By Jean Andrews, CG®

Nikki LaRue, CG®, became Associate #1080 on 31 August 2016. She lives outside Annapolis, Maryland, and began working with Maryland genealogy after moving to the area. She graciously agreed to share her thoughts on her passion for genealogy and her certification process with SpringBoard readers.

As a 12-year-old trying to find her great grandfather’s family, she developed a love of history that never waned, eventually finding herself working at NARA and then a graduate student in museum studies. She has served as the ProGen waiting list coordinator since 2010, on APG’s Board of Directors, and is now employed as a genealogist for the Department of the Interior’s Office of Federal Acknowledgment.

Her Certification Journey
Certification has absolutely changed how she considers the practical application of the GPS. “I’m not really sure why I find myself thinking, “does this meet the GPS?” so much more now than I did previously, but I really do. I’m much more conscious of whether my work is meeting standards now.”

Nikki feels that her best preparation towards certification was completing the ProGen Study Program. “The modules for the program are a wonderful stepping stone towards the required components of the portfolio. They identify weak areas, so you can work on them before the certification process. Additionally, the networking available with peers over the course of 12 months is an extremely valuable opportunity to expand your skills and help prepare for certification.”

Overthinking, overanalyzing, and a lack of confidence made her journey difficult at times. “Genealogy is such an isolating field that it can be difficult to self-assess your skills.” She wisely counsels starting the portfolio work before submitting the preliminary application. “Working on your case study without worrying about the clock running down can ease some of the stress.”

Nikki offers the following advice for those considering certification. “Look into the many educational opportunities now available for those wanting to pursue certification. There are so many options that formal education is possible for just about everyone.”

“Finally, use the advice, examples, and breadth of information available through the BCG Learning Center and in peer-reviewed journals. “Reading how those who have been masters in the field for decades solve problems in their research is vital to developing your own skills.”

The work of Christine Rose, CG® Emeritus, FASG, was particularly influential. “In the early years of my genealogy work, I spent a great deal of time traveling to courthouses and researching the dusty boxes and stacks of papers found there. Christine’s book, Courthouse Research for Family Historians: Your Guide to Genealogical Treasures came with me on every trip and has ever since. It was literally the foundation of all the work that came later. I don’t really want to know how my work would have turned out without it! Later I discovered her book, Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case, and the two books together are worth their weight in gold. I am so grateful for Christine’s work in the field and can’t imagine finding my path without the guidance she put forth.”

New Research Skills
Her most satisfying genealogical work is in removing “brick walls” dealing with the lineage of females. “Discovering the identities of those women has been extremely satisfying and developed my interest in complex problems involving the identities/lineage of women.” Her most frustrating brick wall could be the immigrant ancestor who may have changed his name when he emigrated, likely to avoid some kind of trouble. She continues to work on it, hoping she can utilize DNA at some point.

Bringing history down to a personal level is so important. She comments that “…seeing a Civil War pension where a former soldier is describing his experiences, naming his family members, affirming that he was born in one state and moved with his family to another, and signing his name to an affidavit leaves me wondering who this person was and makes me want to find him in other records. “

Personal Connections
Nikki’s other reason for pursuing genealogy is a very personal one – as a way to keep her grandma close. “She and I were very close and after she died, her birth certificate started a long search for information on her family. While I worked on that, she was always on my mind. I still think of her all the time while I’m working.”

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