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Did you know

    • you cannot obtain a death record in Oklahoma during the seventy-five years after a death unless you are the subject of the record, i.e., the deceased;[1]
    • entries are no longer added to the Social Security Death Index until three years after the death occurs;[2]
    • state vital records officers have a Model Act which, if passed in your state, will close access to birth record for 125 years, marriage records for 100 years, and death records for seventy-five years?[3]

Without records we have no research.

We are advising congress and our state legislatures that we need access to public records and that we vote. BCG is a participating member in the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC).[4]  RPAC has crafted the Genealogists’ Declaration of Rights, a petition showing support for loosening recent restrictions on the SSDI and other public records. The goal is 10,000 signatures by the end of 2015, and we’re 90% there.

You can help! Sign the Genealogists’ Declaration of Rights. Ask your societies to urge members to sign. The petition can be signed online. A link is also available on SpringBoard‘s Genealogists’ Declaration page. RPAC Chair Jan Alpert reports that petitions will be available to sign at the November 1st Genealogy Roadshow event at HistoryMiami Museum and November 7th at Ancestry Day in Raleigh, North Carolina.

It takes just a few minutes to read the declaration out loud at your local society meeting or seminar. Pass around a few signature pages (Word doc or PDF), and folks will willingly sign, knowing what the petition is all about. We must all make our voices heard on this critical matter.

We’re 90% there. You care, right? Join in the final push!

[1] 63 Okla.Stat. § 1-323.
[2] 42 U.S.C. §1306c.
[3] §26(c), “Model State Vital Statistics Act and … Regulations,” NAPHSIS (http://www.naphsis.org/Documents/FinalMODELLAWSeptember72011.pdf).
[4] Sponsoring members of RPAC include the National Genealogical Society, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Other participating members, in addition to BCG, are the Association of Professional Genealogists, the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists, the American Society of Genealogists, ProQuest, and Ancestry.com.

Gale Williams Bamman, Certified Genealogist Emeritus

In May 2015 Gale Williams Bamman of Cross Plains, Tennessee, was granted BCG’s honorary designation Certified Genealogist Emeritus, in recognition of more than forty years of noteworthy involvement with BCG. First certified in 1972 as Genealogical Record Searcher (GRS), Gale earned three additional BCG credentials: Certified American Lineage Specialist in 1977, Certified Genealogist in 1982, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer in 1995. She served as BCG trustee and president. At the time of receiving Certified Genealogist Emeritus, she was the longest actively-credentialed associate.

Gale Williams Bamman, Certified Genealogist Emeritus

When Gale began taking clients for research, she was hesitant to call herself a professional genealogist. “I didn’t consider that a title I could just assume. I felt I needed approval from some authority, and the fairly newly-organized Board for Certification of Genealogists (1964) seemed the perfect avenue for that,” she said. “The instructions I received in 1972 were daunting, because of my general lack of education in the field and my being somewhat self-taught. . . . There was no BCG application guide, no seminars or local speakers, and no national conferences. How-to guides were some years down the pike, other than Gilbert Doane’s Searching for Your Ancestors, first published in 1960, and which I’d consumed.”

Her application for GRS was approved. Receiving word of her success, Gale said, “was one of my happiest moments; and it proved to be a momentous move upward in my career. . . .  I could then say I was a professional, but I’d add—as I continue to do today—that I still had much to learn. I should here state what is obvious: that no one today could pass BCG’s certification requirements based on the limited knowledge I had in 1972; and with the myriad forms of instruction and study available now, it would be counter-productive, anyway, to limit oneself to basically one’s own experiences in genealogical research.”

Gale has seen the field grow and change over the years. She is excited about FamilySearch’s initiative to digitize and index their holdings, and is gratified to see the increasing recognition of genealogy’s importance to fields such as history, medicine, and genetics. On the other hand, she is concerned about some of the information found online—trees without proper documentation or proofs, and the transitory nature of some websites and records.

Like the field in general, BCG continues to evolve. “Over the forty-plus years that I have held BCG credentials,” Gale remarked, “BCG’s influence has grown significantly, and the certification process has received extensive deliberation and refining. More-specific requirements and stronger qualifications are increasingly required. None of the eight application and renewal portfolios I submitted were easy to prepare. Each required careful consideration as to which of my client reports or journal articles would best reflect my knowledge and abilities as a researcher. I mailed each and every one with sweaty palms and fluttering heartbeat.”

Associates facing their first renewal often question how best to prepare. Gale advises, “It’s very important that you address all points discussed by your judges as ones needing improvement or correction, and demonstrate in your submissions as to how you’ve improved. During the five years prior to your renewal, continue your studies and attendance at seminars and conferences, or avail yourself of tapes from those. Consider attending a genealogical institute. Conferences and seminars are ideal for networking and for learning about myriad topics; but there’s much to be absorbed, to the point that sometimes attendees can return home with a certain amount of information-overload. Institutes offer structured classes that can help you retain what you learn.”

Gale suggests that those contemplating an initial application for certification “have sufficient research background and education so that you understand the application’s requirements. If you don’t grasp what is required of you, it will be quite difficult to present submissions that will meet with the judges’ approval.”  She suggests genealogists hold off filing preliminary applications until they feel they are ready “or are very close.” Gale continues, “Sample, but actual, BCG portfolios are available at national conferences, where you can study approved submissions. You can have an edge up if you avail yourselves of those. And, by all means, study Genealogy Standards, by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (2014); Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace  (Third Edition, 2015), by Elizabeth Shown Mills; and Mastering Genealogical Proof (2013), by Tom Jones—to name the top guide books—until the principles in those  become second-nature to you.”

Now retired from professional research, Gale has taken on a project as a fundraiser for the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society: an in-depth book on the history of Nashville, Tennessee’s earliest charitable organizations. “I’ve always enjoyed learning more about social and historical aspects— something clients expected me to know about each of their locations. I couldn’t spend their time learning that, but had to apply myself to learning, when and as I could,” she revealed. Gale’s desire to keep learning—after spending more than four decades gaining knowledge and improving her skills—is only one of the things that set her apart.

On behalf of BCG and the genealogical community, thank you, Gale, for sharing your time, your energy, your expertise, and your viewpoints to help the rest of us grow.

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. Certified Genealogist Emeritus is also a service mark of BCG, offered to Board-certified genealogists who have had long and distinguished careers with BCG and who are retired from research for clients and from the profession of genealogy for more than incidental monetary gain. The board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Website and Branding for the Twenty-First Century

Request for Proposals

The Board for Certification of Genealogists® today issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the redesign of its website and branding for the twenty-first century.

Noting that the existing website is dated in both looks and functionality, the Board is seeking a complete makeover.

The purpose of the redesign is to better serve the needs of website users, including

• persons considering Board certification who are looking for information on the certification process and judging system, and the like

• BCG’s associates, trustees, and judges

• the general public interested in genealogical standards and/or in hiring a qualified genealogist to conduct research.

The desired web design must be fully mobile-ready and offer modern content management tools. It may, if appropriate, build on an existing content management system, such as Joomla or WordPress. Graphical elements, including logo and font choices, will be updated at the same time to foster consistent branding across all media (print and web). Other key elements include but are not limited to

• intuitive navigation;

• clean and focused design;

• optimization with SEO best practices;

• social media integration (share buttons, follow buttons, etc.);

• updated associates’ directory with automatic email and phone links.

Web designers and other interested parties may download a copy of the RFP from Google Drive or DropBox. Questions about the RFP may be directed to bcg.rfp@gmail.com.

The deadline for submissions is December 1, 2015. The desired launch date of the redesigned site is as soon as possible but no later than June 1, 2016.

Darcie Hind Posz, CG, wins ASG Scholar Award

BCG associate Darcie Hind Posz is “over the moon” on winning the 2015 American Society of Genealogists (ASG) Scholar Award. She has reason to be. The ASG is a prestigious group of leading published genealogical scholars. Fellows, elected for life, number only fifty and are identified by the post-nominal FASG. The ASG “serves the discipline of genealogy by embodying and promoting the highest standards of genealogical scholarship.”[1] To this end it publishes a leading journal, The Genealogist, and confers the annual Donald Lines Jacobus Award and the ASG Scholar Award.

Darcie Hind Posz, CG

As an applicant for the ASG Scholar Award Darcie submitted an unpublished manuscript that was evaluated by three Fellows. She describes her winning entry as “a four generation study of two families from Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan, their migration to the Big Island of Hawaii, and then the return of a few of them to Japan. It discusses the class system, Japanese law, the 1873 mandatory conscription act, plantation contacts with Hawaii, records-creation laws (in the Empire of Japan, the Kingdom of Hawaii, and the United States), dual citizenship of Japanese immigrants, and WWII Japanese internment.”

To encourage advanced education in genealogy, the ASG grants a prize of $1000. It is to be used for study at one of the major U.S. academic genealogical programs: the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR); the National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR) in Washington, D.C.; the Certificate Program in Genealogical Research at Boston University; the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG); or the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP).

Darcie plans to attend the advanced land-analysis and platting course at IGHR. “Regardless of geography, my ancestors kept living in state-land states,” she said, “and I need to learn how to study and plat with patience and understanding. This also moves me closer to the project I mentioned when I first became certified, which is to do the land and community study on Waipio Valley [the Big Island of Hawaii] on foot.”

Darcie has submitted her award-winning piece for publication in a major journal. We’ll be watching for it! Many congratulations, Darcie.

[1] American Society of Genealogists (http://fasg.org/ : accessed 23 October 2015).


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.

Free BCG Webinar: Applying Standards to International Research

Tuesday, 20 October 2015, at 8:00 p.m. EDT, Melanie D. Holtz, CG, will present “Applying the Standards to International Research.”

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

The idea of “reasonably exhaustive research” might be one of the most mysterious elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). What exactly does it mean? How do you know when you’ve achieved it? How does the GPS apply to international research?

Melanie D. Holtz, CG

The lecture will focus on showing how the standards can apply to international research through the evaluation of several Italian case studies and/or research problems. Some research problems naturally require more work to meet the definition of reasonably exhaustive research, while others may be a lot simpler.

Understanding reasonably exhaustive research is important in preparing a kinship determination project. Examples abound for those who focus on U.S. research. However, for those who don’t, it is often helpful to see examples from other geographic locations. In this way, they can more easily learn the proper application of these concepts to their own type of genealogical research.

Melanie D. Holtz, CG, is a Board-certified genealogist, writer, and lecturer. She operates an international research firm that specializes in Italian genealogical research, Italian-American dual citizenship, and Italian-American probate cases. Melanie maintains offices in both Italy and the U.S.

To register for Melanie D. Holtz, CG, “Applying the Standards to International Research” on 20 October 2015, 8:00 p.m. EDT (7:00 CDT, 6:00 MDT, 5:00 PDT): https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7525305339610306562.

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

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

Please visit SpringBoard‘s webinar page to learn about BCG’s previous webinars.

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.

Recordings of BCG-Family History Library Lectures

If you were unable to attend the lectures sponsored by BCG and the Family History Library yesterday, you may access recordings of all for a small fee each. For many of us that’s a lot cheaper than a trip to Salt Lake City!

NOTE: Jamb Tapes has gone out of business, so the recordings referred to below are no longer available through them. They may be archived in genealogical libraries.–October 2016

Michael Hait, CG, “What Is ‘Reasonably Exhaustive Research’?” Jamb Tapes May 2015, F351

Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG, “The Art of Negative Space Research: Women,” Jamb Tapes May 2015, S451

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, “After the Courthouse Burns: Rekindling Family History Through DNA,” 2014 International Genetic Genealogy Conference

Michael Ramage, JD, CG, “Forensic Genealogy Meets the Genealogical Proof Standard,” Jamb Tapes May 2015, F342

Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA, “Margaret’s Baby’s Father and the Lessons He Taught Me (about Illegitimacy, Footloose Males, Burned Counties & More),” an earlier version at Jamb Tapes 2008, F-144

Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA, “When Does Newfound Evidence Overturn a Proved Conclusion?” Jamb Tapes May 2015, F321


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.

Respecting the Privacy of DNA Test Takers

We, all of us who take a genetic test or sponsor or manage a test for someone else, have a responsibility to do what we can to protect our privacy and that of our testers. We must familiarize ourselves with what genetic genealogy tests entail, the uses to which test results may be put, and the testing companies’ privacy safeguards. We must obtain permission from our testers for the testing and for the use of test results. We must respect testers’ restrictions on usage and publication of their results. Several respected groups have set standards that guide us.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) Code of Ethics addresses the issue.

  • We agree to keep confidential personal or genealogical information unless we have written consent.[1] DNA test results are treated like all genealogical information.
  • We agree not to publish or circulate research or reports to which others have a proprietary right unless we have written consent.[2] This includes reports from DNA testing companies. The reports belong to the testers.

BCG has published genealogy standards that also apply to DNA test results:

  • Standard 22: “Genealogists ethically, lawfully, prudently, and respectfully use others’ information and products, whether the material is digitized, oral, published, unpublished, written, or in any other form.”[3]
  • Standard 34: “Genealogists may use agents . . . to find, obtain, and provide information potentially relevant to a research question.” Genetic testing companies fall under the category of agents.[4]

The National Genealogical Society (NGS) “Standards for Sharing Information with Others” expand on these guidelines.[5]

In January 2015 the Genetic Genealogy Standards Committee of scientists and genealogists published guidelines based on BCG and NGS standards that specifically address DNA testing for genealogy. Nine standards, excerpted here, directly or indirectly address the issue of privacy.[6] We are both “the tester” and the “genealogists.”

  • “Testing With Consent. Genealogists only obtain DNA for testing after receiving consent, written or oral, from the tester. . . .
  • “Raw Data. Genealogists believe that testers have an inalienable right to their own DNA test results and raw data, even if someone other than the tester purchased the DNA test.
  • “DNA Storage. Genealogists are aware of the DNA storage options offered by testing companies, and consider the implications of storing versus not storing DNA samples for future testing. . . .
  • “Terms of Service. Genealogists review and understand the terms and conditions to which the tester consents when purchasing a DNA test. [See the links to testing companies’ terms of service below.]
  • “Privacy. Genealogists only test with companies that respect and protect the privacy of testers. However, genealogists understand that complete anonymity of DNA tests results can never be guaranteed.
  • “Access by Third Parties. Genealogists understand that once DNA test results are made publicly available, they can be freely accessed, copied, and analyzed by a third party without permission. . . .
  • “Sharing Results. Genealogists respect all limitations on reviewing and sharing DNA test results imposed at the request of the tester. . . .
  • “Scholarship. When lecturing or writing about genetic genealogy, genealogists respect the privacy of others. Genealogists privatize or redact the names of living genetic matches from presentations unless the genetic matches have given prior permission or made their results publicly available. Genealogists share DNA test results of living individuals in a work of scholarship only if the tester has given permission or has previously made those results publicly available. . . .
  • “Health Information. Genealogists understand that DNA tests may have medical implications.”

There’s no doubt that following these standards requires extra effort on our part. We need to inform ourselves. We need to communicate with our testers and educate them. We need to explain their rights and the potential limitations on their privacy. We need to solicit their consent before the tests are taken and before we share any results.

In scrupulously applying standards of privacy to all the information we gather, we become more trustworthy genealogists.

Testing Companies’ Terms of Service

23andMe: “Terms of Service.” 23andMe. https://www.23andme.com/about/tos/.

AncestryDNA: “AncestryDNA Terms and Conditions.” AncestryDNA. https://dna.ancestry.com/legal/termsAndConditions. Revised 30 September 2014.

FamilyTreeDNA: “Legal Issues—Privacy Policy, Terms of Service and Refunds.” FamilyTreeDNA. https://www.familytreedna.com/privacy-policy.aspx.

Further reading about Genetic Genealogy Standards

Bettinger, Blaine T., PhD, JD. “Genetic Genealogy Standards.” Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly (June 2015): 105–7.

Russell, Judy, JD, CG, CGL. “The Ethics of DNA Testing.” OnBoard: Newsletter of the Board for Certification of Genealogists 21 (January 2015): 1–2, 7.

Wayne, Debbie Parker, CG, CGL. “Genetic Genealogy Standards.” NGS Magazine 41 (April–June 2015): 58–61.

The author gratefully acknowledges input from Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD; Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG; Stefani Evans, CG; Alison Hare, CG; Judy G. Russell, CG, CGL; and Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL.


[1] Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014), 46.

[2] Ibid., 47–48.

[3] Ibid., 16.

[4] Ibid., 21.

[5] “Standards for Sharing Information with Others,” National Genealogical Society (http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/standards_for_sharing_information : accessed 7 October 2015).

[6] The Genetic Genealogy Standards Committee, Genetic Genealogy Standards  (http://www.geneticgenealogystandards.com/ : accessed 7 October 2015), Standards 2–10.

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, Judith A. Herbert, CG

Judith A. Herbert joins BCG associates from mid-coast Maine. Her client work focuses on New York and New England, her areas of greatest expertise. Her roots run deep in the region, both from colonial ancestors and later immigrants. It wasn’t until her grandparents’ generation that folks left New York, and they only went as far as New Jersey.

Judith A. Herbert, CG

For much of her early genealogy life Judith focused on her own family, the New Yorkers, New Englanders, and some Irish, English, and German progenitors. She worked for years as a volunteer at a Family History Center, where she was able to network with and learn from professional and non-professional genealogists alike. She states that attendance at genealogy seminars has provided some of her best learning experiences, emphasizing that no matter how many times she attends lectures on a particular topic she always comes away with new knowledge.

Judith tells how letter writing helped her find a Leinster ancestor who left Ireland in the late 1860s. Having identified the area where she suspected her ancestor lived, she sent out about twenty-five handwritten letters, hoping for a response. After a couple months, she received a letter, announcing, “I’m the one you didn’t write to.” Word of mouth put her in touch with cousins who, almost one hundred fifty years later, still occupy the ancestral land.

When asked about her genealogical heroes, Judith names no names but gives a shout out to those in the past who pursued research with far fewer tools than we have at our disposal today. She states, “I remember the days when there was no ‘online’ anything having to do with family history. Those of us who began when microfilm and microfiche were the bleeding edge of genealogy technology even had a leg up on the early researchers. I am awed by those who did what they did using only handwritten letters and personal visits to repositories.”

Other heroes are more modern. She honors “those who have codified the way in which professional genealogical research and writing is executed. Standards and best-practice methodology are necessary in every discipline. The alternative is for everyone to do their own thing, making it challenging for peers and future users of our work to validate it and confidently pick up where we left off, or, disprove it and make necessary corrections.”

Preparing for certification immersed her totally in the standards and best-practice methodology. She was ready for this with a strong background as an information technology senior project manager/analyst. “As such, one has to live and breathe planning, process methodology, analysis, risk mitigation, quality assurance, and meeting client expectations. I managed high-risk and high profile projects in which the stakes were high, in the health care and government sectors. Properly executed genealogical research and writing require the same skill set.”

While researching online in pajamas has its fans, Judith loves on-site research and the sense of connection with the past and ancestors that comes from finding original signatures or discovering and touching old documents. She also claims to be one who shouts “Bingo!” in a repository when she feels she’s proven a relationship.

Although Judith believes that, “There are no brick walls. There are only delayed answers,” the father of her ancestor Harvey B. has eluded discovery for a very long time. When she was eight she first learned about Harvey from her great-grandmother. Since then she has “given up” on looking for his father about five times. Always persistent, however, Judith is planning another research trip to continue the search before the year is out.

When asked how Judith sees herself in five years, she responds, tongue in cheek, “thin, wealthy, popular, and circling the globe whenever the mood takes me.” She adds, more seriously, that she hopes “that I am even better at what I do, that I’ve continued to make my clients happy, and that I have served the field of genealogy well.” A worthy goal!

Judith may be reached at jherbert@genealogyprof.com and http://genealogyprof.com/.

Welcome, Judith! We’re there to encourage you as you reach for your goal.