BCG Education Fund Workshop at NGS St. Charles 12 May 2015

The BCG Education Fund is sponsoring a great educational opportunity at the annual NGS conference. Aimed at intermediate to advanced genealogists, this one-day workshop features two skilled and respected instructors, Barbara Mathews, CG, FASG, and Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL. They will speak about evidence and research reports, respectively. The workshops fill quickly, so if this one looks appealing, sign up right away: http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/bcg-education-fund-workshop/.

 

Putting Skills To Work

Tuesday, 12 May 2015, 8:30 AM–4:30 PM
St. Charles, Missouri

Putting Skills To Work is a unique full-day, hands-on workshop limited to sixty participants. The focus is on skills needed by anyone practicing serious genealogical research, whether as a family historian, librarian, dedicated hobbyist, or writer. Materials are geared to intermediate and advanced practitioners and advocate established genealogical standards.

The $110 registration fee includes lunch, two in-depth presentations, hands-on exercises, syllabus, handouts, and active class participation. NGS conference registration is not required.

Barbara J. Mathews, CG, FASG, will lead the session “Evidence Analysis, Correlation, and Resolution: The Heart of the Genealogical Proof Standard.” Focusing on only direct evidence creates unnecessary research dead ends. This session addresses weighing BMathewsand correlating sources, evidence, and information in their many diverse forms for successful resolution of investigations.

Barbara Mathews is a lineage genealogist specializing in colonial Connecticut and Massachusetts. She represents BCG on the Records Access and Preservation Committee, and is Civil Records Co-Director for the Massachusetts Genealogical Council (MGC). Her white paper co-written for MGC, “Framing a Discussion on Vital Records Access,” provides an historic look at government policies involving ID theft, financial fraud, and vital records. She is currently working on a book about the descendants of the fourth colonial governor of Connecticut for the Welles Family Association. Barbara mentored ProGen Study Group 7, GenProof Study Group 6, and currently mentors ProGen Study Group 21. She is a substitute instructor for the Boston University genealogical certificate program, a contributor to the BCG blog, SpringBoard, and a former trustee of BCG and the BCG  Education Fund.

Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, will lead the session “Tested Strategies for Efficient Research Reports.” Many researchers EPowellassume committing research findings to paper is separate from the research process. Elissa will share her methodology for using available time efficiently during the research process, resulting in a sharable work product.

Elissa Powell, a western Pennsylvania researcher, is immediate past president of BCG. She is co-director of the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, and instructs for Boston University’s genealogical certificate program and at the Salt Like Institute of Genealogy. She is coordinator of the Professional Genealogy course for the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University. Elissa is a frequent lecturer at national conferences as well as at venues across the United States. In 2010 she was the recipient of the National Genealogical Society’s President’s Citation for her broad support of the genealogical community.

 by Kathy Gunter Sullivan, CG, BCG Education Fund


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.

The Road to Better SSDI Access Goes Through All Fifty States

A stretch of road between California and Nevada, photograph by Dan Thorburn, used under Creative Commons license, https://www.flickr.com/photos/danthorburn/7558581290 .

Do you remember how with one stroke of a pen on 26 December 2013 genealogists lost access to recent deaths in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)?

Nearly a year ago, the President signed into law the 2013 federal budget compromise bill. It included Section 203, which removed Freedom of Information Act protection from the SSDI and eliminated deaths from public record until the end of the third calendar year after they occur, effective 28 March 2014. As an example, deaths that occur between 28 March and 31 December 2014 will first appear in the SSDI on 1 January 2018. Closing the SSDI’s most recent records hides that critical single element, the Social Security number, but it also hides names, dates, and locations—information which could remain open and is used and needed by genealogists.

As the new session of the U.S. Congress begins in January, the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC) plans to ask that only the Social Security number be omitted from recent death entries and that other information be returned to the SSDI. RPAC plans to show Congress that genealogists care by gathering signatures on a petition. Signatures are needed because Congress responds to numbers. The goal is to reach at least 10,000 signatures before approaching senators this coming year. In 2014 the petition traveled to the NGS, FGS, and IAJGS conferences, as well as the Southern California Jamboree, resulting in the collection of 4,000 signatures. We have six weeks to collect 6,000 more signatures!

Now is the time to take this petition to the fifty states. RPAC needs your help!

RPAC asks that you, in each of your home states, gather signatures on this petition. If you are an officer in a state society, take this petition to your board and to meetings. If you are a society member, ask your society to support this effort. If you attend genealogy roundtables at your local library, bring this petition along.

  • Once you get signatures, scan the signed pages and email the images to Jan Alpert, RPAC’s chair; her email is listed at the bottom of the page.

Please help by printing out this paperwork and bringing our case to the genealogists who don’t travel to national conferences, to genealogists in all fifty states.  We have six weeks. Let’s top 10,000 signatures! Let’s get Congress to listen to our concerns!

You can read more about this on RPAC’s own blog, “Genealogists Declaration of Rights—We Need Your Support!”

 

 by Barbara Mathews, CG, FASG

As BCG’s official representative to the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), Barbara Mathews 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.

Continuing the SpringBoard Tradition with New Editors

Laura Murphy DeGrazia and Judy Kellar Fox

Two years ago BCG launched SpringBoard, to create a sense of community and connect with online genealogists. Under the leadership of then-president Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, the blog introduced new associates, focused on noteworthy contributors to the field, summarized BCG Skillbuilding presentations at the NGS conference, and provided status updates on records preservation and access. Contributors included Elissa, Barbara Mathews, CG, FASG, and Judy Russell, CG, CGL.

Editorship of SpringBoard now passes to Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG, FGBS, and Judy Kellar Fox, CG. Laura comes to the BCG blog with broad experience as past president of BCG and former co-editor of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. Judy’s background includes teaching and writing.

The three SpringBoard founders will continue to be involved as contributing authors. All Board-certified associates are welcome and encouraged to submit posts as well. SpringBoard will continue to report news related to BCG, educate about our certification process and standards, and address issues that impact BCG and its role in the genealogical community at large.

Judy Kellar Fox, CG
Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG, FGBS


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.

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.

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.

 

 

BCG Skillbuilding at NGS 2013: Barbara Mathews on “Not Quite Right: Recognizing Errors”

© 2013 by the National Genealogical Society, Inc. Used by permission of the National Genealogical Society and the photographer, Scott Stewart.

Please welcome guest blogger ____, CGSM

No, that welcome message is not a mistake. I put out two email calls to Board-certified genealogists requesting guest bloggers. Instantly many people stepped forward and scooped up speeches by Tom Jones, Judy Russell, and Elizabeth Shown Mills. My own presentation waited and waited … {{shaking head in embarrassment}}.

It’s not quite fair for me to review my presentation. I’m not unbiased, am I? I thought about putting a third frantic request out to the Board-certified associates, but then I decided to blog about what it is like to give a speech at a big genealogy conference. It seemed a better route to take than to risk a third rejection.

The process began more than a year earlier, when I answered the Call for Proposals from NGS. I used the “console” to enter the required data, from my contact information, biography, and experience as a speaker to the title, an outline, and a brief description of the speech itself. I then waited until I was contacted by the Program Chair several months later. I had to sign a contract. I also decided to approve having the sessions recorded by JAMB-Inc.

There were two more milestones. About three months before the conference, I had to send in my handout/syllabus material. I made sure to format it as required to fit properly in the syllabus, and to email a pdf version. That gave me time to polish my speeches using PowerPoint software.

The final milestone was to show up and deliver the speeches. This meant packing my own projector and computer, including lugging them through airport security and stuffing them into storage bins on the packed airplane. I made my own flight booking, but NGS booked two room nights for me. I extended that booking to include the full conference. I invested in flight costs and five nights at the hotel. The trip meant adding on other costs, such as parking in Boston, taxis to and from the Las Vegas hotel, and meals. On the plus side, my convention registration was gratis and I got a check for both speeches. In total, I will have to spend more money that I take in, but the overall conference costs are reduced because my speeches were accepted for the program.

Butterflies in my stomach? Totally. I used the nervous energy to go over the PowerPoint slides and to reread the speeches — as well as to arrive in plenty of time for each speech. I set up my projector, set up my computer, and used the convention center’s built-in cabling to connect them. The Las Vegas Hotel Convention Center supplied an A/V specialist who checked in with me before each speech to ensure that all was in working order. In addition, JAMB-Inc sent a man to double-check the recording device and put in a fresh CD. Once I got the thumbs-up from him, I was free to begin.

The errors speech needed tuning up the week of the convention. I wanted to make sure that the discussion of sources, information, and evidence was in parallel with a newly published book on genealogical proof.[1] There were about 50 or 60 people there to hear the lecture. They took notes earnestly, so I felt that the revision effort was well worth it. Once it was over, I packed as quickly as I could so that the next presenter could set up.

My speech on recognizing errors is meant for those beginning to work with the terminology used for sources, information, and evidence. I went over the various terms carefully, explaining what each meant and how it is useful to document analysis and evidence evaluation.

This session has been taped. During the conference you can buy it from the JAMB-INC booth in the main conference hall. After the conference, it will be available online at http://www.jamb-inc.com/category/genealogy. This is session S441 under the heading 2013 NGS Conference/Las Vegas, NV.

 

[1] Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2013). It can be ordered online http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/mastering_genealogical_proof from the National Genealogical Society. It is a workbook. You read a chapter on a topic and then work on the questions at the end of the chapter. The topics I discussed are in Chapter 2.