Free BCG Webinar: Manuscript Gems with Shellee A. Morehead

Tuesday, 21 July 2015, 8:00 p.m. EDT, Shellee A. Morehead, Ph.D., CG, will present ”Diamonds in the Rough: Finding and Using Manuscript Collections.”

Unique, unpublished materials can be valuable resources for solving those pesky genealogical problems and adding insight and flavor to our family histories. Research is not complete without looking through unusual and one-of-a-kind materials that may be available for the time and place our ancestors lived. Diaries, letters, journals, scrapbooks, and other ephemera can be found in a variety of repositories across the United States. A genealogical society, public or private library, historical society, university, or other entity may have that one piece of paper that illuminates our family’s history. But how can we  find it?

Shellee Morehead, Ph.D., CG

This lecture describes the types of collections that may be hiding in plain sight and how to access them online and in person. Materials that may be found in manuscript collections include maps, photographs, genealogists’ research notes, unpublished histories, business ledgers, journals, and vertical files. Shellee gives examples of how these materials provide insight into our families’ lives and neighborhoods and provides suggestions on where to find the “diamonds in the rough.”

Shellee A. Morehead, Ph.D. (evolutionary ecology), CG, researches, writes, and lectures on family history. Recently she has written about using DNA to reveal the Ulster origins of Thomas Hamilton, progenitor of a colonial American family. She has spoken at The Genealogy Event in New York and at various local societies. She also appeared in a 2010 episode of the Danish television adaptation of Who Do You Think You Are?

Attendance is limited for this free webinar. Once registered, please sign in early to avoid disappointment.

To register for Shellee A. Morehead, Ph.D., CG, “Diamonds in the Rough: Finding and Using Manuscript Collections” on 21 July 2015, 8:00 p.m. EDT (7:00 CDT, 6:00 MDT, 5:00 PDT): https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1093371223246598658.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

BCG Webinars will be on vacation in August 2015. We will resume broadcast in September 2015.

CG and Certified Genealogist 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.

10-Minute Methodology: Are You Searching or Researching?

Are you up to date? From the old Standards Manual to the new Genealogy Standards the first component of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) is different. Have you noticed? We used to say, “We conduct a reasonably exhaustive search.”[1] That’s still true, but there’s more. We conduct reasonably exhaustive research.[2] Those two added letters bring much more to what others expect of us as genealogists and what we must expect of ourselves.

Research connotes more than search. It covers searching, of course—careful and thorough searching in a wide variety of sources. It also includes planning, critical thinking, and evaluation. And research includes strategies that go considerably beyond identifying relevant records and searching for a name of interest.[3]

Let’s look at how the concept is presented in reference works we use often.

The Encyclopedia Britannica dictionary includes in its definition of research

  • “careful or diligent search” and
  • “studious inquiry or examination, especially critical and exhaustive investigation . . . having for its aim
    • discovery of new facts and their correct interpretation;
    • revision of accepted conclusions . . . in the light of newly discovered facts;
    • practical applications of such new or revised conclusions.”[4]

The glossary in Genealogy Standards describes research as “an investigation designed to discover or interpret facts and thus to advance knowledge.”[5]

As genealogists, we examine sources and collect information, always subjecting both to critical evaluation. Standards 35 and 36 advise us to “appraise [the] likely accuracy, integrity, and completeness” of our sources and information.[6]

We also interpret the information we find. We think about it and decide if it becomes evidence to support our hypotheses. Standards in “Reasoning from Evidence” apply to the mental processes we perform on our collected data to turn it into evidence and to use that evidence to draw conclusions.[7]

Evidence Explained sheds more light on the concept of research:

  • “As history researchers, we do not speculate. We test. We critically observe and carefully record. Then we weigh the accumulated evidence, analyzing the individual parts as well as the whole, without favoring any theory.”[8]
  • “Research is much more than an accumulation of data. It is a process that requires continual comparison of new information against the old.”[9]

This first element of the GPS, even the word research alone, carries in it the sense and the value of the whole standard. The words of the GPS define us as not just lookup artists, no matter how skilled or experienced. We are more. As researchers we collect data, subject it to rigorous evaluation, compare and contrast it with other data and conclusions, and propose new information or conclusions. That’s a big responsibility. The GPS takes us there with the mindset of researchers, not just seekers.


[1] The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (Orem, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 2000), 1.

[2] Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014), 1.

[3] The author is grateful to Elizabeth Shown Mills for input to this paragraph and encouragement overall.

[4] “Dictionary,” Encyclopædia Britannica (http://www.britannica.com/dictionary/research : accessed 28 June 2015), s.v. “research.”

[5] Genealogy Standards, 76.

[6] Ibid., 21, 22.

[7] Ibid., 23–29.

[8] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2015), 15.

[9] Ibid., 16.

Welcome, Amanda Gonzalez, CG

Amanda Gonzalez’s family is firmly rooted in the Delmarva (Delaware-Maryland-Virginia) area. All her ancestors but one were from colonial Pennsylvania and the Delmarva Peninsula. She first became interested in genealogy when her great-grandmother explained about membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. Amanda followed in her footsteps, joining at age eighteen. A lifelong love of history translated into a degree in history from the University of Delaware. Then followed work for the New Castle [Delaware] Court House Museum and the Hagley Museum, where she offered tours and researched for exhibits. Employment at the New Castle County Library system and the Palomar College Library in San Marcos, California, increased her awareness of the multitude of research resources available and how to access them. Amanda also worked briefly for Genealogists.com.

Amanda Gonzalez, CG

Through bookstore/publisher Colonial Roots’s Facebook page, Amanda met former publisher F. Edward Wright, who engaged her to transcribe court orders. This resulted in two publications, Westmoreland County, Virginia, Court Orders 1726–1729 and Westmoreland County, Virginia, Court Orders 1729–1731.[1] She expects to continue the series with one or two more publications.

Amanda’s personal genealogical research takes her on two different paths. Her own colonial family challenges her with a puzzle of mis-attributed paternity. A Y-DNA tester from her maiden name line, Warren, most closely matches West-surnamed testers. She hopes to narrow down, through documentary research and more DNA testing, when and where the West-Warren link occurred.

On the other hand, the Gonzalez surname strongly suggests Hispanic roots, and in fact Amanda’s husband’s family is Mexican American. Preparing to trace their ancestry means Amanda will be learning more Spanish and studying colonial Spanish handwriting.

Amanda based her portfolio preparation on a thorough knowledge of three books, Genealogy Standards, Evidence Explained, and Professional Genealogy.[2] She read, re-read, and did more re-reading of the standards and the portfolio requirements. Seminars, conferences, and Facebook pages sponsored by local genealogical societies filled in blanks. She took her time, paid attention to every detail, and became more critical in her research process.

Amanda’s father accompanied her on research trips to archives and cemeteries. Before his passing he gifted her the fee for BCG certification, keen to support her interest and career path. With certification under her belt Amanda now feels ready to take clients and looks forward to a thriving genealogical service business. She can be reached at adgulf@cs.com. Welcome, Amanda!


[1] Amanda Gonzalez, Westmoreland County, Virginia, Court Orders 1726–1729 (Millsboro, Del.: Colonial Roots, 2013). Amanda Gonzalez, Westmoreland County, Virginia, Court Orders 1729–1731 (Millsboro, Del.: Colonial Roots, 2013).

[2] Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014). Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 2nd edition (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2009). Elizabeth Shown Mills, ed., Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001).

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.

Patti Hobbs, CG, New BCG Education Fund Trustee

One of our new BCG associates has recently joined the Board of Trustees of the BCG Education Fund. This non-profit charitable trust furthers BCG’s standards-based education goals. It funds lectures and workshops and provides incentives for study and scholarly research.

Patti Hobbs, CG

The trustees of the BCG Education Fund announce that Patricia “Patti” Lee Hobbs, CG, of Clever, Missouri, joins the board as a trustee. Patti is an accomplished genealogist specializing in DNA analysis and working with original records. She is particularly interested in genealogical education, as evidenced by her longtime position as Local History and Genealogy reference associate at the Springfield-Greene County Library District, where she has taught classes on genetic genealogy and traditional research methodology. This summer she will teach in the genetic genealogy course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

Patti’s teaching and library experience, her skill as a webmaster for the ProGen Study Group, and her leadership roles with the Ozarks Genealogical Society all will benefit the BCG Education Fund going forward. We are fortunate to welcome a colleague of her caliber, and we look forward to working with her.

by Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL
on behalf of the BCG Education Fund Trustees

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, Barbara Ball, CG

Earlier this month, BCG granted the designation of Certified Genealogist to Barbara Ball of Tucson, Arizona. SpringBoard invites readers to meet Barbara through this interview with editor Judy Kellar Fox, CG.

Who are you, Barbara?

Daughter of a psychologist and a Presbyterian minister, I was born in Montana and moved to Arizona as a toddler.  I’m a Westerner.  I was a tomboy, a motocross racer, and a bookish nerd.  I played the flute, marched in the band, rode horses, and read every book I could get.  I walked barefoot in the desert, loved the summer rains, and became a passionate nature and animal lover.

Barbara Ball, CG

As an adult, I’ve been a bookkeeper, medical transcriptionist, code writer, scientist, cartographer, genealogist, and lifetime student.  I have three university degrees.  I’m a wife, mother, and grandmother.  I still play the flute, do needlework, sew, quilt, play bridge, garden, do jigsaw puzzles, draw, read, and swim.

Tell us about how your academic career has informed your genealogical work.

I was a GIS (geographic information systems) analyst, mapping endangered species habitat.  I loved this work, which involved geographic location of plants and animals, analysis of historic maps, production of current maps, and spatial analysis of patterns found in migration and habitation.  Maps are so crucial to genealogists, and I suppose I will always strive to find a niche in the world of genealogy that involves incorporating more geography and demographics into our work. Oh, I could write a book.  Maybe I will.

You have already published an article about GIS for genealogists, right?

Yes, “Geographic Information Systems for Genealogists,” Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly (APGQ) 32 (June 2014), 78–81. Another is forthcoming in the June 2015 issue of APGQ.

Why do you pursue genealogical research?

Originally it was a fun hobby when I lost my university job.  After I completed the Boston University Online Certificate in Genealogical Research, I realized genealogy could be another career.  Now I see it as I did my academic work—a field of research that is just beginning to develop into a potential academic discipline on its own merits.  While I don’t know exactly how that might happen, I find it a fascinating possibility.  The field is rigorous enough to satisfy my need for academic/scientific discipline, not only in the research process, but also in the logically supported approach to solving a problem or reaching a conclusion.  The hypothesis-research-conclusions process appeals to me.  The field is wide enough to encompass those who just want to click on the leaf as well as those who want to engage in intellectual stretching.

How did you prepare for certification?

Education.  I went through the National Genealogical Society [NGS] American Genealogy: Home Study Course, then the Boston University course, then a ProGen Study Group.  I’ve attended the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy Advanced Evidence Practicum course every year it has been offered, and that has been extremely valuable.

About four months before my due date, I listened to a seminar by Judy Russell, J.D., CG, CGL, about writing the Kinship Determination Project [KDP].  She was adamant that you should never do a KDP without access to onsite research.  I was so unhinged that I immediately scheduled a last-minute and rather expensive trip to Ohio, where I spent four days in the basement of a county courthouse that I had been in already twice before!

Who are your genealogical heroes?

My personal heroes would be Angela McGhie and Kimberly Powell.  These two ladies are busy with their own work and their own lives, yet they always have time to offer support, encouragement, and a smile. They make the profession human. I can’t forget Harold Henderson, Michael Hait, and Melinde Lutz Byrne.  Thank you.

Generically speaking, as a former academic, I have a great deal of respect for those genealogists who have retired from their academic careers and brought that rigorous discipline into the genealogy field.

What is your most satisfying genealogical work?

I love building up a picture of a family system.  While producing the KDP required for my portfolio seemed akin to writing a master’s thesis, it was one of the most interesting things I’ve done.  I love solving a riddle, but more satisfying is just the continual process of describing a family and how their dynamics resulted in a particular descendant, whether it be a family member of mine or a client.

What’s your most frustrating work?

I have two ancestors from Ireland that drive me batty.  I also have a fellow named Ball that seemed to have dropped out of the sky.  My most interesting brick wall involves the members of a very tangled family in England. I have letters from them in my archives, and a whole book of unlabeled photos that I’m sure would help me straighten them out!

How do you see yourself in five years, Barbara?

My husband’s retirement hobby is photography, so I see us taking many trips to areas where I can do research and he can wander around any nearby wildlife areas taking pictures.  I would like to do more client work, and I really enjoy helping my friends with their family research. I hope to be able to move further into the professional realm of genealogy. I would like to do more mapping and spatial analysis projects, demonstrating the value of these tools, as well as writing articles that will be educational for other genealogists.

Congratulations on becoming a BCG associate, Barbara. Welcome!

 Barbara Ball, CG, can be reached at barb@copestoneresources.com and http://www.copestoneresources.com.

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.

Two Changes to BCG Applications Effective 2016

The Board for Certification of Genealogists has authorized two significant changes in the certification process for new applicants. These changes will go into effect in 2016, when the new Application Guide is published. Briefly, for the first time (1) new applicants will be evaluated on their genealogically-related educational activities, and (2) new applications will be limited to 150 pages.

Evaluation of educational activities pertaining to genealogy

Genealogy standards 82 and 83 state that genealogists regularly engage in formal and informal development activities for four reasons: to better meet the standards, to learn more about useful materials, to enhance skills in reconstructing relationships and events, and to better present their findings to others.[1] Years of data also show that applicants with more genealogy education are more likely to produce successful portfolios for certification.

Accordingly, as is currently the case, applicants will be required to briefly describe the genealogy-related activities that help prepare them for certification. However, as is not currently the case, this section will now be evaluated. Genealogical-education activities will meet the evaluation criteria if they show that the applicant “has engaged in a variety of development activities aimed at improving genealogical standards attainment.”

This change adds one rubric to the evaluations of portfolios. The new rubric emphasizes the need for ongoing genealogy education. Failure to meet one specific rubric does not disqualify an application. Other questions currently asked in the resume will be eliminated.

Maximum portfolio length, 150 pages

The second change will reduce the size limit for new portfolios to a maximum of 150 pages total. The current limits were established when BCG had more requirements for certification than now. The new size limit provides ample room for applicants to demonstrate their abilities.

“These changes are part of BCG’s ongoing analyzing, evaluating, and refining the certification process,” said BCG president Jeanne Larzalere Bloom. “We hope that these two changes will streamline the process, make it more manageable for applicants, and encourage applicants to engage in a variety of genealogical-development activities before assembling a portfolio.”

For questions or more information, please visit http://www.bcgcertification.org  or contact Nicki Birch, CG, at office@BCGcertification.org.

[1] Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014), 43–44.

by Harold Henderson, CG

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.

Harold Henderson, CG: Analyze or Else!

SpringBoard is pleased to offer a post by guest blogger Harold Henderson, CG. Harold has been a professional writer since 1979, a professional genealogist since 2009, and a Board-certified genealogist since June 2012. He lives and works in northwest Indiana, serves as a trustee of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, and has published in National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ), New England Historical and Genealogical Register, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and elsewhere. His website is midwestroots.net.

Analyze or Else! by Harold Henderson, CG

Genealogists who meet standards do so in part by asking pointed, even impolite, questions about every document and piece of information they see. It’s called analysis. Genealogists who don’t meet standards do so by trusting everything they see, and not asking questions. And anyone who is still this trusting is not ready to apply for certification.

As ambitious genealogists, we need to know how to analyze sources. We need to do it all the time—and we need to feel queasy when we don’t. The example that follows involves no difficult problem, requires no unusual skill, and would not normally appear in a peer-reviewed genealogy journal. It shows the pitfalls of trusting the first source we find and the benefits of carefully analyzing all information from all sources.

Eliphas Thrall gravestone, courtesy of Jennifer Alford

Recently I wanted to document Eliphas Thrall’s birth date. His grave marker in Ohio gives his death date (19 March 1834) and his age at death (65 years, 8 months, 19 days).[1] This information does not determine a single definite birth date. Different methods of subtracting produce slightly different birth dates for Eliphas, between 28 and 30 June 1768.[2]

Case closed? No. I did not ask myself, “Is this true or false?” And if I had it wouldn’t have helped much. Sometimes grave markers and statements of age are mistaken, and sometimes they aren’t. I had to get down to a deeper level and consider the factors that would make the birth date more likely to be one or the other.

Whoever provided the information for the marker probably was not present for Eliphas’s birth in New England, and probably knew Eliphas’s birth date only by hearsay. That person might also have taken Eliphas’s supposed birth date and gone through a complex calculation, filled with chances of error, to figure his age at death. Could I find a way to get information about the birth that is closer in time to the event, more likely to come from an eyewitness?

I knew the family came from Connecticut and had lived in western Massachusetts. The published vital records of Granville, Massachusetts, give Eliphas’s birth date as 23 June 1767—more than a year earlier than the calculated dates from the grave marker.[3]

Case closed? Not. The book was published in 1914. Some conscientious twentieth-century person read through the Granville birth records (or a copy), and summarized them. Then they were typeset. That leaves plenty of chances for mistakes. So this handy, easily read published list is a derivative source. What do I do with a derivative source? Try to find what it’s derived from.

Do the original birth records for Granville survive from around 1767? Not only do they survive, they’re on line.[4]

The 1914 summarizer didn’t make any mistakes that I can see, but some information was lost in the process. The original lists the children in chronological order with a note in the middle making it easier to see that Eliphas was the last child born in Windsor, Connecticut, and his brother, two years later, was the first in the family to be born in Granville, Massachusetts. The handwriting also enables me to see that the entire list down to James was written in the same hand and with the same pen, no doubt at the same time—after the birth of Mary in 1775 and before the birth of James in 1778, which is in a different hand. So now I know that Eliphas’s birth date was written down, perhaps at the dictation of his father, between those two dates, before Eliphas had grown up.

Looking at the adjoining pages suggests that some of the top-of-page entries like the Thralls’ may have been made in sequence in the 1770s, with space left on the lower part of each page for additional children. Evidently in time a clerk went back and saved paper by filling the blank spaces with later entries.

What did my questions get me? Higher-quality evidence than I would have had if I had settled for the grave marker or the 1914 publication. The Granville record is not contemporaneous with Eliphas’s birth, but it is as close as I have been able to come so far. The Granville informant was much more likely to have been around when Eliphas was born than the tombstone informant. So unless and until new evidence appears to corroborate either 28–30 June 1768 or 23 June 1767 (and it may appear as I follow Eliphas to Vermont and Ohio), the chance of the 1768 date being wrong is greater.

This chase would have been worthwhile even if all three sources agreed right down to the day. The point is to look as hard as we can—and in genealogy that does not mean staring at the page until our eyes cross. It means recognizing that there are more questions to be asked and often more and better records to find.

Analysis is not a frill—and not always this straightforward. It is at the heart of what we do.


[1] Find A Grave, database with images (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 10 June 2015), memorial 19,659,389, Eliphas Thrall (d. 1834), Old Colony Burying Ground, Granville, Licking County, Ohio.

[2] RootsMagic and timeanddate.com give 28 June; calculator.net gives 30 June. The late lamented Master Genealogist program always indicated the result was approximate. A very full explanation is Barbara Levergood, “Calculating and Using Dates and Date Ranges,” NGSQ 102 (March 2014): 51–73. The inevitable variance is discussed on p. 52.

[3] Vital Records of Granville, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1914), 85; Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/cu31924028820609 : viewed 10 June 2015).

[4]  Town of Granville (Massachusetts), Town Records, Births, Marriages, Deaths 1751-1786, Samuel Thrall family, p. 114; digital image, FamilySearch  (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-11883-59149-92?cc : viewed 10 June 2015).

CG and Certified Genealogist 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.

Skillbuilding: Mills on Using the FAN Club with the GPS and DNA

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this Skillbuilding lecture, presented Friday, 15 May 2015:

F311: Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA, “FAN + GPS + DNA: The Problem-Solver’s Great Trifecta,” reviewed by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL.

This lecture’s program brochure description reads, “Can you really ‘prove’ a maternal line when, for four straight generations, absolutely no document identifies a parent or sibling? This session shows you how.” And does it ever!

Mills begins with an explanation of the acronyms in her lecture title and their concepts:

  • Studying a woman’s FAN (friends, associates, and neighbors) club requires following the males in her life and involves anyone within her lifetime contacts.
  • The GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard) includes reasonably extensive research—not just searching for a document that may not exist. Careful and targeted research should pull together bits and pieces to form the larger puzzle picture. Careful recording and skilled analysis are integral to the GPS, as are resolution of any conflicts and a written proof argument to explain the analysis and conclusion.
  • Y-line, mitochondrial, autosomal, and X-chromosome DNA-test results enable the genealogist to scientifically assess the conclusions reached on the basis of the FAN club research and the GPS.

With her audience understanding the tools, Mills builds a case using them. First she relates some of the missteps of her earlier genealogical years, such as ignoring records from those in the subject’s FAN club. Who would have thought that the key to breaking the case was an orphan’s sister’s husband’s stepmother’s sister’s father’s second wife?  Mills also gives tips for working in burned counties, such as reading every page of surviving and reconstructed records—even those for the time period after the family moved away.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA

As the story of the research unfolds and the wonderful charts are presented and explained, readers of National Genealogical Society Quarterly hear a ring of familiarity. Part of Mills’s story was published there and in multiple research reports on Mills’s Historic Pathways website.[1]  The reports lay out the FAN-club research that could not be included in the published article. After years of research, only two of the four generations of Mills’s reconstruction met the GPS, in her view. At this point DNA evidence was needed.

After running tests on herself and her brother, Mills proceeded to contact all DNA and surname matches. Through her research, she identified descendants of a suspected sister in each hypothetical generation and asked each to do mitochondrial and autosomal DNA tests. The descendants matched on all defined markers. The resulting triangulation of multiple lines of descent supported the reconstructed lineage through four generations of women, even though paper research can prove only Mills’s connection to her grandmother.

In the end it took FAN + GPS + DNA to make a solid case: FAN to find the massive amounts of data; GPS to test the theories; and DNA evidence to add scientific confidence to the conclusions. Laid out in understandable terms and with the visual diagrams needed to track the research progress, Mills hit the trifecta of giving her audience an understandable case study in proof, evidence, and techniques.

“FAN + GPS + DNA: The Problem-Solver’s Great Trifecta,” session F311, was recorded by Jamb Tapes, Inc.

In addition, this lecture is part of Track 2, “Methodology Techniques,” of the NGS On-demand Live-streaming package. It can be purchased at: http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/, with access through 10 August 2015.


[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Testing the FAN Principle against DNA: Zilphy (Watts) Price Cooksey Cooksey of Georgia and Mississippi,” NGSQ 102 (June 2014): 129–52. For the eight underlying reports that have been posted, see Elizabeth Shown Mills, Historic Pathways (http://www.historicpathways.com), “Research” tab, “Genealogical Reports: Cooksey.”

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.

Skillbuilding: Henningfield on Investigating Neighborhoods

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this skillbuilding lecture, presented Saturday, 16 May, 2015:

S401: Melinda Daffin Henningfield, MS, CG, “Investigate the Neighborhood to Advance Your Research,” reviewed by Sara Scribner, CG

Melinda Daffin Henningfield, CG, begins her beautifully illustrated lecture with a family photo. It shows her grandmother atop a donkey, grandfather leaning over the donkey smiling, a man holding the halter, and three men in the background. She points out the photo represents a “neighborhood” of two ancestors and four of their associates. This gives a whole new way to conceptualize a neighborhood and a group of associates.

Melinda Henningfield, CG

Henningfield mentions census neighborhoods, tax-list neighborhoods, religious neighborhoods, land neighborhoods, ship-manifest neighborhoods, and cemetery neighborhoods. She identifies the many names this type of research goes by: FAN (friends, associates, and neighbors) club or principle, whole-family research, community research, assemblages, or cluster research. One memorable slide captures the concept with a grape-leaf cluster labeled friends, associates, neighbors—and enemies.

She also notes that some genealogists resist neighborhood research because it is time consuming and may not directly identify ancestors by name. However, doing this type of research can uncover important information about those ancestors. Henningfield’s case studies illustrate this. One example on Wisconsin Prussians shows how she found an ancestor’s town of origin, even though no United States record naming him listed anything more than Prussia. Her method was to research each member of the subject’s FAN group, paying special attention to those who appear in more than one neighborhood. This identified many associates whose American religious records named a single Prussian village. Armed with a probable Prussian location, she found the ancestor’s baptismal record there.

A recording of this lecture may be ordered from Jamb Tapes, Inc.

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.

Skillbuilding: Ann Fleming’s Cast of Characters

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this Skillbuilding lecture, presented Friday, 15 May 2015:

F301: Ann Carter Fleming, CG, CGL, FNGS, “Problem Solving: Using a Cast of Characters,” reviewed by Melissa A. Johnson, CG.

In her problem-solving lecture, Ann Carter Fleming demonstrates how genealogists can use Elizabeth Shown Mills’s “FAN” principle to learn more about their ancestors.

She emphasizes that all researchers—not just professionals—should put this concept into practice to break down brick walls. She also notes the importance of reasonably exhaustive research, and that this approach should be used for difficult problems that cannot be solved with direct evidence. “If it’s easy, don’t bother with this,” she tells the audience.

Ann likens her research subject’s FAN club (friends, associates, and neighbors) to John Wayne’s “cast of characters”—the bartender, hotel owner, and sheriff, to name a few. She believes that every research subject has a cast of characters—the group of people who surrounds him or her. She encourages her listeners to discover who these people are and to study them in depth. “Research unrelated people . . . as vigorously as you do your own,” she says.

Ann goes through her step-by-step process for discovering and researching an ancestor’s “cast of characters.” She covers the initial research phase, how to gather facts, different ways to organize information, and, of course, citing sources. She uses examples from several families to illustrate her points. Ann also warns researchers that this process may take time, but looking at an ancestor’s “cast of characters” will lead to records that otherwise may have been undiscovered. Thank you, Ann, for sharing your expertise through this informative lecture.

A recording of this lecture may be ordered from Jamb Tapes, Inc.

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