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®. Ann Raymont, CG®, became Associate #1101 in October 2018. Her story follows in her own words.

Getting started
Although I’d had a passion for genealogy for many years, I didn’t realize it was something one could study. That changed in 2013-2014 when I volunteered to research the Underground Railroad in my county. My focus was on families and their migrations, their network of friends, church associates, and neighbors. I wanted to apply academic standards to my research and for my evidence and conclusions to stand up to professional scrutiny. I needed more than my B.A. in History.

When I found the semester-long Boston University (BU) online program in Genealogical Research, it sounded like just what I wanted. How humbling it was to find out how much I didn’t know! Not just areas like transcription, law, and geographic specialties but methodology. I learned why some information in sources is more reliable than others, and how to cite where I did and didn’t find answers. We studied how to build a case when no direct evidence exists or conflicting evidence is found. But even more, I discovered it was incredibly satisfying to tackle those new challenges, and I knew I wanted to keep improving and spend more time working on extending (and sometimes re-doing) my own family history.

Most importantly, in BU I developed a close-knit peer group which remains in frequent contact. We share goals with each other, brainstorm research plans, problem-solve, cheerlead, resource-share, beta-read, and in general make each other better genealogists. I wouldn’t be a CG® now without this support team.

I followed BU with a ProGen Study Group. There, I practiced the skills developed at BU and got peer review feedback. Had I not found my support group at BU, I might have built one from ProGen. Week-long institutes, too, have been opportunities to immerse myself in a topic and network with peers.

Now – and Going Forward
One of ProGen’s other benefits for me was its attention to the business side of genealogy. That’s not limited to participants who want to take paying clients; I don’t. Because of ProGen, I ended up building a webpage (https://dnasleuth.wordpress.com/) and creating a monthly blog. I co-founded the Central Indiana DNA Interest Group and have given presentations at the Midwestern Roots conference and all around the state. My articles have been published in several regional genealogy publications and I’m proud to say that I’ve had a case study accepted by the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

One key takeaway from ProGen was the value of creating a mission statement. After careful consideration, I realized that I want to focus my energies to Prove, Preserve, and Share family history. As I set my goals each month, I remember that mission statement and try to align my priorities to support it.

Advice for Certification
Study the free BCG Application Guide and rubrics to understand how portfolios are judged. Review successful portfolios, which are available at large conferences and institutes. Consider ProGen – several of the assignments are actually parts of a portfolio, giving you an opportunity to practice and get feedback. Just don’t use something you want to use in your portfolio; you can’t submit anything that has been reviewed by someone else.

I used one of my Underground Railroad families for my portfolio Kinship Determination Project (KDP), not my own ancestors. I picked them because they were local to me and I felt confident I could do thoroughly exhaustive research.

Consider completing half of your portfolio, or even more, before you even “start the clock.” That helped me identify if I was really ready to take the leap, and it took some of the pressure off to meet the deadline.

In the wise (albeit paraphrased) words of Harold Henderson, CG® —never turn in your first attempt at a client report or case study or KDP. Practice first! Turn in the best work (that has not had feedback from others.) Remember, you must meet standards…you don’t have to *wow* the judges with your most complex work. Submit something that demonstrates your competence with minimal risk. This will alleviate a lot of stress.

Finally, find some colleagues to be your cheerleaders if you can! And have fun!

Sincere thanks to Ann Raymont, 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.