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 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!”

Former BCG Vice President Joy Reisinger, RIP

Free of copyright, posted on 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.

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.


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: Certification Seminar

Post by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL

It was with great pleasure that I, along with Warren Bittner, CG, and David McDonald, CG, presented a double-session for the certification seminar. The advantage of the sessions held at every national conference over the one-hour video on the BCG website is that attendees can ask questions. And what good questions they were!

Clarification between certification and a certificate program, and how to go about the various aspects of preparing a portfolio were all discussed. In addition those who are actively “on the clock” and getting their portfolios ready gathered for a photo (see below).

Attendees also heard from current BCG associates about their reasons and various pathways to certification from Michael Hait, CG, Craig Scott, CG, and Dawne Slater-Putt, CG.

The double session was audio recorded by and will appear for sale on their website under session T211 of the NGS 2013 conference.

BCG President Elissa Powell and Executive Director Nicki Birch flank preliminary applicants who are “on the clock”

Exploring Reasons Why to Certify

New audio clips of associates giving candid remarks on their certification process are on the BCG website’s “Why Certification?” page. In addition to David McDonald, CGSM, Beth Stahr, CGSM, and Michael Hait, CGSM are three associates with widely different paths who were taped at the 2012 FGS conference. Eileen O’Duill, CGSM, from Ireland, gives her perspective as an international Board-certified genealogist. Warren Bittner, CGSM, from Utah, talks about what methods he used to gain experience before applying. Linda Woodward Geiger, CGSM, CGLSM, from Georgia, gives her reasons for seeking certification.

These short clips should resonate with a variety of people. Perhaps one of their reasons or paths is similar to yours?

Will You Be Able to Attend a BCG Certification Seminar in 2013?

BCG board members and local Board-certified genealogists often offer certification seminars at national and regional conferences. The seminar topics cover everything from considering why to apply to tips for the application process.

Several certification seminars are already on the calendar. They are free for conference attendees (after conference registration costs) and everyone – whether considering certification, already “on the clock,” or a Board-certified associate assembling a renewal portfolio – is welcome to come and learn more about the process.

At the Ohio Genealogical Society conference in Cincinnati on Thursday, 25 April 2013, Elissa Scalise Powell, CGSM, CGLSM, will conduct a “BCG Associate Gathering and Renewal Discussion.” Then at 3:30 pm she will give “Reasons & Tips for Becoming a Board-certified Genealogist.” Please join in the appropriate session!

At the National Genealogical Society’s 2013 annual conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, session T211 is marked as a double session, however you may come to one or the other or both. There David McDonald, CGSM, Elissa Scalise Powell, CGSM, CGLSM, and Warren Bittner, CGSM, will spend the time on reasons why board-certification might be appropriate, discussing application strategies and fielding questions from interested audience members.

Another opportunity to interact with board-certified speakers in a seminar is scheduled at 2:00 p.m., Thursday, 22 August 2013, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at the annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, session T237. There David and Elissa will be joined by Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CGSM, and Debbie Mieszala, CGSM.

Each team is sure to cover the issue of preparation. Here is what the syllabus says about that:

Education and experience are the two main components in preparing for certification. The goal is to acquire and practice the standards articulated in The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual.

The Board sets no formal educational requirement. Surveys of successful applicants show that most have availed themselves of structured learning opportunities well above the introductory level—attending institutes, conferences, and workshops or enrolling in online or distance-learning courses. Self-education, derived from analyzing case studies developed by board-certified persons and published in major peer-reviewed genealogical journals, is also helpful.

Experience comes in many forms. Successful applicants for certification are experienced in dealing with the full range of challenges genealogists face. They demonstrate sound, critical judgment when evaluating the work of others. They hone their ability to resolve research problems, develop expertise in specific areas, and strive for excellence in every regard. While it takes a number of years to acquire the education and experience needed for certification, the personal and professional rewards from certification are significant.[1]


Updated 2:41 pm, 18 Feb 2013, edited to reflect that conference registration was required.

Graphic courtesy of the National Genealogical Society.


[1] “Board for Certification of Genealogists’ Certification Seminar,” 2012 Family History Conference Syllabus: The Ohio River, Gateway to the Western Frontier, session T201 (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2012): 116.

Why Become Certified? Reasons Vary

“Why become certified?” is a question every person who has learned about BCG has asked. To help answer this, several Board-certified genealogists were asked at the 2012 FGS conference in Birmingham, Alabama, to record an audio clip on how they came to certification. The comments are unscripted and spontaneous–and totally inspiring. In the over dozen statements you will probably find a reason or approach that resonates with your own.

You can listen to the first three testimonial audio clips at

Dave McDonald, CG, states, “I first earned certification . . . because I had spent time around colleagues who had been certified and whose work I wanted to emulate.”

Beth Stahr, CG, observes, “In my mind there has always been a connection between librarianship and certification.”

Michael Hait, CG, advises, “I actually applied for certification twice and I had different motivations each time I applied.”

More audio tracks will be released periodically. Check back to this blog (or sign up for automatic email notifications of new blog posts).

If the audio controls are not visible on the webpage below the photographs, you may need a browser plugin or you can click on the MP3 files link to download the files.