SpringBoard is pleased to present a series by associates writing about their path to certification. These posts spotlight the many ways to reach that goal and provide encouragement and ideas for anyone considering their own roadmap to becoming a Certified Genealogist®.

Shauna Mariska, CG®, became Associate #1103 on 5 November 2018. Her story follows in her own words.

Currently living in Centennial, Colorado, Shauna works full time as an engineer and quality auditor. She holds several bachelor’s degrees in mathematics, natural science, and mechanical engineering as well as a minor in history. Always interested in problem solving and research, it is no coincidence she is passionate about genealogy.

Love for Learning
At ten years old, Shauna brought home a school assignment to record a pedigree chart. Talking with her dad and learning about his ancestry is a favorite childhood memory. Knowing little about his mother’s side of the family would later provide material for several of Shauna’s certification portfolio projects. Active research on her ancestry began as a hobby over twenty years ago after Shauna’s college graduation. Countless hours spent examining census records on microfilm at a local Family History Center gave her an appreciation for how record digitization now enables research from home. She also enjoys visiting courthouses and sifting through their valuable records.

Several years ago Shauna took a leave from full time engineering to be a stay-at-home mom. In 2016, she earned an Associate of Applied Science in Family History Research from BYU-Idaho through its online program. In her opinion, it was the best thing she did to prepare for certification.

Shauna enrolled in the program to become a better genealogist, and through it she learned about certification. The rigorous program covered topics including research plans, methodologies, evidence analysis, the Genealogical Proof Standard, writing, paleography, and record types and uses to answer research questions. She learned to distinguish among types of sources (original, derivative, or authored), information (primary, secondary, or indeterminable), and evidence (direct, indirect, or negative). This knowledge helps her evaluate the quality of evidence and seek the best available sources.

British Origins
For her degree she specialized in the British Isles because it is the origin of most of her ancestors. She specifically enjoys researching ancestral lines in Scotland. Her most satisfying genealogical work is the research she does for her family. Shauna and her siblings were adopted, and she researches both their adopted and biological lines. In several instances, DNA data provided key evidence that enabled determination of biological parent-child relationships. She loves exploring unresearched lines – one of these led to evidence proving her dad is a Mayflower descendant. He did not know much about this line, so it was quite an exciting discovery. She loves helping others knock down perceived brick walls, and she currently has a few in burned counties in the southeastern United States.

Future Plans and Sound Advice
Shauna pursued certification because when she retires from engineering she hopes to work as a professional genealogist. Her Certified Genealogist® credential has already led to some client work.

For anyone considering applying for certification, Shauna recommends obtaining, studying, and applying the principles in several key genealogical research books including Evidence Explained (Mills), Professional Genealogy (Mills), Mastering Genealogical Proof (Jones), and the BCG Genealogy Standards. These are valuable aids for anyone conducting research and essential for anyone wanting to pursue a credential. One area Shauna felt needed improvement even after earning her degree was formatting source citations. Evidence Explained was indispensable to her improvement. She also recommends studying National Genealogical Society Quarterly articles because they model good genealogical writing. Shauna advises knowing the individual project requirements and starting on the portfolio projects before going “on-the-clock.” One year will pass quickly, and if a project idea does not work out, valuable time can be lost finding an alternate project.

Shauna has found fulfillment learning about her ancestors and piecing together their unique life stories. Most of them were ordinary individuals who were not prominent or famous, yet their lives had meaning and significantly impacted the lives of their descendants. She looks forward to continuing to learn about her ancestors and helping others to do the same. The process of preparing the portfolio projects definitely improved her genealogical skills, and she encourages anyone who is interested in the credential to go for it.

Sincere thanks to Shauna Mariska, CG® for sharing her story.

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.