Welcome, Malissa Ruffner

Malissa Ruffner, CG

Computer programmer. Lawyer. Educator. Reference librarian. And, now, Board-certified genealogist.

Clearly, Malissa Ruffner is, in her own words, “not shy about career shifts.”

Raised in Pennsylvania, Malissa received her bachelor of arts degree from Goucher College, and started her first career as a computer programmer for a large insurance company. After she received her law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law, she was a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, and worked on landmark cases dealing with public education funding and racial segregation.

At the same time, Malissa worked with parents in and outside of the public school system to establish an elementary school based on experiential learning. She became its first full-time director in 1998.

Malissa followed that with a master of library science degree from the University of Maryland, working as an independent contractor serving individual and institutional clients in the areas of libraries, archives, education, and research. Later, she worked in Special Collections at the University of Maryland, and as an email reference coordinator for the Internet Public Library.

And, behind it all, was her love of family and genealogy. Mother of two and now grandmother of a soon-to-be-two-year-old, Jane, Malissa collected family documents, researched at repositories around Maryland and Washington, D.C., and added genealogy to the list of things she wanted to do “someday.”

Her father’s death in 2008 brought “someday” front and center. “I enrolled in an introductory workshop in March of 2009,” she explained, “and by the time I attended New England Historic Genealogical Society’s ‘Come Home to New England’ program in June, I was already contemplating a career shift.”

Malissa took on a project for a friend to see if researching for others was as enjoyable as investigating her own family, and found it was “just as much fun.” She completed the ProGen program (as part of ProGen 5), and, in 2010, attended the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University, and the National Institute for Genealogical Research at the National Archives.

“Full immersion had begun,” she said. She followed up by getting involved with the Maryland Genealogical Society, where she is currently in her second term as an at-large board member.

Malissa’s advice to those considering certification is to “make it a high priority and tackle it in pieces. I stayed home from conferences and institutes and shied away from new commitments for a period of time. That was hard. Some applicants wait until the requirements are nearly complete before starting the clock, but I took the other path. Even though I needed an extension, the goal of submitting a successful portfolio remained at the top of my list.”

She noted that there are pros and cons to having come to genealogy later in life. “The fact that I haven’t been able to share my discoveries (both delightful and shocking) with my parents breaks my heart a little,” she noted. “On the other hand, my earlier experiences have been invaluable, and I haven’t had to worry about neglecting young children—only grown ones!”

She added that she is “in awe of genealogists who labored without the technological tools we enjoy today. Imagine typing your letter of inquiry to a distant family member or library and waiting weeks for a reply. We have so much at our fingertips: increasing availability of original records, vast opportunities for collaboration, and now DNA. And there are still good reasons to visit libraries, archives, courthouses, and cemeteries. It doesn’t get any better.”

“I am lucky to have found the perfect niche at last, in a field that is so rewarding on every level,” Malissa said. “Everyone I have met in the last five years—from genealogy ‘rock stars’ to local researchers with decades of experience—has encouraged and welcomed this new kid on the block. In particular, I want to thank Claire Bettag, CG, for keeping me afloat with her encouragement and friendship.”

Malissa and her husband, John Odell, live in Baltimore, as do their two daughters, their daughters’ husbands, and their granddaughter, Jane.

by Judy G. Russell, CG, CGL

 


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.

What Does CGL Mean?

The BCG credential Certified Genealogical Lecturer (CGL) designates a Board-certified genealogist who has earned additional certification in teaching. Eighteen people currently hold this credential. You will see “CGL” identifying genealogical lecturers and instructors at local, regional, and national conferences, institutes, and webinars. How did they earn this credential?

To apply for CGL, the BCG Application Guide asks those who hold the research credential, CG, to demonstrate their skills in the following areas:

  • “selecting and organizing lecture contents
  • providing accurate and effective presentations
  • using written and visual learning aids”[1]

Applicants are asked to provide a summary of lecturing activities and a list of topics they present, as well as two recorded lectures that demonstrate adherence to Standards 74 to 79 in Genealogy Standards.[2] Each lecture must be thirty to sixty minutes long and address genealogical sources, methods, or standards. Syllabus materials (handouts), visuals (PowerPoint or similar slides, maps, and/or classroom board illustrations), and copies of speaker notes, if utilized, are also submitted. A bibliography of resources recommended for further study is required.

The next time you look at upcoming educational opportunities, notice how many speakers hold the CGL credential. Now you’ll know how they earned it.

by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL

 


[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, The BCG Application Guide(Washington, D.C.: BCG, 2014), 9.
[2] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry, 2014), 41–42.

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.

Introducing BCG’s New President, Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG

Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG                         President, Board for Certification of Genealogists


In the mid-1990s my father asked, “Why did your great-great-grandfather enlist in an Ohio Civil War regiment when his family was from eastern Pennsylvania, and how did he end up in Kansas?” The attempt to answer those questions rekindled my adult passion for genealogy and family history.

The foundation for my passion and eventual professional calling was laid very early. Before naptime when I was a child my favorite stories were those my grandmother told about growing up on a farm in north-central Kansas—how the gypsies came when my grandmother and her sister were left alone on the farm while their parents went to market day in town, and how the girls hid in the cellar until the gypsies left; my grandmother’s delight at Christmas to receive an orange and a small bag of chocolates; that she played house using catalpa leaves as plates and acorn husks as cups; how, because of her family’s religious beliefs, she could not play games on Sunday, but was allowed to play the card game Authors because it was considered educational.

Until the age of nine I lived in Hays, Kansas. It was a town where, at least for me, many stories made history alive and tangible. Wild Bill Hickok had been the sheriff of Hays City. My doctor’s office was the site of one of Hickok’s shoot outs. The Big Creek flood washed out the camp of General Custer and the 7th Calvary. I accompanied my father on many a trip to search for artifacts in the freshly plowed fields that were once the site of Fort Hays. Entrepreneur Buffalo Bill Cody provided buffalo meat to that Fort. He also attempted to found the town of Rome where he thought the Union Pacific line would be located. Every time we took old Highway 40 we passed the foundations of the buildings for that failed town.

Growing up with an unusual last name—Larzalere—led to my one-name study of that surname and its variations. The descendants of this Huguenot family spread throughout the United States. One of the highlights of the research was the reunion with the White River Apache branch of the family. As a family member (distant cousin) I had the honor of attending a memorable and moving three-day Sunrise Ceremony, a coming of age ceremony for female Apaches.

My love of stories, especially those of the forgotten history of our ancestors, has not diminished over the years. Have I answered my father’s original questions? No. My working hypothesis is that my great-great-grandfather’s occupation as a mason (a skilled worker who builds with stone) involved him in the construction associated with the westward movement of the railroads. My search for proof continues.

My journey with BCG began in the “dark ages,” in the late 1990s before the extensive use of the internet. I was self-taught and working alone. There was little opportunity for feedback about the quality of my work. I thought I was a good genealogist, but the only way to be sure was to have my work peer-reviewed.

Compiling my portfolio was a tremendous commitment of time and involved much angst. During the process I realized I had overestimated how “good” I was and there was much that I needed to learn. Assembling the portfolio focused my genealogy education. The first three judges arrived at a split decision. The arbitrator’s opinion was that my deficiencies were remediable. In September 1999 I earned BCG’s Certified Genealogist credential, certificate number 419.

Fifteen years and three renewals later (the most recent still in the evaluation-process pipeline), I have the honor to be the newly elected president of BCG. I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of the “great ones,” those who previously served BCG as president.

On the horizon I see a number of issues and concerns that the genealogical community will face and that BCG should actively address

  •  promoting ethical behavior,
  •  participating in the Records Preservation and Access Committee,
  •  introducing the standards to the international genealogical community,
  •  combatting the acceptance of a definition of “genealogy” that is limited to unsourced and sourced online family trees.

To help carry out the mission and the work of BCG during the upcoming year I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with an outstanding and dynamic Executive Committee, Board of Trustees, and group of associates. With their knowledge, energy, and dedication, I know that the next year will be a great one for BCG.

CG or Certified Genealogist is a service mark 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 Alice Hoyt Veen, CG

Alice Hoyt Veen, CG

An Iowa native and the sixth generation of her family to call Iowa home, Alice Hoyt Veen has become the second Iowan Board-certified genealogist of the 21st century.

A graduate of Iowa State University, Alice has been a dedicated genealogist for more than thirty years. She is a volunteer researcher for the Mahaska County Commission for the Preservation of Pioneer Cemeteries and has researched, cataloged and archived historical artifacts for Forest Park Museum in Dallas County. A past board member of the Iowa Genealogical Society, Alice has served as the society’s eNews and bimonthly newsletter editor and continues to contribute articles for publication.

In 2009 Alice began providing professional genealogical and historical research services through her business, Prairie Roots Research, specializing in Iowa and Midwestern research, with special emphasis on military research and Midwestern connections to American colonial roots.

Her answer when people ask her what she does: “I tell them I ‘reconstruct forgotten lives.’ Nothing is more satisfying than the knowledge that a life, long lost to time, can be rediscovered and understood. Every life has purpose and significance. My goal is to honor those disappeared lives by recreating, preserving and sharing their memories.”

Her advice to those seeking certification is to broaden their education by attending genealogical institutes and to expand their experience by completing projects for others that provide challenges beyond the researcher’s usual comfort zone. She adds that if she could do one thing differently herself, she would take her own advice and “more deeply explore colonial and early American records and spend more time accessing resources in eastern states.”

Alice notes that her inspiration as a genealogist comes from her father, Keith D. Hoyt: “He provided not only the link to a rich family heritage, but his personal character demonstrated those qualities I most admire and desire to emulate: humility, a strong work ethic, dedication to family, and perseverance in the face of adversity. His unquenchable thirst for knowledge extended to every possible subject and he challenged me to always strive for a higher purpose. It is a legacy I cherish and have tried to pass on to my own children.”

She can be reached through her website Prairie Roots Research (http://www.prairierootsresearch.com) or via email (alice@prairierootsresearch.com).


CG or Certified Genealogist is a service mark 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.

November’s BCG Webinar: Probate!

The Board for Certification of Genealogists proudly announces the next in its series of webinars.

Michael Hait, CG

On Monday, November 17, Michael Hait, CG, will present “‘Of Sound Mind and Body’: Using Probate Records in Your Research.”

Created as part of the BCG Skillbuilding Track at the 2014 National Genealogical Society conference, this lecture discusses the process associated with the administration of testate and intestate estates and the records created as a result. Consulting these records is ordinarily an essential part of the reasonably exhaustive research necessary to meet the Genealogical Proof Standard. Example documents illustrate the various and detailed information that probate records can hold about our ancestors, their daily lives, and family relationships.

Open to all genealogists who want to improve their skills, this live webinar will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern (7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain, 5 p.m. Pacific).

To register and receive your unique link to the webinar, please go to https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5876550263529763585.

Note that recordings may be made available online at a later date.

Look for announcements of future monthly webinars on this blog.


CG or Certified Genealogist is a service mark 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 U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Please Welcome John D. Beatty, CG

 

John Beatty, CG, in the stacks of the Allen County Public Library. Photograph by Dawne Slater-Putt, CG. Used with permission.

This post was contributed by Dawne Slater-Putt, CG:

            John D. Beatty, CG, of Fort Wayne recently became one of five Board-certified genealogists in Indiana. He is a reference librarian at The Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library (ACPL), an institution well-known for its second-largest genealogical research collection in the United States. John also serves The Genealogy Center as its bibliographer. He is the author of numerous genealogical articles and books, including Protestant Women’s Narratives of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, published by Four Courts Press of Dublin; and the two-volume James Beaty and Ann Bennett of Ballycanew, County Wexford, Ireland, and More than Two Centuries of Their American Descendants, which he self-published in 2010 and considers his magnum opus. He was also the editor and major contributor to volume 1 of the two-volume History of Fort Wayne & Allen County, Indiana, 1700-2005.

            Through his work as bibliographer for The Genealogy Center since the 1990s, John has comprised a database of more than 65,000 titles ordered – but he was ordering books before the advent of that record, so he cannot cite the total number of volumes he has been responsible for adding to this great collection. His other duties include Continue reading

BCG helps explain Chicago’s poorest burials

The Chicago Tribune yesterday turned to Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, a Board-certified genealogist and newly-elected President of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, for help in explaining the significance of a newly-released database of burials at the Cook County Cemetery at Dunning, Chicago, Illinois, a potters field serving poor and indigent residents.

Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG

As a Chicago specialist and the only Board-certified genealogist in the city, Bloom has often had to explain to people that the cemetery is largely unmarked — and she put the situation into historical context in her comments to the Chicago Tribune.

“People will often ask me, ‘Where’s the grave?’ And I have to explain to them the history of the institution and why the people were buried there,” she said. “It’s difficult for someone with a 2014 mindset and values to understand that thought process of the people 100 to 150 years ago.”

The database, located online at http://www.cookcountycemetery.com, was compiled by Barry Fleig, former cemetery chairman of the Chicago Genealogical Society, who said the project — which took more than five years — is a work in progress, with the goal of documenting as many of the nearly 40,000 burials at the city’s pauper’s field as possible.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (bcgcertification.org) is an independent, national and internationally recognized certifying body. It strives to foster public confidence in genealogy as a respected branch of history by promoting an attainable, uniform standard of competence and ethics among genealogical practitioners, and by publicly recognizing persons who meet that standard.


CG or Certified Genealogist is a service mark 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 U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

How One New Associate Prepared for Certification

“Take the process seriously. It’s harder than it looks and takes investment in ongoing genealogical learning, whether you possess a degree or more in another field or not.”

When interviewed for a SpringBoard blog post, new BCG associate Shannon Terwedo offered advice she would give to someone considering applying for certification. Her suggestions are so on-target, they deserve their own post.

Over a period of years before applying to BCG, Shannon had attended the National Institute of Genealogical Research in Washington, D.C., and other week-long seminars and National Genealogical Society conferences. Although not required, they certainly added to her preparation. Many of her hints for successful preparation are much less expensive and require no travel. Some are free.

Here is Shannon’s advice for specific ways to prepare:

• Take the courses offered by the National Genealogical Society, even if they seem too basic. You may be surprised by some of the essentials you’ve missed.

• Attend conferences and training that provide in-depth training on genealogical research, source analysis and writing techniques.

• Attend sessions on BCG certification several times and pay attention.

• Subscribe to the National Genealogical Society Quarterly at minimum, but I think The American Genealogist and The Genealogist are important and instructive too. Read them regularly and flag the articles most applicable to your own research interests.

• Take clients, even if they’re pro bono, and practice client research and reports.

• Write up your own research and practice proof arguments and source citations.

• Read and refer regularly to both of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ reference books: Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001) and Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, rev. ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2009). (Evidence Explained is now available as a 2012 second revised edition.)

• Read Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2013), then read it again.

• After all that, look at the example certification portfolios at conferences.

• Take advantage of online guidance offered by the BCG. The questions you didn’t think to ask will get answered.

Shannon offers this encouragement: “Don’t give up, even if you have to extend beyond a year (or more).” She knows from experience the benefit of persistence, as work and family obligations forced her to extend four times before submitting her (successful) portfolio.

Welcome Shannon Terwedo, CG, of Shingle Springs, California

Shannon Terwedo brings to her genealogy work the problem-solving and organizational skills honed in her career as a healthcare business owner. A background in microbiology sharpened other valued skills: attention to detail, hypothesis-testing, and technical writing. A full-time businesswoman, Shannon also makes time for client projects, although no more than two at a time and with no deadlines. She explains, “Genealogy work is my go-to passion when my healthcare career slides into the regulatory nightmare it can occasionally be.” That passion takes her research into records of the California gold-rush era, the American Midwest and South, the British Isles, and northern Europe. Shannon plans for a full-time profession in genealogy, but only after her retirement from healthcare management.

With a laugh, Shannon comments that while other families returned from their vacations with scenery photos, her pictures show her children in the cemeteries they visited. When juggling career, family, and portfolio sometimes left Shannon ready to abandon certification, her husband encouraged her to keep working at it. He valued how important it was to her. Now that she is a BCG Associate, she is repaying her husband’s support by teaching herself Polish language and history so she can research his Polish ancestry.

Shannon mentions three people who inspired her genealogical pursuits:
• “Abigail Quigley McCarthy, wife of Senator Eugene McCarthy and my 1st cousin once removed answered my phone call back in 1996 to discuss our family history. She was so excited to talk to a family member who was…interested in our family genealogy. She invited me to her Washington, D.C. home and loaned me original, late 19th and early 20th century correspondence between her grandfather and her mother.” Abigail asked if Shannon had genealogy career goals. With enthusiasm and encouragement, she relayed information from a recently certified friend.
• A family history writing course brought Shannon into contact with Will White, PhD, CG. “There was just something about his demeanor that said this guy knows what he’s doing….In his quiet, easy going style, he explained why he valued the expertise of experienced genealogists and he felt it improved his work by being peer reviewed. I remembered thinking that if Will thought the process had value, I should follow his lead.”
• Shannon met Melinde Lutz Byrne in 2007. Melinde was not yet a BCG Associate, and Shannon did not know her reputation. “We just connected and had dinner together. That she was clearly an accomplished and experienced genealogist was evident from our conversation. We talked about certification…our lives and science careers, children, spouses, etc. She happened to mention that she would be coming on as a new editor for the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. I realized I was talking to one of genealogy’s great talents. She had a lasting impression on me as someone whose genealogical scholarship I would hope to aspire to.”

Asked about her most intriguing brick wall, Shannon immediately described her great-great-grandfather, the most distant known ancestor of her southern family. John “Thomas” Richardson was born in South Carolina, migrated to and married in Alabama, then moved to Texas after the Civil War. He died in Bell County, Texas in 1886. If readers have a clue about this Thomas Richardson, contact Shannon at shan1057@hotmail.com, or just give a warm welcome to this new BCG Associate.


Image courtesy of Bob Darling Photography, Placerville, California.

(CG or Certified Genealogist is a service mark 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.)

New President Announcement and News from BCG Trustees’ Meeting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

17 October 2014

BOARD FOR CERTIFICATION OF GENEALOGISTS DISCUSSES CERTIFICATION, WELCOMES JEANNE LARZALERE BLOOM, CG, AS NEW PRESIDENT

Genealogists seeking board certification will have a clearer idea of portfolio requirements following the October 12 meeting of the trustees of the Board for Certification of Genealogists in Salt Lake City. The Board also welcomed a new executive committee and two new members. Several trustees volunteered for a newly enlarged marketing committee. Trustee Judy G. Russell, J.D., CG, CGL, made a generous donation to fund a full year of BCG’s new free public instructional webinars.

To emphasize the fact that not all who apply for certification take clients, the fifth required item in an application portfolio will now be called “Research Report Prepared for Another” rather than “Research Report Prepared for a Client.” The item’s requirements remain the same: research and report on a genealogical problem authorized by someone else that does not involve the applicant’s family, showing “analysis of the problem, in-depth and skillful use of a range of sources, and recommendations for further work based on your findings.”

At the end of Sunday’s trustee meeting the presidential gavel passed from Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, to Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG. In her final report as president, Powell commented on many changes, including the publication of revised standards and rubrics, BCG’s increased social-media presence, the new webinar series, as well as the 50th anniversary celebrations. Bloom responded, “On behalf of the associates and the trustees of BCG, I would like to thank Elissa for her capable leadership as BCG’s president these past two years.”

Other members of the new executive committee are Stefani Evans, CG, (vice-president), Michael S. Ramage, J.D., CG (treasurer), Dawne Slater-Putt, CG (secretary), and Russell (member at large). As past president, Powell will also serve on the executive committee in an advisory capacity. Newly re-elected trustees are David McDonald, CG, Evans, and Bloom, joined by newcomers Nancy A. Peters, CG, and Harold Henderson, CG.

Retiring trustees Laura A. DeGrazia, CG, and Thomas W. Jones Ph.D, CG, CGL, were thanked for their long terms of service and for the significant advancements of BCG that occurred under their leadership. DeGrazia served 2005–2014, and as president 2008–2010. Jones served 1997–2007, 2011–2014, and as president 1999–2002.

Sunday’s meeting was preceded by a day of BCG-sponsored lectures offering problem-solving tools from associates Powell, Russell, Evans, and Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, hosted by the Family History Library. The lectures were streamed into two additional rooms when the main meeting room filled.

For questions or more information contact: Nicki Birch, CG, office@BCGcertification.org.

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

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