In the mid-1990s my father asked, “Why did your great-great-grandfather enlist in an Ohio Civil War regiment when his family was from eastern Pennsylvania, and how did he end up in Kansas?” The attempt to answer those questions rekindled my adult passion for genealogy and family history.
The foundation for my passion and eventual professional calling was laid very early. Before naptime when I was a child my favorite stories were those my grandmother told about growing up on a farm in north-central Kansas—how the gypsies came when my grandmother and her sister were left alone on the farm while their parents went to market day in town, and how the girls hid in the cellar until the gypsies left; my grandmother’s delight at Christmas to receive an orange and a small bag of chocolates; that she played house using catalpa leaves as plates and acorn husks as cups; how, because of her family’s religious beliefs, she could not play games on Sunday, but was allowed to play the card game Authors because it was considered educational.
Until the age of nine I lived in Hays, Kansas. It was a town where, at least for me, many stories made history alive and tangible. Wild Bill Hickok had been the sheriff of Hays City. My doctor’s office was the site of one of Hickok’s shoot outs. The Big Creek flood washed out the camp of General Custer and the 7th Calvary. I accompanied my father on many a trip to search for artifacts in the freshly plowed fields that were once the site of Fort Hays. Entrepreneur Buffalo Bill Cody provided buffalo meat to that Fort. He also attempted to found the town of Rome where he thought the Union Pacific line would be located. Every time we took old Highway 40 we passed the foundations of the buildings for that failed town.
Growing up with an unusual last name—Larzalere—led to my one-name study of that surname and its variations. The descendants of this Huguenot family spread throughout the United States. One of the highlights of the research was the reunion with the White River Apache branch of the family. As a family member (distant cousin) I had the honor of attending a memorable and moving three-day Sunrise Ceremony, a coming of age ceremony for female Apaches.
My love of stories, especially those of the forgotten history of our ancestors, has not diminished over the years. Have I answered my father’s original questions? No. My working hypothesis is that my great-great-grandfather’s occupation as a mason (a skilled worker who builds with stone) involved him in the construction associated with the westward movement of the railroads. My search for proof continues.
My journey with BCG began in the “dark ages,” in the late 1990s before the extensive use of the internet. I was self-taught and working alone. There was little opportunity for feedback about the quality of my work. I thought I was a good genealogist, but the only way to be sure was to have my work peer-reviewed.
Compiling my portfolio was a tremendous commitment of time and involved much angst. During the process I realized I had overestimated how “good” I was and there was much that I needed to learn. Assembling the portfolio focused my genealogy education. The first three judges arrived at a split decision. The arbitrator’s opinion was that my deficiencies were remediable. In September 1999 I earned BCG’s Certified Genealogist credential, certificate number 419.
Fifteen years and three renewals later (the most recent still in the evaluation-process pipeline), I have the honor to be the newly elected president of BCG. I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of the “great ones,” those who previously served BCG as president.
On the horizon I see a number of issues and concerns that the genealogical community will face and that BCG should actively address
- promoting ethical behavior,
- participating in the Records Preservation and Access Committee,
- introducing the standards to the international genealogical community,
- combatting the acceptance of a definition of “genealogy” that is limited to unsourced and sourced online family trees.
To help carry out the mission and the work of BCG during the upcoming year I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with an outstanding and dynamic Executive Committee, Board of Trustees, and group of associates. With their knowledge, energy, and dedication, I know that the next year will be a great one for BCG.
CG or Certified Genealogist is a service mark 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.