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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Congratulations, Karen!
by Sharon Hoyt, CG