Free BCG Webinar: Manuscript Gems with Shellee A. Morehead

Tuesday, 21 July 2015, 8:00 p.m. EDT, Shellee A. Morehead, Ph.D., CG, will present “Diamonds in the Rough: Finding and Using Manuscript Collections.”

A recording of this webinar is available for a small fee from Vimeo.

Unique, unpublished materials can be valuable resources for solving those pesky genealogical problems and adding insight and flavor to our family histories. Research is not complete without looking through unusual and one-of-a-kind materials that may be available for the time and place our ancestors lived. Diaries, letters, journals, scrapbooks, and other ephemera can be found in a variety of repositories across the United States. A genealogical society, public or private library, historical society, university, or other entity may have that one piece of paper that illuminates our family’s history. But how can we  find it?

Shellee Morehead, Ph.D., CG

This lecture describes the types of collections that may be hiding in plain sight and how to access them online and in person. Materials that may be found in manuscript collections include maps, photographs, genealogists’ research notes, unpublished histories, business ledgers, journals, and vertical files. Shellee gives examples of how these materials provide insight into our families’ lives and neighborhoods and provides suggestions on where to find the “diamonds in the rough.”

Shellee A. Morehead, Ph.D. (evolutionary ecology), CG, researches, writes, and lectures on family history. Recently she has written about using DNA to reveal the Ulster origins of Thomas Hamilton, progenitor of a colonial American family. She has spoken at The Genealogy Event in New York and at various local societies. She also appeared in a 2010 episode of the Danish television adaptation of Who Do You Think You Are?

Attendance is limited for this free webinar. Once registered, please sign in early to avoid disappointment.

To register for Shellee A. Morehead, Ph.D., CG, “Diamonds in the Rough: Finding and Using Manuscript Collections” on 21 July 2015, 8:00 p.m. EDT (7:00 CDT, 6:00 MDT, 5:00 PDT): https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1093371223246598658.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

BCG Webinars will be on vacation in August 2015. We will resume broadcast in September 2015.

CG and Certified Genealogist 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.

Ten-Minute Methodology: Are You Searching or Researching?

Are you up to date? From the old Standards Manual to the new Genealogy Standards the first component of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) is different. Have you noticed? We used to say, “We conduct a reasonably exhaustive search.”[1] That’s still true, but there’s more. We conduct reasonably exhaustive research.[2] Those two added letters bring much more to what others expect of us as genealogists and what we must expect of ourselves.

Research connotes more than search. It covers searching, of course—careful and thorough searching in a wide variety of sources. It also includes planning, critical thinking, and evaluation. And research includes strategies that go considerably beyond identifying relevant records and searching for a name of interest.[3]

Let’s look at how the concept is presented in reference works we use often.

The Encyclopedia Britannica dictionary includes in its definition of research

  • “careful or diligent search” and
  • “studious inquiry or examination, especially critical and exhaustive investigation . . . having for its aim
    • discovery of new facts and their correct interpretation;
    • revision of accepted conclusions . . . in the light of newly discovered facts;
    • practical applications of such new or revised conclusions.”[4]

The glossary in Genealogy Standards describes research as “an investigation designed to discover or interpret facts and thus to advance knowledge.”[5]

As genealogists, we examine sources and collect information, always subjecting both to critical evaluation. Standards 35 and 36 advise us to “appraise [the] likely accuracy, integrity, and completeness” of our sources and information.[6]

We also interpret the information we find. We think about it and decide if it becomes evidence to support our hypotheses. Standards in “Reasoning from Evidence” apply to the mental processes we perform on our collected data to turn it into evidence and to use that evidence to draw conclusions.[7]

Evidence Explained sheds more light on the concept of research:

  • “As history researchers, we do not speculate. We test. We critically observe and carefully record. Then we weigh the accumulated evidence, analyzing the individual parts as well as the whole, without favoring any theory.”[8]
  • “Research is much more than an accumulation of data. It is a process that requires continual comparison of new information against the old.”[9]

This first element of the GPS, even the word research alone, carries in it the sense and the value of the whole standard. The words of the GPS define us as not just lookup artists, no matter how skilled or experienced. We are more. As researchers we collect data, subject it to rigorous evaluation, compare and contrast it with other data and conclusions, and propose new information or conclusions. That’s a big responsibility. The GPS takes us there with the mindset of researchers, not just seekers.


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

[2] Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014), 1.

[3] The author is grateful to Elizabeth Shown Mills for input to this paragraph and encouragement overall.

[4] “Dictionary,” Encyclopædia Britannica (http://www.britannica.com/dictionary/research : accessed 28 June 2015), s.v. “research.”

[5] Genealogy Standards, 76.

[6] Ibid., 21, 22.

[7] Ibid., 23–29.

[8] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2015), 15.

[9] Ibid., 16.

Welcome, Amanda Gonzalez, CG

Amanda Gonzalez’s family is firmly rooted in the Delmarva (Delaware-Maryland-Virginia) area. All her ancestors but one were from colonial Pennsylvania and the Delmarva Peninsula. She first became interested in genealogy when her great-grandmother explained about membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. Amanda followed in her footsteps, joining at age eighteen. A lifelong love of history translated into a degree in history from the University of Delaware. Then followed work for the New Castle [Delaware] Court House Museum and the Hagley Museum, where she offered tours and researched for exhibits. Employment at the New Castle County Library system and the Palomar College Library in San Marcos, California, increased her awareness of the multitude of research resources available and how to access them. Amanda also worked briefly for Genealogists.com.

Amanda Gonzalez, CG

Through bookstore/publisher Colonial Roots’s Facebook page, Amanda met former publisher F. Edward Wright, who engaged her to transcribe court orders. This resulted in two publications, Westmoreland County, Virginia, Court Orders 1726–1729 and Westmoreland County, Virginia, Court Orders 1729–1731.[1] She expects to continue the series with one or two more publications.

Amanda’s personal genealogical research takes her on two different paths. Her own colonial family challenges her with a puzzle of mis-attributed paternity. A Y-DNA tester from her maiden name line, Warren, most closely matches West-surnamed testers. She hopes to narrow down, through documentary research and more DNA testing, when and where the West-Warren link occurred.

On the other hand, the Gonzalez surname strongly suggests Hispanic roots, and in fact Amanda’s husband’s family is Mexican American. Preparing to trace their ancestry means Amanda will be learning more Spanish and studying colonial Spanish handwriting.

Amanda based her portfolio preparation on a thorough knowledge of three books, Genealogy Standards, Evidence Explained, and Professional Genealogy.[2] She read, re-read, and did more re-reading of the standards and the portfolio requirements. Seminars, conferences, and Facebook pages sponsored by local genealogical societies filled in blanks. She took her time, paid attention to every detail, and became more critical in her research process.

Amanda’s father accompanied her on research trips to archives and cemeteries. Before his passing he gifted her the fee for BCG certification, keen to support her interest and career path. With certification under her belt Amanda now feels ready to take clients and looks forward to a thriving genealogical service business. She can be reached at adgulf@cs.com. Welcome, Amanda!


[1] Amanda Gonzalez, Westmoreland County, Virginia, Court Orders 1726–1729 (Millsboro, Del.: Colonial Roots, 2013). Amanda Gonzalez, Westmoreland County, Virginia, Court Orders 1729–1731 (Millsboro, Del.: Colonial Roots, 2013).

[2] Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014). Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 2nd edition (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2009). Elizabeth Shown Mills, ed., Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001).

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.