Of DNA Evidence and Successful Application Tips

President’s Corner by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL

as printed in the September 2014 issue of OnBoard (v. 20, no. 3): 19.

New Tools, New Techniques, Same Standards

This summer has seen much attention to the art and science of using genetic evidence in genealogy. Workshops, institute courses, and genetic genealogy conferences have shared what the field can do for genealogical problem-solving. OnBoard has published recent articles to this effect, and Elizabeth Shown Mills’s article “Testing the FAN Principle Against DNA: Zilphy (Watts) Price Cooksey Cooksey of Georgia and Mississippi” appeared in the NGSQ.(1) It is a new and exciting field of evidence, which each user must understand before effectively using the techniques to break through their own brick walls.

When solving a problem, we consider: Is the evidence consistent with what else we know? Can it be “lying” to us, as in a false positive? Is there enough evidence to make our case? Can we resolve conflicts in the evidence? The elements of the GPS are important for building a reliable proof and DNA evidence is just one part of that proof. It behooves each of us to understand this new marriage of genetics and genealogy, even if we never practice it ourselves.

BCG Wants Applicants to Succeed

There is always a general curiosity about what percentage of certification applicants are successful. The number varies from year to year because the applicants’ portfolios vary from year to year. Certification is not a “numbers game,” but rather it’s about whether or not you understand the Genealogical Proof Standard and can demonstrate that understanding by adhering to the standards. There is no other “secret sauce” ingredient, although following the directions given in the free downloadable BCG Application Guide is key. It is amazing how many applicants don’t follow the advice to “1. Read the directions. 2. Do the work. 3. Read the directions again to make sure the work follows the directions.” This applies to every applicant, even those who think they know what to do based on experience in other fields. Genealogy has its own terminology and standards— make sure you understand and use them.

In a field where “you don’t know what you don’t know,” it is helpful to have a system by which you ask three evaluators to give you independent feedback on how your work measures up against standards. The benchmark is Genealogy Standards.(2) If you read its short seventy-nine pages and find yourself nodding, “yes, I do that, and this other just makes common sense,” then you are more likely to succeed because you have internalized the standards. Making the standards a part of our every-day work habits pervades everything we do, including the work we send to BCG for evaluation. If that is the case then we demonstrate our abilities and meet standards.

If you would like a general overview of what it takes to become certified, or perhaps you know someone who is curious, a good resource is the free webinar that I did for Legacy Family Tree in July. You can see the details and link to the free recording in the BCG SpringBoard blog: http:// bcgcertification.org/blog/2014/07/free-bcg-certification-webinar. In addition, BCG just announced that it is offering its own free webinar series. Details can be found on SpringBoard.

BCG wants applicants to succeed! Whether for a new application or a renewal, we try to make every aspect of the evaluation process as transparent as possible. The rubrics (used by evaluators to rate submissions) are available at http:// www.bcgcertification.org/brochures/ BCGNewAppRubrics2014.pdf. To better prepare your application, use the rubrics and their corresponding standards to evaluate your work samples. It is another “lens” through which to check your submission—and the same one evaluators will be looking through.

To help the public understanding of standards and rubrics, I will be giving a workshop at the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) Professional Management Conference (PMC) on Thursday, 8 January 2015, in Salt Lake City, Utah. “Measuring Yourself Against Standards: A Practical Guide for Improving Your Skills” will have participants working with documents, research reports, and standards, and doing self-evaluation with rubrics. See https:// www.apgen.org/conferences/index.html for more information.

The certification process is like a mirror that reflects an honest picture of where you currently stand on the genealogy education continuum. What you see in that reflection, and what you do about it, are up to you. We hope that if you don’t like the picture at first, you take the evaluators’ comments to heart and seek the needed skills. Then ask again for another evaluation on new material. You may be successful on a subsequent attempt, as one recently certified person did with her third portfolio application. You can bet she is proud of her achievement, but it took perseverance, determination, and skill-building to work through premature applications to come to the point where she could be successful. What else can BCG do to help you become the skilled genealogist you want to be?

1. Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Testing the FAN Principle Against DNA: Zilphy (Watts) Price Cooksey Cooksey of Georgia and Mississippi,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 102 (June 2014):129–52.

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

BCG Announces New Webinar Series!

The Board for Certification of Genealogists believes in education and would like to share with the public some of the expertise represented in BCG through a series of webinars.

Open to everyone who wants to improve their skills, these live webinars are set for 8 pm Eastern for the following dates:

Monday, September 22, Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, will present “Fine Wine in a New Bottle: Guidelines for Effective Research and Family Histories.” Updated, retitled, and reorganized, genealogy standards first published in 2000 are now available in a new edition. The webinar will describe the changes and what they mean for all family historians. Dr. Jones teaches at three genealogy institutes, co-edits the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, and is the author of Mastering Genealogical Proof.

To register for the September 22 webinar, please use this link:
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8699013103252043265

On Wednesday, October 15, Judy G. Russell, J.D., CG, CGL, will explain “Kinship Determination: From Generation to Generation.” Requirement 7 of the BCG certification application asks for a Kinship Determination Project in which the applicant writes a three-generation narrative and explains how the relationships are documented. All genealogists do this regularly while placing relatives with their appropriate connections in the family tree. A familiar speaker at conferences across the country, Judy will coordinate the Advanced Methodology & Evidence Analysis course at the Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research in 2015.

To register for the October 15 webinar, please use this link:
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4535381371678485505

Look for future announcements on other upcoming webinars on this blog. You may sign up on the sidebar for email notifications when a new post is written.

It Takes 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 Congratulates 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 from the same link given above.

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!”