Nancy Wehner brings to her genealogy work a scientist’s mindset and experience. With a Ph.D. in immunology, her career took her to the pharmaceutical industry as a toxicologist. Safety testing for new drugs going into human clinical trials required the same kinds of data analysis, integration, and writing seen in the best genealogical research. Nancy shares her story:
I have always loved solving puzzles and the whole process of gathering information and interpreting it to that end. That love has led me to be a scientist professionally and a genealogist personally. My initial childhood interest in genealogy was spurred by my grandfather’s large, extended family. (We took over the county fairground for the yearly reunion.) His sister Nettie’s hand-typed folio showed all the existing members of the family and how they all related to each other. I used Nettie’s folio as a starting point for my own research. I ultimately set as my goals tracing my husband’s and my ancestral lines to the immigrant ancestors and then bringing forward the descendants of each of those immigrants.
To accomplish this goal Nancy begins her research in Iowa (her starting point) and Ohio (her husband’s) and reaches back to Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Germany, and Denmark. Now that completing her portfolio has freed up some time, she hopes also to pursue three new genealogical goals. One is a project to save and make old diaries available online through scans and transcriptions. Along with her paternal grandmother’s diary and many others, Nancy has collected the journal of an educated Jamaican-born daughter of a washerwoman that gives insight into the World War I era in Brooklyn.
Another project, inspired by Nancy’s experience in toxicology, would investigate the possible causes of an unusually high GI tract cancer rate in part of her husband’s family. She asks, “Was it just this family? Was it a local issue? Why?” Her scientist’s mind is also intrigued by the prospect of making a detailed evaluation of patterns of births, deaths and marriages in her huge database of descendants.
The National Genealogical Society’s American Genealogy: Home Study Course provided part of Nancy’s preparation for certification. She now serves as an NGS grader and looks forward to teaching and mentoring other genealogists.
Reading good genealogy articles was a huge help, but Nancy counts taking the plunge and writing articles as her best portfolio preparation. She comments, “The one I did for New York Genealogical and Biographical Record was really great, as both the peer review process and the editor’s help did much to sharpen my skills in critically laying out and proofreading what I wrote.”
Nancy’s advice to someone considering applying for certification is, “Make sure you are really ready for the challenge in terms of time to devote to the process and the skills to meet the requirements. Only time and practice give you the skills. Reading books, articles, and attending lectures helps, but only DOING will get you there.”
Picture Nancy in a wooden dory traveling down forty-five major (and many minor) rapids on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon this spring! This active woman enjoys hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing, as well as gardening and embroidery. Her immediate family includes her husband, two grown children, and cats Frizzle, Xani, and Luxe.
Nancy currently resides in Fremont in California’s East San Francisco Bay Area. Oddly, although it’s a populous region, Board-certified genealogists are rare there. She would welcome a visit with others who share her passion. (BCG associates may have noticed her recent greeting on the BCG List.) Nancy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Congratulations, Nancy!
 Nancy Niles Wehner, “The Steubner Letters, Brooklyn, New York: Tragedy in a German Immigrant Family,” The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, 145 (October 2014): 259–70.
The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.