BCG Activities at NGS in Richmond, Virginia

On Wednesday, May 7, 2014, the BCG Skillbuilding Track at the National Genealogical Society Conference in the States will have three presentations. At 11 a.m. is “Problems and Pitfalls of a Reasonably Shallow Search” presented by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL. At 2:30 p.m. is “New Standards or Old: Guidelines for Effective Research and Family Histories” by Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL. At 4 p.m. is “Mining the Destination Data” by David E. Rencher, AG, CG.

The BCG booth in the exhibit hall (next to Maia’s Books) has portfolios for the curious to look through as well as a notebook of typical evaluators’ comments. Stop by the booth to look at them there.

Be sure to stop by the booth to pick up a gold card before buying recommended books at Maia’s Bookstore. BCG appreciates the referral as you pick up your copy of the new Genealogy Standards book and others.

On Thursday, look for the Certification Seminar at 9:30 a.m. and continuing through the 11 a.m. lecture session. Come and get your questions answered! The BCG luncheon follows directly afterward and should be a rewarding time together taking a look at BCG’s past 50 years through the eyes of past-presidents Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, Kay Haviland Freilich, CG, CGL, and Laura DeGrazia, CG.

The Skillbuilding track continues each day and is co-sponsored by BCG to help educate attendees on necessary skills. For those who cannot get to the sessions, look for them to be recorded for sale by JAMB-inc.com.

Our Newest Associate: Cheryl Brown Abernathy, CG

Cheryl Brown Abernathy

Cheryl Brown Abernathy of Fredericksburg, Ohio, became a Board-certified genealogist on 9 April 2014. She is the owner of The Past Lane where her professional work focuses on Wayne County, Ohio, and nine nearby counties. She does in-depth research, records look-up, and lineage society applications. Living in the north central Ohio region to which her ancestors migrated more than a century ago has given her the skills and experience she uses in her business. She volunteers as chair of the Settlers and Builders of Ohio, one of the lineage societies of the Ohio Genealogical Society.

Cheryl’s top genealogy hero is her grandmother, Mary Belle (Wear) Martin, who developed and nourished her interest in genealogy. In her family genealogy website, in its coverage of Mary Belle, Cheryl provides a great example of melding facts and source citations. Today her friends Donna Gruber and Elissa Scalise Powell give her encouragement.

For Cheryl, preparation for the submission of her BCG portfolio including attending an impressive selection of institute courses:

  • Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR) at Samford University
    • Course Two, Intermediate Genealogy & Historical Studies – 2009
    • Course Four, Advanced Methodology & Evidence Analysis – 2011
  • Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) at La Roche College
    • Beneath the Home Page, Problem–Solving with Online Repositories – 2012
    • Advanced Land Research: Locating, Analyzing, Mapping – 2013

Her advice to others interested in becoming Board-certified is that they “take all the coursework you can, whether it’s a ProGen study group, IGHR, GRIP, SLIG, Boston University or any of the numerous opportunities available.” Asked if she would do anything differently, Cheryl said that she’d start attending institutes earlier in her career. In five years, she sees herself as still learning, researching, and honing her skills.

Welcome, Cheryl!

Introducing: Eric Siess

Associate Eric Siess of Rancho Palos Verdes is a member of the BCG Class of 2013, having received his Certified GenealogistSM credential last year.

Eric Siess

Eric has 30 years of personal and professional experience in family history research, lecturing and teaching. His lectures throughout Southern California include emigration records, the GPS, German immigration, Civil War genealogy, lineage society applications, the 1940 census, and tips for better genealogy. He has successfully helped many clients find their European ancestors and has determined his own lineage into 17th century Alsace and Sweden.

Eric taught beginning and intermediate Genealogy at the South Bay Adult school for several years and one of his courses, “Solving the Ultimate Puzzle: Family History” was the 2011 LiveWell class for Intellectual Health. He has a Ph.D. in Engineering, is the President of the South Bay Cities Genealogical Society and is a member of NGS, APG and the Ohio Genealogical Society.

Eric’s advice to those considering certification is: “Commit yourself to preparing your portfolio starting now – you have everything to gain and you will grow immensely by doing so. Don’t create time pressure for yourself though, apply for certification when your portfolio is ready (I didn’t say perfect!).”

His genealogical heroes?

Elizabeth Shown Mills, who through her writing, taught me not to fear source citations; Thomas Jones, whose ability to find and communicate the simplest logical essence is inspirational; and the late John T. Humphrey who became an instant hero the first time I heard him speak in Ohio.

And one thing he’s still working on is efficiency. “Maybe some people have it innately,” he notes. “I’m learning those skills from my colleagues.”

His five-year plan includes transitioning from his first career to that of a full-time genealogical researcher and speaker.

We’re pleased to have this opportunity to introduce Eric to the BCG community!

Welcome to New Board-Certified Genealogist Clarise Soper

Clarise Soper

Clarise Soper of Heidelberg, Mississippi, became a Board-certified genealogist on 21 February 2014. She is an expert in Mississippi genealogy and loves working on families from the Civil War era.

A graduate of ProGen 14, Clarise says, “The program is invaluable because of the unbiased, constructive critiques you receive from fellow group members and guidance from the mentor—a Board-certified genealogist.” She recommends ProGen study to those who are thinking about becoming certified. Clarise is giving back to this study organization; she is now the Coordinator for ProGen 22.

Her genealogical heroes are Marcia Rice, her sister Beverly Rice, and Michael Grant Hait, Jr., CGSM, all of whom pushed her to think more analytically. It was Marcia she met first, in the food line. Clarise remembers lively discussions, nearly debates, with all three at the Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research. Clarise also appreciates the support and coaching she got from Linda Woodward Geiger, CGSM, CGLSM, the Mentor for ProGen 14.

At the current time Clarise mixes both volunteer and paid work in genealogy. If there was one thing she would change, she would find more time for pro bono speaking engagements for the rural genealogical societies in Mississippi.

Clarise’s advice to those considering certification is this:

I probably hold the record for being “on the clock” the longest. I extended each time to keep my personal goal in the forefront while my life centered on being caregiver to my Mother who had Alzheimer’s. That five-year journey taught me patience and perseverance, attributes that helped me complete my portfolio. Don’t give up when life gets in the way of your dream!

 

 

RPAC Report, April 2014: Access Changes to the SSDI – Update 2

Photograph courtesy of Microsoft Office.

Submitted by Barbara J. Mathews, CGSM, BCG’s Representative to the Records Preservation and Access Committee:

Implementation of Access Restrictions to the SSDI/DMF

The 2013 Ryan-Murray bipartisan budget compromise was signed by President Obama on 26 December 2013. Section 203 of that bill implemented restrictions on access to the Death Master File. The thinking was that the Social Security Death Index (the SSDI is about 60% of the full DMF) was used by crooks to commit IRS tax fraud. Closing it would lower the amount of fraud, saving the government money. The money value associated with fraud reduction became an offset in the budget deal.

Confusion abounded after the bipartisan budget compromise passed. Although there was a 90-day extension for the development of regulations, one congressman thought that the Commerce Department was violating the law by allowing continued access. Although the bill stated explicitly that the fees for certifying access to recent death information could only cover the expense in implementing it, commentators thought that the fees would make it a “money-raiser.” Other analysts pointed out that tax fraud involving the dead constituted only 1.8% of all tax fraud and that nothing was being done about the other 98.2% of fraud.

Section 203 mandates that deaths are redacted from the SSDI until the end of the third calendar year following the death. The Commerce Department was directed to develop within 90 days a certification process for those people who need to gain access during those first three years. That task was delegated to the National Technical Information Services department — the same department that sells access to the Death Master File.

NTIS held an information meeting 4 March 2014 that was attended by about four dozen entities. The attendees represented the interests of life insurance companies, medical researchers, fallen soldier repatriation efforts, state attorneys general, genealogists, and the financial industry. Oral presentations are archived in two batches (Batch 1 contains prepared presentations, beginning with the one by Fred Moss of RPAC, and Batch 2 continues those presentations using a court reporting system [with many transcription errors] as well as presentations from the floor that answered questions asked by the NTIS staff). Follow-up written testimony was accepted until 18 March 2014 and is also archived.

The NTIS regulations are in Interim Final Rule status. They have been published in the Federal Register. To gain access, a researcher must first apply for certification and then subscribe. BCG associate Dee Dee King, CGSM, was an early NTIS Certified Person and subscriber. She describes her experiences here.

At this time, we expect access to deaths that occurred prior to 26 March 2014 to continue as before. We expect that deaths added to the DMF after the implementation of the new regulations will be restricted. Deaths in 2014 will not be posted to the SSDI until the end of 2017.

Genealogists originally gained access to the Social Security Death Index through the Freedom of Information Act. Section 203 removed FOIA protection but the long-term repercussions of that are still unclear.

Update 1: added more accurate description of differences between Batch 1 and Batch 2, courtesy of Fred Moss.

Update 2: added a link to Dee Dee King’s article on the NTIS certification process.

As BCG’s official representative to the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), Barbara advocates for the concerns of Board-certified genealogists, and participates in RPAC’s monthly conference call. RPAC is a joint committee organized by the National Genealogical Society, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Each of these three societies has a vote on the committee. Non-voting representatives are sent by several national groups: American Society of Genealogists, Association of Professional Genealogists, BCG, and ICAPGen. In addition, non-voting representatives attend from two corporations, Ancestry, and ProQuest. Communication is fostered by an email list, monthly telephone conference calls, and the RPAC blog.

BCG Announces Use of New Standards Book and Aids

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) has announced adoption of its new standards manual for use in its evaluation process.

Effective today, new applications for certification will be evaluated against the new Genealogy Standards, a major revision of genealogical standards released by BCG in February. Individuals who have already submitted a preliminary application are exempt from this change unless they elect otherwise or apply for an extension. The newly revised standards will also be used to evaluate the work of existing BCG associates whose renewal applications are due after February 2015.

Eighty-three standards in the new manual establish criteria for all phases of genealogical work, including documentation, research planning, data collection, reasoning from evidence, writing, lecturing and continuing education. The standards reflect the same principles as those originally published in The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual fourteen years ago but are reorganized, updated, expanded and clarified.

As the standards are at heart unchanged, genealogists whose work meets the old standards should meet the new standards as well. The revision, however, means the new standards offer superior guidance as to the qualities necessary for credible genealogical work.

BCG’s announcement is accompanied by release of a new application guide. The new guide makes no changes to the type of work applicants for certification must submit but has been updated to reflect the new standard manual’s renumbering of most standards. The rubrics, an evaluation tool used by BCG’s judges, have been similarly revised.

To help researchers familiarize themselves with the recent changes, BCG has also released two charts that compare the new and old standards. They can be downloaded from the “Skillbuilding” page of BCG’s website at http://www.bcgcertification.org/skillbuilders/index.html.

The new manual is billed as a fiftieth-anniversary edition to celebrate the board’s fifty years of dedication to genealogical excellence. Genealogy Standards, fiftieth-anniversary edition (Nashville, Tennessee: Ancestry, 2014), may be ordered by visiting http://www.bcgcertification.org/catalog/index.htmlThe BCG Application Guide, 2014 edition, and the revised rubrics can be downloaded from the BCG website for free.

BCG, an independent credentialing body, was founded in 1964 to promote standards of competence and ethics among genealogists and to publicly recognize individuals who meet those standards. It certifies genealogists in two categories, a core research category, Certified GenealogistSM, and a teaching category, Certified Genealogical LecturerSM. The standards it has articulated are widely recognized as benchmarks for all genealogists who wish to produce accurate research, not just for those seeking certification.

FROM: Board for Certification of Genealogists
P.O. Box 14291
Washington,DC200044

EMAIL: Office@BCGcertification.org
3 March 2014

Fifty Years of Credentialing: Presentations Available

In the “B. C.” era (Before Credentialing) genealogical fraud was rampant. Two organizations sought to give confidence to the public when hiring researchers and coincidentally were founded in the same year of 1964.

Please join BCG and ICAPGen at an unprecedented joint banquet at the NGS conference in Richmond, Virginia, on Friday, May 9, 2014. The evening’s speaker is David Rencher, AG, CG, FIGRS, FUGA, whose topic is “Celebrating Genealogical Credentials–The Accreditation and Certification Programs Turn 50!” Both organizations want to thank NGS for their recognition of this milestone in genealogical history. NGS registrations are being taken now at http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/. One does not need to be registered for the conference in order to attend the banquet.

BCG began its celebration last year “in the 50th year of its age” with a luncheon talk at FGS in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, by Rev. David McDonald, CG on “No Diamonds, No Cherries: Celebrating a Jubilee” which can be heard on the BCG website.

At a joint banquet in Salt Lake City in October, the American Society of Genealogists and BCG sponsored Judy Russell, J.D., CG, CGL, as the banquet speaker. Her full presentation “We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!” can be viewed on the BCG website. Judy’s presentation is also an article in the NGS Magazine (January–March 2014, volume 40, number 1): 15-19.

When we think of the days of undocumented genealogies being fabricated on purpose or unintentionally, there was no recourse for the public or standards by which to determine the reliability of a pedigree. Now we have credentialing and a newly-edited Genealogy Standards book which helps consumers understand the parameters of good genealogy. We have, indeed, “Come a Long Way, Baby!”

Thoughts on Olympics and Certification

As president of BCG I run into a lot of people who question why they should become board-certified, and then during the process, how to be successful. This reminds me of watching the Olympics, where you may have seen media interviews asking athletes, “Why did you do it?” and “How did you become so successful?” The old adage “because [the mountain, challenge, world record, etc.] was there” may still hold true but many talked about their passion for their sport and the thrill it gave them to be good at it.

So why would one be interested in certification? There are about a dozen two-minute audio clips on “Why Certify?” on the BCG website with added bonuses of learning how these board-certified genealogists prepared for their journey. You can listen to them at http://www.bcgcertification.org/certification/why.html. In addition, on the same webpage is Pam Sayre’s luncheon talk comparing certification to skiing, which is apropos in this post-Olympics time.

Those who decide to submit their preliminary application (http://www.bcgcertification.org/certification/requirements.html) are invited to the virtual group ACTION (Aid to Certification Testing: Interactive Online Networking). A discussion on that list of “what the judges want” prompted a post by a preliminary candidate, Yvette Hoitink of Holland, who gave the following analogy:

“The whole certification process is like figure skating in the Olympics: the athletes know the types of elements to include in their programs, but the organizers are not going to tell them which music to use or teach them how to skate. Regardless, judges know a good program when they see it. A routine only consisting of triple axels isn’t going to win any medals no matter how awesome they are, since you have to show a variety of techniques and skills. But if you do decide to include an axel, you better make sure you land it properly.”

Certification is sought for a variety of reasons, but like Olympians, passion to do things well is a common theme. It is not “what the judges want” that will make your portfolio of work samples successful, but how you demonstrate your understanding of the GPS and standards.

Stay tuned for more about using the newly edited standards book.

Best wishes, Elissa

RPAC Report, January 2014

Courtesy of Microsoft Office.

Submitted by Barbara J. Mathews, CGSM, BCG’s Representative to the Records Preservation and Access Committee:

As BCG’s official representative to the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), I advocate for the concerns of Board-certified genealogists, and participate in RPAC’s monthly conference call. RPAC is a joint committee organized by the National Genealogical Society, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Each of these three societies has a vote on the committee. Non-voting representatives are sent by several national groups: American Society of Genealogists, Association of Professional Genealogists, BCG, and ICAPGen. In addition, non-voting representatives attend from two corporations, Ancestry, and ProQuest. Communication is fostered by an email list, monthly telephone conference calls, and the RPAC blog.

Two topics are important this month:

  • at the federal level, ensuring that genealogists are involved as stakeholders in the process of writing regulations regarding access to the Social Security Death Index; and
  • at the local level, ensuring a rapid response to legislative or administrative activity involving records preservation and access.

Advocating as Stakeholders in Death Master File Regulations

At the federal level, the impact of the recent federal budget compromise bill on records access remains everyone’s top priority. The budget bill embargoes recent deaths from the Social Security Death Index until the end of the third calendar year after the event. It was discussed here in my 2013 year-end report.

On behalf of RPAC, Fred Moss submitted written testimony in relationship to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee’s SSDI closure language. His testimony is linked to the RPAC blog post “Senate Finance Committee — Tax Administration Discussion Drafts,” together with an attachment from Michael Ramage, CGSM, outlining a forensic genealogy definition.[*] The summary at the end of the testimony states:

We offer four main points:

  1. We are anxious to support the effort to implement the provisions of the Bipartisan Budget Act requiring the Department of Commerce to develop a Certification Program governing access to the Death Master File. Genealogists who fit the (a – f ) categories listed on pages 2-3 should be accommodated for quick certification. The genealogical community is a vitally interested stakeholder in this process.
  2. As existing policy regarding public access to the Death Master File is reviewed, we urge that input from professional genealogists be sought. The members of the Records Preservation and Access Committee stand ready to assist in arranging for that input to both the Executive and Legislative branches. We can best be reached at access@fgs.org
  3. Our strongest message is that steps already taken by the IRS and genealogical entities to protect SSNs listed in the SSDI may have already intercepted this particular form of identity theft without waiting for any additional legislation.
  4. The SSNs of living people will remain vulnerable as long as the IRS mandate is to rush payments of tax refunds before information returns can be compared with the submitted return to assure its validity.

RPAC will continue its efforts to participate in the regulatory process of the Department  of Commerce. The group will advocate for access for professional genealogists and those doing compassionate work for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office and for Unclaimed Persons.

Those Board-certified genealogists who consider access to recent deaths to be important to their work can offer their support to RPAC by emailing access@fgs.org. Your stories about how access made a difference in people’s lives will be helpful in articulating this concern to Senators and Representatives.

Monitoring Action at the State Level

We expect the introduction of state legislation based on the unapproved 2011 Model Act and Regulations. State liaisons will play a continuing role in checking for new legislation and in rallying local response. I discussed the history of the Model Acts in my March 2013 report, as follows:

The registration of births, deaths, marriages, and divorces is done on the local level, that is, by 50 states, 5 territories, the City of New York, and Washington, DC. Information contained in those records is shared with U.S. government entities such as the Social Security Administration.

To ensure successful sharing, the U.S. government has made available text that states may elect to use for law as well as for regulations describing how those laws are implemented. States are not required to conform to the Model Act and Regulations. Each state, city, or territory is free to implement laws and regulations for its own needs. Nonetheless, the Model Act can have significant impact. For example, the movement of state vital records offices into state Departments of Public Health was first advised by the 1977 version of the Model Act.

Beginning in 2009, a committee formed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services convened to update the 1992 Model Act. The National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS) approved the update by resolution 8 June 2011. NAPHSIS is an association of representatives from the 57 states, cities, and territories. Members of the organization had participated in the drafting of the new Model Act.

Previous iterations of the Model Act have gone through periods of public feedback and revision before approval by the federal agency involved. The 2011 revision has not yet been made available for public review by DHHS (see their note here) and so it is not yet considered final. In the meantime, several state public health departments developed legislation that conformed to the unreviewed version of the Model Act. This past Friday, 1 March 2013, at noon Eastern time, NAPHSIS independently released the 2011 revision of the Model Act on its website. It can be downloaded here.

What does the new version do? It incorporates changes in technology over the twenty years since the 1992 version. It also changes the records closure periods. Please compare these periods to the ones currently in law in the states in which you research. If they differ, it would be wise to work with local genealogy societies to monitor for the introduction of state legislation affecting records closure.

  • Birth records closed for 125 years.
  • Marriage and divorce records closed for 100 years.
  • Death records closed for 75 years.

Because the response to local legislation begins with local efforts, RPAC worked in 2013 to strengthen its state liaison apparatus, defined here as:

In each state there is or will be an individual responsible for maintaining liaison and communication between the FGS Records Access and Preservation Committee and the statewide genealogical/historical community with respect to matters concerning the preservation of and access to national, state and local historical records of genealogical and historical interest.

To locate a state liaison, RPAC must determine if there is an umbrella organization within the state, or an overall genealogical society. The committee then works with the President of that society to find the statewide liaison. This person becomes a contact for anyone in the state having a records access concern. The process means better representation, but it also means that it takes time to fill a slot. (Disclosure: I am the state liaison for Massachusetts.)

In December and January, RPAC hosted conference calls that included representatives from twenty states and RPAC leadership. On January 28th, we heard from Teri E. Flack of Texas and Helen Shaw, CGSM, of Maine. In both states, genealogists testified against records closure legislation. The Texans were successful in stopping closure. The Mainers saw modifications to the bill and are now considered stakeholders in the process of writing regulations. Rob Rafford of Connecticut spoke passionately about being proactive in monitoring legislative activity.

Efforts this year led to three states adding a state liaison, for a total of 33+1 represented states. If you live in one of these states, which are now unrepresented, please consider working with your state’s genealogy society to find a person willing to take on the role. Every state needs a person or a committee or a society checking for new legislation, budget changes, and preservation issues. Without attention, changes can happen that will come as a shock to genealogists.

  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

North Carolina is moving quickly to identify a state liaison. A matter of unexpected records destruction got everyone’s attention. The 2011 Model Act provisions are also relevant as the UNC School of Government was investigating records closure last year. My written response on behalf of Board-certified genealogists is available here.

To find the state liaison for your geographic area of concern, consult the RPAC roster here.

________________________
* The genealogy community has not rallied around an industry-wide definition of the term forensic genealogy. A definition focused on financial or legal work is slowly coming to the fore but there are points to be made for a broader definition that includes work involving living people. For example, Attachment A includes two out of three legs of the adoption triad (child, birth parents, adoptive parents). RPAC testimony adds medical and genetic genealogy.

UPDATED: 2 Feb 2014, to show that Nebraska is already represented by a state liaison.

Class of 2013: Melinda Daffin Henningfield

Melinda Daffin Henningfield

Among those earning the credential of Certified GenealogistSM in 2013 is Melinda Daffin Henningfield of Oregon, a retired nurse practitioner, who holds a B.A. in history education and B.S. and M.S. degrees in nursing.

Melinda began her interest in genealogy at an early age. Her mother and grandmother regaled her almost daily with family lore. Armed with tall tales, a mourning pin from the 1700s, and an undocumented, undated, and anonymous pedigree chart outlining her Daffin ancestors to William the Conqueror, Melinda began her studies in genealogy.

After the National Genealogical Society’s Home Study Course, ProGen 13, the National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR), the British Institute, and numerous courses at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) and the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), Melinda is slowly unraveling her family legends and separating fact from fiction. And, she adds, “The process of preparing a portfolio is a learning experience that exceeds any I have had.”

Melinda’s advice for those thinking about pursuing certification is straightforward: “Explore the website of the Board for Certification of Genealogists. The website contains everything needed for those thinking about certification.”

Her genealogical heroes include three former presidents of the Board for Certification of Genealogists: lecturer-educators Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, and Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, who were among those she heard at her first NGS conference in 2008, and “have dedicated much of their lives to teaching others lessons they have learned about genealogy and genealogical methods,” and Connie Miller Lenzen, CG, who was the “list Mom” for Melinda’s NGS Home Study Course and who “has taught … through her example the importance of giving back to the genealogical community.”

Asked where she sees herself in five years, Melinda says she hopes to be puzzling over her Confederado ancestors and their life in Brazil.

We’re pleased to have this opportunity to introduce Melinda to the BCG community!