by Melinda Daffin Henningfield, CG
Sara Anne Scribner finds genealogy to be an emotional endeavor, and some original documents she found moved her to tears. One tearful read included content descriptions “of unclaimed packages sent to Confederate prisoners of war at Point Lookout.”
Genealogy is not Sara’s first career. She graduated from Vassar College with a degree in drama. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Sara continued her education with an MS in Library Science from Simmons College in Boston. She worked as a library director in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and San Jose, California, and held other executive positions at San Jose. In the midst of this busy life, Sara found time to graduate with a BFA in drawing from the California College of the Arts in Oakland.
Sara uses all of her education in her daily life. Loving a good story, she writes and produces plays (several of which involve genealogy) and also acts in her local community theater. In 2010 she produced a play that explored a family and its reaction to unexpected DNA results. “The advertising read ‘DNA doesn’t lie, but sometimes Southern ladies do.’”
Sara chose her home in Bainbridge Island, Washington, partly because of its vibrant artistic community. She has continued her career as a librarian for the last thirteen years, answering patrons’ questions and teaching research strategies to the public at both a community college and a public library. She enjoys exploring new genealogical methodologies and research localities. Tenaciously seeking answers, she loves to move from low-hanging fruit to more challenging research.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Sara’s genealogical hero. “We could not conduct genealogy as we do today without their [the LDS Church’s] programs, most free or low-cost[:] . . . their international microfilming program, Family History Centers, educational programs (like the FamilySearch Wiki or free online courses), and the one-of-a-kind Family History Library.” Sara is inspired by and values the many genealogical “heavyweights” she has studied with at institutes and conferences.
Going through the certification process improved Sara’s genealogical work. She realized she was an inconsistent record-keeper. As she prepared her portfolio, she developed a process that improved her record-keeping skills and her method of working through a genealogical research problem. Sara loves “a good laugh, and where research is concerned there are plenty of those, especially in the ‘now I know better’ category.”
Sara’s advice for those thinking about certification includes getting as much education as you can afford and getting acquainted with others involved in genealogy. Having genealogy friends to laugh with helps. She also advises frequently revisiting the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) requirements, genealogical methodology books, and conference notes. Finally, take your time in preparing your portfolio, even if you require an extension.
In the next five years, Sara hopes to open a genealogy research business and credits her experience in a ProGen Study Group for providing business guidance. She is working towards identifying the parents of her ancestor, Eliza (Williamson) Fisher, her most elusive female ancestor.
CG or Certified Genealogist is a service mark of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.