Congratulations, Ruth Craig, CG!

Ruth Craig became associate #1078 in August 2016. She is a resident of Grafton County, New Hampshire, just across the Connecticut River from Vermont. Her maternal ancestors lived in Massachusetts and New York, and she enjoys doing New England and Canadian research. Ruth especially appreciates the Catholic priests who kept excellent records of her French-Canadian research subjects.

Ruth Craig, CG

Ruth Craig, CG

“My career in medical research schooled me in the hypothesis-testing approach to research, and in means of correlating data. These have served me well in family history research,” says Ruth. She needs that experience as she works on a large family project. “I am trying to trace all descendants of the earliest known ancestor on my father’s side. The husband of one descendant, who had a very common name, moved from Germany to Toronto, changed his name, birthdate, and religion, probably worked on ships on the Great Lakes, and died in parts unknown. I have so far been unable to find any trace of him after 1915, whereas he likely died in the 1950s. I work on him in bits between other research, and will find him someday!”

Ruth has several observations about the certification process. She became educated in genealogical research by participating in the Boston University genealogy course and the ProGen Study Group. “However, the best thing I did was to work on four of the five requirements before I even submitted an application.” She declares that preparing her portfolio definitely changed her approach to genealogy. “I knew nothing about this type of work when I started. I see family history as a field where continuous learning and change are critical. I hope to be able to keep up!”

Ruth offers two pieces of advice for those approaching this task. “First, if a requirement seems overwhelming at the beginning, just start on it without being too perfectionistic. Once you have something on paper, it can be further developed. Second, start small (e.g., on Requirements 6 and 7)—these things tend to grow. If possible, start with a relatively simple situation.”

The standards for certification—the rubrics—made the process difficult for Ruth. She says, “My comments here may be heretical. I find it confusing that the standards, rubrics, and application instructions are overly wordy and redundant/overlapping. All of these changed while I was in the process of applying. My impression is more verbiage is being added (likely to try to help applicants who failed), whereas streamlining would have been more helpful.”

An impressive figure emerged from Ruth’s research for her kinship determination project. Ruth (Willson) Wilson, her grandmother and namesake, was recruited in 1918 for cryptologic work by MI-8, precursor of the National Security Agency (NSA). She helped break a variety of codes used in Central and South America and became a Japanese linguist.[1] “What I learned was a surprise to me and to others who had known her. She made a fantastic contribution at a time when it was difficult to do so as a woman.”

Ruth plans to tie her current medical work to history and genealogy. “I am interested in how diseases and causes of death have evolved historically. I hope to use family history as an entrée to make this area interesting to others. In short, I hope to combine my background in medical research with my new-found interest in genealogy.”

We are sure that research goal will produce some interesting studies. Congratulations on becoming certified, Ruth, and good luck with your work.

[1] https://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/spies/13.htm.

Nora Galvin, 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.

Congratulations, Morrison “Toby” Webb, CG!

Morrison “Toby” Webb became Certified Genealogist #1081 in November, 2016. His ancestral roots are in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and his wife’s are in Maine, so it’s no surprise his research centers on early New England. A recent move from suburban New York City to Portland, Maine, puts him in the sweet spot for his genealogy work. As a trustee of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Toby is deeply involved in preserving and promoting genealogy and history in the region. He’s completing his term as president of a local historical society, and he hopes to become involved in Maine’s genealogy scene.

Morrison "Toby" Webb, CG

Morrison “Toby” Webb, CG

His work career provided experience relevant to genealogy. “I am a retired lawyer and business executive. My legal background is of obvious help to my genealogical research; it makes land records, tax records, and probate records far easier to understand. But the business background is helpful, too. Focus and strategic planning are business skills easily transferable to family research planning.” Previous concerns that retirement would result in a loss of community have been banished as Toby has discovered new colleagues at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), the Boston University genealogy program, a ProGen study group, and local genealogical societies. “In our study, we are blessed to have a well-linked circle of like-minded scholars.” He enjoys the historical aspect of genealogical research. “I find no better way of understanding history than by acknowledging that historic acts are nothing more than the choices of individuals trying to address the problems of life in the context of their times. Studying individuals helps me understand the greater ‘forces’ of the past.”

Toby says the process of preparing his portfolio had a positive effect on his work habits. “As I first dealt with any new source, I drafted the citation I would use later. That change in my process means both that I am certain I have gathered all the citation information I will need and that I will only have to draft the citation once.” He had a difficult time finding an example of proof by indirect evidence for his case study. He was looking for such a problem among New England Quakers, but their extensive records continually frustrated his search for missing information—a problem many of us would like to have. “I finally chose to resolve a conflict between two items of direct evidence, but one of my judges thought the conflict not significant enough to meet the case study requirement.”

Toby has advice for those considering applying for certification. “The advice given to me was crucial: do your research before you begin the application process. In addition, having carefully read the deep evaluations of my submission, I would advise that applications are taken very seriously by the reviewers and the process is not one relatively new genealogists should undertake.” He did not pursue certification to become a professional genealogist. He’s interested in writing and publishing on subjects that interest him personally.

Family historian and public health specialist Lemuel Shattuck of Boston is Toby’s genealogical hero. “He shaped the 1845 Boston census to list every person and then was called to Washington to help design the 1850 U.S. Census. Without his work, we would not have the every-name federal censuses that began in 1850.”

Recently Toby was confronted with a reality of twenty-first century research. Information in the family Bible went as far back as his third-great Webb grandfather. Toby’s careful research finally revealed that man’s parents and carried the line back to the immigrant ancestor. Then, as Toby relates the tale, “In the course of my research, I met a fifth cousin. We posed together at the grave of our shared ancestor and eventually we both had our DNA tested. His sample is consistent with most other samples in the Webb surname DNA project; mine is entirely different. Somewhere in the last five generations, I have a misattributed paternity. Finding where that was has proven to be my most interesting personal challenge.”

We wish Toby well in pursuit of that unknown lineage, and congratulate him on attaining certification.

Nora Galvin, 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.

Congratulations, Robert Johnson, CG!

Robert Johnson became Associate #1076 in June, 2016. A native of Minnesota he currently lives in Springfield, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D. C.

Robert Johnson, CG

Robert Johnson, CG

Living in the mid-Atlantic area, he does research in that region, which is the home of many of his mother’s ancestors, folks who were mainly English, Scots-Irish, Irish, German and French-Canadian. He makes good use of his proximity to the National Archives. His heart, though, is in the Upper Midwest and his father’s Scandinavian ancestry which is Bob’s area of focus and expertise. He speaks Swedish and does translation work in addition to genealogical research. He has a J. D. degree and is a practicing attorney but will soon be moving back to Minnesota to be a full-time genealogist doing Scandinavian research. His business website is www.swedishamericangenealogy.com.

Bob completed a host of courses before applying for certification: the Boston University Certificate Program; the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy Forensic Genealogy Institute (CAFG FGI); the Genealogical Institute on Federal Records (Gen-Fed); the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP); and the National Genealogical Society (NGS) Home Study Course. He says the classes had an impact: “I have absolutely made numerous changes in how I present my work products and myself to clients over the course of preparation for acquiring certification.” When asked about the difficulty of preparing a portfolio, Bob replied, “I think the standards and emphasis on rigorous analysis gets you to 90%, but the last 10% is the art of the profession. Feeling sufficient confidence in presenting my work to judges for evaluation made the process seem harder for me.” But, his advice is: “Certainly ensure that you have done everything recommended by BCG, but then just do it—submit your portfolio. I, and many friends and acquaintances, stayed on the clock or in preparation, for far too long. I still would have preferred to wait until my portfolio and I were both perfect, but apparently even today that is at least a few weeks away yet.” Nevertheless, we see he has achieved certification.

Many genealogists have “former lives.” Bob says, “I have worked in law and history fields and both have been significant in helping me to develop analytic and research skills. I also trained as a chef, the skills of which have come in handy at a few society/association meetings where an injection of sugar is just the fix for overworked volunteers.” For him “genealogical research is like a great mystery where I get to act as the detective. I love that it is not easy and that I have to puzzle through new things, about which I have to learn. The combination of solo work backed by a network of supportive colleagues fits my employment temperament exactly.”

Calling himself an eternal optimist, Bob does not use the term “brick wall.” Bringing the standard of “reasonably exhaustive research” to mind, he looks at difficult research problems as projects that simply need more time devoted to them.

There are a few other things we need to know about Bob. “When not searching for ancestors who seem to try and avoid me, I am searching after birds that fly away from my attempts at photographing them, or I am stalking trout that swim away from my well-crafted and gently-cast flies. I am afraid to walk on the gratings on city sidewalks. And when I have the time, I read good books and watch terrible B-Horror films.”

Good luck with your transition to full-time genealogy, Bob, and congratulations!

by Nora Galvin, 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.

Congratulations, Yvette Hoitink, CG!

Yvette Hoitink became associate #1072 in May, 2016. She lives in Alphen aan den Rijn in the Netherlands, about thirty minutes from Amsterdam. Her ancestors came from the provinces of Gelderland, Noord-Brabant, and Zeeland, located in the east and south of the country.

She started researching her own family at the age of fifteen and discovered immediately that a great-great-grandmother was born out of wedlock. It has been her goal since then to identify the father. Her genealogical education and experience have recently led Yvette to recognize an important clue in a document she found on her very first day of research, and she believes this clue will lead to the identity of her great-great-great-grandfather.

Yvette Hoitink, CG

Yvette Hoitink, CG

Yvette is interested in a wide range of subjects—languages, cartography, travel, history, geography, biology, photography, reading, and teaching—and she finds they all seem to play a part in thorough genealogical research. With an educational background in computer science and management studies, she spent a 20-year career in Information Technology, working as an IT consultant and project manager for different archives in the Netherlands. She found that in project management she learned two skills that are fundamental to evidence analysis—working to understand other people’s perspectives and how that may affect what they say and do, and verifying information. She started a genealogy research business four years ago (http://www.dutchgenealogy.nl/).

The fact that English is a second language for her was an additional challenge Yvette faced in pursuing certification.  Members of the Association for Professional Genealogists will recognize her name and insights, and appreciate her seemingly flawless English skills, from the APG email list. However, Yvette says that compiling an entire portfolio in English was difficult at times. She considered transcribing one particular document but decided explaining the legal nuances in English would be a daunting task, so she passed over that one and selected another that was a bit more straightforward. Also, she says, “Some of the standards and practices that BCG expects were different from what we are used to in Europe—things like using married names instead of maiden names, numbering people in a genealogy, or citing sources. Having to make my own judgements on how to deal with those situations gave me a deeper understanding, but it took more time than I had anticipated.”

She goes on to say, “Learning about the genealogy standards as formulated by BCG was an eye opener for me. The standards overlapped with best practices that I had developed for myself, but using the whole set elevated the quality of my work. I had to relearn how I did research, especially regarding the way I document my findings.” Her five-year plan includes publishing books and articles about finding ancestors in the Netherlands and doing more New Netherland research, which she thinks has great potential for new discoveries.

Yvette considers Elizabeth Shown Mills to be her genealogy hero, “not just for her amazing powers of evidence analysis, but also because she is so generous with her teachings.” Yvette encourages others, especially in Europe, to work toward certification. She found that following leaders in the field gave her excellent exposure to best practices in genealogy: reading the NGSQ, following the Legal Genealogist blog, participating in the Evidence Explained forum. Here is her advice about certification:

  • You won’t find the time, you have to make the time
  • There is no one right way
  • Education before certification
  • Certification is not the end of your education
  • Combine education with practice
  • It does not have to be perfect
  • Just turn the sucker in (hat tip: Judy Russell)

Good luck with your publishing plans, Yvette, and congratulations!

by Nora Galvin, 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.

Congratulations, Jeanette Shiel, CG!

The Board for Certification of Genealogists welcomes Jeanette Shiel a native of Brunswick, near Albany, New York, and a current resident of San Diego. Jeanette became interested in genealogy after moving to California. Researching her Northeastern ancestors has been a long-distance project.

Jeanette provides this insight into her reasons for doing family history. “I pursue genealogy research because our ancestors’ lives matter. Whether they were well-known and left a vault filled with a paper trail or whether there are barely bits and pieces of breadcrumbs scattered here and there to hunt after and collect them. They want us to know. They want their story told. I personally enjoy the hunt for breadcrumbs.”

Jeanette Shiel, CG

Jeanette Shiel, CG

Jeanette feels that participating in a ProGen (Professional Genealogy) study group was a very helpful piece of her genealogy education. It gave her insight into the world of genealogy publishing and various kinds of writing that go into a portfolio. Her advice for others considering certification: “Write, edit, set it aside, rewrite. Be prepared and absorb as much genealogy education as you can. Never stop learning.”

Jeanette’s experience in preparing her portfolio was mostly positive. She enjoyed writing, which turned out to be a pleasant task. However, she dreaded writing citations and put off adding them until she had completed each component of her submission.

Certification is a strong recommendation that she will be able to point to in her new genealogy business, Fine Lines Genealogy (http://www.finelinesgen.com/). She expects that having gone through the certification process will be helpful in working toward her goal of publishing her research. She says, “I think it’s important to share what you’ve learned.”

Inspiration for family history research and for working toward certification comes from “people (both genealogists and non-genealogists) that never give up. They take on obstacles as challenges and never stop (the search) until they reach their goal (answer their research question). Genealogy is a never-ending process, a puzzle never completely solved. There may be brick walls, but they take them down one brick at a time.”

Jeanette exhibits similar doggedness in searching for the father of her ancestor, William Goddard. “I have taken a possible eighty-eight adult males on the 1810 census and through process of elimination of probate and other records it’s dwindled down to thirty-six males. I keep records of each family and capturing all of these families in context is quite a challenge. I will eventually solve this enigma…and when I do, it will be a story to share.”

Good luck with that research, Jeanette. Congratulations!

Jeanette can be reached at jbstree@roadrunner.com.

by Nora Galvin, 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.

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 kauman@byu.edu.  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 georgiagenealogist@hotmail.com. 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.

Congratulations, Mary O’Brien Vidlak, CG!

Congratulations to Mary O’Brien Vidlak, CG, of Williamsburg, Virginia! A native of New York, Mary serves as Governor-at-Large and Corresponding Secretary of the Virginia Genealogical Society and is a past chairperson of the program committee for the Genealogical Research Institute of Virginia. She is the news coordinator for ProGen Study Group 15. Mary’s certification reflects a longtime interest in genealogy and history. She shares her journey with us:

Mary O’Brien Vidlak, CG

I was born in Queens, New York, and spent most of my life in Westchester County, a suburb north of the city. The suburbs never felt like home to me; there is a lack of history and roots because everything is new and always changing. Ten years ago my husband and I moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, because we love American history and feel a sense of home in this historic area. I had been working in human resources and planned to continue to do that in Virginia. However the position I wanted didn’t work out, and while I continued to look for a job in my field I took advantage of my time off to explore the areas of Virginia that had been the homes of generations of my maternal ancestors. This literally changed my life. I had always been curious about my ancestors and asked questions, but no one in my family—on either side—really had a strong interest or much specific knowledge. As is the case for most of us, the more I discovered the more I wanted to know.

I quickly realized there was a great deal of information that had no indication of the source. Based on past educational and work experience I knew I wanted to find professional organizations that could teach me how to figure this all out. I joined the National Genealogical Society (NGS) and started with their census course before moving on to the graded version of American Genealogy. In addition to the course material, I read all the recommended material. One of the graders suggested I consider certification, which led to my decision to participate in a ProGen Study Group to increase my knowledge and skill level. I also attended every local, state and national conference I could. My first national conference—NGS in Charleston—was amazing. I recognized how much there was to learn and how frequently incredibly knowledgeable individuals were board-certified genealogists.

Somewhere along the way I created my “strategic plan” and added institutes to my education. I began to pursue genealogy relatively late in life and found the courses themselves and the environment around them an excellent way to ensure I was learning the best practices of the discipline. I was fortunate to be in the final course Barbara Vines Little coordinated at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR): Virginia Land and Military Conflicts; also, oddly enough, to be in the final Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis course that Elizabeth Shown Mills coordinated at IGHR. I have attended the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) every year but one since its inception, where among other courses I was enrolled in Determining Kinship Reliably with the GPS and Advanced Research Methods, both coordinated by Tom Jones. I also attended the National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR) where I found material I used in my portfolio. I got to Salt Lake City for the first time when I attended the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) in January 2016—after submitting my portfolio. My education will continue this summer when I am back at GRIP!

In many ways my past work and educational experiences have contributed to my success. I was an English Education major at Fairfield University; I ran a small business when my children were young; I worked in human resources at a Fortune 500 company and did a lot of writing and speaking as well as analyzing and correlating information. I enjoy learning new things—and in genealogy I am always learning new things. I also like the challenge of taking research and writing it up in an organized, logical and persuasive way. And genealogy affirms the core belief of my life: every individual is unique, important and valuable, and every life has a story.

One extremely valuable tool I used in educating myself was to purchase CDs from conferences and listen repeatedly to the lectures given by many experts. At times I feel as though I must know them since they spend a huge amount of time driving around with me! As I was working on my portfolio I listened many times to two lectures given at different conferences about preparing your portfolio. Each time I listened I heard something different that helped me with my work.

In addition to the greats of our profession, I have been inspired by people whom I met as classmates, in particular Jean Andrews, CG, and Nancy A. Peters, CG, who sent me encouraging emails and reminded me how much I wanted certification and how great it would feel when I got an email from the BCG Executive Director telling me my portfolio had been approved. I also have to thank Barbara Vines Little whom I ran into at the Library of Virginia one day when she told me to “just send it in!” Outside of genealogy, my husband Michael provided endless encouragement, and my father—who knows almost nothing about his family—fostered my interest in history, which led to my passion for genealogy.

Two suggestions I have for potential applicants—don’t make certification a new year’s resolution so that your deadline is December 31st unless you want to spend your holidays working on your portfolio, and remember that “done is better than perfect!”

Mary is a full time genealogist. She plans to expand her client work and continue to lecture.  She also intends to write and publish her own family research. Mary can be reached at movidlak@cox.net

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.

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 karenstanbary@gmail.com.



[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.

 

 

Welcome, Angela McGhie, CG!

Angela McGhie is a familiar name to many for her commitment to excellence in genealogical education. Now we welcome her as a new BCG associate!

Angela P. McGhie, CG

Angela credits her parents’ family history interests and her grandmother’s Swedish and Danish research for an early introduction to the world of genealogy.  As a college student, Angela interviewed both grandmothers and combined photographs with collected stories to present her family’s history. She has been a dedicated genealogist ever since and for the past fifteen years has focused on in-depth research and education.

Moving into the professional field, Angela recognized the need for formalized training to hone her skills. She began attending genealogical seminars and conferences, and completed the National Genealogical Society (NGS) American Genealogy Home Study Course. In 2007 Angela joined the NGS Quarterly (NGSQ) Study Group; she joined the first Professional Genealogy (ProGen) Study Group in 2008.[1] Within six months she became its administrator, writing assignments and recruiting mentors to work with participants. The ProGen Study Group has grown to 328 alumni and over 110 current students. This success is due in large part to Angela’s tireless efforts.

More recently Angela completed a study of Tom Jones’ Mastering Genealogical Proof,[2] then initiated a study group based on the book; to date, forty-five groups have completed the program. She helped design and coordinates the “Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum” course for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG); students work to solve genealogical problems and sharpen their evidence analysis skills.

Certification was a logical step for Angela: “I decided that if I was going to be a professional genealogist I should have my work evaluated to show that I met standards.”

Angela prepared for certification through a combination of education and practical experience. She attended courses at genealogical institutes, including Tom Jones’ “Advanced Genealogical Methods” at SLIG and Elizabeth Shown Mills’ “Advanced Methodology” at the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR).

Whether researching her own ancestors or those of her clients, Angela found it exciting and challenging to apply the methods she studied, as each case required unique records and methods to solve. Once the methodology became an inherent part of her research process, Angela knew she was ready to complete and submit her portfolio.

Her most challenging project was her portfolio case study. Angela had searched for the parents of her third great-grandfather for about eight years. She performed what she felt was “reasonably exhaustive research,” then “exhaustive research.” The mystery was solved through discovery of her ancestor’s Canadian brother. Angela overcame conflicting information and researched in four countries to reveal their mother’s identity: an invaluable learning experience.

Angela’s advice to aspiring BCG associates? Get a solid education by taking advantage of the many opportunities available. Study the standards and the rubrics until you really understand them. Practice writing research plans, research reports, and proof arguments or case studies. Once you feel comfortable, prepare your portfolio.

Angela appreciates the many mentors who provided education, guidance and encouragement, including Elizabeth Shown Mills, Tom Jones, Claire Bettag, Craig Scott, Rick Sayre, Pam Sayre, Elissa Powell, and every mentor that has participated in the ProGen Study Program.

What’s next for Angela? She says “I love teaching and lecturing and have focused my career in this area for the last few years. I have been blessed with opportunities to teach at the genealogy institutes, and am very grateful as I am passionate about education. I want to continue my focus in this area, but will probably begin taking clients again.” Her blog, Adventures in Genealogy Education, journals Angela’s educational priorities and experiences.

Angela lives in Laurel, Maryland, with her husband and three children. She can be reached at mcghiefamilyhistory@gmail.com . Congratulations, Angela!

 

 

 


[1] The groups work through Elizabeth Shown Mills, ed., Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001).

[2] Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013).