Congratulations, Karen Auman, PhD, CG!

Karen Auman loves history, and as an assistant professor of history at Brigham Young University, she helps to inspire that love in others.  She revels in her work teaching history and family history and particularly enjoys helping her students use history to bring life to the stories of “average folks who persevere, work hard, and make a difference.”

Karen Auman, PhD, CG, backpacking at Havasupai

Karen lives in Utah, but grew up in San Jose, California, which she still considers home. Like many in Silicon Valley, she worked with software companies and had a long career as a product manager. The job taught her to “think logically, to understand how information is organized, and how to use electronic tools to your advantage,” all useful skills for researching genealogy.

Interested in both genealogy and history from a young age, Karen received a bachelor’s degree in European Studies. When she later studied for a PhD in history at New York University, she focused her studies on her own ancestral origins: Germans in colonial America. To understand their lives, Karen notes, “it helps to be able to read old German script!” a skill she honed through an intensive course at the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Her advice to others preparing for BCG certification is the same strategy that helped her: practice!  She learned by reading case studies in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and built her skills by helping friends and neighbors research their families. In addition to being good preparation for certification, the volunteer client work allowed her to learn about a wide range of genealogical problems and geographic locations. She recommends practicing all the portfolio work elements before beginning the certification process.

When it came to preparing her own portfolio, Karen chose a research report that she now feels was too large. In retrospect, a shorter, more focused report might have been a better choice. She advises others choosing reports, “Don’t make it too big!”  Based on what she learned through the certification process, she now strives to make her reports as clear and precise as possible.

In her spare time, the self-described “sister, aunt, great-aunt, reader, walker/hiker, gardener, historian, teacher” enjoys chasing her own family mysteries. Her favorite past finds include locating her third great-grandmother’s family in Swedish church records despite the family’s name change and finding a power of attorney that named her third great-grandfather’s heirs. She found the document “buried in the basement storage of the courthouse, not filed with the other records.  It was written thirty years after he died, so it included the spouses of the daughters and all of the adult grandchildren. I had suspected he was my ancestor with lots of indirect evidence, but this was the written proof.”

Her current genealogical challenges include a search for the maiden name of her third great-grandmother Mary [–?–] Auman and a quest to discover the mysterious origins of a second great-grandfather. He may have “purposefully misled people about his roots,” possibly to cover up his illegitimacy. Their stories are two of the many that Karen plans to write for her family to introduce them to their ancestors, always teaching and inspiring love of family history in others.

Karen can be reached at  Congratulations, Karen!

by Sharon Hoyt, CG

Congratulations, Yvonne Mashburn Schmidt, CG!

New associate Yvonne Mashburn Schmidt lives in Cartersville in northwest Georgia. This is where she grew up and now does family research. All of her direct family lines are from the South, and many of them were early Georgians. Her professional research encompasses Georgia and includes African American and Native American families with Georgian roots.

Yvonne states that goal-setting is not one of her strong attributes, but it would be hard to find evidence of this. Her path to certification was carefully planned and executed. After finishing Boston University’s Genealogical Research Program, she knew she was not yet ready to apply for certification. She studied The BCG Application Guide, Genealogy Standards, Evidence Explained, and journal articles. Having identified the specific skills she needed to improve, Yvonne looked for advanced courses taught by some of the best genealogists in our field. She found many of those courses online (e.g. BCG webinars and the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research), which proves that one need not spend a fortune to acquire the knowledge and skills for certification. The time between her decision to seek certification and her actual portfolio submission was three years. This was a woman with a plan!

Yvonne Mashburn Schmidt, CG

Yvonne recognizes that there can be an emotional block for people thinking about applying for certification. The possibility of failure was a difficult challenge for her. She carefully considered the consequences of failure and accepted that possibility. She then committed herself to doing everything she could to prepare herself to succeed. She advises others who are considering applying for certification to identify problem areas in their work and target educational opportunities to correct or improve them.

Guided by group mentoring with her heroes Elizabeth Shown Mills and Judy Russell, Yvonne pursued advanced research skills. A particular post by Mills on the BCG Facebook page became a reminder for Yvonne of what she needed to do with her portfolio. The post lists common reasons that portfolios are not successful.

Thomas MacEntee assisted her when Yvonne became the target of cyber-bullying involving an unfounded attack on her family research. The incident influenced Yvonne’s desire for certification and contributed to her appreciation for ethical behavior in genealogy.

Completing the portfolio has made Yvonne a better researcher. She believes that her research prior to the certification process was shallow. Now she knows how to dig deeper. In the next five years, she hopes to target educational opportunities to strengthen the weak areas identified in her portfolio, work toward becoming a better presenter and obtaining her CGL, and promote ethical genealogical behavior in as many ways as she can. Sound familiar? Yvonne has a plan!

Yvonne can be reached at Congratulations, Yvonne!

by Karlene Ferguson, CG

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Associates in Action

Welcome to Associates in Action! This monthly feature highlights BCG associates’ news, activities, and accomplishments. Contact Alice Hoyt Veen, to include your news in an upcoming post.

Activities and Projects

LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD , LLM, CG, will present “Including African American Genealogy in the American Mosaic” at the National Institute on Genealogical Research Alumni Association (NIGRAA) Annual Banquet, 15 July 2016.

Trish Hackett Nicola, CG, was featured in the Chinese Oregon Speaker Series in March and April. She spoke at the Oregon Historical Society and the Multnomah County Central Library in Portland and gave four presentations for the Southern Oregon Historical Society in Ashland, Medford, Klamath Falls, and Grants Pass. Her final lecture for the series will be on 24 August at the Washington County Museum, Hillsboro, Oregon.

Judith A. Herbert, CG has relocated from Maine to New York’s Capital District. New York represents the lion’s share of her genealogical research efforts. The move affords closer access to the Albany and Greater New York records and the luxury of being able to get to Hartford, Boston, and the New York City area for same-day research.

Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA, has two courses available at Ancestry Academy: The Lure of the Train Whistle: Researching Railroad Workers and Native American Ancestry: Steps to Learn More.

Paula also has a new blog exclusively for Lyfmap, a new free website. Lyfmap began this spring as a website for sharing memories, photos, stories, businesses and family history related to Saint Paul, Minnesota. Shared materials are saved at the location and date in history when they actually happened! Post a picture or memory and pin it to a specific street address then read the genealogy blog to learn more about researching family history.

Awards and Achievements

Trish Hackett Nicola, CG, has received the Weidman Outstanding Volunteer Service Award, presented during the 16th Annual Archivist’s Award Ceremony of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C. The award recognizes exemplary diligence in making records more accessible. Trish worked to create a database of 60,000 Chinese Exclusion Act case files at National Archives-Seattle Branch.

Trish’s mentor, Loretta Chin, another National Archives volunteer, worked on the index for many years until her retirement. Recently a team of four other volunteers joined Trish on the project. The basic index should be finished by December 2016. Trish has started a blog on interesting cases found in the files at the facility in Seattle:

Julie Miller, CG, FNGS, was honored with the award of Fellow by the National Genealogical Society at their annual banquet on 6 May 2016.


Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, and Blaine T. Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D., have co-authored a new book: Genetic Genealogy in Practice (Washington, DC: National Genealogical Society, 2016), to be released in August. Part of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) Special Topics Series, this is the first genetic genealogy workbook. The book covers biological basics, types of DNA testing that are useful for genealogy, and analysis techniques needed for successful genetic genealogy. No matter which company a person tested at or which tools are used for data collection and analysis, this book will help researchers incorporate DNA evidence into their family study.

Debbie is also the author of the NGS online course Continuing Genealogical Studies: Autosomal DNA, This intermediate course focuses on concepts and techniques for genetic genealogy. The concepts taught in this course cover the analysis of the data no matter how the data was accessed.

Sandra M. Hewlett, CG, “English Origins and First Wife of Samuel Winsley of Salisbury, Massachusetts,” The New England Historical and Genealogical Register: The Journal of American Genealogy 170 (Spring 2016): 121–27.

Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, FASG, FUGA, FNGS, “In the County of Cumberland and the Province of New York: Clarifying Josiah Burton’s Identity, Relationships, and Activities,” The New York Genealogical And Biographical Record 147 (April 2016): 85–102.

Harold A. Henderson, CG, The Family of John S. and Zerviah (Hawkins) Porter of Jefferson County and Points West,” The New York Genealogical And Biographical Record 147 (April 2016): 129–43.

Jeanne Larzelere Bloom, CG, “The Child Left Behind: Henry Larzelere of the Town Of Jerusalem, Yates County, New York” (continued), The New York Genealogical And Biographical Record 147 (July 2016): 144–55.


Associates in Action

Welcome to Associates in Action! This monthly feature highlights BCG associates’ news, activities, and accomplishments. Contact  Alice Hoyt Veen to include your special news in an upcoming post.

Activities & Projects

Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, MFA, CG, will teach two courses: Genealogy & Family History Writing and Tracing Immigrant Origins for the summer semester of Salt Lake Community College’s online Certificate in Genealogy Research and Writing program. Classes begin 16 May 2016. A lower tuition fee is offered to out-of-state students who do not need college credit. To enroll or for more information, go to

Awards & Achievements

Kathy Gunter Sullivan, CG, received the Elaine Spires Smith Family History Writing Award at the annual meeting of the Indiana Genealogical Society on Saturday, 16 April 2016. The $500 award, sponsored by the Society, honors an outstanding article published in the Indiana Genealogist. Kathy’s article, “Eliza Jane Henry of Putnam County, Indiana: Documenting Her Heritage,” has been published in the Indiana Genealogist 26 (December 2015): 5–32.


Paul Friday, CG, Vital Record Manuscripts at the State Historical Societies in New England (N.p: the author, 2016). This new book serves as a finding aid for New England vital records and includes a partial inventory of vital record manuscripts (church records, minister records, town vital records, tax lists, employment records, petitions, subscriptions, passenger lists, etc.) for all time periods at the six state historical societies in New England. Each record in the book includes the call number, manuscript collection name, box number, and (usually) the folder number (everything required to locate the record). Roughly forty-five percent of the items in the book do not appear in any of the societies’ catalogs; they are present in the manuscript finding aids only. Paul’s book is available at

Congratulations, Karen Stanbary, CG!

“My passion for genealogy began as a high-school senior watching the Roots mini-series on TV,” says Karen Stanbary. In the early 1980s, the show inspired her to “take a local community-college class, explore the collections at Chicago’s Newberry Library, and (best of all) interview my grandparents, their siblings and my great-grandmother.” Karen borrowed a mimeograph machine to create family group sheets and pedigree charts.

Decades later, faced with an empty nest, she returned to her passion and stumbled upon two articles that questioned the validity and reliability of Alex Haley’s work.[1] Feeling a bit betrayed, she resolved to learn valid genealogical methods. That combination of inspiration and critique bore fruit, and in April she qualified to become Certified Genealogist #1071.

Karen Stanbary, CG

Karen was born in Burlington, Iowa, where many of her deceased ancestors remain. She grew up in a western suburb of Chicago. She and her husband currently practice specialized clinical social work in Chicago. She is fluent and literate in Spanish and completed graduate anthropological work in Mexico, one of her genealogical areas of expertise. She teaches three twelve-hour seminars for the Newberry Library’s Adult Education program:  Genetic Genealogy, Genetic Genealogy–Advanced Practical Applications, and Proving Your Pedigree. She will teach in the Practical Genetic Genealogy course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) this summer.

Karen credits her successful portfolio in large part to the teachings and guidance of Tom Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, Sandra Hewlett, CG, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD, CeCe Moore, Angie Bush, MA, and Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG. Her experience in the ProGen Study Group, Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group, and NGSQ (National Genealogical Society Quarterly) Study Group—as well as classes at GRIP, Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR)—also improved her genealogical critical analysis skills.

Karen especially wants to thank Harold Henderson, CG. “He is a fantastic mentor who helped keep me accountable to my timeline. He provided just the right balance between understanding and accountability.”

She committed to the certification process and created a routine. “Early each morning, when my brain works best, I would spend focused quality time with my portfolio. I prepared a ‘portfolio space’ with all the essential materials at hand—the BCG Application Guide, Chicago Manual of Style, Evidence Explained, Genealogy Standards, Numbering Your Genealogy, and the IGHR writing course syllabus.  I bought a second monitor so I could see the docs on one screen and write on my laptop.

“And I took the time to dig deep into the records. Doing that helped me to keep the Kinship Determination Project (KDP) interesting. I spent three years with the KDP family. I think I would have become bored with them without those unusual records and social histories. And a bored writer does not write.

“It was a significant breakthrough to realize that one size does not fit all—that there is no universal template or formula. Within the standards, I had to learn to trust my own decision-making, to feel the freedom to tell the story.”

Karen’s case study identifies the Mexican father of a Michigan adoptee using documentary research, interviews with potential relatives, and analysis of nine people’s autosomal DNA test results, including triangulated matches. This work is contracted for publication in the NGSQ.

How much overlap is there between clinical social work and professional genealogy? “More than I expected, especially in genealogy cases with real present-day emotional impact, such as unknown paternity, misattributed paternity, the appearance of previously unknown half-siblings, and adoption cases.” And the skill sets are similar: “Both require the careful creation of timelines, critical consideration of the source(s) of information, and empathy—the ability to step out of one’s cultural comfort zones in order to view events through the participants’ eyes.”

What’s next for Karen?  She plans to teach and to increase her client work, especially helping people solve family mysteries and break through brick walls using a combination of documentary research and targeted DNA testing. “It’s an exciting time to be a member of the genealogy community.”

Karen can be reached at

[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills and Gary B. Mills, “Roots and the new ‘Faction’: A Legitimate Tool for Clio?” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 1 (January 1981): 5–26.  Also, Elizabeth Shown Mills and Gary B. Mills, “The Genealogist’s Assessment of Alex Haley’s Roots,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 72 (March 1984): 35–49.  Both articles can be viewed at Historic Pathways.



Associates in Action

Welcome to Associates in Action! This new monthly feature highlights BCG associates’ news, activities, and accomplishments. Contact Alice Hoyt Veen,, to see your special news included in an upcoming post.

Activities & Projects

Barbara J. Ball, GISP, CG, chairs the APG Board Credentials & Postnominals Committee and serves as the APG Writers’ SIG treasurer. She assists Melinde Byrne, CG, with the Forensics Module of Boston University’s Genealogical Research Program. Barbara organizes Clan Cunningham non-standard family information submissions, and is working on two personal kinship determination studies and several long-term mapping projects.

Mary McCampbell Bell, Certified Genealogist Emeritus, Catherine Desmarais, CG, and Marsha Peterson-Maas, Forensic Genealogist, are Researching Coordinating Directors for Purple Hearts Reunited. Together with Marie Melchiori, Certified Genealogist Emeritus, they work to help family members of soldiers whose medals have been lost. They also have a new project: approximately 100 medals from WWI are waiting to be researched. They invite others to join their efforts! Website:

Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG, will be a featured speaker at the Indiana Genealogical Society’s annual conference on Saturday, 16 April 1016, at the Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Website:

Beth Stahr, MLS, MA, CG, last fall petitioned the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA) National Conference to include a special topics area on genealogy. As a result, ten papers were presented, and a documentary film was screened on March 22 in Seattle. Paper presentations ran from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and included lively discussions. Beth solicited the papers, managed the on-the-ground presentations, and presented her own paper. The next PCA/ACA conference will be held in San Diego, 12-15 April 2017. Please watch for the call for papers in the fall, and plan to join them in San Diego.

Awards & Achievements

Cheryl Brown Abernathy, CG, will be awarded “Outstanding OGS [Ohio Genealogical Society] Chapter Volunteer” at the Society’s annual business luncheon on 30 April 2016. Nominated by the Wayne County Chapter, Cheryl serves as chapter treasurer as well as newsletter editor. The award is presented to the member “who has contributed service above and beyond the normal level of Chapter activity during the current Chapter program year.”

Career News

Candace Buchanan, CG, is First Deputy Clerk of Court in Greene County, Pennsylvania. Her duties include document retrievals from the county’s archives. Records date to 1796; digitization efforts are underway for improved public access.


Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG, “The Child Left Behind: Henry Larzelere of the Town of Jerusalem, Yates County, New York,” The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 147 (January 2016): 21–35.

Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, MFA, CG, two new books: Tell It Short: A Guide to Writing Your Family History in Brief (Salt Lake City: Scattered Leaves Press, 2016); and With Two Potatoes in His Pocket: The History of the McNamara and McGuire Families of Ireland and Richmond, Virginia, also including the Families of Hagerty, Kelly, Landers, Mahoney, Menchke, Rogers, Roschers, and Williams & The History of the Powell and Thomas Families of Georgia and Texas, also including the Families of Clinton, Collins, Crump, Eastham, Judd, Mabry, and Shipley (Salt Lake City, Utah: Warren & Carmack Publishing, 2015). Website:

Lori Cook-Folger, CG, “Finding the Mother of William H. Welch through Indirect Evidence,” Georgia Genealogical Society Quarterly (Winter 2015).

Ron Hill, CG, FASG, “Middle Names from 1792 and 1793 Help Reconstruct Ancestry of John Rodda Jr., Butcher at Helston, Cornwall,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 103 (Dec. 2015): 263–279; “John Mounsteven of Cornwall and Middlesex, His High Treason Discovered, His Suicide,” The American Society of Genealogists, 75th Anniversary Volume (19402015), Selected and Original Articles by Fellows of the Society, Past and Present, Charles M. Hansen, FASG, and Gale Ion Harris, FASG (Saline, Mich.: ASG, 2015), 118–32; and “The Ancestry of Mark Guy Pearse, Cornish Author, Methodist Preacher, and Activist,” The Genealogist 30 (Spring 2016): 90–110 (to be continued).

Joan Hunter, CG, The Life and Times of Charles Leonard Holton (n.p.: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016). This family saga “covers four generations of Northfield Holtons from the early 1800s to the early 1900s.”

Cari A. Taplin, CG, “Seven Sites for Missouri Research You Don’t Want to Miss,” the Utah Genealogical Association’s (UGA) Crossroads 11 (Winter 2016): 20–25 . Cari will also co-teach the course “Crossing the Pond,” led by Eric Stroschein, with David Ouimette, CG, and Luana Darby, at the 2016 British Institute in Salt Lake City. The Institute is sponsored by the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History (ISBGFH). Website:

Welcome, Cheryl Storton, CG

When introducing herself, Cheryl Storton is happy to tell about her home, Arroyo Grande, on a beautiful stretch of California midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Leaving her Iowa roots behind, Cheryl settled permanently in the state one of her ancestors had visited briefly during the Gold Rush. Cheryl found gold in a teaching job at Lompoc Junior High. That got her to California. The weather and lifestyle kept her there. Cheryl is married to Tim Storton and has a son Shawn and eight stepchildren.

While Cheryl’s jobs as a teacher, waitress, bar tender, process server, and accessories vendor, all contributed to her life skills, it’s the business she ran with friend Cafi Cohen that informed her genealogical work. For seven years they operated Bridge to Yesterday, offering client research and creating beautiful family albums with photos, text, and documentation. The work took her into areas of research where her own family had not and expanded her familiarity with records. Cheryl and Cafi closed their business in 2014, and Cheryl began work in earnest on preparing her portfolio.

Cheryl Storton, CG

With encouragement from Cafi, she began attending a number of institutes and joined ProGen. Cheryl took her assignments seriously, which improved her transcriptions, abstractions, proof arguments, and client reports. She found that religiously reading the National Genealogical Society Quarterly improved her writing and source citations. Through the preparation for certification she has gained confidence in her genealogical skills and feels comfortable with source citations to the point of enjoying them most of the time. And she no longer hates to write, but it is still not an easy process for her.

The kinship-determination project provided a satisfying writing opportunity. The last generation included her grandfather, whom she knew personally. Researching him gave her a more complete picture of him. She learned that while many people struggled during the Depression, his story was amazingly different. He always had various jobs including managing a snow fence factory. His daughter had the best shoes, and even saw an orthodontist. Cheryl advises other applicants to write the kinship-determination project about their own families, as they will be spending a lot of time on the research and getting to know the people well.

Cheryl describes herself as very social, so not being able to talk to anyone about the contents of her portfolio was difficult. When asked what advice she would give to someone considering applying for certification, she said, “Focus, focus, focus. What that meant for me was: no Facebook time, no heavy research on family lines, no time for reading and posting to mailing lists, no new clients. Also, I tried to keep to a daily schedule for research and writing. I recommend frequent breaks to exercise and clear your head.”

What will she do now that she is board-certified? Cheryl’s husband, a former sheriff, is researching the sheriffs of San Luis Obispo County with the hope of writing a book. Cheryl’s skills come into play helping with genealogical research and writing biographical sketches. She also looks forward to doing some of that heavy research on her family lines and cleaning up her database and office. That may include work on her third great-grandmother Hannah, born in Pennsylvania in 1805, whose parents and death date and place are still elusive. Another goal is to speak at national genealogical events as a certified genealogical lecturer.

Cheryl has been program director for her local genealogical organization, the San Luis Obispo County Genealogical Society. She also participates in their groups on DNA, genealogical writing, and professional standards, and she’s now their second BCG associate. And she can finally talk about her portfolio. If you run into her at SLIG next year, be sure to say hello and enjoy a visit.  Cheryl can be reached at Congratulations, Cheryl!

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Miriam Weiner, CG Emeritus

BCG offers Emeritus status to a certified person who has had a long and distinguished career with BCG and who is retired or semi-retired. In 2015 the Board of Trustees voted to offer this designation to Miriam Weiner.

Miriam Weiner, CG Emeritus

In 1985 Miriam Weiner was the first Jewish genealogist certified by BCG (no. 293). Since then she has earned the high esteem of the genealogical community. Noted rabbi, historian, and genealogist Malcolm H. Stern, FASG, considered her “the most valuable person in the field of genealogy” and “a standard bearer of all that BCG upholds.”[1] Her work centered on locating documents that had been hidden by the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe and whose access was complicated by changing political boundaries. At a time when such a task seemed impossible, she successfully traveled to Eastern Europe, met with regional and local archivists in the Soviet Union, and brought information about their holdings to the world’s genealogical community.

On becoming a Board-certified genealogist Miriam comments:

In the early 1980s, when I began thinking seriously about my own family history and perhaps a career in Jewish genealogy, there were very few books on the subject, no Jewish genealogy conferences and really very little to guide me at all. I became aware of the BCG very early in this process and was very impressed by the professionalism, the experience required for certification, and the continuing education.[2]

It became clear to me that I wanted to be a part of this, and I began the certification process, resulting in the 1985 BCG certification. My thirty-year relationship with BCG included the five-year renewals where I had to submit extensive material about my work and continuing education in this growing field. The comments from the BCG renewal judges resulted in my focusing on aspects that needed attention and encouraged me to “push the envelope” in my work. With prospective research clients, the BCG certification provided a credibility and affiliation that frequently resulted in clients asking about BCG.

Working with Jewish and Eastern European records was not easy for Miriam. “At that time, there were no computers, no e-mail, and the archives were closed in the former Soviet Union.” For someone to fly to these Eastern European countries in the 1980s and create relationships with archivists for the benefit of all future Jewish-researching genealogists is a trailblazing miracle the genealogical community may never see again. Not only was the work difficult due to the politics of the time, but Miriam also faced three major hurdles of Jewish research. First, in Eastern Europe at least, Jewish families did not have last names until the late 1700s, and instead were known by their family relationships such as “Abraham the son of Jacob.” Second, family names were often changed during the immigration process. Third, and possibly the most tragic, a significant amount of vital records and archival documents were destroyed during the Holocaust. Researchers of Jewish families often have to use other documents to trace their families and be creative with their research process.

Miriam’s work in Eastern European records opened genealogical doors to many families impacted by political turmoil in the countries of Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Ukraine, and Romania. This research led to the publication of her books, Jewish Roots in Poland and Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova.[3] She also established the Routes to Roots Foundation, Inc. a not-for-profit corporation that publishes her books and owns the Routes to Roots Foundation website with its gem, the Eastern European Archival Database. The database includes Jewish and civil records from archives in Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Moldova, and Ukraine.

Miriam continues:

In 1989 I began an official collaboration with the state archives in Poland to produce a town-by-town inventory of archive documents (subsequently published in Jewish Roots in Poland). Shortly thereafter, I signed similar agreements with the archive director of the National Archives in Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and Lithuania. The result of this historic collaboration resulted in my second book, Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova and the Routes to Roots Foundation website. On this website, you can search the archive database by town name to see what Jewish and civil records have survived the Holocaust, the years available, and which archive has them. The website includes more than 500 pages, consisting of maps, articles by archivists and Jewish community leaders in Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Moldova and Lithuania, and related links. There is no cost for using this website, which is sponsored by a not-for-profit foundation. I continue to update the website and databases. The above work for more than twenty-five years was not compensated, and I served as a volunteer for the Routes to Roots Foundation.

I had a commercial business wherein I offered customized individual and family tours to the “old country” and also conducted archive research in Eastern European countries on behalf of clients. I found all of the foregoing to be among the most satisfying work I had ever done—because of the archive discoveries, reuniting of clients with previously unknown family members, and the experience of “walking in the footsteps of their ancestors” as they visited their ancestral towns. I treasure my experience of helping numerous families create and pass on their own unique family histories to their descendants.

The whole focus of my life changed with this career change. I have experienced a renewed commitment to my Jewish heritage and a strengthening of my Jewish identity. I feel very strongly about the importance of documenting family history and hope others will also explore their roots.

Miriam’s thirty-year career included lecturing at a wide array of Jewish genealogical and Holocaust survivor organizations. She is the former executive director of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, and she served on the advisory board of The American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center.

In 1991 Miriam received the Federation of Genealogical Societies award for Distinguished Work in Genealogy and History. Also in 1991 she received the National Genealogical Society Award of Merit for publishing The Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy.[4] In 2003 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies.

Lest you think Miriam Weiner is all about Jewish genealogy, you may also like to know that she loves mystery novels and especially the series by Janet Evanovich featuring a bounty hunter in New Jersey. The female lead is interested in two main male characters, Ranger (a dark, tough, almost stereotypical “bad boy”) and Joe Morelli (a clean-cut police detective). Through the entire series she can’t decide between the two, and readers lean one way or another. (Miriam, by the way, is pro-Ranger.) Recently she and a girlfriend took a road trip from New Jersey to Orlando, Florida, to attend a one-day conference with Evanovich.

Becoming a policewoman was Miriam’s youthful dream, but by adulthood she had reached the lofty height of five feet one inch. At the time there were strict height requirements to be a cop, and Miriam was not tall enough. Instead she became a licensed private detective learning skills that would later prove beneficial to her genealogical work.

There is no doubt that the genealogical community at large and the Jewish community specifically have benefited from Miriam’s work. She has been a trailblazer when that could have been impossible or dangerous. Her love of challenge, mystery, and heritage has served her career well, and her level of commitment will be difficult to match. Miriam is “still in denial” about retiring from this field but is now looking forward to researching her own family again.

[1] Rabbi Malcolm H. Stern, American Jewish Archives, New York, New York, to Board for Certification of Genealogists, letter, 13 September 1990; privately held by BCG.

[2] Quotes in this article come from either an email or a phone interview. Miriam Weiner, New Jersey (email address for private use), to Cari A. Taplin, email, 19 November 2015, “Re: BCG Emeritus Status—Short Interview Request.”  Also, Miriam Weiner, New Jersey, phone interview by Cari A. Taplin, 3 December 2015.

[3] Miriam Weiner, Jewish Roots in Poland: Pages from the Past and Archival Inventories (New York: Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, 1997). Also Miriam Weiner, Jewish Roots in Ukraine and Moldova: Pages from the Past and Archival Inventories (New York: Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, 1999).

[4] Arthur Kurzweil and Miriam Weiner, eds., The Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy, Vol. 1 (Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, 1991).

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, Fuller “Sonny” Jones, CG

BCG’s newest associate came to genealogy twenty years ago after “growing up” with the U.S. space program. A veteran of more than 150 space vehicle launches, Fuller “Sonny” Jones is a retired National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) engineer whose career spanned more than four decades. Born in Alabama, he graduated from Auburn University with a degree in mechanical engineering. In 1958 (pre-NASA) he started work at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville. This was the Werner von Braun team that launched the first American satellite, Explorer 1.

Fuller “Sonny” Jones, CG

Later Fuller’s desire to become more directly involved in the space program led him to Cape Canaveral. He participated in the development of the Atlas-Centaur and the early planetary exploration launches. In 1979 he moved to the Space Shuttle Program and later was the shuttle main engine lead engineer. Preparation of propulsion systems analysis reports and launch summaries honed his writing skills. The painstaking requirements of pre-launch checkout developed the attention to detail necessary in genealogical research and documentation.

Regarding genealogy Fuller says, “There is no telling when the genealogy bug will bite. It may happen when reading a family history, looking at old photographs, or visiting old graveyards.  There may be periods of ‘remission,’ but the bug can bite again at any time, and there is no cure.” Fuller’s interest in genealogy actually started about 1960 when his mother-in-law showed him the history of her Holden family from the early 1600s in England. He did not realize that the genealogy bug was present. Later, during the documentation of his wife’s Holden line for her application to the Daughters of the American Revolution, the genealogy bug bit deep.

Although interested in genealogy for many years, Fuller’s career did not allow much time for genealogical research. After he retired in 1995 from shuttle launch operations, Fuller joined the local genealogical society and started studying research methodology. The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) led to the realization that a “brick wall” could be overcome using well-documented indirect evidence.  Intensive study of the GPS requirements raised his research skills to the next level. Tom Jones and Elizabeth Shown Mills are his genealogical heroes, and he credits them with providing the inspiration to continuously improve and to attempt certification.

Fuller believes in the “boots on the ground” approach of on-site research. Such work at rural courthouses provided two breakthroughs in the research of his maternal Matthews family.  His fourth great-grandfather Rev. Willis D. Matthews died in Alexander City, Tallapoosa County, Alabama, in 1864, and family stories hinted at a will. The search began at the county courthouse in nearby Dadeville. After hours of searching through the old courthouse basement archives, Fuller asked one of the older workers for help. She came back after about ten minutes carrying an old leather wallet with the original handwritten will naming all of his children! There was no will book or index. Without the personal search and request, this invaluable document could not have been found.

Two 1930s “genealogies” of his Matthews family included many erroneous conclusions. The most egregious asserted that Fuller’s fifth great-grandfather James Matthews (father of the above Willis) died in 1810 and also reflected a change of four children’s birth dates accordingly. There were some good clues, however. One stated that James died in Pendleton District (now Anderson County), South Carolina. A research trip to the Anderson County courthouse solved the James Matthews problem. Fuller found an 1828 reference to James’s wife, Nancy Matthews. This led to a document proving that her husband died in late 1827, not 1810, while in the process of selling his land. Because James died before the sale was finalized, widow Nancy was forced to complete the sale. The resulting document, found on microfilm in the Anderson County Library, identified all the living sons and sons-in-law. Later research identified the correct birth dates of the four children born during the “lost” years of 1810–1827. Again, a research visit to the courthouse was essential for success.

A member of the National Genealogical Society, Fuller is also a long-time member and past president of the Brevard [Florida] Genealogical Society. After finding several Revolutionary War ancestors, Fuller joined Sons of the American Revolution (SAR). This led to his current passion of helping other men with their research to join the SAR.  He does this without compensation as his way of contributing to the organization.

Fuller found that poor quality documentation was prevalent in many SAR applications. He was instrumental in correcting some of this at the national level by recommending the use of the GPS and stricter documentation requirements. These improvements have now been implemented. Providing improved documentation for SAR applications was Fuller’s primary reason for seeking certification. Plus, certification was on his “Bucket List,” and now it is crossed off!

Many congratulations, Fuller, and all the best as you pursue the next item on your list!

Marie Varrelman Melchiori, Certified Genealogist Emeritus

BCG offers Emeritus status to a certified person who has had a long and distinguished career with BCG and who is retired or semi-retired. In 2015 the Board of Trustees voted to offer this designation to Marie Varrelman Melchiori.

Forty years ago Marie Varrelman Melchiori found her great-grandfather’s Civil War discharge paper. It set her on a quest for more information that resulted in a career in genealogical research, service to organizations in the field, and honors that include her election this year as a Certified Genealogist Emeritus.

Learning of her great-grandfather’s service in the 131st New York Infantry led Marie to acquire his Civil War pension file. The National Archives (NARA) in Washington, DC, was a reasonable commute from her home. She became familiar with its Civil War records holdings as she worked on her own ancestor and later for clients who were dealers and collectors of Civil War memorabilia. Marie explains that they had “letters, guns, swords, drums, etc. that belonged to a soldier. It was a pleasure to find the person who carried the item, usually a plain, ordinary soldier who would not have been mentioned in a history book.” Because of her research, this soldier’s name now became known. “The same was true of the vague ancestor whose name might appear on a family tree. Now he became a person who fought in battles that everyone had heard about.”

Marie Varrelman Melchiori, CG Emeritus[1]

In 1980 Marie’s successful application to BCG earned her the Certified Genealogical Record Searcher (CGRS) status. Her email address (MVMcgrs) still reflects that designation. The initials remained the same when the category changed in 1993 to Certified Genealogical Record Specialist, which best describes Marie’s work. “My specialty was Civil War records at NARA. This specialty expanded to include NARA military records for all wars and NARA researching in general.”

Marie began lecturing nationally in 1986 and earned the Certified Genealogical Lecturer (CGL) credential in 1995. She had heard many lecturers talk about what great things could be found in basic military records, but they said very little about how to access the records. Marie covered what most lectures missed: the important NARA finding aids. Her handouts were in outline format and contained record group number, entry or microfilm publication number, and title. She also included the all-important source citations. In later years she added mention of records that had been digitized, the company that digitized them, and the idiosyncrasies of the digitizing process. These outlines became shopping lists that could be taken to NARA in person or online. All the necessary information was there for ordering records.[2]

When BCG consolidated the CGRS and Certified Genealogist categories, Marie’s designation became CG. She felt, she says, “like the family who never moved, but the county lines changed around them. I am very much record-oriented and feel that it is important to have people who know their local records so well that they are the ‘go-to person’ for a particular area or subject. NARA doesn’t have many specialists left. Most are generalists.” She hopes BCG will continue to value the specialists.

Image technology has changed dramatically in the years since Marie first started working with NARA records. She describes the differences:

Huge census copies made on the old machine at NARA can now be made on smaller paper and with better quality. I have recopied my great-grandfather’s Civil War pension file each time NARA purchased a new copy machine. The information never changed, but the quality of the copy did. Now many of the NARA series are digitized, a big improvement over scratched microfilm. This also allows researchers to search records at home, at midnight and on holidays.

When I started lecturing, examples were presented as overheads or transparencies, and now they are slides made in PowerPoint (PP). Since my transparencies were straight from the document or the microfilm, there wasn’t much that could be done about the quality. As assistant director of the National Institute on Genealogical Research I had the chance to read reviews of the first PP presentations given. For several years the comments were more about the bells and whistles of the presentation than the material content. When the focus changed back to content I went to computer presentations. PowerPoint slides can be tweaked, and the documents used may be from a cleaner, digitized version. A lot of what is taken for granted now was at one time cutting edge.

Marie’s forty years of genealogical research, thirty-five of client work, and many years of lecturing accompanied service to genealogy organizations, too. She was assistant director of NIGR from 1987 to 2002. A member of the Association for Professional Genealogists (APG) since 1983, she served as its vice president from 1991–93 and trustee from 1994–99. In 1999 she was awarded the Grahame T. Smallwood Jr. Award of Merit in recognition of her personal commitment and outstanding service to APG. She counts as a proud moment being elected by her peers to the BCG Board of Trustees, where she served from 2002–2006.

Marie comments, “Thank you, BCG, for an association that spanned thirty-five years and helped me meet so many really great people. I have enjoyed being certified and feel it is a natural progression when someone wants to become a professional. It’s time to stop client research and get back to my own family. Thank you to the Board for granting me Emeritus status.”

On behalf of BCG and the genealogical community, thank you, Marie, for sharing your time, your energy, and your expertise to help us all grow. Congratulations!

[1]Photo courtesy of Ryan Morrill Photography.

[2] Recordings of Marie’s lectures for National Genealogical Society and Federation of Genealogical Societies conferences from 2012 and earlier can be accessed from Jamb Tapes, Inc. Her outlines were published for conference attendees in each year’s syllabus, possibly available now in genealogy libraries.

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.