The New York Times announced today (Oct. 30) that they will gather genealogical questions that will be answered next Wednesday, Nov. 6, by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG. You can see the interesting questions being posted at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/30/booming/taking-questions-on-how-to-research-family-history.html?_r=0. Thank you, Elizabeth, for doing this. We look forward to your answers!
Last weekend in Salt Lake City we kicked-off celebrations of the 50th anniversaries of two credentials, those administered by the Board for Certification of Genealogists® and the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional GenealogistsSM. The banquet in Salt Lake City heard speaker Judy G. Russell, JD, CGSM, CGLSM, discuss the instigating factors for the establishment of credentials as well as the developments in those organizations over the last 50 years.
To continue the celebration in the “50th year of our age,” a track on accreditation and certification is included in SLIG 2014. Apryl Cox, AG®, Co-Chair of the Testing Committee of ICAPgen, and Elissa Scalise Powell, CGSM, CGLSM, President of BCG, will coordinate Course 5 in the upcoming Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, 13-17 January 2014. Course 5 is “Credentialing: Accreditation, Certification, or Both?”
The two called on great speakers to present topics in the week’s worth of classes. Their instructors include David Rencher, AG, CG; F. Warren Bittner, CG; Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL; Kelly Summers, AG; Linda Gulbrandsen, AG; Ray Clifford, AG; Raymon Naisbitt, AG; Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL; and Mark Lowe CG. Classes will cover the histories of the two organizations, their application processes, and how the applications are judged. Practical exercises will be part of the workshop experience. In the concluding lecture, David Rencher will ask, “How Many Credentials Should I Have?”
Early-bird registration ends of October 31st for the Utah Genealogical Society’s 2014 Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. There are still a few seats left in Course 5. For more information, click here.
The 50th Anniversary Lectures, Salt Lake City.
Day two started early with two presentations by F. Warren Bittner, CGSM. His first, “Complex Evidence: What It Is, How It Works, Why It Matters,” gave me my favorite quote of the lecture series:
It’s not the quality of the source (original, primary, direct); it is the comparison of the sources that leads to proof.
Warren was impassioned in his message “Proof Arguments: for the Next Generation.” He presented a complex evidence case in which no single record was sufficient to prove the parentage of Minnie. It took a network consisting of her death record, her marriage record, her baptism record, and her parents’ marriage record to supply all the data. But her name differed on every record. So did their names. They lived in different addresses in Greenwich Village, New York City, for every record. Could we be sure we had the right woman and her correct parents? A family group sheet supplies only birth, marriage, and death data spaces. A well-written proof argument for Minnie’s parents names gives much more satisfaction. Warren walked us through the construction of the proof argument.
Dave McDonald, CGSM, gave us a hands-on workshop for his presentation “Reach for the Power Tools: Record Transcription and Analysis.” His power-of-attorney document from the Wisconsin Historical Society was executed in Illinois by a man from Massachusetts. It appointed his brother to dispose of a one-seventh share in their mother’s dower rights. Attendees transcribed it, abstracted all the information, extracted important data, postulated a research question, and developed a research plan. It was a great discussion.
Judy G. Russell, CGSM, CGLSM, discussed “Bringing Josias Home: Using Circumstantial Evidence to Build a Family.” She took Josias from his residence in Texas to his origins in North Carolina. Her exhaustive research in Texas produced information that they had lived for a period in Indiana. In Indiana, carefully researching associated families, she found a record that suggested research in Burke County, North Carolina.
Elissa Scalise Powell, CGSM, CGLSM, presented “Baker’s Dozen Steps to Writing Research Reports.” After reviewing the elements needed in a report she brought us on a methodical walk through the report-writing process. Her practical approach made the process straightforward.
The 50th Anniversary Lectures take place yesterday and today in the auditorium of the LDS Church Museum Library on West Temple in Salt Lake City, just north of the Family History Library. For several years now, before the BCG Board’s Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, board members and associates present lectures to the staff of the Family History Library to give back to them in recognition of their support of genealogists worldwide. This is the first time these annual lectures have been made open to the public.
Thursday saw a BCG Certification Seminar, three lectures, and the Keynote Speech.
F. Warren Bittner, CGSM, and BCG President Elissa Scalise Powell, CGSM, CGLSM, presented the BCG Certification Seminar. They discussed the application process, from the preliminary application form to the final portfolio submission. Did you know you can download the BCG Application Guide for free here? The BCG website includes skillbuilding materials and descriptions of the application and judging process. From the How to Become Certified Page, you can navigate to a recorded version of an earlier presentation of this seminar here.
Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CGSM, had the after-lunch spot for her lecture, “It Takes a Human: Genealogists and Writing.” Based in Chicago, she led us through several issues tackled by the Chicago Manual of Style. Jeanne also presented practical steps in writing, editing, and proofreading. She has shared with us her handout It Takes a Human Syllabus – May 2013.
Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CGSM, gave us pointers on analyzing sources in her lecture, “Should You Believe Your Eyes? Sizing Up Sources and Information.” She started with images of several records, asking if they were correct. No, every image had got its red X. Laura coached us to look askance at records until we have correlations.
Barbara Jean Mathews, CGSM, closed the late afternoon with her presentation, “Write While You Research: Let the Joy of Researching Infect Your Writing.” Barbara provided some practical steps to take in order to write your reports or genealogical narratives while you are in the library researching.
The Keynote Address was delivered that evening by Thomas W. Jones, CGSM, CGLSM, who tackled the topic “Kinship Determination.” He discussed the three Rs of proving kinship, Research, Reasoning, and ‘Riting. He pointed out that “no source is perfectly trustworthy,” and that “ancestral identification is rarely perfectly certain.” Tom offered rich examples of research and reasoning processes. For the writing section, Tom went over the structures of genealogical, lineage, and pedigree narratives.
Updated 11 Oct 2013, 10:51 a.m., with addition of Bloom syllabus.
Greetings from Salt Lake City. Today marks the start of the one-year celebration of BCG’s 50th anniversary. It starts with two days of lectures. The BCG board has presented lectures here in the past. Those lectures were open only to Family History Library staff. This is the first time we’ve been able to open them to the general public. They take place in the auditorium in the basement of the LDS Church History Museum immediately north of the library.
The program chair for this series is F. Warren Bittner, cgSM, cglSM, of Centerville, Utah. He issued a Call for Papers to BCG associates. He also elected to reprise few lectures that had been popular in the past in the small audiences.
Please come on by. If you are busy during work hours, remember that the Keynote takes place tonight, at 7:00 PM, in the museum auditorium.
Two new additions have been made to the BCGcertification.org website.
NEW DOCUMENT EXERCISES
Three documents have been posted on the Skillbuilding page so that they may be used to practice transcription and abstraction skills which are part of the requirements for certification. These are basic skills that every genealogist needs in order to read and understand old handwriting. Without being able to read the words and understand the archaic meanings, any analysis or further research may be faulty.
The answers to the documents are also posted, but don’t peek until you have tried the exercises yourself! Thank you, Nancy Peters, CG, and Kathy Sullivan, CG, for creating these examples at http://www.bcgcertification.org/skillbuilders/index.html.
NEW AUDIO TALKS
The last four audio recordings captured at the 2012 FGS conference have been uploaded. The BCG luncheon lecture by Pam Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL, compares genealogy to skiing. Listen to her amusing talk at http://www.bcgcertification.org/certification/why.html and don’t miss her short audio clip at the bottom of the same page where she declares “I think I did it a little backwards though.”
Visit our Application Strategies webpage to hear Michael Hait, CG, and Harold Henderson, CG, as they each talk about their unsuccessful first application to BCG and the lessons they learned from it.
BCG is here to help the public understand standards and promote skillbuilding in all levels of genealogy. We hope these website improvements help further these goals.
I was reading an online report of a survey done among 1,000 American adults and 260 employers. “Employers and Public Favor Graduates Who Can Communicate” was the revelation from the survey. The article discussed another poll which found “broad support for the idea that students should learn to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems, or what the association described as “a 21st-century liberal education.” Although talking about college students, this isn’t news in the genealogical world. Collaborating and communicating during the research process and the ability to express our findings orally and in writing is how we grow and preserve our family trees.
Without clear communication of our findings through being able to tell where we found the information, and the ability to lay out our reasoning based on the evidence from records, our family histories become ambiguous to the next person who tries to continue the research. This next person may be a cousin, a descendant yet to be born, or ourselves after a span of time.
We don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” when it comes to knowing about standard procedures in data collection, evidence evaluation, compilation, and continuing education. We may read and try to apply the standards in the BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, but how can we assure ourselves that we are doing it well? Applying for certification allows us to ask for three independent evaluations and suggestions for improvements. Evaluated are our genealogical skills, communication skills, evidence evaluation (critical thinking), and problem-solving skills. Sound familiar? These are attributes that the polls, employers and academic community have used to describe successful and well-rounded individuals.
Accomplishing these skills can assure our own self-doubts that we are doing the best family history work we can. This is something we can do for ourselves. Although many people enjoy sharing the news within their circle of friends, no one outside of the BCG office even needs to know that a person has applied. After all, it is how you can “Measure Yourself Against Standards.”
OnBoard has been BCG’s thrice-yearly newsletter since 1995. Currently edited by Will White, CG, each issue has valuable articles about doing good research, as well as news and a spotlight feature. Many of the individual articles are online and past issues are still available for sale.
Anyone may subscribe to OnBoard for $15 per year. Preliminary applicants and BCG associates already receive it as part of their yearly fees. To subscribe see: http://www.bcgcertification.org/catalog/bcgitems.html
You may see select articles at: http://www.bcgcertification.org/skillbuilders/index.html
The September 2013 issue’s “President’s Corner” by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL is reproduced below. Enjoy!
“What does it mean to be professional? The question is often asked in blogs, emails lists, and social gatherings. Does it mean someone who takes clients or someone who works at a certain advanced skill level? BCG, in the 50th year of its age, has long held that genealogical standards help us all do professional-level work that instills public confidence. The standards are not only for paid researchers or for credentialed genealogists, but for all genealogists.
Genealogical standards help us avoid “reinventing the wheel” by providing a framework for defining “good” genealogy. Many people can recognize “bad” genealogy when there are obvious errors such as a mother born after her last child. How do we recognize good genealogy when the errors are not as blatant? How do we know that a record for Silas Harnden is not for his same-named cousin, uncle, or nephew? How do we prove his parents when there is no document that gives their names?
Just as standards apply when driving a car (stopping for a red light or keeping to the right side of the road in North America), genealogical standards bring order and help prevent kinship “accidents,” such as attaching the wrong people to our family tree. The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) guides us and lets us know when we have done a good job. With the GPS we can be more confident that a relationship or identity is “proven.” By following standards we can assure our families, clients, patrons, colleagues, publishers, and all audiences, that what we say has a basis in fact and is reliable. Standards give credibility to our research and its publication.
Standards benefit everyone. Not just those who take clients but also those who don’t. Not just those who help patrons but those who are patrons. Not only those working “just for my family” but those who want to give their family the best. Our families deserve to have correct trees and accurate stories told about them. Every one of us has a family who “hooked” us on genealogy. No matter our level of expertise, we want to do good genealogy. We get angry when others publish bad genealogy, especially about our families!
Using standards as guidelines makes it easier to communicate our research results and family stories. Standards improve the reliability of our conclusions and tell future researchers just where the information came from, how we analyzed it, and whether or not we had all the puzzle pieces. When we communicate our findings, others can join in the process by offering their analyses or unique documents and information based on their research experience. This collaborative effort furthers the family history and makes it stronger.
Genealogical standards are for everyone. There is no excuse, such as “but I’m only doing this for my family” or “standards are just for paid professionals,” just as there is no exception that allows “blue cars [or only cars with my family in them] may go through red lights.” Only with the cooperation of all genealogists, no matter the experience level, can genealogy be collaborative and bring together the missing family Bible and the immigrant ancestor’s only photo. Sharing and communication of reliable findings create a firm foundation on which the family story is preserved for future generations to enjoy and expand upon.”
Submitted by Barbara Jean Mathews, CG.
The three societies that are voting members of the Records Access and Preservation Committee hold annual conventions. At each convention RPAC presents a session. This year, I attended two meetings and telecommuted to the third. They were:
- National Genealogical Society convention in Las Vegas, Nevada (reported here in April).
- Federal of Genealogical Societies (FGS) in Fort Wayne, Indiana (telecommuted).
- International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) in Boston, Massachusetts.
Both FGS and IAJGS were this month. What a delight it is to make connections with people who care about records preservation and access. It is a great lift to my spirits.
The FGS presentation was made by Janet Alpert and Fred Moss. Jan Meisels Allen presented a slide show remotely from her home in California. The FGS slide presentation by Janet Alpert is available on the RPAC website as a PowerPoint presentation (17M in size) or as a pdf handout with six slides to a page (only 1M in size). The slides cover the main themes seen this year, including the 2011 Model Act, state budget restrictions, bills currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress, and misunderstandings around identity theft and the Social Security Death Index.
Over the summer, RPAC strengthened its coordination with its state liaisons. A liaison is the individual within each state who communicates concerns to and asks for support from RPAC. (Disclosure: I am the state liaison for Massachusetts.) A state toolkit and sample state slide show are available for download from the RPAC Publications site here. In the first eight months of 2013, seven state states have had to actively respond to state legislative actions or budget restrictions. All were successful.
RPAC strongly urges that state genealogists visit their U.S. Senators and Representatives. Their suggestion is that the president of the statewide genealogical society and a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists schedule a meeting with the Congressional member or their staff. RPAC’s talking points brief is available from as a Microsoft Word DOCX (or as a pdf), APG’s talking points are covered on their Advocacy Committee’s website here.
Members Jan Meisels Allen and Kenneth Ryesky, Esq., of the Public Records Access Monitoring Committee (PRAMC) of IAJGS together with RPAC chair Janet Alpert presented the session in Boston. The PowerPoint slide is available from the IAJGS site here and the handout is here.
BCG Celebrates 50th Anniversary
The BCG Trustees have traditionally met in Salt Lake City in October each year. Around that gathering will be a celebration to honor BCG’s 50th anniversary. Now is the time to make plans to join us in Salt Lake City in October if you haven’t already. A banquet and free lectures are all open to the public.
Open to the entire genealogical community is the all-you-can-eat buffet banquet on Saturday, October 12, at 7 p.m. (social hour at 6 p.m.) at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, Utah. Co-sponsored by ASG, BCG, and FamilySearch, this celebration of 50 years of genealogical standards is very appropriate. Judy Russell, CG, CGL, (aka “The Legal Genealogist”) will be the banquet speaker and promises to have us laughing and reflecting over 50-year history of our field with the following topic:
“We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby” — Standards for the 21st Century
From no formal standards to the Genealogical Proof Standard, the field of genealogy has come a long way in establishing criteria by which excellence can be measured. And we face a long and perhaps even more daunting road ahead as we consider the 21st century challenges posed by technology, DNA and more.
The cost for the banquet is $40 and parking will be free for those who drive. Checks may be made out to “ASG” and sent to the ASG treasurer, Myrtle Hyde, FASG, 3628 Iowa Avenue, Ogden, UT 84403.
A series of free lectures from Board-certified genealogists are being planned for Thursday and Friday, Oct. 10 and 11, 2013, in the Church Museum Auditorium next to the Family History Library, to which the public is invited. More details will become available on the BCG blog as they become known.
SLIG Course: “Credentialing: Accreditation, Certification, or Both?”
BCG and ICAPGen will again offer a joint course at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, January 13-17, 2014. Both organizations’ credentials were founded in 1964, and this is a fitting way to celebrate credentialing while providing detailed requirement and application information. While two of the twenty sessions are jointly given, each organization has nine sessions to present, discuss and utilize exercises in their credentialing process. BCG’s instructors are Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, (co-coordinator with Apryl Cox, AG), F. Warren Bittner, CG, Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, J. Mark Lowe, CG, and Judy G. Russell, CG, CGL. David Rencher, CG, AG will speak on cross-credentialing. For more information including a detailed schedule, see the “Tracks” menu item at http://www.infouga.org/aem.php?eid=8. The course is open to anyone who would like more information on credentialing processes.