Patricia O’Brien Shawker, CG (1956-2015)

Patricia E. Shawker, CG, FMGS
(Photo printed with permission)

The genealogical community is mourning the loss of Patricia O’Brien Shawker, CG, FMGS, who died on January 16, 2015, after a battle with cancer. She is being remembered for her expertise, generosity, ready smile, and remarkably broad career. Her specialties were Maryland research, federal records, lineage applications, and methodology. She was widely known as the director of the National Institute of Genealogical Research for the past seven years, guiding hundreds of attendees during their first research endeavors at the National Archives (NARA) in Washington, D.C.

Patty was actively involved at every societal level. Her undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Maryland made her a valued organizational volunteer. Certified by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) since 1999, she was a trustee of the BCG Education Fund and its treasurer. She was the treasurer of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) from 2003 until 2006. She served on the board of the Maryland Genealogical Society for several years, including one term as treasurer. She became the registrar of the Prince George’s County Genealogical Society in 1998, a position she still held at her death. She had been a volunteer staff aid at NARA since 2005 and served as a mentor for the ProGen 6 study group.

Patty lectured nationally, including at NGS conferences, and continued to present locally. She wrote Research in Maryland of the NGS Research in the States series, authored several guides published in the Maryland Genealogical Society Journal, and was a longtime contributing editor to The PGCGS Bulletin.  She received the Jane Roush McCafferty, CG, Award of Excellence from the Prince George’s County Genealogical Society in 2009. In May of 2014, she was named a Fellow of the Maryland Genealogical Society for her outstanding scholarship, contributions to MGS, and the genealogical community.

She is survived by her husband, Dr. Thomas Shawker (with whom she shared a passion for genealogy), her mother, four siblings, and six nieces and nephews. Expressions of sympathy can be sent to 7014 Megan Lane, Greenbelt, MD 20770-3014.

by Malissa Ruffner, JD, MLS, CG


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.

Welcome, Patricia Lee Hobbs, CG

Patricia Lee “Patti” Hobbs

Patti Hobbs, native Californian, inadvertently made a reverse, west-to-east migration by settling in the Missouri Ozarks in 1990. After the move she discovered that her grandfather was born ninety miles west of her current home, and his mother was from territorial Missouri stock, bringing her back to her own roots.

Patti is the genealogy face of the Springfield-Greene County (Missouri) Library District. Since 2009 she has been a genealogist reference associate for the Local History and Genealogy Department. She loves this position that suits her inclination to teach and her passion for genealogy.

Her twenty-five-year career homeschooling her six children prepared Patti well for genealogical research and readying her BCG portfolio. She became more logical, especially in her presentations. Too, she had to teach herself a lot, and at a high level, to be prepared to teach her students. She knows that “you can learn almost anything if you have the experts giving the standards, and you have the tools for learning.” For Patti those tools included at least ten sessions at the Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research, the National Institute on Genealogical Research, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

From preparing her children’s lessons, this biology major developed a love of history and the stories of people in historical context. “It has been thrilling to me to see how the everyday people fit into the grand historical themes. [They] are the fabric of our society, and we should be proud of that.”

Patti found great satisfaction in preparing her kinship-determination project. She had two goals: to start in the 1700s and to include her family watchmakers. The story begins with a Massachusetts woman whose father was a Revolutionary War patriot and continues through Patti’s great-grandfather, whose son, taught by his father, was well known for his watch craft during World War II. Patti wants to continue this type of writing where “little details come together that [may not be] so obvious. Writing biographical material with historical context creates a synergy that can otherwise be lost.”

Patti continues, “I love discovering ‘lost’ family, especially those who had no children and therefore have no descendants looking for them. I want to be their advocate and tell their tales. But even with ancestors who aren’t lost, there are lost stories in their lives. Teasing those things out of the details of the records is immensely rewarding.”

This consummate teacher describes two types of library patrons: those who want simply to compile a family tree and those who are ready and willing to research in records. Addressing their frustration with not finding the one record that “proves” an identity, Patti explains, “If a jillion people haven’t found it yet, it’s because no one has muddled around in the records.” She’s just the person to help do that because she has a great attitude about brick walls. “I have difficulty calling anything a brick wall. I usually figure that I just haven’t looked hard enough yet.”

Looking hard can bring up surprises. While researching her great-grandfather watchmaker, Patti found online and was able to purchase his own watch with his name and the town he was working in engraved on it.

Looking to the future, Patti expects to spend the next five years continuing teaching through her local genealogical society and writing articles for publication. She can be reached at research@quotidiangenealogy.com, or she may be spotted at the next genealogical institute. All the best, Patti, and welcome!


CG or Certified Genealogist is a service mark 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.

Ten-Minute Methodology: Proof Summaries and Arguments 1


This post is part of an occasional series intended to educate and challenge BCG associates, aspirants, and the genealogical community at large.

Our Proof Goals

We genealogists aim for accuracy in representing identities and relationships. We want to show why we believe people were who we say they were. We want to show that they really belonged with the folks we attach them to.

We follow the Genealogical Proof Standard to ensure that our research is thorough, our sources well documented, our reasoning levelheaded, and our conflicts resolved. Then we write up our conclusions. Standards 51 through 54 in Genealogy Standards describe the qualities we aim for in writing our proofs for the public, for ourselves, and for posterity.

Options for Writing Proofs

Standard 53 offers a division of proofs into statements, summaries, and arguments.

  • Proof statements are the simplest and reflect direct evidence. We’ve looked at these in the first and second “Ten-Minute Methodology” posts.
  • Proof summaries are a little more complex and also rest on direct evidence. They are “relatively straightforward” and can be lists or narratives. Always, they present documentation. It there are conflicts, they are minor and easily explained.
  • Proof arguments are still more complex and address cases where evidence conflicts or where direct evidence is absent. These are the challenging cases that require more explanation and often include tables, charts, or maps. [1]

Both proof summaries and arguments can stand alone as work samples, or they may appear as parts of larger works. They can be very similar, only the complexity of the case distinguishing the two.

Understanding the Terminology of Proofs

What can be confusing is when a proof is a summary and when it’s an argument, and what to do about proofs that seem to be hybrids that aren’t defined in Genealogy Standards. Over time terminology has been changing. An example of a proof summary in an older publication may look more like the current definition of a proof argument.

A Continuum

We don’t have to get hung up over trying to create artificial boundaries between summaries and arguments. There’s an easier way to look at genealogical proofs than trying to determine whether we use a proof summary or a proof argument and to figure out which one to use when. It’s a continuum and looks something like this: [2]

There’s a big overlap between proof summaries and proof arguments in terms of their complexity and length: the grey area. Occasionally our proofs will naturally fall into the grey area, and that’s ok.

Naming types of proof isn’t our goal. Designing and writing them is. As we work with information we turn to research standards related to reasoning, for example Standards 47 (evidence correlation), 48 (resolving evidence inconsistencies), and 50 (assembling conclusions).[3] For choosing a format when writing, we rely on “Genealogical Proofs.”

Standard 53 gives us a general idea, from the type and complexity of evidence we have amassed, what type of proof we will write. Standard 54 reminds us of the importance of organizing evidence and sequencing it logically so it convinces readers of the accuracy of our conclusions.[4]

Examples

It’s fine and well to describe what proof should look like, but it’s important to see what it does look like. There’s an example of proofs that are part of a larger work right on the BCG website. This ascending genealogy provides proofs broken out into “Parentage” sections for three women.

  • Elizabeth’s parentage, pages 1–2, rests on direct evidence. This is a proof in narrative format.
  • Another, more complex, narrative on pages 12–13 summarizes proof of Mary’s parentage with a focus on her mother. It requires five paragraphs to describe and explain the evidence for Mary’s mother’s identity as well as the parental relationship.
  • Proof of Barbara’s parentage on page 19 is presented in a numbered list. It derives from “Four pieces of direct evidence.” [5]

We see how the type and length of proof used depend on the type, quality, and reliability of the evidence available. More narrative is required to explain reasoning in cases where we have only second-hand information or when conflicts and/or indirect evidence is added into the mix. What we call our proofs is of minimal significance. What is really important is that we get them written!

Next time we’ll look at more published examples of proofs.

Many thanks to Alison Hare, Laura DeGrazia, Stefani Evans, and Tom Jones for helpful input.


[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), Genealogy Standards (Nashville: Ancestry.com, 2014), 31.
[2] Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2013), 87.
[3] BCG, Genealogy Standards, 27–29.
[4] BCG, Genealogy Standards, 32–34.
[5] Connie Lenzen, “The Maternal Line of Elizabeth (Niesz) Titus,” 2007, Board for Certification of Genealogists (http://www.bcgcertification.org/skillbuilders/titusnarrlineage.pdf : accessed 11 January 2015).

Last Chance to Comment on Rules Regarding Social Security Death Index Access

Board-certified genealogists working in forensic genealogy should read the new regulations for access to the most recent three years of deaths in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI), also called the Public Death Master File (Public DMF). The regulations were published in the Federal Register on 30 December 2014, and are available here.

A comment period was opened at that time. All comments are due by 29 January 2015. Your comments must be submitted through the “Submit a Formal Comment” button on the Federal Register website associated with this Final Rule.

The closure of recent deaths in the SSDI was enacted into law on 26 December 2013 and officially began on 28 March 2014. After that time, genealogists needing to locate the recently dead had to qualify for a certification program instituted and developed by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), the entity responsible for selling the Public DMF produced by Social Security Administration. The history of this regulatory process was covered in an earlier Springboard post.

NTIS has requested specific feedback on several areas. Two are important to genealogists: (1) security and (2) impact on small businesses.

The original law provided more than one type of information security solution. Rather than request a technical amendment to the law, NTIS has picked a solution. It asks for feedback on that solution, which is to use third party companies to perform the security evaluation. All costs, of course, are to be borne by the NTIS-Certified Persons with access to the Limited Access DMF.

The impact on small businesses must be measured by section 603 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. The majority of Board-certified genealogists certainly come within this group. If your small business has been hit by the 2013 law and regulations restricting the SSDI/Public DMF, your comments are specifically requested. The Federal Register states:

NTIS is unable at this time to estimate the number of impacted entities that may be considered small entities. Because NTIS lacks information about the types and sizes of entities [small businesses] impacted by this rule, it cannot determine impacts. Accordingly NTIS requests that the public provide it with information about the types of entities impacted by this rule, whether those are small or large entities under [the Small Business Administration]’s size standards, and the level of or a description of the type of impacts that this rule will have on those entities.[1]

Would you like to be NTIS-certified but are uncertain about the user query system on their DMF database? Would you prefer to pay by the query rather than a flat fee of nearly $1000 each year? Are you worried about the third party security program and how much it might cost? Would you rather make your queries through a database aggregator like Ancestry.com? Has this regulation made it more difficult to find next of kin? All of these are important impacts on your small business. NTIS needs to hear about them in order to fulfill its responsibilities under section 203 of the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

by Barbara Mathews, CG, FASG

As BCG’s official representative to the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), Barbara advocates for the concerns of Board-certified genealogists, and participates in RPAC’s monthly conference call. RPAC is a joint committee organized by the National Genealogical Society, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Each of these three societies has a vote on the committee. Non-voting representatives are sent by several national groups: American Society of Genealogists, Association of Professional Genealogists, BCG, and ICAPGen. In addition, non-voting representatives attend from two corporations, Ancestry, and ProQuest. Communication is fostered by an email list, monthly telephone conference calls, and the RPAC blog.

Photograph used under Creative Commons license. For more information, see https://www.flickr.com/photos/arts/34758108/in/gallery-halliebateman-72157629088082905/.


[1] Federal Register, vol. 79, no. 249, p. 78320, 30 December 2014.

 

BCG Certification Discussions for APG Members

Members of the Association of Professional Genealogists have two opportunities in the coming year to discuss BCG certification with BCG past president Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, one in March and one in September. Elissa describes them as follows, “With only 25 APG members allowed to be in attendance on a first-come, first-logged-in basis, we will have an intimate chat about certification, how to prepare, and what it takes to be successful.” It is a great opportunity to learn about certification and ask questions of someone who has been Board-certified for 20 years.

Upcoming APG Discussion Groups

We are pleased to announce four [two relating to BCG] upcoming APG Discussion Groups! These meetings are open to all APG Members with no pre-registration and are a unique way to learn from and network with your colleagues. The access instructions for each Discussion Group can be found in the “members only” section of the website and include biographies for each leader.

18 March 2015, 9:00 p.m.: “Certification: Process, Requirements, and Readiness” by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL

16 September 2015, 9:00 p.m.: “Certification: Process, Requirements, and Readiness” by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL

The meeting room will open fifteen minutes prior to the scheduled starting time and holds a maximum of twenty-five attendees. Access will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

The discussion groups are meant to be discussions on a particular topic, not lectures or webinars. It is through the give and take of these discussions that the best learning experiences will occur. Please come prepared with your questions.

If you have any questions, please contact Melanie D. Holtz, CG, at Melanie@holtzresearch.com.

We hope you enjoy the meetings!

APG Professional Development Committee


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.