OnBoard has been BCG’s thrice-yearly newsletter since 1995. Currently edited by Will White, CG, each issue has valuable articles about doing good research, as well as news and a spotlight feature. Many of the individual articles are online and past issues are still available for sale.
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The September 2013 issue’s “President’s Corner” by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL is reproduced below. Enjoy!
“What does it mean to be professional? The question is often asked in blogs, emails lists, and social gatherings. Does it mean someone who takes clients or someone who works at a certain advanced skill level? BCG, in the 50th year of its age, has long held that genealogical standards help us all do professional-level work that instills public confidence. The standards are not only for paid researchers or for credentialed genealogists, but for all genealogists.
Genealogical standards help us avoid “reinventing the wheel” by providing a framework for defining “good” genealogy. Many people can recognize “bad” genealogy when there are obvious errors such as a mother born after her last child. How do we recognize good genealogy when the errors are not as blatant? How do we know that a record for Silas Harnden is not for his same-named cousin, uncle, or nephew? How do we prove his parents when there is no document that gives their names?
Just as standards apply when driving a car (stopping for a red light or keeping to the right side of the road in North America), genealogical standards bring order and help prevent kinship “accidents,” such as attaching the wrong people to our family tree. The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) guides us and lets us know when we have done a good job. With the GPS we can be more confident that a relationship or identity is “proven.” By following standards we can assure our families, clients, patrons, colleagues, publishers, and all audiences, that what we say has a basis in fact and is reliable. Standards give credibility to our research and its publication.
Standards benefit everyone. Not just those who take clients but also those who don’t. Not just those who help patrons but those who are patrons. Not only those working “just for my family” but those who want to give their family the best. Our families deserve to have correct trees and accurate stories told about them. Every one of us has a family who “hooked” us on genealogy. No matter our level of expertise, we want to do good genealogy. We get angry when others publish bad genealogy, especially about our families!
Using standards as guidelines makes it easier to communicate our research results and family stories. Standards improve the reliability of our conclusions and tell future researchers just where the information came from, how we analyzed it, and whether or not we had all the puzzle pieces. When we communicate our findings, others can join in the process by offering their analyses or unique documents and information based on their research experience. This collaborative effort furthers the family history and makes it stronger.
Genealogical standards are for everyone. There is no excuse, such as “but I’m only doing this for my family” or “standards are just for paid professionals,” just as there is no exception that allows “blue cars [or only cars with my family in them] may go through red lights.” Only with the cooperation of all genealogists, no matter the experience level, can genealogy be collaborative and bring together the missing family Bible and the immigrant ancestor’s only photo. Sharing and communication of reliable findings create a firm foundation on which the family story is preserved for future generations to enjoy and expand upon.”