Category Archives: Genealogical Education

Board for Certification of Genealogists Adopts Standards for DNA Evidence

The use of DNA in our genealogical research is becoming more and more prevalent. As the use of DNA has grown, the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) has been assessing how it has affected the field. As a result, BCG has adopted new standards for the use of DNA in genealogical work.

The following news release was received from BCG making the announcement:

For immediate release 27 October 2018
News Release, Board for Certification of Genealogists

Board for Certification of Genealogists Adopts Standards for DNA Evidence

On 21 October 2018, the Board for the Certification of Genealogists (BCG) approved five modified and seven new standards relating to the use of DNA evidence in genealogical work. BCG also updated the Genealogist’s Code to address the protection of people who provide DNA samples.

The new measures are intended to assist the millions of family historians who now turn to genetic sources to establish kinships. The action followed a public comment period on proposed standards released by BCG earlier this year.

“BCG firmly believes the standards must evolve to incorporate this new type of evidence,” according to BCG President Richard G. Sayre. “Associates, applicants, and the public should know BCG respects DNA evidence. It respects the complexity of the evidence and the corresponding need for professional standards. BCG does not expect use of DNA to be demonstrated in every application for certification. However, all genealogists, including applicants, need to make sound decisions about when DNA can or should be used, and any work products that incorporate it should meet the new standards and ethical provisions.”

“Standards for Using DNA Evidence,” a new chapter to be incorporated in Genealogy Standards, introduces the issues this way:

“Meeting the Genealogical Proof Standard requires using all available and relevant types of evidence. DNA evidence both differs from and shares commonalities with documentary evidence. Like other types of evidence, DNA evidence is not always available, relevant, or usable for a specific problem, is not used alone, and involves planning, analyzing, drawing conclusions, and reporting. Unlike other types of evidence, DNA evidence usually comes from people now living.”

In brief1, the new standards address seven areas:

  • Planning DNA tests. The first genetic standard describes the qualities of an effective plan for DNA testing including types of tests, testing companies, and analytical tools. It also calls for selecting the individuals based on their DNA’s potential to answer a research question.
  • Analyzing DNA test results. The second genetic standard covers factors that might impact a genetic relationship conclusion, including analysis of pedigrees, documentary research, chromosomal segments, and mutations, markers or regions; also, composition of selected comparative test takers and genetic groups.
  • Extent of DNA evidence. The third genetic standard describes the qualities needed for sufficiently extensive DNA data.
  • Sufficient verifiable data. The fourth genetic standard addresses the verifiability of data used to support conclusions.
  • Integrating DNA and documentary evidence. The fifth genetic standard calls for a combination of DNA and documentary evidence to support a conclusion about a genetic relationship. It also calls for analysis of all types of evidence.
  • Conclusions about genetic relationships. The sixth genetic standard defines the parameters of a genetic relationship and the need for accurate representation of genealogical conclusions.
  • Respect for privacy rights. The seventh genetic standard describes the parameters of informed consent.
  • The modifications made to several existing standards call for:
  • Documentation of sources for each parent-child link.
  • Where appropriate, distinction among adoptive, foster, genetic, step, and other kinds of familial relationships.
  • Use of graphics as aids, for example: genealogical charts and diagrams to depict proved or hypothesized relationships; or lists and tables to facilitate correlation of data and demonstrate patterns or conflicts in evidence.
  • Explanations of deficiencies when research is insufficient to reach a conclusion.

A new edition of Genealogy Standards is expected to be ready by next March. A new application guide and judging rubrics incorporating the new standards will be released at about the same time. In the interim, portfolios submitted for consideration for certification will be evaluated using the existing Genealogy Standards.

1. The Board for Certification of Genealogists® (BCG) contractually granted the publisher of Genealogy Standards the exclusive right to copy, publish and distribute the standards including amendments. However, BCG-certified associates have the contractual right to include reasonable portions of the standards in presentations, articles, blog posts, social media, and the like. In no case may BCG or its associates allow the standards to be published in their entirety because the publisher deems that competitive to its publication rights.

The words Certified Genealogist and the designation CG are registered certification marks and the designations Certified Genealogical Lecturer and CGL are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by board-certified associates after periodic competency evaluations, and the board name is registered in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Laura G. Prescott SLIG Scholarship Announced

One of the best, brightest, kindest, and most selfless genealogists in the genealogy community, Laura Prescott, has decided to enter hospice care after years of fighting a tough battle with cancer.

The Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) has announced a scholarship in her honor. As if the writing of this post, the fund has reached over $14,000!

What a wonderful gift to remember and honor such a kind and generous person whose smile would just light up a room!

You can read the full details and how to donate here: https://ugagenealogy.blogspot.com/2018/07/new-laura-g-prescott-slig-scholarship.html?m=1

Please consider a donation, no matter how small, to help honor this lovely person and gift the community with a wonderful legacy in her memory for years to come.

Interested in Certification? Try a Discussion Group!

2018-06-12_14-31-22I recently completed my first time as discussion group leader (ring leader?) with Jill Morelli’s “Certification Discussion Groups” (CDG for short). These groups were created to demystify the process of preparing and submitting your portfolio for the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). It was a fun time. I got to meet with old friends and make new ones. And they got to ask questions about the process, be each others’ cheerleaders, and have the opportunity to study and process portfolios and judges’ comments.

The discussion groups are seven weeks and are divided up as follows:

  • Week 1: Intros, Application, Resources & Strategy I
  • Week 2: Ethics, Dev Activities & Strategy II

  • Week 3: Transcriptions

  • Week 4: Research Report (Client Report)

  • Week 5: Case Study

  • Week 6: Kinship Determination Project (KDP)

  • Week 7: Evaluation & Process

We go over each part of the application as well as the rubrics and standards for each piece. We also discuss some of the confusing items such as the differences between a narrative lineage, genealogy, and pedigree, and the differences between a proof statement, proof summary, and proof argument, and more. Questions arise as to what a particular standard or rubric means and this group allows for discussion of those questions.

The groups take place via video conferencing either via GoTo Meeting or Zoom. There are homework assignments that are meant to enhance the discussion, but they are optional. The course is not meant to be intensive, rather to answer specific questions about the process, dispel any myths that are floating around, give participants a chance to hear from people who have been through the process and passed, but aren’t PERFECT! We share our mistakes, the things we learned, and tips for avoiding overwhelm.

If you are interested in the process, are considering becoming certified, are already on the clock, or just wondering if it is even for you, I encourage you to participate in one of the groups. Current discussion group leaders are Jill Morelli, Angela McGhie, and myself. For more information and to be added to the waiting list, contact Jill jkmorellli@gmail.com.

GRIP 2019 Courses Announced

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It is hard to believe that the year is half over and I’m already looking ahead to my continuing education plans for 2019. In a little over a month, I will be attending the July week of the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) in Pittsburgh (as opposed to the July week in Amherst, NY) coming up soon, taking the course “Women and Children First” with Judy Russell.

Looking ahead to future educational opportunities, I want to point out that GRIP’s 2019 courses have been announced and you can read about them on their blog.

Two weeks will be held in Pittsburgh at La Roche College, which is a lovely and inviting setting for a week of study. The weeks are June 23-28 and July 14-19, 2019. Mark your calendars!

GRIP is one of my favorites. I hope to see you there!

IGHR Scholarship Update: Lloyd Bockstruck

A few days ago I encouraged future institute-goers to apply for a variety of scholarships to attend IGHR. You can see that post here. Last night we attended the conclusion banquet for the week where my friend and colleague Kelvin Meyers announced that the Dallas Genealogical Society would be setting up a scholarship in honor of Lloyd de Witt Bockstruck, a long-time faculty member of IGHR.

The details of the scholarship have not been announced yet. But they will be available through the Dallas Genealogical Society.

You can read Lloyd’s memorial and biography here.

Future IGHR Courses and Scholarships

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I am attending the Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research in Athens, Georgia this week. They have announced their future courses. You can see the courses planned through 2022 and plan your genealogical education plan accordingly. The courses for 2019 are as follows:

  • Course One: Methods & Sources – coordinator Rebecca Whitman Koford, CG
  • Course Two: Intermediate Genealogy & Historical Studies – coordinator Angela Packer McGhie, CG
  • Course Three: Advanced Methodology & Evidence Analysis – coordinator Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
  • Course Four: Writing & Publishing for Genealogists – coordinator Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA
  • Course Five: Genetics for Genealogists: Beginning DNA – coordinator Patricia Lee Hobbs, CG
  • Course Six: Military Records 2 – coordinator Michael L. Strauss, AG
  • Course Seven: Tracing Your English Ancestors – coordinator Paul Milner, MDiv, FUGA
  • Course Eight: Land Records: Using Maps – coordinator Melinda Kashuba, PhD
  • Course Nine: Research in the South: Colonial States – coordinator J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA
  • Course Ten: Building an African American Research Toolbox – coordinator Timothy Pinnick, BS
  • Course Eleven: Virginia’s Land and Military Conflicts – coordinator Victor S. Dunn, CG
  • Course Twelve: DNA as Genealogical Evidence (Advanced) – coordinator Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD
  • Course Thirteen: The Five Civilized Tribes – coordinator Anita Finger-Smith

There are also some amazing opportunities to help fund your education. IGHR scholarships can be viewed in full on their website, they are:

  • Ancestry ProGenealogists Scholarship
  • Birdie Monk Holsclaw Memorial Scholarship
  • HomePLACE IGHR Travel Scholarship
  • Jean Thomason Scholarship

Take advantage of these excellent educational opportunities and potential funding sources!

Audio Recordings from NGS 2018

Audio recordings of many of the NGS lectures are available for sale and download at PlaybackNGS. There were many fantastic sessions, some I made it to, some I missed due to speaking or other obligations, and so I’m compiling my list right now.

7780-banner2If you couldn’t make it to NGS (or even if you did) this is a great way to hear some fantastic lectures.

I do have three lectures available if you are interested:

  • The Third Coast: How the Great Lakes Shaped America (W144)
  • Casting the Net: Denominational, Ethnic, and Specialized Newspapers (S443)
  • Using PERSI Like a Pro (S451)

I thought Grand Rapids, Michigan and this NGS conference was one of the best I’ve been to. The level of education, the exhibit hall, and the city offerings were fantastic.

Next year’s NGS is 8-11 May 2019 in St. Charles, Missouri. And 2020 will be 20-23 May in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mark your calendars!

BCG Putting Skills to Work 2018

I’ve been in Grand Rapids, Michigan since Tuesday when I attended the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) Education Fund’s “Putting Skills to Work” class. What an excellent day! The time was split between two classes.

Connie Lenzen’s class “Planning and Executing Reasonably Exhaustive Research: Or How to Ensure a Successful Hunt” discussed research questions and plans. I have to say that I was quickly reminded of what I should be doing everyday. I get so excited for the research that I forget to focus, slow down, and set forth a path for my search.

Tom Jones made us think about “Citing All Kinds of Online Sources.” This class focused only on sources you find online and really made us look at all of the layers that an online source might have. The original source, the microfilmed version, the scan of the microfilm, an original digitization in color, previously published or not, and so on. We worked through many example citations as a class and discussed each of the parts.

The level of interactive instruction that one gets at a BCG “Putting Skills to Work” class is incredible. If you are interested in certification, are already on the clock, or are already certified, it doesn’t matter. These classes are wonderful examples of hands-on, lecture with discussion with exercises, types of classes many of us enjoy and will benefit for our own continuing education.

The BCG Education Fund’s “Putting Skills to Work” occurs on the Tuesday before the National Genealogical Society Conference every year, so you will want to adjust your schedule accordingly. Next year’s schedule was announced at this years’ class, and will take place in St. Charles, Missouri on Tuesday May 7, 2019:

  • “Meeting Standards with Twenty-First Century Research Reports” with Melissa Johnson, CG
  • “Evidence Analysis: Theory, Practice, and the Real World” with Nancy A. Peters, CG, CGL

For more information on the BCG Education Fund, visit bcgedfund.org.

Irish Genealogy

I have identified two lines in my family tree that are Irish. I am excited to learn how to do Irish research this fall (because I haven’t really started yet) at the British Institute in Salt Lake City. The institute is taking place 15 – 19 October 2018 at the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel, Salt Lake City, Utah

On the topic of Irish research, this opportunity slid across my news feed recently: the Irish Genealogy Virtual Conference. You can read more about it here.

The schedule is as follows:

9:00 – Fintan Mullan presents Finding 17th Century Families in Ireland

10:15 – Gillian Hunt presents Using Church Records for Irish Genealogy Research

11:30 – Fiona Fitzsimons presents Finding Women in the Irish Records

12:30 – break

1:00 – Chris Paton presents Using Irish Land Records for Genealogy Research

2:15 – Maurice Gleeson presents Making Online Resources Work for You

The website states: The virtual conference starts at 9 am (Eastern) with presentations being delivered in pre-recorded webinar format. Presentations are made available in sequence. After one presentation ends, another becomes available. Also, the webinars are available for 72 hours to accommodate time zone differences.

At $79 CAD (about $64 US if my conversion is correct) for five presentations, this seems like an easy choice for me! If you are interested in learning more about Irish research, this sounds like a great conference that you can attend from home. For more information, visit their website: https://www.genealogyvic.com

(note: I am not affiliated with genealogyvic.com)

Tips for Learning to Read Old Handwriting

In my work as a professional genealogist, I have to be able to read old handwriting. I know others struggle with this, and I have a couple of tips to share that really helped build my confidence when it comes to reading old handwriting.

My first tip and the best thing I can suggest is to take part in a volunteer indexing project. I signed up for the FamilySearch Indexing project the year it was released. I was onboard when the 1940 census was indexed in a matter of days, when the Civil War Pensions project was indexed, and for a whole host of state-organized projects through various state societies. After working on so many projects, I got really good at reading old and often messy handwriting.

Family Search indexing is not the only indexing game in town. There are indexing projects available through the National Archives and the DAR (if you are a member) as well. Here are those links:

My second tip is to get the book Reading Early American Handwriting by Kip Sperry. You can find it at Amazon or another online bookseller.

My last tip is to transcribe, transcribe, and transcribe. Any and all of your own research documents. Don’t have any? Go to FamilySearch and pick any record such as a deed or a will, and get started. If you choose to transcribe documents from a location where there is a local genealogical society that publishes a quarterly journal or other research publication, consider submitting your transcriptions to be published. Society journals are always looking for content. For more information about best practices for transcriptions, see chapter 16 of the book Professional Genealogy (edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills) titled “Transcripts and Abstracts.”

Truly the best way to get better at anything is to practice. I hope the above tips help you find your best way to practice and to also perhaps give back to the genealogical community at the same time.