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®.

Leslie Watson Tomlinson, MFA, CG®, became Associate #1106 on 11 December 2018. Her story follows in her own words.

Leslie lives outside San Antonio, Texas, having landed there after her husband’s retirement from the Air Force, but has no direct ancestors from the state. Leslie’s ancestors are English and German on her mother’s side. They lived near Buffalo and Syracuse, New York. Her father’s Scots-Irish and English lines settled in Virginia, then migrated to Tennessee and southern Illinois.

Having lived in both Germany and England for many years, Leslie unfortunately was not hit by the genealogy bug until after returning from overseas. While working as a web producer for a financial services company, a colleague told her about her passion—genealogy—and showed her what she had discovered about her ancestry. They began meeting for lunch, discussing methodology and findings. Soon Leslie was researching before she went to work, during lunch, after work, and on the weekends! At her first NGS conference in 2010 she attended lectures by Tom Jones, Elizabeth Shown Mills, and Alison Hare, whose presentation “The Time of Cholera: A Case Study about Historical Context,” she still consults.

The Journey to Certification
Leslie sought certification in order to measure her skills against internationally recognized standards. Knowing she needed more than her background in fashion and art, she began building a genealogy education plan which included local classes, the NGS Home Study course, and attendance at NIGR (National Institute on Genealogical Research, now named Gen-Fed). Then she learned about something amazing—the ProGen Study Program—which she credits as one of the most important milestones in her studies.

“Getting and giving peer review on homework assignments was so valuable. Our mentor Claire Bettag was instrumental in keeping me focused on my path to certification even though it took a few years longer than I intended. During and after completing ProGen, I would touch base with her at national institutes and conferences. I remember her saying ‘Just press Send,’ meaning that many of us (in our ProGen class) were likely more ready for certification than we imagined. She was right, but I still felt I had so much more to learn before I was ready to submit my application.”

Leslie advanced next to attending institutes for deeper immersion in subjects such as southern records, writing and publishing, and advanced methodology. Later, she added genetic genealogy, the advanced evidence analysis practicum, and Virginia records. Also important were the BCG Education Fund’s half-day workshops held before NGS conferences which provided her with valuable skill-building in a small classroom setting.

Leslie’s most satisfying work is using indirect evidence to prove relationships. In her portfolio she refuted direct evidence for the father of her third great-grandmother and used indirect evidence to name the correct father. Her ongoing challenges are similar problems of determining the identity of female ancestors, as well as crossing the pond on her father’s lines.

The day after Leslie sent in her portfolio she began her second one, not having confidence that she would pass the first time, but she did!

Her Advice

  • Have an educational plan and timeline, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make every milestone as you planned. Just keep plugging away at it.
  • Take time out for exercise. It frees your mind when you step away from your desk and can give you a fresh perspective.
  • Use your best work examples, not your first!
  • Complete all or as many of the portfolio requirements as you can ahead of when you submit your preliminary application. Then use the time “on the clock” to review and polish your work. Read every requirement several times so you understand exactly what the guide is describing.

Sincere thanks to Leslie Watson Tomlinson, 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.