Genealogy Standards Updated in New Manual

In honor of its fiftieth anniversary, the Board for Certification of Genealogists® (“BCG”) has issued Genealogy Standards, a manual for best practices in research and assembly of accurate family histories. This revision completely updates and reorganizes the original 2000 edition of The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual.

 “Accuracy is fundamental to genealogical research,” writes editor Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, in the introduction. “Without it, a family’s history would be fiction. This manual presents the standards family historians use to obtain valid results. These standards apply to all genealogical research, whether shared privately or published.”

The 83 specific standards cover the process of researching family history and the finished products of the research. Based on the five-part Genealogical Proof Standard, the standards cover:

  • documenting (standards 1–8);
  • researching (standards 9–50), including planning, collecting, and reasoning from evidence;
  • writing (standards 51–73), including proofs, assembly, and special products;
  • teaching and lecturing (standards 74–81); and
  • continuing education (standards 82 & 83).

The 100-page book includes appendices: the genealogist’s code, a description of BCG and its work, a list of sources and resources where examples of work that meets standards are regularly published, a glossary, and an evidence-process map distinguishing the three kinds of sources, information, and evidence.

 “We are delighted to provide this new edition, which is meant for all genealogical researchers and practitioners as a way to recognize sound genealogy,” said BCG president Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL. “We appreciate the many hands that helped bring this new edition to fruition and look forward to its widespread usage in the field.”

SAVE 20%! To place a specially-priced, pre-publication order with delivery in the first part of February 2014, visit http://www.bcgcertification.org/catalog/index.html. Regularly priced at $14.95, the pre-publication price is $11.95 before January 27, 2014.

Citation: Board for Certification of Genealogists. Genealogy Standards, 50th-anniversary edition. Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry, 2014. 100 pp., paper, ISBN 978-1-63026-018-7, $14.95.

Former BCG Vice President Joy Reisinger, RIP

Free of copyright, posted on Pixabay.com by Karla31 of Mörlenbach, Germany.

Guest post by the Rev. Dr. David McDonald, CGSM

It is my sad duty to report that Joy Reisinger, Certified Genealogist Emeritus, died early Tuesday morning, 10 December 2013, in her hometown of Sparta, Wisconsin. A past trustee and vice president of the Board, Joy also served as conference program co-chair for the NGS conferences at Saint Paul and Milwaukee. For many years, she lectured across the United States and Canada on research methods, and Quebecois resources. She last attended a national conference in 2006 at Chicago.

Among the many tasks on which she served so capably was the legislative lobbying effort that kept Wisconsin’s historic vital records accessible and available to the public at a time when pressure was being exerted to close off the materials from public view. She was invited by then-Governor Tommy Thompson to attend the bill-signing ceremony at the state capitol in Madison. She was the longtime editor and publisher of “Lost in Canada,” a newsletter for Canadian-oriented researchers.

In her service to BCG, Joy was actively involved in the development of the first version of the Board’s policy manual. She also began the lecture series for the Family History Library staff during BCG’s October meetings. Most recently, she was a participant in the genealogical community’s Records Access and Preservation Committee collaborative work. First earning her credential as CGRS No. 442 in 1980, and then as CG No. 410 in 1998, she was elected Emeritus in 2007.

Recent ill-health has kept Joy from full participation in the wider life of our genealogical community, but she has kept herself up-to-date on various events and activities as best she has been able. We met as often as possible, given the physical distance between us, usually for a treat of Culver’s frozen chocolate custard with plenty of Diet Pepsi to wash it down. I last visited her on 30 November at the hospital in Sparta, enjoying the chance to share stories of the most recent Board meeting in Salt Lake City and the celebratory events marking the Board’s semi-centennial.

Joy is survived by her husband of 59 years, Jim; three daughters, Barbara and Martha (Brad) of Sparta; and Mary Angelis of LaCrosse; four grandchildren: Emilie and Samantha McKenzie, Ben Reisinger and James Gennaro; and two great-grandchildren. She is further survived by her siblings June (John) Wulff, Linda Deters (Bob Colby) and Lanny (Linda) Deters; and one sister-in-law, Carol Deters. Along with her parents, Joy was preceded in death by a brother and her youngest daughter, Jane, in September.

Details of the visitation and memorial mass will be forthcoming from the family. Burial will be in Saint Patrick’s Cemetery, Sparta. Notes of condolence may be addressed to the family at 1020 Central Avenue, Sparta, Wisconsin 54656.

On a personal note, Joy was indispensible as a mentor in my own certification process, and a trusted friend and ally. I will miss her, and her counsel, tremendously.

New York Times Taking Questions on Genealogy

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!

Early Bird Registration Ends October 31st for SLIG 2014 – Course 5 – Credentialing: Accreditation, Certification, or Both?

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.

Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL

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?”

Apryl Cox, AG    

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.

Report from Day 2 of the 50th Anniversary Lectures

 

Sometimes you can’t prove parentage by citing a single document to a line on a pedigree chart. Copyright © 2013 Warren Bittner, used with permission.

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.

 

Report on Day 1 of the 50th Anniversary Lectures

Copyright © 2013, Cathi Becker Wiest Desmarais, used with permission.

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.

Schedule of the 50th Anniversary Lecture Series, October 10th and 11th

BCG’s 50th Anniversary Lecture Series

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.

 

 

New Skillbuilding Documents and Audio Added to Website

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.

Employers and Public Favor Graduates Who Can Communicate

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.”

                                       

 

 

President’s Message in OnBoard

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.”