Getting the Most Out of Your Membership: Your Local Society

This is the final blog post in my series on getting the most out of your memberships by taking personal responsibility. To read the original post, click here.

The local (or state or regional) society is where most of the genealogical action is. This is your local cohort of people who all have the same passion: genealogy. Not everyone is at the same experience level. Not everyone wants to be a “professional.” And not everyone wants to take part at a national level. And that is OK. I believe genealogy is a ground-up, grassroots kind of a structure. As a system, we “grow” and “harvest” our best genealogists from small local societies before introducing them to the wider world. It is at the local level that some of our best friends are made and our most reliable colleagues are found.

So what does it mean to be a member of a small (or even a large-ish) local society? It is a little bit different than being a member of a national organization, in that you can have personal, face-to-face interaction with the members and leaders often, whether monthly or even more often, with very little effort. Having said that it is relatively easy, it still requires some effort on your part to get the most out of that membership! You have to decide to leave your house to go to a meeting, which may be difficult on snowy, cold evenings. Or you may decide to volunteer in some way to benefit your society (by bringing snacks, putting together the newsletter, writing articles for their publications, helping organize an annual seminar, and so on). Every volunteer helps the society run more efficiently and effectively. We’ve all seen what happens when something goes wrong. Someone forgets the snacks. Someone doesn’t get the newsletter out on time. Someone forgets to confirm the speaker. REMEMBER that all of the society’s benefits are run on volunteer efforts. But when one of those cogs in the wheel breaks down, it can be somewhat disastrous for the member’s experience, but with enough hands helping these mishaps are more easily mitigated.

I am currently a member of the Williamson County Genealogical Society (Round Rock, TX) and their website proclaims:

“We would love to have you join us! We hold ten regular meetings each year, host an annual day-long seminar, hold genealogy classes and are involved in special projects, such as FamilySearch Indexing. We sponsor a Brick Wall Special Interest Group and a DNA Special Interest Group that meet throughout the year. We electronically publish ten issues of our newsletter, “The Roundup,” and four issues of our quarterly publication, “The Chisholm Trail,” each year.”

When I lived in Colorado I was a member of the Boulder Genealogical Society. Their website describes the benefits:

“Benefits of membership in the BGS include — but are not limited to! — interesting monthly programs, periodic “You Asked For It” educational sessions, a monthly digital newsletter, access to members-only material online (in particular, several years of back issues of the Quarterly), genealogy classes, special interest study groups, research assistance (non-local members), occasional field trips and last but not least, camaraderie with folks who share a passion for family history research.”

A common theme among these benefits are the opportunities for genealogical education, publications, and networking with other local genealogists. Many local societies offer research services or assistance. Again, you will get out of it what you put into it. If you want a good membership experience, at the very least you need to attend classes, and if you want more, become a volunteer and help provide a good membership experience for yourself and others.

That is the end of my series on getting the most out of YOUR memberships. They are YOURS and will require some effort on YOUR part. Be mindful of what you are really saying when you are tempted to say “I’m not getting anything out of that membership.” Take some personal ownership over that statement, and see if a little more effort on your part could get you more out of your memberships.

**Of course these statements may not reflect everyone’s experience. If you have had a different experience and/or a legitimate complaint, PLEASE take it up with the proper direct channels for that organization. I’m sure they want to know their members’ views and to try to make it right. This blog is only expressing my personal opinions and is not the place to vent your frustrations with a given society or organization.

Getting the Most Out of Your Memberships: APG

This is the next blog post in my series on getting the most out of your memberships by taking personal responsibility. To read the original post, click here.

The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) focuses on supporting genealogists who are working at a professional level, whether that work is through taking client research projects, as a genealogical educator, as a genealogy librarian, as an editor/proofreader, as a webmaster, and so on. The APG also supports those striving to become professional genealogists. From their website, “APG is an independent organization whose principal purpose is to support professional genealogists in all phases of their work: from the amateur genealogist wishing to turn knowledge and skill into a vocation, to the experienced professional seeking to exchange ideas with colleagues and to upgrade the profession as a whole. The association also seeks to protect the interest of those engaging in the services of the professional.”

If you don’t consider yourself to be a professional, to be working at a professional level (perhaps you are only a hobbyist), then this society may not be right for you. However, if you are, then there are many benefits to being a member of APG. If you are already a member and find yourself saying “I don’t know what I get out of this membership” then double check this list of the APG benefits from their website, somewhat edited for space (to see the full list, visit the website):

  1. APG Quarterly
    • APG Quarterly, a journal for those interested in professionalism:
    • Articles on communicating with clients, preparing lineage society applications, training research assistants, business record keeping, and home office tax concerns
    • Articles in associated fields (preparing lecture slides, teaching family history to children, preparing manuscripts for printing)
    • Back issues (2004-2011) available for download in pdf format, in the “Members Only Area of the website (back issues beyond 2004 are still being scanned)
  2. APG Directory of Members
    • Directory, an online publication, available worldwide to members, libraries, societies, and consumers, with:
    • members’ biographies, services, research and geographic specialties
    • various search criteria to assist readers in finding researchers
  3. Activities at National Conferences
    • Conferences
    • APG-sponsored lectures on professional ethics, client billing, business software, vital records access, and other timely topics
    • Roundtable discussions for members, like time management, advertising, taxes, certification/accreditation
    • Luncheons and receptions where members meet and network with colleagues
  4. Discounts for APG Members
    • Available in the Members Only Area
      • Boston University Online Certificate Program for Genealogical Research
      • The Genealogical Books Super Store
      • Genealogy Today
      • Heritage Books
      • Legacy Family Tree
      • Print My Genealogy
      • Progeny Genealogy
      • Salt Lake Plaza Hotel
      • and many others
  5. Educational Brochures
  6. Members-Only Mailing List
    • Available in the Members Only Area
        • APG members may subscribe to the APG Members-Only List. This unmoderated mailing list is used to discuss topics of interest to the members of the Association of Professional Genealogists.
  7. Professional Development
    • Recordings of past Webinars
    • Sample Contracts, Forms, Reports
  8. Professional Review of client complaints
    • Resolving differences. If you have a question or complaint, tell the professional first. Misunderstandings can occur on either side but can usually be resolved quickly. In the unlikely event a difficulty between you and your genealogist is not resolved, notify the organization or person who referred the professional to you and tell your genealogist you have done so.
    • APG takes very seriously its responsibility to serve both the genealogical client community and its diverse membership. If a complaint involving a member is alleged to violate APG’s Code of Ethics, the Professional Review Committee (PRC) shall review and investigate the complaint if it meets criteria for such action. Please see Code of Ethics and Professional Practices.
    • The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) offers an arbitration service when a certified professional is involved. See

There are eight major headings here, many of them with sub-headings. Those are a lot of benefits targeted for the professional genealogist. The discounts to various websites alone could make your membership worthwhile, IF you choose to put in a small amount of effort. One of the best benefits, in my opinion, is the members-only mailing list. This is a VERY active mailing list where you can post about a particular issue or question and get a lot of advice from people across the globe. You will undoubtedly get an answer to your questions. It is so accessible, it is like having your own mentor(s) in your back pocket!

Of course, as is the theme of this series of blog posts, you have to put some energy and effort into your membership to get the most out of it. In order for the directory to work for you, you have to create your profile and keep it updated. To learn from the articles and webinars you have to read and attend. To get the most of the networking opportunities, you have to attend the annual conferences.

If you are a member of APG and find yourself saying “I don’t know what I get out of that membership” I encourage you to take a realistic view of what you’ve been putting into it. There are a lot of fantastic benefits to be had, given a little time and energy.

**Of course these statements may not reflect everyone’s experience. If you have had a different experience and/or a legitimate complaint, PLEASE take it up with the proper direct channels for that organization. I’m sure they want to know their members’ views and to try to make it right. This blog is only expressing my personal opinions and is not the place to vent your frustrations with a given society or organization.

Getting the Most Out of Your Membership: FGS

This is the next blog post in my series on getting the most out of your memberships by taking personal responsibility. To read the original post, click here.

The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) is a bit different from other societies in that its main purpose is to serve members at the society level, rather than the individual level, focusing on society management and issues with records access and preservation. The website proclaims it to be “a gathering point for genealogical societies with resources to grow & thrive.” Also, “representing the members of hundreds of genealogical societies across the United States and other nations, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) is here to link the genealogical community by helping genealogical societies strengthen and grow.” So you may not look at this group the same as you would National Genealogical Society (NGS) or the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) or your local or state society. However, the principle of getting what you give is the same.

Is your local, state, or regional society a member of FGS? If you don’t know, you can check on the “Find a Society” directory page. If they are, do you ever hear any announcements or read any FGS news in your local society’s newsletter, at their monthly meetings, on their Facebook page, blog, or other form of society communication? If not, I would guess that your society’s leadership is not taking advantage of their membership and may even be saying “We aren’t getting anything out of this membership.” Here are the FGS society member benefits (from their website):

  • Be listed in the Find a Society directory
  • Access to the FGS Members-only Area
  • Reviews of your society’s Bylaws, Newsletter, and Website
  • Access for your Board of Directors to FORUM (Anyone can subscribe to the FORUM, so even if you aren’t on the board of a member society, you can still get this valuable magazine)
  • Have your submitted events and webinars listed in Society Events.
  • Access for your Board of Directors to the FGS Webinar Archives and available Focus On Societies audio recordings from past FGS conferences
  • Access to the FGS Reach Out series of white papers, which cover topics related to creating partnerships with other organizations in your community or region
  • Access to the archive of issues of FGS FORUM from 1989 to present
  • Access to details of Partner Benefit Program discounts with companies such as MyHeritage, Genealogy Gems, Vivid-Pix, and Dell Computers
  • Access to the FGS Member Society Leadership Forum Facebook Group
  • 10 free FORUM subscriptions/year to give as door prizes at society events

All of these member benefits take a little bit of effort from the FGS Delegate (or President) of the member society. You have to submit your society’s events if you want them to be included in the calendar, you have to send an email to request those free FORUM subscriptions for door prizes, you have to log-in to your account to access the partner discounts, you have to submit your bylaws, newsletter, or website to get a review. And so on.

And if you haven’t heard anything about FGS from your society’s leaders, despite being a member society, maybe they need a delegate. Consider volunteering for this position and be a great delegate, bringing valuable member benefits to your society!

**Of course these statements may not reflect everyone’s experience. If you have had a different experience and/or a legitimate complaint, PLEASE take it up with the proper direct channels for that organization. I’m sure they want to know their members’ views and to try to make it right. This blog is only expressing my personal opinions and is not the place to vent your frustrations with a given society or organization.

Getting the Most Out of Your Memberships: NGS

This is the next blog post in my series on getting the most out of your memberships by taking personal responsibility. To read the original post, click here.

The National Genealogical Society (NGS) was organized in 1903 and claims to be “the first national genealogical organization.” It has always been a leader in genealogical education with its conferences, seminars and workshops, research tours, books, magazines, and a scholarly journal.

As a member of NGS you receive the following benefits (straight from the NGS website):

  • NGS Magazine: delivered quarterly by print or digital access. A top choice by NGS Members, with articles on effectively using records for family history research—i.e., vital records, immigration, land, and courthouse records—and columns on genetic genealogy, repositories, technology, writing, etc.
  • NGS Monthly: delivered monthly by email. A digital publication with articles, authored by an award-winning genealogist on methodology, research techniques, sources, and NGS news.
  • NGS Quarterly (NGSQ): delivered quarterly by print or digital access. A leading scholarly journal in the field, highly in demand for its case studies and genealogies, essays on methodology, and book reviews.
  • Discount registration for the annual NGS Family History Conference
  • Free Family History Skills Course (online, take anytime, anywhere)
  • Discounts for online genealogy courses (only NGS offers the e-learning system Canvas):
  • American Genealogical Studies Four levels of courses that teach skill building + Certificate in American Genealogical Studies available
  • Continuing Genealogical Studies Ten individual courses, you chose topics of interest to you
  • Discounts on Research Trips to Washington, D.C.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and more
  • Discounts on books, including our Research in the States Series and Special Publications
  • Free Member-only Resources, including genealogy templates and charts, tutorials, and articles
  • Free Access to e-Library and Archival Resources, including fully searchable NGS Magazine, NGS Monthly, and NGSQ articles with 24/7 access on our website:
    • Twelve years of NGS Magazine issues
    • 50+ articles from NGS Monthly since inception February 2016
    • 500+ issues of the NGSQ
  • Upfront with NGS: a blog featuring news and resources for genealogists
  • Special packages for audio and video recorded lectures at
  • Full access to Voices of Genealogy, a series of mini-documentaries with interviews of leading scholars in genealogy
  • Eligible to enter the NGS Family History Writing Contest
  • Special Offers from NGS Partnerships and discounts from Affiliates

ALL of these benefits require some action on YOUR part. If you want education, you have to read the articles or watch the videos. If you want to tour research centers, you have to sign up, pay the fee, do the prep work, and go. If you want discounts on items, you have to check the list and click through the affiliate links. And so on. There are 17 broad categories included on the website for member benefits. Seventeen. If you are not “getting anything” out of your membership, I challenge you to take a look at the website, read the emails and blog posts.

Next time you find yourself saying that phrase, take a real look at what you should be expecting from your membership and determine if the problem lies with your priorities and how you choose to spend your time and/or efforts.

**Of course these statements may not reflect everyone’s experience. If you have had a different experience and/or a legitimate complaint, PLEASE take it up with the proper direct channels for that organization. I’m sure they want to know their members’ views and to try to make it right. This blog is only expressing my personal opinions and is not the place to vent your frustrations with a given society or organization.

Getting the Most From Your Memberships: Personal Responsibility

I am a member of a lot of societies, near and far, local, regional, and national. And I serve on several boards, locally and nationally. So this post comes from my personal experience from all of those realms, not any one group in particular. I hear colleagues, friends, and Facebook acquaintances say about their various memberships that they “just aren’t getting anything out of it.” And that statement always makes me pause.

I have always lived by the principle that you get what you give. If you don’t give time, effort, energy, or attention to something, you are going to get very little out of it in return. This goes for various memberships and subscriptions in all aspects of life, not just in the world of genealogy. (For example, have you checked the benefits for your Alumni Association lately? So when someone says they aren’t getting anything out of something, I truly believe they are probably putting little effort into it. If you don’t have time, or if it is not a priority for you to put time into that particular membership, then perhaps it is not the membership’s or the society’s failure, but rather the effect of your own priorities. There has to be a level of personal involvement and responsibility when it comes to what YOU are getting out of your memberships.

I am writing this series of blog entries to try to convince my friends and colleagues to be cognizant of what they are actually saying when they say “I’m not getting anything out of my membership.” If a particular membership is actually not offering anything of value, then by all means, don’t renew it. However, if it provides a long list of benefits that you are choosing to ignore (whether on purpose, or because you don’t have time, or you didn’t research it), and I mean this in the nicest possible way, but that is on you. If you ignore/delete/archive emails that provide important announcements about your membership benefits, again, that is your choice.

And I fall into this trap as well; I am not claiming to be innocent here. However, I’m also not blaming my lack of getting anything out of my memberships on the societies themselves. I realize that I am just too busy with X, Y, and Z to take full advantage of the benefits of a particular membership. This means that I have three choices: I decide to not renew; I decide to renew anyway, being supportive of the group, but knowing I won’t be getting full value out of that membership; or I decide to re-prioritize and make an effort to get everything I can out of my membership.

I hear this complaint again and again. I’m not singling out any particular person or group with this post. Like I said, I’ve been involved in many societies and I have heard this sentiment at all levels over many years. I’m not sure what else societies can do for their members if their members aren’t reading society communications or taking advantage of the benefits their membership already provides. Remember that most of these societies are volunteer run organizations and they are doing as much as they can with the resources they have. If you want to see changes or improvements, volunteer to help.

At the national-level, there are three “big” memberships (there could be more in this category, but these are where I am currently focusing): the National Genealogical Society, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and the Association of Professional Genealogists. There are a host of local, state, regional, and topical societies as well (including lineage societies, geographical focus groups such as german genealogy, and others). Over my next few blog posts I am going to highlight benefits that are available at these national groups and at local levels to remind you of what you can get out of your memberships when you put some effort into them.

**Of course these statements may not reflect everyone’s experience. If you have had a different experience and/or a legitimate complaint, PLEASE take it up with the proper direct channels for that organization. I’m sure they want to know their members’ views and to try to make it right. This blog is only expressing my personal opinions and is not the place to vent your frustrations with a given society or organization.

Writing Tip: “Touch it Once” Citations

Genealogical writing can be daunting. There are a lot of moving pieces you have to keep in mind each step of the way. This post is going to address just one of those moving parts: CITATIONS.

Do you find citations time consuming? You may find that they stop you from making much progress, or that you just don’t write at all because they are intimidating and/or confusing. This is a tip for applying the “touch it once” principle to citations.1 If you follow the “touch it once” principle, citations can take up much less of your time.

The “touch it once” principle is a time-saving technique established by efficiency experts generally pertaining to the tasks that enter your life on a daily basis. Take an email for example. Typically, we go through our email and if one is particularly hard or time-consuming, we think “I’ll get to that later.” Then one of two things usually happens. It gets lost down your list of emails never to be seen again, or you come back to it later, read it for the second time and again say to yourself, “I’ll get to it later.” It’s the re-reading and redoing that wastes a lot of time.

Let’s look at this from a citation angle. As genealogists, there are a couple of different types. There’s the one who doesn’t do citations at all, or captures a vague title or URL. There’s the one who collects all of the information that may be needed for a citation and determines to “work on it later.” And there’s the one who crafts the citation, every semicolon, waypoint, and accessed date, right then and there.

I’m not perfect. But I’m here to tell you that as I’ve done this genealogy-thing over the years, I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’ve learned from having to redo things more than twice, and I’ve gotten into the habit of being that last person. I would guess that about 85% of the time, I craft the full citation right then and there. The other 15%, I collect what I think I’ll need and I’ll “work on it later.”

But my “touch it once” tip has one more step. Where do you store that citation once you’ve made it? That is up to you, but I encourage you to store it in a place that is easy to find, easily accessible (stored in the cloud perhaps), and in a system that makes sense to you.

My system utilizes a spreadsheet. I have each crafted citation in its own cell. Over the years, I have accumulated so many citations that I have developed a tagging system. I also capture the surnames involved and a geographic location.


As you can see from the screenshot, not every citation is in full EE style.2 This is because some of these I created back when I was a “baby genealogist.” But you can also see some symbols (***) that indicate to me that I’ve checked it against EE and it is more or less up to standard. There are names and initials in purple font in front of each citation. I use that for sorting purposes. Some citation formats don’t begin with something useful for sorting for these purposes and so I came up with this system. I also added the columns for location and surnames. The spreadsheet can be sorted by any column. You can utilize the “find” function to search for a particular word.

As we all know, the “way” we do things change over time. A lot of this has to do with new technology, digitization vs. film, for example. When I began, waypoints were not a thing. Now I find they are quite useful in certain types of citations. Many of these citations will need to be reworked a little bit as things in our industry change. But for the most part, I have a “touch it once” system. Now, when I’m writing an article, entering information into my database, writing a blog post, or anything where I need the citation, all I have to do is cut and paste. No more recreating the citation.

Another thing I do that helps me with citations comes from Standard #8, “Separation Safeguards,” in Genealogy Standards.3 I make sure that somewhere on the face of a document (whether or not I intend to print it), I also affix in a text box, the citation for that source. You can do this by putting the image in a word processor or by annotating images with software like Acrobat, Mac Preview, or Photoshop Elements. Then, if there is some breakdown in my system, at least there is a copy of that citation on that record image.

Like I said, this is a system that works for me. But it also has evolved over time and I go fix some of those old citation styles as I need to. The biggest message here is to not let citations stand in the way of your genealogical writing.

1. “The basic idea behind “touch it once” is that whenever you get an incoming task in front of you, you decide right away what to do with it.” From Zachary Sexton, “The ‘Touch it Once” Principle That Will Skyrocket Your Personal Efficiency,” AsianEfficiency ( : viewed 15 January 2019).

2. Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2017.

3. Board for Certification of Genealogists. Genealogy Standards. Nashville: Ancestry, 2014.

Three Things About My Grandma

When I learned about the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and more specifically their useful online databases for genealogy, I discovered that my patriot ancestor was “red lined.” Being “red-lined” means there is something about the applications previously entered that needed more work before someone new could come in under that ancestor. In my guy’s case, the only application submitted was from so long ago that the document and proof requirements weren’t as strict. And so one of my genealogical goals was to fix that. Which I finally did (with the help of a DAR friend). I am a member of the DAR under my ancestor Samuel Dimmick (A032219).

My grandmother, Margaret (Dimick) Miller, is also in his direct line and so this year I got her into the DAR as well. At my local chapter’s DAR meeting, was asked to share three things about my grandmother and these are the top three things that come to mind.

First, she was such a hard-working farmer’s wife. She plowed, planted, and combined with the best of them! She drove tractors, farm trucks, lifted heavy stuff, and all the while being a wife and mother as well.

Grandma enjoying LOBSTER on our trip to New England in 2008.

Second, she loved us with her food. She kept such a large garden and none of that food went to waste! She cooked and canned. My favorite thing she made, her homemade ketchup! The store-bought stuff barely comes close, except for Annie’s brand (fancy organic ketchup) which is more expensive but so worth it to me. She also made homemade noodles. Her lovely farm-life dinners that usually included mashed potatoes. And when we’d come to stay, we had Schwann’s ice cream with chocolate and peanuts on top while we watched TV in the evening. And when we left, she always had an individual size bag of M&Ms for us to eat on the ride home.

Third, she had an amazing 60-year marriage with my grandpa, Karl Miller, who died in 2005. I’ve never seen two people more devoted to each other. They were a team. Always having fun, laughing, and being together. As an example, we would go camping with them in their camper, which made room for about 8 people inside. Every night, when they’d go to bed you’d hear them give each other a quick peck and quietly say “I love you” as we were all going to sleep. I cannot for the life of me remember one time when a cross word was said.

My grandma’s DAR application was approved on November 5 and she passed away on November 18 at the age of 93. I am so glad I took the time to get her application in, even if she was a member for only a few days.

You are already missed, Grandma, but I know you are so happy to be with Grandpa again!

Gift Certificates Available, Order Today!

Once again, I have gift certificates available for those of you who put off gift purchasing until the last minute! Give the gift of genealogy this year!

Gift certificates are great because they allow the gift receiver to get a more customized gift! These certificates allow the recipient to choose which project they’d like to work on.


I am offering gift certificates for a 10-hour research segment or a 3-hour consultation.

To purchase a gift certificate, click here.

DNA Samples Without All the Spit

Last week at our DNA SIG, I was asked about how to get a DNA saliva sample from someone who cannot make that much saliva. If you are testing your elderly relatives, this can definitely be a problem.

I remembered a colleague discussing a process (thank you Randy Whited!) and so I went looking for the full instructions. I found an amateur-created YouTube video that gives good, quick instructions.

Check out this YouTube video describing the process.1

Good Luck!

1. Reviews @ Another Teen Mom, “Short & Sweet: AncestryDNA & 23andme WITHOUT Spit!” video, uploaded 1 January 2018; YouTube ( : viewed 30 October 2018).

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.