Category Archives: Certification

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.

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.

GREAT NEWS: I did it!!!

colorlbcgsealfullLast week I got that email everyone who has submitted a BCG portfolio hopes to get… “Congratulations and welcome! I am delighted to report that your application for BCG’s Certified Genealogist credential has been successful.” Hallelujah!

What a journey! It began 10 years ago when my friend and mentor, Birdie Holsclaw, encouraged me to create a lecture describing all of the obituaries I had collected in my first few years of research. At that time it was somewhere over 100 (today it is closer to 300 but I lost an accurate count). A few years later, she suggested I look into Certification (from the Board for Certification of Genealogists) and think about working toward that goal. My friend Birdie died on 13 May 2010 from cancer.

Birdie_Russ-35thBday
Birdie and Russ Holsclaw at my 35th Birthday celebration, January 2009

After her death, I became sad whenever I tried to work on any of my genealogical research and so I spent some time away from it. But I loved it too much to stay away for long. In 2012 I got some renewed energy and decided to make it my full-time gig. GenealogyPANTS was born in March of 2012.

I decided that instead of being sad that Birdie was gone from our midst, I should do the things she thought I could do. I decided to pursue certification in her honor. If she thought I could do it, then I should do it. I should see if she was right. Along the way I met others who thought I could do it as well. The knowledge that someone is pulling for you, has confidence in you, and will stop what they are doing to send you an encouraging email or answer a question is a powerful thing. This knowledge helped me finish my portfolio. All of the things that these genealogists do for the genealogical community at large to educate us contributed to my success.

I am going to list some people here. So many people have shaped me in some way over the years that I can’t possibly name them all; just please know your contribution to my success did not go unnoticed or was unappreciated. In no particular order:

  • Angela McGhie for ProGen and all of my cohort from ProGen 16! (This amazing study group  helped me tighten up many areas of my portfolio.)
  • Tom Jones for all of the educational materials he has written over the years, classes and lectures he has taught, for answering several emails in super-quick fashion, and for just being one of the most approachable and patient people out there.
  • Judy Russell also for all of the educational materials you provide to us (via The Legal Genealogist blog and all of the lectures and classes) but also for being so clear AND fun in your lecture style. It makes learning about potentially boring topics so much fun and NOT boring. I mean we each have our interests, but Judy has the ability to make you really want to learn about historical laws and their genealogical impact even if you were an art major in college!
  • Elizabeth Shown Mills for all of the work she’s done on making citations understandable through not only her books but also her Evidence Explained website; also for her informative lectures and classes. I’m honored to have been among the last Course 4, Advanced Methods class at IGHR and I’m honored to have gotten the coveted “gold seal” AND the Walter Lee Sheppard Jr. Prize. I have to admit that the thought of “Elizabeth Shown Mills thinks I can do this!” really, REALLY helped me finish and succeed with my portfolio.
  • Dave McDonald also for the Walter Lee Sheppard Jr. Prize. It is people giving back to the genealogical community that really helps others succeed! [And I wanted to say thank you for your lovely tribute to Birdie at the 2012 NGS Birdie Monk Holsclaw Memorial Lecture. I bought the CD to your lecture titled “Maps! White Oaks, Gradients, Google, and more….” and listen to what you had to say from time to time. Very moving.]
  • Mark Lowe for being another one of those educators that just makes learning fun and for telling a great story every time he speaks. Mark can really get into the emotions of why genealogy is important. Also, for being so approachable, supportive and just a great genea-friend!
  • To my genealogy “support group” which consists of Annette Botello, Ruth Ratliff, Deb Skoff and Denise Miller. This group also included Birdie and she was always so encouraging to us when we met and so generous with her time. This group has been such a blessing to me not only genealogically but personally! Thanks you guys!

    PageTwoGroup
    My genealogy “support group,” February 26, 2010, from left to right: Annette Botello, Deb Skoff, Cari Taplin, Birdie Holsclaw, Denise Miller and Ruth Ratliff
  • To the members of the CERTS group I was a part of that included: Beth Benko, Kirk Patton, Deena Coutant, Harry Ross, Karlene Ferguson, Diane Barbour, Margaret Kadziel, and if there are others I’ve missed, please accept my apologies, but this group tended to morph a bit so I hope I didn’t miss anyone.
  • To my genealogy colleagues in Colorado. ALL of you whom I have had the pleasure of learning, interacting, working, and engaging with over the past 14 years. [I am not even going to try naming you all; you know who you are!]
  • Most of all to my husband, Seth, for being encouraging, for listening to rants, for tolerating genealogical tantrums, for bringing me food and coffee to keep me going, to all of the driving to cemeteries and libraries, and for taking care of kids so I could focus. [I love you!]

And so to conclude, I’m grateful. I’m grateful that this part of the process is over, I’m grateful for all of the support I’ve had and I’m grateful that I had the chance to know and work with and be friends with one of the best people on the planet. Plus, I’m so excited to start this next part of the genealogical journey, watch out!

BCG Portfolio Madness

PortfolioFinishedI turned it in. It is over. This MAJOR accomplishment is done. I TURNED IN MY BCG PORTFOLIO!

Honestly, I don’t know if it’s any good (I am my own worst critic). I have been looking at this project for a couple of years and almost non-stop for the last 3 months. I am not sure who or what it’s about anymore, if I made any valid arguments, or if it even contained complete, coherent sentences. If you’ve ever undertaken a major project you know what I’m talking about. You get so close to it you can’t see it anymore. The words blur together. And even though it makes sense to you, who knows about the rest of the world.

Let me say this: whether or not I pass doesn’t matter at this point. I did it. It is done, over, finished, kaput and off to the judges. I turned it in and it is out of my hands now. I also know I did my best given all that has happened to me and my family over the last four months. In case you didn’t know: we moved from Colorado to Texas, bought a house, sold a house, packed, unpacked, got kids into school, and are still adjusting to life in a new and almost foreign state. And I finished my portfolio. I think I will say it again because I’m not sure I believe it yet: I finished my portfolio.

Also, whether or not I pass, I know this:

  • I am a better genealogist for having done it.
  • I have researched, analyzed, correlated, researched, written, proofread, researched, proofread, and researched more than I ever have in my life. (Did I mention that I also proofread until my eyes couldn’t focus anymore?)
  • I have learned more about citations that I ever knew before.
  • I know more about my methods of being organized (or disorganized) and worked on ways to improve all of it.
  • I know way more about the process and what it actually takes to get the portfolio done. (It’s A LOT!)
  • If I don’t pass this time, I will be doing it all over again because when you have a goal you can’t give up or you’ll never make it.
  • And I know that my mentor Birdie Holsclaw told me I could and should do this, so I will keep working at it until it happens.

There were a couple of good things I learned that I will share just in case you don’t already do these things.

  1. Keep a log of the documents you’ve requested, sent off for, asked a friend or colleague to copy, etc. I found that I got so many balls in the air toward the end and while I was moving that I had a few documents “on order” that I lost track of. I needed to follow-up on them because they weren’t in my hands weeks before deadline and then I scrambled to get them, failing to do so on one important document. (This is the one thing I can’t get out of my mind.) Keep some kind of log and keep track of those document requests.
  2. I know you’ve heard this, but I’m going to say it too. Write those citations, fully, as you gather the information. I don’t know how many hours I spent trying to “re-find” things, fill in volume, page, column, enumeration district, and microfilm numbers so I could create an appropriate citation. And I’ve been doing this for years. I know better! I spent too many hours, that’s for sure. And I can now say with certainty that I will ALWAYS write my source citations the minute I find something. Seriously. I am not exaggerating.
  3. Start writing right away. I tried researching first, filling in boxes in my software and creating check-off charts to be sure I covered everything. I still ended up doing a lot of research during the writing phase of the process and then felt like I was crunched for time at the end. I say forget it and just write. I ended up doing things like color coding sentences that needed more research, writing “find a source for this” in the footnotes, and coming back to it later. Get it all out there, on the computer screen, as much as possible, and then go back and work on it, and then go back and work on it, and then go back and work on it some more. Eventually it will all come together.

I’m sure there are some more “tips” I could give, but these are the first things to come to mind. I’m glad it’s over. I was getting really tired of those surnames and after a while I started getting confused about who was who. I’m happy to have it completed before the holidays and I hope all of you have a great holiday season and happy new year!

(And if any of the above makes sense, I’ll be surprised. I’m pretty sure my mind has gone to jelly for the time being. Just forgive any typos, use of passive voice, improper use of “it’s” or “its” and chalk it up to “post-portfolio brain.”)

Pray for NO DIRECT EVIDENCE!

image from wikimedia commons
image from wikimedia commons

So, I went “on the clock” (for BCG certification) in December 2012. In the meantime a lot of “life” has happened but a lot of “life” is going to happen when you take a step like this. I’m the type of person who needs a deadline, so I went on the clock. Once I sat down and tried to locate a family/problem for my case study, I got concerned. One look at my office, my binders, my computer files, told me that I was horribly unorganized and I needed to do a lot of catching up, fixing, data entry (I have a thumb drive with scans from Salt Lake City from 2009 that I haven’t worked with yet!) and organizing, before I could even make an educated guess on the case study.

Well, in the last week, I went through a very large pile of notes with “to-do” items on them, some dating back to 2003. They said things like “find tombstone for …” or “locate obit for …” or one sticky note “I am not convinced that ––– is really –––’s father.” (Names being left out in case this REALLY is my case study.) That one sticky note sent me on a swirl of reviewing documents, notes, computer files, quick look-ups on Ancestry and FamilySearch. I MAY just have found my case study. I have a few pieces of indirect evidence but nothing conclusive that says who the parents of my subject are.

This project is so counter-intuitive for the genealogist. If you’ve never reviewed the Case Study requirements for the BCG portfolio, it basically requires that you use the genealogical proof standard to solve a problem of conflicting evidence or by using of indirect evidence. I know that I have many of these in my family research, but finding a good one can be challenging. And then, what happens when you start to work hard on it and then find that piece of direct evidence? … ah … back to square one.

I did get through my pile of to-dos and either figured out that they had been done (recycled), or if they were easy to do (just did it), or they went into my Evernote to-do list (then recycled). Now, on to some research! So pray for my project, that I find no direct evidence on this man’s parentage and instead am able to locate a lot of really good indirect evidence!

 

On the Clock

clockI turned in my BCG preliminary application for certification at the end of December, so I’m officially “on the clock” as they say here in genealogy land. It is a little stressful to think of all of the work that lies before me, not only for certification but also while pursuing a Master’s Degree. I have this unrealistic personal belief or maybe it’s my personality type, but I think I can get amazing amounts of work done and love to “climb big mountains” of tasks. I inevitably end up stressed out at various times, but usually I get the things done I say I’m going to do.

There are several things in play that I believe will help me be less stressed and get my portfolio finished. First of all, I am in a group of other genealogists from my general area who are also “on the clock” or plan to be soon and we are working together reading the BCG Standards Manual and understanding the requirements. Also, I am a member of a smaller group, what I call my genealogy “support group.” This is a group of 5 women who have been meeting for many years to discuss what’s new in their genealogy journeys, basically a discussion outlet so our families don’t get bored with our ramblings. Third, while I am pursuing a Master’s Degree, the workload has been quite manageable, only overwhelming toward the end of the semester. Fourth, while I do still have kids at home, they are in school all day and I am not working right now, so, while I am poor, I do have uninterrupted time during the week days to work on BCG and homework.

The BCG website gives a proposed timeline for how long certain projects will take. I began working on my portfolio, in a rather unorganized fashion, a few years ago. So I have at least some rough drafts finished on several of the items. So I feel I have a slight head start on some of the tasks. However, if by December of this year, I am not ready yet, they generously allow you to apply for an extension for 1 year for a nominal fee, which has taken some of the pressure off! Wish me luck!