http://michaelhait.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/writing-ridgelys/: viewed 22 Feb 2013.

[2] Melinde Lutz Byrne and Thomas W. Jones, “Editor’s Corner: Six Degrees of Separation,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 100 (Dec 2012): 243.

[3] Fred Moss, “Georgia Archives — RPAC Letter to Gov. Deal,” Records Preservation and Access Committee, posted 3 Feb 2013; http://www.fgs.org/rpac/2013/02/03/georgia-archives-rpac-letter-to-governor-deal/ : viewed 22 Feb 2013. The letter to Gov. Deal, signed by Janet Alpert, the RPAC chair, can be viewed at http://www.fgs.org/rpac/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/GeorgiaArchives-28-Jan-2013.pdf .

BCG Ed Fund Workshop, Part 3

Connie Lenzen, CGSM, “Walk in Your Ancestor’s Footsteps”

Connie Lenzen’s genealogical career began when her grandmother brought some old diaries down from the attic. The question, “Have you seen what is in Grandpa’s diary?” opened up a world of mystery and intrigue as she pieced together the family stories. It led her to discover the fascination of placing ancestors in time and place. It made history into a real entity because her people were surrounded by that history.

Connie is certified by the Board for Certification of Genealogists and a past trustee and president of that organization. She is a member of the BCG Outreach Committee and list administrator for the BCG ACTION mail list.

Connie has served as a National Genealogical Society Director, and lead editor and writer of the NGS Home Study Course. She authored the NGS Research in the States guide, “Research in Oregon, ” and has written articles for the award-winning NGS Quarterly. Her articles are analyzed and discussed by several online study groups who are in training to become board-certified genealogists.

Connie has served on the boards of local and state genealogical societies and has provided volunteer service for many other societies. She operates a genealogical research company, Lenzen Research. Her favorite projects are those where the people are placed in historical context.

BCG Ed Fund Workshop, Part 2

Beverly Rice, CGSM, “The Path To Change And A Better Life—Migration”

Beverly Rice will lead a session on “The Path To Change And A Better Life—Migration.” Migration is more than a trail and the lives of a family; it is the growth of a country, the settling of a nation, and the creating of history. It is a whole package, not just one element. Without historical context, a life account is barren with only names, dates, and locations; the history is there for us to discover.

Beverly Rice is a teacher and lecturer in historical and genealogical topics with a special interest in western migration, women’s experiences in the West, and research methodology with an emphasis on breaking down brick walls by getting the most from each record. She received her bachelor’s degree from Portland State University in social science with an emphasis on women’s studies and United States history.

In her first career, Beverly was associated with the banking industry. She currently serves on the board of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), as the Director of American Studies and Director of Curriculum Development for the National Institute for Genealogical Studies, and as volunteer liaison and coordinator of the Mosher Award under the aegis of the BCG Education Fund. Beverly is a popular lecturer in the APG’s webinar series Discussion Group Meetings. Additionally, she teaches genealogy and banking courses at a local community college on a part-time basis and beginning in 1981, continues to serve as a volunteer librarian for the Coos Bay Family History Center. She is a former trustee and treasurer for the Board for Certification of Genealogists. She qualified as a board-certified genealogist in 1998. In Beverly’s shadow life, she and her husband, Gary Goodson, own and operate the Pancake Mill Restaurant on the beautiful Oregon Coast.

Historical Context Takes Center Stage at 2013 BCG Ed Fund Workshop, Part 1


Putting Skills To Work is a unique full-day, hands-on workshop limited to sixty participants. The focus is skills needed by anyone practicing serious genealogical research whether as a family historian, librarian, dedicated hobbyist, or writer. The sessions are geared to intermediate and advanced practitioners and advocate professional standards.

Putting Skills To Work sessions occur the day prior to the opening of the National Genealogical Society Conference. It is not necessary to register for the entire NGS Conference to participate. The $110 registration fee includes two in-depth presentations, hands-on exercises, syllabus, handouts, and lunch. Sessions typically book to capacity before the NGS Conference’s Early Bird registration deadline.

The 2013 Putting Skills To Work is scheduled for 8:00 to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 7 May, at Las Vegas, Nevada. The 2013 Putting Skills To Work is led by Beverly Rice, CGSM, and Connie Lenzen, CGSM.The two sessions, discussed in follow-up posts, will consider historical context and migration stories.

Standard 24 of the BCG Standards Manual will form the framework for the day. Within the Evidence Evaluation genealogical standards, Standard 24 focuses on context, an essential element to understanding documents.[1] The workshop will help attendees to find and integrate historical topics and transcontinental migration into their family histories.

The NGS online brochure discusses the workshop at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/bcgfund_workshop. Early bird registration ends March 19th.

The BCG Education Fund is a Massachusetts charitable trust that operates independently of BCG itself. The Fund creates educational opportunities for all genealogists.

Photograph courtesy of Microsoft Office.

[1] The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (Orem, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 2000), p. 10.

Will You Be Able to Attend a BCG Certification Seminar in 2013?

BCG board members and local Board-certified genealogists often offer certification seminars at national and regional conferences. The seminar topics cover everything from considering why to apply to tips for the application process.

Several certification seminars are already on the calendar. They are free for conference attendees (after conference registration costs) and everyone – whether considering certification, already “on the clock,” or a Board-certified associate assembling a renewal portfolio – is welcome to come and learn more about the process.

At the Ohio Genealogical Society conference in Cincinnati on Thursday, 25 April 2013, Elissa Scalise Powell, CGSM, CGLSM, will conduct a “BCG Associate Gathering and Renewal Discussion.” Then at 3:30 pm she will give “Reasons & Tips for Becoming a Board-certified Genealogist.” Please join in the appropriate session!

At the National Genealogical Society’s 2013 annual conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, session T211 is marked as a double session, however you may come to one or the other or both. There David McDonald, CGSM, Elissa Scalise Powell, CGSM, CGLSM, and Warren Bittner, CGSM, will spend the time on reasons why board-certification might be appropriate, discussing application strategies and fielding questions from interested audience members.

Another opportunity to interact with board-certified speakers in a seminar is scheduled at 2:00 p.m., Thursday, 22 August 2013, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at the annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, session T237. There David and Elissa will be joined by Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CGSM, and Debbie Mieszala, CGSM.

Each team is sure to cover the issue of preparation. Here is what the syllabus says about that:

Education and experience are the two main components in preparing for certification. The goal is to acquire and practice the standards articulated in The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual.

The Board sets no formal educational requirement. Surveys of successful applicants show that most have availed themselves of structured learning opportunities well above the introductory level—attending institutes, conferences, and workshops or enrolling in online or distance-learning courses. Self-education, derived from analyzing case studies developed by board-certified persons and published in major peer-reviewed genealogical journals, is also helpful.

Experience comes in many forms. Successful applicants for certification are experienced in dealing with the full range of challenges genealogists face. They demonstrate sound, critical judgment when evaluating the work of others. They hone their ability to resolve research problems, develop expertise in specific areas, and strive for excellence in every regard. While it takes a number of years to acquire the education and experience needed for certification, the personal and professional rewards from certification are significant.[1]


Updated 2:41 pm, 18 Feb 2013, edited to reflect that conference registration was required.

Graphic courtesy of the National Genealogical Society.


[1] “Board for Certification of Genealogists’ Certification Seminar,” 2012 Family History Conference Syllabus: The Ohio River, Gateway to the Western Frontier, session T201 (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2012): 116.

New Board-Certified Genealogist: Debbie Hooper of Delaware

The last day of 2012 saw the initial certification of the last Board-certified genealogist of 2012: Debbie Hooper of Delmarva Genealogy Associates, http://www.delmarvagenealogy.com/. Debbie is a full-time professional genealogist specializing in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.

 As a young mother, I was fortunate enough to inherit a needlework sampler from my grandmother. I was certain that the sampler came from someone in my family’s past. Although the name of the stitcher was not known by any of my grandmother’s surviving relatives, I was sure that the sampler was created by a former family member.

That sampler began my genealogical quest. More than twenty years later, that same sampler hangs proudly on my living room wall directly over an antique table that also belonged to my grandmother. I found the family member who stitched that sampler not long after beginning my search. But one thing led to another, and the searching further and further back into my family’s history has not yet ended.[1]

As a professional genealogist, Debbie assists others in finding their family’s past with a full set of services, including research, writing, and publishing. She is committed to quality genealogical work and shows that commitment through her published resources, blog, and society affiliations.

Let’s welcome her as our newest associate!




[1] Debbie Hooper, About page, Delmarva Genealogical Research, 2012; http://www.delmarvagenealogy.com/about/ : viewed 30 Jan 2013.