BCG’s Newest Certified Genealogical Lecturer

David Ouimette is a busy man. As head of FamilySearch’s Content Strategy Team, he travels the globe analyzing and evaluating records of genealogical interest and determining where they fall in terms of acquisition priority. As father of eight children ranging in age from eighteen to twenty-eight, he balances his professional and personal lives to make time for playing Irish music on the harp, hammered dulcimer, and tin whistle; going bowling and golfing with his sons; and doing family history with his wife, Deanna. David is an author, lecturer, coordinator of the “Finding Immigrant Origins” track at Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and a family historian who values standards. He regularly sets aside time to learn and to practice his skills in genealogical research, analysis, and writing.

First certified in February 2010, earlier this year David submitted his renewal portfolio—and, at the same time, he applied for the designation of Certified Genealogical Lecturer (CGL). On 1 June 2015 he received word that judges approved both applications.

Congratulations to David Ouimette, CG, CGL, on his accomplishments!


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.

Free BCG Webinar: Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, CG, on Unraveling a Family Yarn

On Tuesday, 16 June 2015, Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, CG, will present “Truth or Fiction? Unraveling a Family Yarn” at 8:00 pm EDT.

Family lore told of George Teeling, a nineteenth-century Irish immigrant in Chicago. Researching the tale surrounding him proved that much of the story was false. Genealogical sleuthing led to many surprising discoveries, perhaps more interesting than the original family tradition. This engaging lecture will discuss the research process, a wide array of sources, and overcoming anglicized names to arrive at the truth about George Teeling and his family.

Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, CG

Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, CG, specializes in German American and midwest research as well as reading German script. Her focus has also been on Chicago research. The Teeling story comes from her husband’s family.

Teresa has been interested in genealogy since she was a child. She is a multi-year attendee of the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. A member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, the National Genealogical Society, and many local genealogical societies, she also serves as webmaster for the Northwest Suburban Genealogy Society in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Recently Teresa published Guide to Hanover Military Records, 15141866, on Microfilm at the Family History Library.

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

Register for Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, CG, “Truth or Fiction: Unraveling a Family Yarn,” on 16 June 2015, 8:00 pm EDT (7:00 CDT, 6:00 MDT, 5:00 PDT) at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5110745917347890177.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. For more information contact office@BCGcertification.org.

“We are pleased to offer this informative webinar,” said BCG president Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG. “The Board for Certification of Genealogists strives to foster public confidence in genealogy by promoting an attainable, uniform standard of competence and ethics. Educating all family historians is part of this mission.” Please visit the SpringBoard webinar page to learn about BCG’s previous webinars.

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.

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: Staley on Historical Context and Personal Details

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:

F341: C. Ann Staley, CG, CGL, “The Everyday Life of Our Ancestors,” by Nancy A. Peters, CG.

In a room filled to capacity with enthusiastic family historians, C. Ann Staley, CG, CGL, enlightened us on how to add personal details to our family stories. A show of hands found that most in the audience were first-time conference attendees who were eager to take their genealogical research beyond the basics of birth, marriage, and death information. Ann talked about ways to put “flesh on the bones” of our ancestors.

C. Ann Staley, CG, CGL

Ann explained how timelines can not only place our ancestors in their cultural, geographical, and historical context, but also help differentiate individuals of the same name. She showed examples of various timeline styles and suggested websites that would be useful when creating them. She reviewed several aspects of everyday life and where to find information on food, clothing, weather, occupations, medicine, and more. Her advice was to “read, read, and read some more” to understand our ancestors’ lives. Ann offered several suggestions for books and articles for researching local history and geography.

Any family history researcher will find this lecture packed with ideas and sources for learning about the past and bringing ancestors’ stories to life.

If you missed Ann’s lecture, a recording is available 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: Jones on Newfound Evidence

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:

F321: Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS, on “When Does Newfound Evidence Overturn a Proved Conclusion?” reviewed by Sara Anne Scribner, CG

We’ve come to expect adept analysis and a clear presentation from Dr. Thomas W. Jones. This lecture is no exception. It explores a little-seen topic. Focusing on finished genealogical products, Jones details why newfound evidence may appear and how to proceed when it does.

Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS

Jones notes that both expert and less-experienced genealogists may find a previous conclusion affected by new evidence. This may be due to insufficient research, a “reasonably exhaustive research” that missed something, or to newly available evidence, such as a DNA test result. “Meeting the GPS [Genealogical Proof Standard] neither requires nor ensures perfect certainty.”[1] After explaining the GPS, Jones moves onto methods for handling newfound evidence.

New findings often augment or enhance previous work, especially when the original conclusion meets the GPS. Sometimes newfound evidence invalidates earlier work, but Jones notes he has not seen an example of this where the researcher correctly implemented the GPS in the original conclusion.

How one proceeds with newfound evidence depends on who uncovers it. With luck, the original researcher will make the discovery. The lecture provides next steps for the original researcher to authenticate and evaluate the new evidence, essentially by using the GPS to re-evaluate the conclusion in light of the new information. Examples illustrate the use of article updates, useful when a researcher discovers the existence of new evidence either post-publication or just as an article goes to press. Jones also provides tactful and effective strategies to follow when the person with new evidence is someone other than the original researcher.

If you missed this lecture at the 2015 NGS Conference, a recording is available from Jamb Tapes, Inc.


[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014), 3.

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: Eagleson on Conflicting Evidence

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this Skillbuilding lecture, presented Wednesday, 13 May 2015:

W151: Pamela Stone Eagleson, CG, “Confronting Conflicting Evidence”, reviewed by Patricia Hobbs, CG.

Pam Eagleson advises that conflicts in our research must be resolved—we can’t just believe what we want about our ancestors. When we encounter a conflict, we conduct further research and carefully compare and analyze the sources used and information obtained. Although we are not always able to resolve the conflict, when we can, we describe our resolution in writing.

Pam’s talk begins with a short overview of sources, information, and evidence. She references Elizabeth Shown Mills’s research process map and a “Quick Lesson” from the Evidence Explained website. Pam also discusses the Genealogical Proof Standard.

Eagleson presents six examples of conflicting cases with wide-ranging outcomes. For each case, she identifies the types of sources, information, and evidence evaluated. One problem was resolved after compiling and correlating information from several sources. This resulted in the discovery of an error in a transcription, emphasizing the need to look beyond the easy-to-find indexes. Other cases were solved by consulting experts, by understanding the mindset of people in certain social situations, and by bringing a healthy level of skepticism to bear in identifications made by earlier generations. The most amazing solution was identifying a woman who at various times was referenced by four different surnames. Understanding the culture of the research locale was essential to solving this challenging problem.

We all face conflicting evidence in our research, and Pam Eagleson’s examples from her experiences help us to understand better the principles underlying the process towards resolution.

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.