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. Matthew Berry, CG®, became Associate #1119 on 09 November 2019. His story follows in his own words.
A California native, Matt still lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and daughter. His family lines descend from the Midwest, South, New England, and Canada. Matt’s family didn’t arrive in California until the 1920s, but his wife’s ancestors came during the gold rush. He studies both the migration of the forty-niners and the gold-rush immigrants who came a bit later.
Attending college in the Bay Area, Matt received degrees in Applied Mathematics, Applied Operations Research, and Business Administration. He spent fifteen years as a Satellite Systems Engineer at Lockheed Martin. Lured by the potential riches awaiting engineers at Silicon Valley start-ups, he left Lockheed and spent several years at smaller companies developing software. None was particularly successful, and Matt subsequently joined Wells Fargo Bank as an E-business Systems Consultant.
How It Began
A family reunion organized by his wife’s family sparked Matt’s interest in genealogy. Impressed with the features of the genealogy software program a cousin used, Matt decided to assemble the family history research his mother had compiled, along with his wife’s family information from the cousin. He would enter it all together in one place for his daughter’s future benefit. He expected this to take two or three weeks.
Fourteen years later, Matt gave up his Wells Fargo career, and spent six weeks walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain thinking about what he wanted to do next. That 500-mile journey of reflection clarified his desire to pursue genealogy full-time.
A Plan for Certification
Self-taught to that point, Matt looked for ways to 1) assess his research and reporting skills, and 2) establish credibility with potential clients. With a plan for future BCG certification, he enrolled in the Boston University Certificate in Genealogical Research program in the fall of 2018, then took the Advanced Genealogical Methods course at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG). These courses, along with numerous BCG skill-building lectures at the NGS Family History Conference provided the background he needed for his BCG portfolio submission.
His most satisfying work has been helping DNA matches who want to establish their biological family tree. Matt’s first experience was with a woman who contacted him as a DNA match, and who had a limited amount of “non-identifying” information about her birth mother. That first case took about a year working out how they were connected and identifying the birth mother.
After nearly two years focused on genealogy education and the BCG portfolio, it has been challenging to decide what to work on next. One project on the back burner for several years is tracing the lives and families of all twenty men of the “Persifer Company,” who came to California from Knox County, Illinois, by wagon train in 1850. Some of the men stayed in California, many of them went home to Illinois the following year, and at least one went on to Australia during the Australian gold rush of the 1850s.
Matt is the Conference Chairperson for the 2022 NGS Family History Conference, planned for 25-28 May 2022 in Sacramento, California. He plans to emphasize the heritage of the Asian, Hispanic, and Native communities of the Pacific Coast.
Sincere thanks to Matthew Berry, CG® for sharing his 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.