It Take a Village to Raise Awareness

This is the President’s Column from the May 2014 issue of OnBoard written by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL.

Pennsylvania researchers received a holiday gift on April 18th when Ancestry.com published a segment of the Pennsylvania death certificates online. As soon as the Pennsylvania legislature opened access to death records over fifty years old and birth records over one hundred five years old, Ancestry negotiated to digitize, index, and make them available.

However, neither the release nor the digitization happened overnight. Previously Pennsylvania had been one of the most restrictive states for access to vital records. The efforts of a grass-roots organization, People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records Access (www.pahr-access.org) headed by Tim Gruber, made public access possible. The long and winding road began in 2007 and through perseverance will end in March 2015 when the last installment of vital records will be available online. Every researcher who has found a lost family member or put a name to an infant who died too soon owes a debt of gratitude to Tim Gruber and PaHR-Access. They exemplify something I have been saying for twenty years: Whenever you say “why don’t they have XYZ?” realize that “they” are “us” who haven’t done it yet!

Genealogy has always been a grass-roots movement of people helping others. Without the record compilers, the society officers, and the newsletter editors, our research would be much poorer. Now, for good or for bad, the Internet makes everyone an expert and gives instant access to old records. Ask “Mr. Google” and he gives you information beyond your interest in the subject down to the most esoteric point. “Ms. YouTube” shows you instructional videos. “Mrs. Facebook” connects you with cousins by the dozens. But the heart of genealogy is still people helping people. Despite technology, we still crave the human touch and the feeling that we belong and can contribute to a greater cause, that our life has meaning..

As one record group opened, access to the latest three years of data for another is being closed. The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) was originally created to expose fraudulent use of social security numbers. The database was intended for banks and credit card companies to check if new applications were using deceased individuals’ SSNs. Genealogists to class reunion organizers have benefited from the only U.S. nationwide death index. Recently the IRS paid out over $70 million for 19,102 claims against deceased individuals’ SSNs, accounting for only 1.9% of fraudulent returns for the tax year 2011. The simple answer is to adhere to the checking system already in place, but instead the most recent three years of SSDI data will be closed to the public. For those who demonstrate a need for access, a “certification” process requiring over $1,000 in fees is available. (This should not be confused with genealogical certification offered by the BCG.)

Community maturity occurs when we realize that by helping a cause which doesn’t directly affect us, others are doing the same in an area that does. How does access to the SSDI affect you? Do you wonder “why don’t they have a digitized national index?” Remember “they” are “us”! How can “us” help? If you want to learn more about the ongoing records access situation and how to help, you can find information posted monthly on the BCG SpringBoard blog (http://blog. bcgcertification.org/) or on the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) blog (http://www.fgs.org/rpac).

Pennsylvania’s PaHR-Access proved it takes perseverance and the involvement of many interested parties. It takes a village to raise awareness. Are you part of the village?

BCG Congrats Newly Elected Trustees

It is with great pleasure that BCG announces the results of the annual election of BCG trustees. Every year five trustees are elected for a three-year term making fifteen board members including five on the Executive Committee.

The recently-elected trustees are Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG (incumbent), Stefani Evans, CG (incumbent), Harold Henderson, CG, David McDonald, CG (incumbent), and Nancy A. Peters, CG. Their biographies appear below. They join current trustees:

  • Laurel T. Baty, CG, 2013-2016
  • Warren Bittner, CG, 2013-2016
  • Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG, 2011-2014
  • Michael Grant Hait, Jr., CG, 2013-2016
  • Alison Hare, CG, 2012-2015
  • Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, 2011-2014
  • Debra S. Mieszala, CG, 2012-2015
  • Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, 2012-2015
  • Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, 2012-2015
  • Michael S. Ramage, JD, CG, 2013-2016
  • Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, 2012-2015
  • Dawne Slater-Putt, CG, 2013-2016

Many thanks to the Nominating Committee and the Teller Committee for your work!

Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL
President, BCG

Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG. Illinois. Incumbent. Certified in 1999 and a trustee since 2010, Jeanne is treasurer of BCG. She is a full-time professional researcher specializing in Chicago and Cook Coun­ty research, problem solving, and multi-generational family histories. She conducts research projects for government agencies, attorneys, authors, newspapers, heir-search firms, professional genealogists, and fam­ily researchers. Jeanne is an author and frequent lecturer in national, state, and local venues. In her previous career, she was a banker and a financial planning analyst.

Stefani Evans, CG. Nevada. Incumbent. Certified in 2005, Stefani is completing her first term as a BCG trustee. She is member at large on the Executive Committee, BCG advertising manager, and a member of the Outreach and ACTION committees. Since 2009 she has been a BCG Education Fund trustee. As a director of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) she served as conference chair for the 2013 NGS Family History Conference. She was a mentor for ProGen 2 and has published articles in the NGS Quarterly, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Record, and the Utah Genealogical Association’s Crossroads. She is a PhD student in U.S. history.

Harold Henderson, CG. Indiana. Harold has been a professional writer since 1979 and a professional genealo­gist since 2009. He has been certified since June 2012. Harold is a director of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) and chairs the APG Quarterly Advisory Committee. He moderates the Transitional Genealogists Forum. His research, writing, and speaking focus on methodology and on the Midwest and its northeastern feeder states.

David McDonald, DMin, CG. Wisconsin. Incumbent. David is immediate past president of BCG. First certified in 2004, he has served as BCG Outreach Committee chair and now serves on the Executive Committee. He is a former director of NGS and often lectures at regional and national conferences, par­ticu­larly on religion and its impacts on genealogical research. His research focuses on the Midwest and Great Plains, as well as Germanic Europe and the United Kingdom.

Nancy A. Peters, CG. South Carolina. Nancy is a full-time genealogist specializing in South Carolina and English research for clients. Certified since 2011, she serves as an editorial assistant for OnBoard. She volunteers in the document conservation lab at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History and as a consultant in her local Family History Center. In her previous career, Nancy managed her own consulting practice, designing technical training courses and providing instruction internationally for corporate clients in the software industry. Nancy holds advanced degrees in Computer Science from the University of Arizona and in International Business from the London School of Economics in London, England.

Free BCG Certification Webinar

BCG is happy to announce that president Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, will be giving a free webinar on Wednesday, July 9, 2014, at 2 PM Eastern (1 PM Central, Noon Mountain, 11 AM Pacific, 6 PM GMT) as a part of the Legacy Family Tree Webinar series.

“Thinking about Becoming a Board-certified Genealogist?” will present the “why” and “how” of the certification application process. Registration and the free handout for this webinar are now available at http://www.familytreewebinars.com/webinar_details.php?webinar_id=215. Door prizes will be awarded during the session including Genealogy Standards (50th anniversary edition) courtesy of BCG and $100 off a new registration for GRIP 2014, GRIP on the Road (Michigan), or either GRIP 2015 week.

For those who cannot make the live webinar (where you may interact with the speaker by asking questions) you will be able to view the recorded session afterward.

Victor S. Dunn, CG, wins 2014 Mosher Award Competition

 

Vic Dunn, CG

Victor S. Dunn was announced as the 2014 Mosher Award winner at the luncheon of the Board for Certification of Genealogists in Richmond at the National Genealogical Society Conference.

Vic Dunn’s successful entry in the Mosher Award for Colonial Virginia Research competition is a proposal for indexing obscure or difficult unpublished Virginia resources. Dunn is creating a database entitled the Virginia Business Records and Manuscript Index, which will be hosted by the Virginia Genealogical Society at their website (http://www.vgs.org/). The projected launch date is May 2014.

Indexed business records will include merchant journals, ledgers, daybooks, and memorandums, along with account books and documents kept by individual farmers, plantation managers, physicians, and attorneys. A number of these records survive for the colonial period as early as the first half of the eighteenth century, including locations in a number of eastern Virginia burned counties. When possible, the database will include links to online resources.

Vic is a board-certified genealogist and a full-time professional researcher. He coordinates the Virginia track at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University in Alabama and publishes frequently in major genealogical publications, including the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, NGS Magazine, BCG OnBoard, Magazine of Virginia Genealogy, and Virginia Genealogical Society Newsletter. Vic currently serves as a governor of the Virginia Genealogical Society. He is a past trustee of the Board for Certification of Genealogists and past treasurer and board member of the National Genealogical Society.

The annual $500 Mosher Award competition is administered by the BCG Education Fund. For more information about Education Fund programs, visit (http://www.bcgcertification.org/educationfund/index.html).

 

BCG Activities at NGS in Richmond, Virginia, Part II

The festivities and activities continue at the National Genealogical Society conference in the States in Richmond, Virginia. The BCG Skillbuilding sessions that were audio-taped on Thursday, May 8, were: “When the Trail Turns Cold: New Strategies for Old Problems” presented by Diane Florence Gravel, CG; “BCG Certification Seminar: Measuring Yourself Against Standards” (2 sequential sessions) presented by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, and Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL; “Using Evidence Creatively: Spotting Clues in Run-of-the-Mill Records” by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL; “Finding Thomas’s Father” by Pam Stone Eagleson, CG.

The BCG Skillbuilding track has five session on Friday, May 9: “Indexes and Databases” presented by Dawne Slater-Putt, MLS, CG; “Disputes and Unhappy Differences: Surprises in Land Records” by Sharon Tate Moody, CG; “‘Of Sound Mind and Healthy Body’: Using Probate Records in Your Research” by Michael Hait, CG; “The Seanachie: Linking Life and the Law Through Storytelling” by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL; “Black Sheep Ancestors and Their Records” by C. Ann Staley, CG, CGL.

Tom Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, will conduct a book signing at the NGS booth Friday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tom is the author of Mastering Genealogical Proof published 2013 by NGS.

A very special celebration of fifty years of credentialing will be celebrated Friday evening at the NGS banquet. Both BCG’s CG and ICAPGen’s AG credentials are 50 years old, having been instituted in 1964. The speaker, very appropriately credentialed by both organizations, is David Rencher, AG, CG on “Celebrating Genealogy Credentials–The Accreditation and Certification Programs Turn 50!” This is the culmination of a year-long semi-centennial celebration which also included a banquet presentation in October in Salt Lake City presented by Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL and available on the BCG website at http://www.bcgcertification.org/aboutbcg/audio/RussellJ.html.

Saturday’s Skillbuilding lectures finish the week with: “Using and Evaluating Family Lore: She Married  Distant Cousin in Virginia” presented by Jay Fonkert, CG; “Rich, Poor, and All the Rest: Why Class Matters to Genealogists” by Stefani Evans, CG; “Organizing Your Research without Losing Your Mind” by Julie Miller, CG; “Working with Documents: The Importance of Context in Record Analysis” by Barbara Vines Little, CG; “Murder and Mayhem on the River: The Life of the Harpes” by Gail Jackson Miller, CG.

Many of these lectures were audio-taped and will be placed for sale on www.JAMB-INC.com where other conference lectures may be purchased.

BCG Activities at NGS in Richmond, Virginia

On Wednesday, May 7, 2014, the BCG Skillbuilding Track at the National Genealogical Society Conference in the States will have three presentations. At 11 a.m. is “Problems and Pitfalls of a Reasonably Shallow Search” presented by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL. At 2:30 p.m. is “New Standards or Old: Guidelines for Effective Research and Family Histories” by Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL. At 4 p.m. is “Mining the Destination Data” by David E. Rencher, AG, CG.

The BCG booth in the exhibit hall (next to Maia’s Books) has portfolios for the curious to look through as well as a notebook of typical evaluators’ comments. Stop by the booth to look at them there.

Be sure to stop by the booth to pick up a gold card before buying recommended books at Maia’s Bookstore. BCG appreciates the referral as you pick up your copy of the new Genealogy Standards book and others.

On Thursday, look for the Certification Seminar at 9:30 a.m. and continuing through the 11 a.m. lecture session. Come and get your questions answered! The BCG luncheon follows directly afterward and should be a rewarding time together taking a look at BCG’s past 50 years through the eyes of past-presidents Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, Kay Haviland Freilich, CG, CGL, and Laura DeGrazia, CG.

The Skillbuilding track continues each day and is co-sponsored by BCG to help educate attendees on necessary skills. For those who cannot get to the sessions, look for them to be recorded for sale by JAMB-inc.com.

BCG Announces Use of New Standards Book and Aids

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) has announced adoption of its new standards manual for use in its evaluation process.

Effective today, new applications for certification will be evaluated against the new Genealogy Standards, a major revision of genealogical standards released by BCG in February. Individuals who have already submitted a preliminary application are exempt from this change unless they elect otherwise or apply for an extension. The newly revised standards will also be used to evaluate the work of existing BCG associates whose renewal applications are due after February 2015.

Eighty-three standards in the new manual establish criteria for all phases of genealogical work, including documentation, research planning, data collection, reasoning from evidence, writing, lecturing and continuing education. The standards reflect the same principles as those originally published in The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual fourteen years ago but are reorganized, updated, expanded and clarified.

As the standards are at heart unchanged, genealogists whose work meets the old standards should meet the new standards as well. The revision, however, means the new standards offer superior guidance as to the qualities necessary for credible genealogical work.

BCG’s announcement is accompanied by release of a new application guide. The new guide makes no changes to the type of work applicants for certification must submit but has been updated to reflect the new standard manual’s renumbering of most standards. The rubrics, an evaluation tool used by BCG’s judges, have been similarly revised.

To help researchers familiarize themselves with the recent changes, BCG has also released two charts that compare the new and old standards. They can be downloaded from the “Skillbuilding” page of BCG’s website at http://www.bcgcertification.org/skillbuilders/index.html.

The new manual is billed as a fiftieth-anniversary edition to celebrate the board’s fifty years of dedication to genealogical excellence. Genealogy Standards, fiftieth-anniversary edition (Nashville, Tennessee: Ancestry, 2014), may be ordered by visiting http://www.bcgcertification.org/catalog/index.htmlThe BCG Application Guide, 2014 edition, and the revised rubrics can be downloaded from the BCG website for free.

BCG, an independent credentialing body, was founded in 1964 to promote standards of competence and ethics among genealogists and to publicly recognize individuals who meet those standards. It certifies genealogists in two categories, a core research category, Certified GenealogistSM, and a teaching category, Certified Genealogical LecturerSM. The standards it has articulated are widely recognized as benchmarks for all genealogists who wish to produce accurate research, not just for those seeking certification.

FROM: Board for Certification of Genealogists
P.O. Box 14291
Washington,DC200044

EMAIL: Office@BCGcertification.org
3 March 2014

Fifty Years of Credentialing: Presentations Available

In the “B. C.” era (Before Credentialing) genealogical fraud was rampant. Two organizations sought to give confidence to the public when hiring researchers and coincidentally were founded in the same year of 1964.

Please join BCG and ICAPGen at an unprecedented joint banquet at the NGS conference in Richmond, Virginia, on Friday, May 9, 2014. The evening’s speaker is David Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA, whose topic is “Celebrating Genealogical Credentials–The Accreditation and Certification Programs Turn 50!” Both organizations want to thank NGS for their recognition of this milestone in genealogical history. NGS registrations are being taken now at http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/. One does not need to be registered for the conference in order to attend the banquet.

BCG began its celebration last year “in the 50th year of its age” with a luncheon talk at FGS in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, by Rev. David McDonald, CG on “No Diamonds, No Cherries: Celebrating a Jubilee” which can be heard on the BCG website.

At a joint banquet in Salt Lake City in October, the American Society of Genealogists and BCG sponsored Judy Russell, J.D., CG, CGL, as the banquet speaker. Her full presentation “We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!” can be viewed on the BCG website. Judy’s presentation is also an article in the NGS Magazine (January–March 2014, volume 40, number 1): 15-19.

When we think of the days of undocumented genealogies being fabricated on purpose or unintentionally, there was no recourse for the public or standards by which to determine the reliability of a pedigree. Now we have credentialing and a newly-edited Genealogy Standards book which helps consumers understand the parameters of good genealogy. We have, indeed, “Come a Long Way, Baby!”

Thoughts on Olympics and Certification

As president of BCG I run into a lot of people who question why they should become board-certified, and then during the process, how to be successful. This reminds me of watching the Olympics, where you may have seen media interviews asking athletes, “Why did you do it?” and “How did you become so successful?” The old adage “because [the mountain, challenge, world record, etc.] was there” may still hold true but many talked about their passion for their sport and the thrill it gave them to be good at it.

So why would one be interested in certification? There are about a dozen two-minute audio clips on “Why Certify?” on the BCG website with added bonuses of learning how these board-certified genealogists prepared for their journey. You can listen to them at http://www.bcgcertification.org/certification/why.html. In addition, on the same webpage is Pam Sayre’s luncheon talk comparing certification to skiing, which is apropos in this post-Olympics time.

Those who decide to submit their preliminary application (http://www.bcgcertification.org/certification/requirements.html) are invited to the virtual group ACTION (Aid to Certification Testing: Interactive Online Networking). A discussion on that list of “what the judges want” prompted a post by a preliminary candidate, Yvette Hoitink of Holland, who gave the following analogy:

“The whole certification process is like figure skating in the Olympics: the athletes know the types of elements to include in their programs, but the organizers are not going to tell them which music to use or teach them how to skate. Regardless, judges know a good program when they see it. A routine only consisting of triple axels isn’t going to win any medals no matter how awesome they are, since you have to show a variety of techniques and skills. But if you do decide to include an axel, you better make sure you land it properly.”

Certification is sought for a variety of reasons, but like Olympians, passion to do things well is a common theme. It is not “what the judges want” that will make your portfolio of work samples successful, but how you demonstrate your understanding of the GPS and standards.

Stay tuned for more about using the newly edited standards book.

Best wishes, Elissa

New Year, New Standards Manual

Happy New Year from BCG! Below is a copy of the President’s Column in the January 2014 issue of OnBoard written by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, President, Board for Certification of Genealogists

At the end of January, Genealogy Standards, fiftieth-anniversary edition, will be published. Pre-publication orders at a 20% discount are now being taken through the BCG “Publications” website page, http://www.bcgcertification.org/catalog/index.html. This 100-page book updates and revises The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, Millennium edition.

Thank you, Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, for editing the new book. Many people were involved over the past several years in the creation of this new edition, including those who participated in a standard-by-standard discussion on the Transitional Genealogists Forum LISTSERV led by Harold Henderson (now CG).[1] I also want to thank Donn Devine, CG, David McDonald, CG, and Michael Ramage, J.D., CG, for their part in the overall process. Additional committee members were Laura DeGrazia, CG, Stefani Evans, CG, Alison Hare, CG, and Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL. A list of others who were involved appears in the book’s Introduction. Thank you all!

You may be wondering why BCG undertook this project and what is different between the two books.  To answer the first question one must realize that the genealogy field is not static. It is a living, developing body of knowledge that continues to be refined, redefined, and re-evaluated. The standards that every practitioner is invited to use need to periodically be refined, redefined, and re-evaluated as well. Standards are the foundation by which we define sound genealogy. Any recipient of genealogy research can understand how thorough or error-prone it is by comparing it with the standards.

For example, new standard 54, “Logical organization,” states, “Proof summaries and arguments present data, discussions, and conclusions in logical sequences to explain or defend a research question’s answer. A logical sequence often is not the order in which the genealogist collected evidence or reached subsidiary conclusions.”[2] If one has a “travelogue” style proof argument, then it does not meet this standard which says the proof needs to be laid out logically, not chronologically. The logical layout is beneficial to the reader to understand the research question, background, process, analysis, and conclusion of the proof argument.

The second question you may have is what the difference is between the 2000 BCG Genealogical Standards Manual and the 2014 Genealogy Standards book (besides 14 years!). Tom Jones wrote “The revision is both longer and shorter. Five appendixes (86 pages) in the 2000 edition show examples of different kinds of genealogical compilations and reports, all fictitious. The 2014 edition replaces that section with a 3-page list of online and print resources for non-fictitious examples. The new edition also contains a 17-page glossary, which the prior edition does not have.

“Not only does the newer edition have fewer pages, they are smaller in size [5.5” x 8.5”]. The font size is not smaller. The new edition’s 83 standards fill 41 pages, where the earlier edition’s 72 standards fill 25 larger pages [8.5” x 11”]. The standards in both editions cover the same principles, but they are reorganized in the new edition, as well as updated to reflect relevant advances in technology and science since 1999. The reorganization includes separating multi-part standards, combining related concepts into one standard (thus minimizing repetition and redundancy), and grouping standards to reflect more clearly the structure of the genealogy discipline’s skill set. Each standard now bears a title/descriptor. The new edition aims for greater clarity, stronger connections to genealogists and their work, and closer ties to the Genealogical Proof Standard. Watch the [BCG] website for charts showing the correspondence between the two editions’ standards numbers.”[3]

I am excited about this updated edition and find it easy to read. I hope you will agree with me and use it often. Standards are for everyone and BCG has shared this work with all practitioners through this book, which also will be offered as an e-book. It is up to each of us to make it a part of our everyday research, writing, and education. If everyone were to do so, even those working on “just my family,” then sound research and correct kinships would become the norm and illogical trees would become less prevalent.

We are the link between past and future. Our ancestors deserve to have their true stories told using sound practices. Future generations will depend and build upon these stories. Do not let them down.



[1] The Rootsweb.com LISTSERV discussion began on 23 January 2010 and progressed through each of the 74 standards, ending on 4 June 2010.

[2] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, fiftieth-anniversary edition (Nashville, Tennessee: Ancestry, 2014): 33.

[3] Angela McGhie, “Tom Jones Compares Editions of Genealogy Standards Manual,” Adventures in Genealogy Education, 12 December 2013 (http://www.genealogyeducation.blogspot.com/search/label/BCG: accessed 13 December 2013): paras. 2–3.