Certification: It’s Not All About Writing and Citing

Please welcome guest blogger Elizabeth Shown Mills, CGSM, CGLSM

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

Certification: A Measure of Our APR

Today’s hot topic seems to be Board certification and what it represents. Some opine that ‘it’s all about writing and citing, as opposed to sources.’

I see it differently. BCG certification is ‘all about’ analysis and problem resolution. It’s about

  1. our ability to analyze a research problem;
  2. our ability to analyze and interpret the relevant records we find; and
  3. our ability to analyze the body of evidence we’ve accumulated and reliably determine when and whether it resolves a difficult problem.

Of course, none of this is possible without a solid knowledge of sources for each problem. Of course, writing is the tool we use to explain our analyses. Of course, citations are needed to identify our evidence. However, as with our financial investments, the bottom line for our genealogical offerings is always our APR—our skills at analysis and problem resolution—and the level of security it represents. That is what a BCG credential represents.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG
Board-certified since 1976

BCG Ed Fund Leary Distinguished Lecture: Elizabeth Mills on “Can Trousers, Beds, and Other ‘Trivial Details’ Solve Genealogical Problems?”

Please welcome guest blogger Diane Gravel, CGSM.

As genealogical researchers, we routinely pore through records in pursuit of elusive ancestors, grabbing at apparent minutia, anything that might give us the answers we seek. But are we really gleaning all of the information and clues that lie buried in each document before moving on to the next record?

As interpreters of facts, nitpickers of every detail, innovators of new ways to understand records and apply data, we must spend the majority of our time analyzing every document we retrieve. The careful eye scrutinizes each scrap of paper in an estate accounting, noting the date of an order of velvet and fine pants, recognizing it as a likely death record. The careful eye scrutinizes tax rolls for clues of kinship among the neighbors. These are only a few of the examples used by Mills in demonstrating the fine art of record analysis.

This lecture, used with the syllabus material, easily stands alone as a course in evidence analysis. It’s one of those presentations that will be played and replayed, each time inspiring the listener to take another look at their own brick walls, in search of all those missed clues!

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 F312 under the heading 2013 NGS Conference/Las Vegas, NV.

From Diane’s profile at APG:

Diane is a full-time professional genealogist and lecturer, with emphasis on New Hampshire research. She is a graduate (with honors) of NGS’s American Genealogy: A Basic Course, and attended both the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (Advanced Methodology and Military Records) at Samford University and the National Institute on Genealogical Research at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

 

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.

BCG Skillbuilding at NGS 2013: Elizabeth Mills on “Information Overload? Effective Project Planning, Research, Data Management, and Analysis”

Please welcome guest blogger Harold Henderson, CGSM

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

More often than we like to admit, we attend conference lectures and leave with a feeling of enjoyment or illumination … but it does not necessarily carry over when we return the following week to all the neglected tasks of real genealogical life. Elizabeth Shown Mills’s Thursday afternoon presentation is one that I will be checking back to repeatedly.

As the author of Evidence Explained (both book and instructional web site), BCG past president, and current trustee, she needs no introduction or advertisement, but she was in great form at NGS Las Vegas speaking on “Information Overload?” Those of us who struggle not just with information overload in general, but with a wealth of information about research targets’ friends, associates, and neighbors, would benefit from her clear thoughts and detailed suggestions. (Was I just more ready for it, or are the suggestions more detailed than ever?) One way to look at the key problem: since genealogy software focuses on one individual at a time, how do we study groups, especially since that is what we often end up doing? Examples of her solutions are available in the work samples section of the BCG web site.

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 T241 under the heading 2013 NGS Conference/Las Vegas, NV.

 

Harold Henderson, CGSM, has been a professional writer since 1979, a professional genealogist since 2009, and a board-certified genealogist since June 2012. He lives and works in northwest Indiana and at midwestroots.net.  See Harold’s new work Finding Ancestors in Fort Wayne: The Genealogist’s Unofficial One-Stop Guide to the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center viewable online as a pdf here.

Elizabeth Shown Mills to present Leary Distinguished Lecture at NGS 2013

The BCG Education Fund announced that the 2013 Leary Distinguished Lecturer at the NGS Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, is Elizabeth Shown Mills, CGSM, CGLSM, FASG, NGS, FUGA, who poses a provocative question: “Can Trousers, Beds, and Other ‘Trivial Details’ Solve Genealogical Problems?” Her answer is, Yes! All can create solutions to brickwall problems. She will present the lecture at 9:30 AM on Friday, May 10th.

Elizabeth Mills, who has emphasized research methodology and evidence analysis throughout her long career, is a master at drawing clues from seemingly trivial details. In the 2013 Leary Distinguished Lecture, she presents a series of brick wall problems involving identity and parentage. For each, she demonstrates ways to develop solutions from minutiae found in everyday records, including black domestics and tacks, housekeeping bills, trousers, beds, and more.

Mills is a historical researcher and writer who has spent her life studying American culture and the relationships between people—emotional as well as genetic. A popular lecturer and past president of both the American Society of Genealogists and the international Board for Certification of Genealogists, Elizabeth is the author, editor, and translator of thirteen books and over 500 journal and magazine articles in genealogy, history, literature, and sociology. Aside from her 2004 reality-based historical novel, Isle of Canes (which Historical Novels Review called a “masterpiece” and other reviews dubbed “a cross between Roots and Gone with the Wind”), Mills is best known for Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (a Library Journal “Best Reference 2007”) and the textbook Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers & Librarians. Interviews with Elizabeth Mills are featured in the National Genealogical Society’s popular video series “Paths To Your Past” at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.

The Leary lecture series, initiated in 2007, honors Helen F.M. Leary of North Carolina, Certified Genealogist Emeritus and a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, known for her richly informative and entertaining lectures on methodology, law, writing, and the art of lecturing.

Throughout her distinguished career, Helen F.M. Leary has worked to educate all serious genealogists. Helen embodies personal and professional work standards that the BCG Education Fund seeks to emulate and to instill in those practicing the art and science of genealogy.

Graphic courtesy of the National Genealogical Society.

2013 Call for Nominations

Under BCG Bylaws, one-third of the trustees are elected each year to serve three-year terms. The 2013 nominating committee requests suggestions for candidates to place on this year’s slate. Suggestions must be received by 1 May 2013.

Nominees placed on the ballot will be associates whose standards of work are exemplary and who contribute balance to the Board’s composition, geographically and administratively. The most commonly needed auxiliary skills include accounting, database management, editing, law, marketing, and writing. Individuals suggested to serve on the committee must be willing to fulfill the duties expected of all trustees, specifically:

  • To serve for three years and participate in a  wide range of Board activities involving many volunteer hours;
  • To attend the Board’s midyear meeting held at the annual National Genealogical Society conference in the spring; and
  • To attend the annual meeting of the Board, generally held in October in Salt Lake City.

Trustees serve without compensation and are expected to pay their own travel and related meeting expenses.

The five trustees whose terms expire at the end of the 2013 annual meeting are CindyLee Butler Banks, AG, CGSM, of Nebraska, Warren Bittner, CGSM, of Utah (finishing out the term of Christine Rose, CGSM, CGLSM, FASG, of California), Dawne Slater-Putt, CGSM, of Indiana, Michael S. Ramage, CGSM, of Pennsylvania, and Victor S. Dunn, CGSM, of Virginia.

Suggestions for candidates, with a short description of their special skills, should be made by 1 May 2013 to Elizabeth Shown Mills at eshown@comcast.net.

THE COMMITTEE:
Elizabeth Shown Mills, CGSM, CGLSM, FASG, Chair
Kathleen W. Hinckley, CGSM
J. Mark Lowe, CGSM

 

Debbie Parker Wayne now a Board-certified genealogical lecturer

Debbie Parker Wayne received the Certified GenealogistSM credential in 2010 and the Certified Genealogical LecturerSM credential in 2013. Debbie is a full-time genealogist experienced in using laws and DNA analysis, as well as more traditional techniques, for genealogical research. She previously worked in the computer industry doing support, training, programming, and Web design. Those skills are especially useful when analyzing a client’s DNA test results, but also help when doing traditional research in this technical age.

When she first attended the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) in 2003, Debbie knew she wanted to do professional-level research, but hadn’t yet decided whether she wanted to become certified or start a research business. Experiences on that trip, her first exposure to the world of professional genealogists, the techniques learned in Elizabeth Shown Mills’s Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis course, and discussions with credentialed genealogists convinced Debbie to work towards this goal. She started with pro bono clients and accepted paying clients as her knowledge increased due to self-study, institutes, and conference sessions.

Debbie’s business includes research clients, DNA clients, speaking engagements, and writing projects. She won two writing awards in 2012 for articles that were based on research done for her BCG portfolio. She was invited to present “Forensic Techniques for Genetic Genealogy” at the Forensic Genealogy Institute (FGI). In 2013 she will be presenting sessions at the NGS and FGS conferences, “Genetic Genealogy for Clients” at IGHR’s Genealogy as a Profession course, and continuing her presentations for FGI and local societies.

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IGHR Registration Opens Tuesday

BCG has had a long-standing relationship with the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) held for one week in June each year at Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama. As a co-sponsor of IGHR, Board-certified genealogists have taught many of the courses throughout the years and have provided a certification seminar in IGHR’s evening track. The banquet program reserves a place for greetings from BCG which acknowledges this relationship.

Board-certified genealogists coordinating this year’s ten courses held June 9-14 include Warren Bittner, CG; Linda Woodward Geiger, CG, CGL; Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG; J. Mark Lowe, CG; Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG; Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL; Christine Rose, CG, CGL, FASG; Pamela Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL; and Richard G. Sayre, CG, CGL.

Course instructors are asked by coordinators to teach topics in their area of expertise. Board-certified genealogists teaching at IGHR this year include Claire Mire Bettag, CG; Alvie Davidson, CG; Michael Hait, CG; Rachel Mills Lennon, CG; Judy G. Russell, CG; Craig Roberts Scott, CG: and Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL.

Registration for the June courses opens on Tuesday, January 22. Because of the extreme popularity of the limited number of seats in each course, registration opening times are staggered throughout the morning. Courses can, and do, sell out within minutes of “the opening bell.” For more information about registration and contents of each course, please see http://www4.samford.edu/schools/ighr/IGHR_courses.html. Click on course titles to see the course lecture schedule and instructors.

BCG’s long-standing tradition of encouraging genealogical education is showcased in this institute which has been offering such courses since the 1960s under the auspices of the Samford University Library.