Coming Soon from OnBoard, May 2017

OnBoard: Newsletter of the Board for Certification of Genealogists is scheduled to publish in May 2017. We’re pleased to offer a preview of some of its content.

OnBoard May 2017 masthead

“A Look at BCG’s Evaluation System”

Have you wondered about BCG’s process for judging portfolios? Alison Hare, CG, satisfies our curiosity and takes us behind the scenes with a tour of how BCG’s evaluation system works. She provides a perspective on its fifty-year history and development.

“Genealogy Standards Prevent Bias and Presentism”

Drawing from Genealogy Standards,[1] Darcie Hind Posz, CG, explains how our field’s standards and methods are not ethnocentric. They apply equally to all cultures and demographics. Darcie gives examples of recent, non-traditional, published studies that solve kinship problems. Through adherence to standards, genealogists can provide unbiased perspectives on and learn from difficult and controversial periods in history.

OnBoard publishes three issues per year. A subscription is included in annual associate fees and is provided to applicants “on the clock.” Subscriptions are also available to the general public for $15.00 per year (currently) through the BCG website, here <http://www.bcgcertification.org/catalog/bcgitems.html>. Issues back to 1995 can also be ordered online, here <http://www.bcgcertification.org/catalog/backordlst.html>.

[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry, 2014).

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Free BCG Webinar on Reliability and Reasoning

Michael Ramage, JD, CG, “Reliability: The Keystone of Genealogical Reasoning, with Judicial Comparisons” was presented 15 December 2015. A recording is now available from Vimeo, here.

Reliable evidence is essential to sound genealogical conclusions. Illustrating the importance of this quality, the term reliable and its synonyms appear in no less than seven standards in Genealogy Standards.[1] The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) does not mention the word reliable, yet it “requires genealogists to base conclusions on reliable evidence.”[2] What does reliable mean? How is it assessed?

Michael Ramage, JD, CG

Come explore the nebulous but important principles surrounding reliability from the perspective of genealogy and the law. The laws pertaining to the admission or exclusion of expert witness testimony provide relevant insights into what is and is not reliable. This is of crucial importance to those attempting to draw a conclusion based upon the GPS.

Michael Ramage, JD, CG, is a Board-certified genealogist and licensed attorney with over thirty years of professional research and writing experience. He specializes in the field of missing and unknown heirs in estate, trust, and real estate title matters.

To register for Michael Ramage, JD, CG, “Reliability: The Keystone of Genealogical Reasoning, with Judicial Comparisons” on 15 December 2015, 8:00 p.m. EST (7:00 CST, 6:00 MST, 5:00 PST), go to  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4736616197104408066.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Attendance is limited for this free webinar. Once registered, please sign in early to avoid disappointment.

President Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG, says, “The Board for Certification of Genealogists is proud to offer this new webinar as part of an ongoing series that supports our mission to provide education for family historians. This webinar will address questions regarding the genealogy standards for research. By promoting a uniform standard of competence and ethics the BCG endeavors to foster public confidence in genealogy.”

The BCG is an independent certifying body and author of the 2014 Genealogy Standards.

Please visit SpringBoard‘s webinar page to learn about BCG’s previous webinars.


[1] Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Turner Publishing Co., 2014), passim.

[2] Ibid., 23.

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.

Free BCG Webinar: Applying Standards to International Research

Tuesday, 20 October 2015, at 8:00 p.m. EDT, Melanie D. Holtz, CG, will present “Applying the Standards to International Research.”

A recording of this webinar is available for a small fee from Vimeo.

The idea of “reasonably exhaustive research” might be one of the most mysterious elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). What exactly does it mean? How do you know when you’ve achieved it? How does the GPS apply to international research?

Melanie D. Holtz, CG

The lecture will focus on showing how the standards can apply to international research through the evaluation of several Italian case studies and/or research problems. Some research problems naturally require more work to meet the definition of reasonably exhaustive research, while others may be a lot simpler.

Understanding reasonably exhaustive research is important in preparing a kinship determination project. Examples abound for those who focus on U.S. research. However, for those who don’t, it is often helpful to see examples from other geographic locations. In this way, they can more easily learn the proper application of these concepts to their own type of genealogical research.

Melanie D. Holtz, CG, is a Board-certified genealogist, writer, and lecturer. She operates an international research firm that specializes in Italian genealogical research, Italian-American dual citizenship, and Italian-American probate cases. Melanie maintains offices in both Italy and the U.S.

To register for Melanie D. Holtz, CG, “Applying the Standards to International Research” on 20 October 2015, 8:00 p.m. EDT (7:00 CDT, 6:00 MDT, 5:00 PDT): https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7525305339610306562.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Attendance is limited for this free webinar. Once registered, please sign in early to avoid disappointment.

Please visit SpringBoard‘s webinar page to learn about BCG’s previous webinars.

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.

Respecting the Privacy of DNA Test Takers

We, all of us who take a genetic test or sponsor or manage a test for someone else, have a responsibility to do what we can to protect our privacy and that of our testers. We must familiarize ourselves with what genetic genealogy tests entail, the uses to which test results may be put, and the testing companies’ privacy safeguards. We must obtain permission from our testers for the testing and for the use of test results. We must respect testers’ restrictions on usage and publication of their results. Several respected groups have set standards that guide us.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) Code of Ethics addresses the issue.

  • We agree to keep confidential personal or genealogical information unless we have written consent.[1] DNA test results are treated like all genealogical information.
  • We agree not to publish or circulate research or reports to which others have a proprietary right unless we have written consent.[2] This includes reports from DNA testing companies. The reports belong to the testers.

BCG has published genealogy standards that also apply to DNA test results:

  • Standard 22: “Genealogists ethically, lawfully, prudently, and respectfully use others’ information and products, whether the material is digitized, oral, published, unpublished, written, or in any other form.”[3]
  • Standard 34: “Genealogists may use agents . . . to find, obtain, and provide information potentially relevant to a research question.” Genetic testing companies fall under the category of agents.[4]

The National Genealogical Society (NGS) “Standards for Sharing Information with Others” expand on these guidelines.[5]

In January 2015 the Genetic Genealogy Standards Committee of scientists and genealogists published guidelines based on BCG and NGS standards that specifically address DNA testing for genealogy. Nine standards, excerpted here, directly or indirectly address the issue of privacy.[6] We are both “the tester” and the “genealogists.”

  • “Testing With Consent. Genealogists only obtain DNA for testing after receiving consent, written or oral, from the tester. . . .
  • “Raw Data. Genealogists believe that testers have an inalienable right to their own DNA test results and raw data, even if someone other than the tester purchased the DNA test.
  • “DNA Storage. Genealogists are aware of the DNA storage options offered by testing companies, and consider the implications of storing versus not storing DNA samples for future testing. . . .
  • “Terms of Service. Genealogists review and understand the terms and conditions to which the tester consents when purchasing a DNA test. [See the links to testing companies’ terms of service below.]
  • “Privacy. Genealogists only test with companies that respect and protect the privacy of testers. However, genealogists understand that complete anonymity of DNA tests results can never be guaranteed.
  • “Access by Third Parties. Genealogists understand that once DNA test results are made publicly available, they can be freely accessed, copied, and analyzed by a third party without permission. . . .
  • “Sharing Results. Genealogists respect all limitations on reviewing and sharing DNA test results imposed at the request of the tester. . . .
  • “Scholarship. When lecturing or writing about genetic genealogy, genealogists respect the privacy of others. Genealogists privatize or redact the names of living genetic matches from presentations unless the genetic matches have given prior permission or made their results publicly available. Genealogists share DNA test results of living individuals in a work of scholarship only if the tester has given permission or has previously made those results publicly available. . . .
  • “Health Information. Genealogists understand that DNA tests may have medical implications.”

There’s no doubt that following these standards requires extra effort on our part. We need to inform ourselves. We need to communicate with our testers and educate them. We need to explain their rights and the potential limitations on their privacy. We need to solicit their consent before the tests are taken and before we share any results.

In scrupulously applying standards of privacy to all the information we gather, we become more trustworthy genealogists.

Testing Companies’ Terms of Service

23andMe: “Terms of Service.” 23andMe. https://www.23andme.com/about/tos/.

AncestryDNA: “AncestryDNA Terms and Conditions.” AncestryDNA. https://dna.ancestry.com/legal/termsAndConditions. Revised 30 September 2014.

FamilyTreeDNA: “Legal Issues—Privacy Policy, Terms of Service and Refunds.” FamilyTreeDNA. https://www.familytreedna.com/privacy-policy.aspx.

Further reading about Genetic Genealogy Standards

Bettinger, Blaine T., PhD, JD. “Genetic Genealogy Standards.” Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly (June 2015): 105–7.

Russell, Judy, JD, CG, CGL. “The Ethics of DNA Testing.” OnBoard: Newsletter of the Board for Certification of Genealogists 21 (January 2015): 1–2, 7.

Wayne, Debbie Parker, CG, CGL. “Genetic Genealogy Standards.” NGS Magazine 41 (April–June 2015): 58–61.

The author gratefully acknowledges input from Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD; Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG; Stefani Evans, CG; Alison Hare, CG; Judy G. Russell, CG, CGL; and Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL.

 


[1] Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014), 46.

[2] Ibid., 47–48.

[3] Ibid., 16.

[4] Ibid., 21.

[5] “Standards for Sharing Information with Others,” National Genealogical Society (http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/standards_for_sharing_information : accessed 7 October 2015).

[6] The Genetic Genealogy Standards Committee, Genetic Genealogy Standards  (http://www.geneticgenealogystandards.com/ : accessed 7 October 2015), Standards 2–10.

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.

Ten-Minute Methodology: Proof Statements 1

This is the first in an occasional series intended to educate and challenge BCG associates, aspirants, and the genealogical community at large.

Confession: Since starting this post, I’ve come to realize that my idea of proof statements was all wrong. Now I have them pretty well figured out. I hope this post will help you understand them better, too.

The heart of all our genealogical work is determining identities and relationships and proving them. Proof statements are one means of presenting our genealogical conclusions. Not all statements, even if they are source-cited, are proof statements. Proof statements are special. All by themselves, individually, they can make a case for a conclusion and comply with the Genealogical Proof Standard. What? How does that happen? Let’s look at one of the standards.

Standard 53 includes a definition of proof statements:
Proof statements are source-cited sentences and data items in thoroughly documented contexts demonstrating adequate research scope. Genealogists use proof statements when at least two citations demonstrate that a conclusion’s accuracy requires no explanation. Proof statements usually appear in documented presentations of genealogical research results, including articles, blogs, case studies, chapters, charts, family histories, monographs, reports, tables, and other printed and online works. [1]

Whew! Let’s break it down.

What are proof statements? They are conclusions within a broader context that meet current standards for genealogical proof. Let’s analyze the standard to see the requirements.
o They are “sentences and data items [as in a table].” They make an assertion.
o They are “source-cited.” They include the source citations.
o They appear in “thoroughly documented contexts demonstrating adequate research scope.” They are part of a larger whole (the context), one of the types of presentations listed above, and the context is further described:
• The whole context (like the single proof statement) is thoroughly documented.
• The context demonstrates “adequate research scope.” The context and its citations show reasonably exhaustive research.

How do proof statements comply with the five criteria of the Genealogical Proof Standard?
1. The proof statement and the context of which it is a part reflect broad research in a wide range of best available sources.
2. At least two source citations support the assertion. One or more may appear in the footnote to the proof statement. Or one may appear in the footnote and other(s) in the broader context in which the statement appears.
3. The citations reflect use of high-quality sources and information. Priority is given to original sources and primary information. The proof requires no further explanation or discussion of the evidence. It fits well in its context.
4. Resolution of conflicting evidence requires explanation beyond the scope of a proof statement, so it is not applicable to this type of proof.
5. A proof statement is the write-up of the conclusion.

Where do we find proof statements? What do they look like? We use them in every genealogical work product we create. The next “Ten-Minute Methodology” post will give examples of proof statements. Be watching for it as you mull over these concepts!


[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville: Ancestry, 2014), 32.

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