Happy 20 Year Anniversary, Genealogical Do-Over!

In February of 2002, I decided to change from a paper system for my genealogy to a computer system. The road to that decision was actually fairly smooth, except….

I was in grad school and would graduate in the Spring. My daughter was off to college and I was wondering what I was going to do with all my “free time” as an empty-nester once I graduated.[1] As a Roots genealogist, I had done some genealogy in the 1980s and maybe now was the time.

Things had changed—computers were prevalent and there were even some software programs out there for genealogy. I researched the options, and purchased The Master Genealogist (TMG) because they offered the best option for citations. It was an leap of faith in 2002–the program was still in development and had no report options.

The learning curve was steep with TMG and at first we had a love/hate relationship. I remember throwing the manual across the room during the first week, but I persevered, and persevered and persevered.

Using TMG was like driving a Lamborghini—at first it drives you, but then you learn to control the car and would have it no other way.

On that first day with the new program, I started the Do-Over. I assumed nothing, but my own personal information and that was suspect! I took all my sources and stacked them up. I took the first source, entered the data and cited the work. Then, I picked up the next source…wash, rinse, and repeat, repeat, repeat.

So many nights I would look up and be surprised it was 2:00 in the morning! I had to go to work the next morning and go to class that evening.[2] I still had a quarter to go of grad school, but all I wanted to do was genealogy. It’s a good thing the last project was a team project and my partner was an employee!! (She said I pulled my weight.)

I still have my paper file (See photos above). I had 104 people identified on family group sheets and pedigree charts. I had 85 sources. I used a dot matrix printer to print out my two reports: a list of sources and a list of people. I came to love TMG and it was sad the day that the developer said he was retiring the program. (Many people still use it.) I switched to RootsMagic.

Table 1
Comparison of growth of content in Genealogical Database of Jill Morelli, CG, CGL[3]

To this day, I still subscribe to the principles I established when I worked on paper, writing letters and sending SASEs:

  • A fact is never entered onto the paper or into the computer without a citation linked to it.
  • The primary name is that given at birth.
  • I link the source to my 3-ring binders like an archivist, not in files, with a number on a slip sheet.
  • My goal was to find a record in the 3-ring binder in less than 5 minutes; I actually can find any source in about 1 minute.
  • This is only possible because my computer files are coordinated with my software program which is coordinated with my binders.
  • I am horrible in linking digital records, but rely on my citations instead, except for unique items.
  • I do descendant work as well as ascendent work. I have reaped the rewards of this principle. Often a DNA test taker is already in my database.

Is the database as tidy as I would want it? No. When I was in TMG, I could customize the citations and I did. The convention TMG used was a double vertical line || between elements of the citation. RootsMagic uses that convention for something else. My citations no longer print pretty, but because of my reference number system I can find the source and clean it up. I try to do a one direct line ancestor a week. All new citation work is, of course, is complete.

So how has this all helped me? I feel more confident in my work; I know that my work is cited and I can find the source easily; I also can assess which of the choices are more reliable and of a higher quality. When it was time to write my Kinship Determination Project for my Board for Certification of Genealogists portfolio, I was more efficient because I didn’t have any Rubbermaid tubs to go through. As an example, I couldn’t get an original church record of the birth of a critical person. I had 12 different entries that supported his birthdate. I picked the two best sources and used them. One was a 1978 letter and one minute later I held it in my hands.

I have changed how I do work lately. My pedigree chart (and database) is mostly to the end of the traditional records, so now I am writing proof arguments for all my end of the line Scandinavians. I write a report, file the report electronically, enter all the discovered facts and cite the report. By using some unusual sources, I can often extend the line by at least one generation. Unfortunately my Germans were flooded disastrously in 1717 making the ability to push that line into the 1600s almost impossible.

Happy anniversary, Do-Over! You have served me well.


What I have done since the last post: The course “Write As You Research!” I teach for Applied Genealogy Institute will end soon. I will then begin prepping for the Certification Discussion Group (Winter 2023) and writing the syllabus for my next AppGen course “Just Do It! Self-Publishing Your Work.” (spring 2023)

[1] I still had a more than full time job as an Assistant VP/University Architect at The Ohio State University!
[2] Little did I know that the experience of looking up from my genealogy and finding that it was after midnight was a common malady of all genealogists!
[3] The huge jump in # of people by November 2002 was due to the procurement of an Ortsippenbuch for Twixlum, Ostfriesland, where I am related to about 50% of the village.


Correlation: When and How

I am presently teaching a course for Applied Genealogy Institute on “Write As You Research!” a methodology that instills an efficient discipline of writing that assures us that we have extracted all relevant information from a source. A research report for a client is a necessary element of the Board for Certification of Genealogists‘ portfolio. While we each have our methods of presenting information relative to our research question, students often seem puzzled about when to correlate and what is the best correlation tool to use.

[Author’s Note: only a portion of the reference notes are included. form dictates that they are always associated with the table as shown.]

Thomas W. Jones, author of Mastering Genealogical Proof, outlines a number of tools to correlate information, including a bullets or a list, a table or timeline, and a map.[1] Each type has a role and each type is important. I must admit that I have never met a table I didn’t like. I tend to gravitate to using tables to display my information to the reader. I “see” the best method and I “see” the best information to correlate without any issue, but some students struggled with this. This post focuses on when and how to best correlate.

The above image is from my portfolio.[2] It compares three record sets: church book entries of birth in Germany; a passenger manifest of the candidate family; and the 1860 census of the same candidate family. The table responds to the research question of are these the same family? Relationships are noted in two of the records, gender in the third. Each included birth dates or age by which a birth year could be calculated. the spelling of the names varied widely and some family members were out of the house by 1860. This is a classic table comparing the same family (hypothesized) in three different records. It could just as easily been comparing the 1900, 1910 and the 1920 censuses.

Correlation is a method by which the adage of “a picture is worth a thousand words” is paramount. It focuses on the important information needed to come to a conclusion; it eliminates that which is not. This might result in a final conclusion or it might be one in a series of sub-conclusions of a genealogical problem. While one might not recognize that the passenger manifest is the same family as the other two, by placing them in this table and comparing the three records (fully cited, of course, in the submission), one can more easily come to the conclusion that they are all members of the same family just in three different sources–parish records in Germany, passenger manifest and a census.

Here are some other simple examples:

Scenario 1, Narrative: If the logic follows easily from A to B to C, a paragraph might suffice to correlate the information. The students sometimes defaulted to this method but crammed too much extraneous information into the writing. This resulted in a long paragraph which was hard to discern the wheat from the chaff.

Scenario 2, List: If the comparison is easily comprehended, a list might be the tool to use. This usually starts with a sentence of what is being proven; followed by a numbered or bulleted list of the multiple pieces of evidence that support the assertion; and finally a concluding sentence.

Scenario 3, Table: If you were trying to determine if Fred Smith in Ohio is the same Fred Smith in VA—you would need to research both, list the identifiers of each, and compare them in a table of the two men. One should stop having events in one location and start having them in another at the same time with no gaps or overlaps. The identifiers would be any facts you can document about both Freds.

Scenario 4, Timeline: If you are trying to identify the parents of Fred Smith and his birth date. You might develop a timeline of Fred’s lif starting with his death and working towards his birth, the desired information. If you lead with the birth (let’s say you found it), the reader will wonder how you got there.

Scenario 5, Map: If you are trying to visualize how difficult or easy it was to meet the spouse of your ancestor, you might map the residences of both. If your ancestor moved frequently; or bought land in multiple locations–consider a map.

ADAGE: If one tool doesn’t work, try another.

Let’s go back to the beginning for just a minute. I am going to assume you have a good research question with a person of interest. Where do you start?

First, look at your person of interest (POI) in your research question:

  • What are you trying to discover? Birth? Death? Parents? Span a migration gap?
  • What data points are unique to to your POI and would inform your conclusion? list them.
  • Where can you find answers to any of the items on the list?
  • Do a napkin sketch.

The list might be the items you compare in your Column A of your table, e.g. name, age, location of birth, spouse, location of birth of parents, etc. The horizontal axis might be the various record sets, e.g. censuses, draft registrations, naturalization records.

No matter what your research question is, it is necessary to identify your person first before you can prove a relationship. If you are trying to discover the parents of your ancestor, realize that you have to build the person’s life from death back to birth. This timeline of events can have no gaps or overlaps which would indicate that you might have conflated one or more individuals.

ADAGE: Obtain evidence from a variety of sources as close to the event as possible. The death record may name the birth date and parents, but it is not closest to the event and the informant was probably not at the birth event. Marriage records may state age, and parents. Can we get even closer to the event? draft registration, any event where one had to be of a certain age, e.g. military service, etc.

I use Evidence Blocks to present my information, which might be evidence. Each Block is composed of the citation; an image (snip) of the source; a transcription, extract or abstract; and my analysis of the information provided in the source that relates to the research question.

ADAGE: Build your case one source at a time. Assess each source for quality and independence. You do not need to justify the use of a good source, but you may have to explain why you are using an index or a book that lacks source information.

Once you have presented the sources containing evidence to the reader, you can move towards building the table.

.ADAGE: you cannot correlate what you haven’t yet presented. 

ADAGE: At first, err on the side of gathering everything. You don’t know what you don’t know.

ADAGE: Not all that you correlate will end up in the final product.

In my portfolio and my renewal, I built tables that never showed up in the final paper. They were my way of seeing the data differently.  Some made the final report, some were modified greatly and others were kicked out. Sometimes you think of a better way to convey the information.

ADAGE: As soon a reader asks themselves, “I wonder if…..” then it’s time to put in the correlation.  Corrleations may happen multiple times through the document.


  • when you have data that is comparable
  • when you or the reader recognize that you have multiple answers to the same question that may not agree with one another
  • when you have presented the data and you or the reader ask the question, “I wonder how it changed over time.”


  • the best correlation tool is the one that presents the information in the best way possible for the reader
  • If you try a narrative or bullets and it doesn’t work so well, switch to a table or a timeline
  • if you don’t like the way the data is arranged in a table, switch the x and y axes.

I hope this has been helpful. I love seeing the data in different ways. It forces me to ask questions I might never have asked.

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post; Mostly related to teaching the “Write As You Research Course!–prepping for class, reviewing homework, adding new content based on issues I identify in the homework, getting the evaluation and the certificates ready for distribution.

[1] Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society, 2013), Chapter 5.
[2] Jill Morelli, Element 7: Kinship Determination Project,” to fulfill the requirements of certification by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, submitted 2016, approved 2017. And yes this table was fully cited with original records.No informants were identified. It was likely that the informant of the birth records of Jan and Antje was probably the father of each. Jan/John was probably the informant for the passenger manifest and the 1860 census.

Goals for 2023

It seems too early, doesn’t it? It seems even boring. What happened to fall? Never mind that–what happened to summer?

I try to outline my goals for the coming year. It helps me stay focused during the year. I also try to make them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. They call these SMART goals.[1]

Unfortunately, I rarely revisit them to see how I am doing but I am pretty focused–so they usually get done. But, here we go…

Goal #1: Publish book on The 1890 Orphan Train Riders of Hamilton County, Iowa (working title). This is a series of vignettes of the 46 orphan train riders who showed up in Hamilton County from NYC in the fall of 1890. I have found 31 so far. I started writing it as a book when two publications turned it down in 2021 when it was in article form. I have 30k words so far and I am only half way done with the vignettes, much less the commentary! To accomplish this goal I will have to:

  • Conduct on-site research in Hamilton County, Iowa
  • Probably take a trip to NYC
  • Do additional research on each child
  • Interview descendants, if there are any and if they can be found

Goal#2: Teach at least once in the Applied Genealogy Institute and maybe twice. Since I have already committed to teaching in the Spring semester of 2023, this is an achievable goal. Topic is already selected. Stay tuned.

Goal #3: Complete my Seattle GS obligations. I presently serve as Past President. Jim Secan will assume that position as soon as a new president is elected. I also presently serve as Co-Chair of SGS100, our centennial, which will have its capstone event on 20 October 2023.

Goal #4: Continue with my annual goal of having two articles published per year in genealogical journals. I achieved this goal in 2022 and I am on track for 2023. One article is in the queue for National Genealogical Society Quarterly. I would count the book, but there may be another article there as well.

Goal #5: Travel to Europe at least one time. I would like to do an extended time in the Scandinavian countries. (We have visited Pat’s homeland 2x, but I have yet to travel to Sweden, or Norway. We went to Denmark in 1982–I don’t think that counts any more.) On the other hand, an extended stay in Portugal sounds lovely.

That’s it! What are your goals for 2023? Do you write them down? Look at them again?

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post: Mostly this week has been about getting ready for teaching the AppGen course on “Write As You Research!” looking at the student’s pre-assignment and making comments, sending out the reminder email and reviewing all the presentations, Syllabus and Weekly Sheets. I think I am ready. I also am gearing up for registration for the Certification Discussion Group course which will be taught in the early winter. worked some on the book and woo hoo! was contacted by a descendant of one recently. I have to get my ducks in a row before I call him back.

[1] the image is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

The Joy of Teaching Genealogy

I love it! I admit it. I love every stage of it, but I especially love meeting with the students and seeing them work on the various assignments. When I click with the students– that is an addiction I want to continue. Of course, it isn’t always like that, but it is enough times that I continue.

There are many steps to the process and if you have never taught, you might find this of interest. If you are regular instructor, I would be interested in how your process compares–or doesn’t–to mine.

There are many ways to “teach.” I conduct 1 hour presentations, 1/2 day workshops, write methodology articles, and teach at Applied Genealogy Institute. While each has a different output, the process for each is the same, even if the quantity of hours to put it together may vary.

The Idea!

I find my ideas usually emerge from the work I am doing. If I am having a problem, I figure that others will also. If I find something interesting, others might find it interesting as well. Finally, if I just learned something new, then others might want to learn it as well. Whatever I am working on, whatever rabbit hole I have gone down–each serves as fodder for a possible class, presentation or institute course. I never lack for ideas. It’s a bit narcissistic, but it works for me.

There are exceptions. The NGS 2022 conference was held in Sacramento this past May. I knew there would be a lot about the California Gold Rush of 1848. Seattle was the launch point in the US for “The Other Gold Rush”–the Klondike. I decided to submit a proposal for that topic. They accepted it. I knew almost nothing about it, but I knew there were lots of resources in the Seattle area. I started from scratch and taught myself enough about the topic to put together the presentation and syllabus! (When I got my evaluations back, it was my highest scoring presentation!)

The Research!

Usually the topics I pick I know something about, but I need to either broaden the concept to be more inclusive or I have to research more in depth to gain a deeper understanding. This takes the form of broad contextual research. Using the Klondike example, I could have just focused on Seattle and the Yukon during the late 1800s, but elected to also include other gold rushes (as early as NC 1796) and later ones (Nome 1910). I also covered the impact on the environment and the native tribes.

The Structure!

I think about the presentation as a combination of facts/records/methodology, narrative/story and case study. Different topics shift the percentages of each. For example, the Klondike presentation was 85% story, 15% facts and 0% case study. My Friedrich Eiler presentation is 20% records, 20% narrative, and 60% case study. Different topics shift the percentages but usually all three are included.

As an attendee, I can get so caught up in the Case Study that I forget that I am supposed to be learning something. I now start with “What would I like the attendees to learn from this presentation? These are sometimes called themes or goals. I go one step further–as I am presenting a learning point, I point out “This is a learning point!” (Maybe not quite that obvious, but almost.) I try to focus on the methodology of each; I am not subtle about this. the skills we teach in a case study need to be transferable to the research being conducted by the attendees.

The composition of any presentation is usually:

  • an introduction, including themes
  • put the topic into broad context
  • present the study/body of the work,
  • explain what the ramifications were
  • Discuss resources or refer them to the syllabus
  • repeat the themes

An institute course is a different breed. I have now taught two and am getting ready to teach a third. These are hard work!

For the institute, I have three components that must be coordinated closely:

  • Syllabus: I like the syllabus to be a reference manual for the future. So mine are 50+ page for a 4 week course. This may take over a month of hard work to write. I rarely have pieces I can cobble together.
  • Weekly sheets: I issue a Weekly Sheet the morning of the class, containing the final agenda, the topics for the breakouts, and the assignment for the week composed of a Scavenger Hunt (prescribed things they have to do) and their homework (applying what they learned to their own project.) I think it is important to be able to respond nimbly to student needs and the weekly sheets allow me to tweak the agenda up to the day of the class.
  • Presentations: the course is usually composed of facilitated conversation, student breakouts, student discussion, skill-building presentations, case study presentation, and then assignments and announcements for the coming week. I try to do two presentations in each 3-hour class–one is a skill-building class so they are prepared for their homework and the other a Case Study on the application of those skills learned.

I spend a lot of time writing the syllabus; usually the presentations are composed of parts of other presentations but the skill-building presentations are all new. The coordination between the three parts is intense.

For a 1-hour presentation, I build the PowerPoint first and then write the syllabus. The presentation may take 2 to 3 weeks to put together (roughly 70-80 hours), but once it is together the syllabus may only take 4 hours to write, because I have already written it in my head.

The Class/Audience!

Each is a little different but adult learners are the best. They are there because they want to be and so do I. I gain so much energy from them, I feel like an extrovert. 🙂

For presentations, I like to “work the crowd” before we start. It gives me an idea of what they want to get out of it or their perspective on the problem. They also get to know me better. Similarly, for zoom courses, I like to come in early to chat with the students or the organizers.

The Wrap Up!

The last class of the course I will be teaching in the spring will have the students present their final work product. That will be very exciting. I also send out evaluations and I like to receive feedback.

Sometimes I will run a “beta test” of a new 1-hour presentation and ask for constructive critiques as the “cost” of attendance. I have gotten comments that completely reworked the presentation! I remember when I first presented a beta test of my fire insurance maps presentation. The first question was, “What’s a fire insurance map?” I had not defined them! Lesson learned: don’t start in the middle. 🙂

Probably the part I dislike the most is writing the proposals for conferences, but I am getting more efficient with them. I can now do 3 or 4 in an afternoon.

Well, that gives you some idea of how I spend my time. I enjoy it and it is very rewarding. When it isn’t, I will stop.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since my last post: I am now quite frustrated that no one wants to publish my Orphan Train Riders article. I think it is too long and not scholarly enough, so I have decided to make it even longer and make it into a book. Much more research needs to be done. I am designating November, January and February as my months to write/research the book. I am also putting together another institute course for AppGen (https://appliedgen.institute) for Spring 2023. This coming month will be teaching a course on “Write As You Research!”

Certified Genealogical Lecturer (CGL)

In 2016, Elissa Scalise Powell attended one of my Legacy FamilyTree Webinars (a subscription site) and in an email urged me to apply for the CGL credential. I appreciate that she put that thought in my head, because I certainly did not think I was worthy of that certification, but it was nice that she did.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) administers the program.

The requirements are simple (once you get past the first one!):

  • must be a CG
  • access to two presentations (can be FamilyTree Webinars) with some caveats
  • any script and notes, if any
  • the syllabi
  • List of resources, which I always include in the syllabus
  • your presentation resume
  • $300[1]

I started to gather my materials together in 2017 but that was pre-Zoom and it was (at best) cumbersome to get a recording of the lecture and make it available for the judges. It is desirable to apply for the CGL at the same time (or shortly after) as your CG as the cycle for renewal, whenever you apply for the CGL will match that of your CG. In other words, the longer I waited, I would still be paying $300 for a shorter amount of time. I waited.

I applied shortly after I submitted my renewal and was notified at the same time as my renewal that I had also compiled with the requirements for the CGL

I am not sure why I decided to apply for the CGL. I would present whether I had the credential or not. I love to teach eager students. More postnomials? Unlikely. BCG does provide peer review by expert presenters who give thoughtful comments. Here is what I submitted.

Here are some takeaways based on the judges’ (3) comments. Maybe you can learn from them if you also lecture.:

  • Two of the three judges were more critical of “Molly” than “150 Years.”
    • They thought my DNA explanations were not as clear as they should be and pointed out that I used some words in the wrong way, e.g. pedigree collapse instead of “multiple common ancestors.”
    • One judge wanted more explanation of what might make the cause variation in the methods I used. I disagree with this a bit as Molly is an DNA case study that is easily understood by the person who knows something about DNA, but not much. it was supposed to be without jargon.)
  • There were no comments about me as a presenter–voice, word patterns, motions, etc.
  • There were some grammatical errors on the syllabi.
  • The formatting of the footnotes varied between bibliographic or reference style. (My fault on that one.) I used a very short footnote style for any image used in the presentation and one judge thought they were too cryptic.
  • The organization of the presentations was clear. They liked that I stated the objectives up front. (H/T to Tom Jones for that one!)
  • They liked the section breaks that broke “150 Years” into methodolgical sections, which enables the mind to partition off what was just presented and preps it for what is to come.
  • The visual aids were strong, but I sometimes put periods at the end of a phrase in a bullet and sometimes do not….I need to strive for consistency.
  • One judge stated, “The presenter coins the term “radial research,” applying it to a powerful research technique. This new term serves as a great member aid for a potent methodology.” Credit where credit is due: I am not the creator of that term; I don’t know who is. I do know that Geoff Fröberg Morris, FHL Scandinavian expert, used it when we discussed this project and Warren Bittner, CG used the term in a presentation on his Bittner family given many years ago that I attended.

So, perhaps this will be helpful to you should you decide to obtain the CGL credential. There are not many of us. My credential is no. 49! There was talk for a while to reduce the price. The Board elected to keep it at the $300 level.

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: The Certification Discussion Group kicks off in August this year for me. I reviewed the website, sent out the zoom and Dropbox links and did some responding to requests by the students. If you are interested in CDG, just go to our website (https://theCDGseries.wordpress.com) and sign up on the waitlist. It will be offered in the winter of 2023. I worked on my Applied Genealogy Institute syllabus for my “Write as You Research” course. These are always harder to put together then I think they will be. Registration will be open from 8-14 August at https://appliedgen.institute. And finally, we are making final plans for our Italy trip in September and October.

[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists,”Teaching-Category Application,” BCG Application Guide 2021 (online download: https://bcgcertification.org/process/app-guide/) Table of Contents says p. 10, but the pages are not paginated.

My CG Renewal

Assessment of my portfolio’s Research Report against BCG’s Rubrics. Each colored column represents the evaluation of one judge.

Every five years, the credential awarded by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, Certified Genealogist, is up for renewal. The submission of my initial portfolio was ridden with angst and personal doubt, and a residual worry lingered five years later! Usually, individuals celebrate for two days after receiving notice of the receipt of the credential and then start planning their renewal—and worrying!

I was no different.

The requirements for renewal are much less than the requirements for the initial portfolio, significantly reducing my worry factor. The number of documents is fewer (1-2 only); the work samples do not need to be complex; and the work product can be reviewed by someone else, opening up articles and the use of editors. You must identify your weaknesses from the judges’ comments from the initial portfolio and address them.[1] At least one submission must meet the Genealogical Proof Standard.[2]

The portfolio judges identified areas of weakness. My research report (done for a client) was very weak and it received the most yellow, indicating “partially meets standards.” (See image above)[3] In 2017 when I received the credential, I knew nothing about DNA. I spent the next five years taking classes in DNA and writing about 25 personal and client reports, honing my technique.

My renewal was composed of 4 documents:

  • A cover letter where I described the identified weaknesses from the portfolio comments and what my goals were to rectify them;
  • A genealogical resume which was arranged by weakness and included classes and self-education I had undertaken;
  • Work Sample 1: a personal research report identifying the parents of Kirstin Pehrsdotter, b. 1656, d. 1725 in Sweden.
  • Work Sample 2: an article which was published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly in December of 2018 using DNA.[4]

Here are some of my take-aways from the process and my submission.

  • I had been sporadic about keeping.a record of my learning opportunities. I should have been more diligent recording the dates, name of the course and instructors. It was a pain to compile.
  • One of the two documents submitted had to represent reasonably exhaustive research. Both of my work samples did.
  • I woke up in the middle of the night a couple times wondering if I had really proven Kirstin’s parents. I would reassure myself with “Who else could it be?” and mentally “walked myself” through the evidence. Only one man was left standing and then I would go back to sleep. (See? It never stops.)
  • I had one other DNA article I could have used but it was also Swedish and I didn’t want to use two Swedish articles.
  • While the DNA article was older and didn’t need much work–it had already been reviewed by others, the RR hadn’t. I had written it about a year before and now I needed to polish it up and make sure all my citations were in order, etc. This took the longest–maybe a month.
  • I knew that submitting a DNA article and one using international records would slow down the judging process. I also knew that the BCG was getting a lot of portfolios to review. It took 5 months to review the two work samples.
  • I also submitted my application for Certified Genealogical Lecturer at the same time. Since you have to have your CG before you can submit for the CGL, I knew that if they waited and awarded both at the same time, there would be another delay. BCG did award them at the same time. I will blog about the CGL more in the future.

I am employing some new strategies for the next round in 2027. I am being more diligent in recording my educational opportunities. It is too early to identify a work product I will want to submit, but if I keep working, something will appear that will be a reasonable submission. But, there is also a good chance I won’t renew at all. I am of a “certain age” and it may not be worth it for me to do so. I have not been certified long enough to become a CG Retired.

In June of 2022, I was informed that my submission met standards and I was renewed as a Certified Genealogist for another five years! The judges’ comments were minimal—all green! Now my worry is what do I say about my weaknesses! 🙂 (not that I don’t have any…)

If you have questions, just ask!

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post: I am committing to blogging more. I find I enjoy it ….stay tuned. I have been working on my Applied Genealogy Institute class materials where I will be teaching “Write As You Research! A Methodology for Efficient Report Writing.” Check it out if you are interested in taking the course. I turned the research report into an article to the NGSQ and it was returned with comments. I made the revisions based on their peer reviewer’s comments, and sent it to two people to review before I send it back to the Q. I am co-chair of Seattle Genealogical Society‘s Centennial and it is starting to consume some time.

[1] For exact requirements see: Board for Certification of Genealogists, “The Renewal Application,” The BCG Application Guide 2021 Revised, (Washington DC : Board for Certification of Genealogists, 2021). The Application Guide is free for the download at https://bcgcertification.org/process/app-guide/
[2] —–, “Genealogy Standards, Second Edition Revised, (Nashville : Ancestry.com, 2021) 1-2. This is the latest; when I submitted it had not yet been issued, but the revisions did not affect my work samples.
[3] This is a self-made Excel form I made shortly after receipt of my initial portfolio reflecting the BCG judges’ comments. It represents just the Research Report and the ratings of the three judges. Green is “meets standards” and yellow is “partially meets standards.” I did not receive any “does not meet standards.”
[4] Jill Morelli, “DNA Helps Identify “Molly” (Frisch/Lancour) Morelli’s Father,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 106 (December 2018):293-306.

AppGen Institute Registration

Learn by Doing

Mark your calendars! We are offering some great classes this fall semester (October-November) that you won’t want to miss. The registration window will open on 8 August and close on the 14th. If the class is oversubscribed we will use a lottery system to assign individuals to the course.

Here are the AppGen offerings for this fall. Click on any link to go to a description of the course:

Don’t forget to sign up for the AppGen Mailing List to get the latest news and reminders.

Happy Hunting!


Multiple Common Ancestors vs. Pedigree Collapse

I recently submitted my renewal portfolio to the Board for Certification of Genealogists for review by the judges in hopes that they would deem my submission worthy of my continuing to receive the credential of Certified Genealogist. This is something I have to do every five years to maintain my credential. I was honored that they said “yes.”

One of the common observations of both of the judges was that I should have used the term “multiple shared lines of ancestry” in lieu of “pedigree collapse.” Now, I had never heard that term, and I set about to figure it out. I thought you might be interested in what I found.

The judge stated, “The explanation might have been clearer if terminology such as “multiple shared lines of ancestry” had been used rather than “pedigree collapse.”[1]

First, I went to the document that included the words pedigree collapse so I could determine the context.
“In order to further reduce the possibility of pedigree collapse creating an inordinately higher concentration of shared DNA than the relationship would justify, the lineage of the remaining families was investigated.”[2]

I decided that I would ask the experts on the Facebook kGroup, “Genealogy tips & Techniques,” one of the wonderful FB sites that provide solid advice. I want to thank the many people who contributed to my learning on this topic.

The easiest way for me to explain their information was:

  • Multiple shared lines of ancestry: are common lineages with others outside your family (in this case the Wood family). This is often discovered when we are doing DNA work as we are working with test takers.
  • Pedigree collapse: is a reduction in the expected number of ancestors within your own family. Think of your fan chart–do you have all unique individuals or do you have some that appear twice? I have two couples that appear twice back about 5 generations, reducing my count of expected great-greats.

This is not an official definition but it appears that the ISOGG Wiki doesn’t have a definition either.[3] None of this should be confused with endogamy (yet I hear that all the time).

We always want to use the right terminology and I agree with the judge on this comment. I should have used the more generic terminology of “multiple shared lines of ancestry.”

I hope this has been helpful.

Happy Hunting!


What I have been doing since the last posting….since it has been so long since I posted… Applied Genealogy Institute is growing appropriately. The practicum-based institute works with a small number of students using an applied learning approach to skills and record sets a genealogist needs. We are getting ready to enroll our next set of students for the fall semester. Pop over to https://appliedgen.institute and check out the classes. I am also working on three articles: 1.) responding to peer review comments to a submission of one of my two documents of my renewal to the Q; 2.) gathering information and background about my grandfather, particularly as it relates to his establishment and loss in the 1930s of his private bank; and 3.) identifying 46 orphan train riders that arrived in Hamilton County, Iowa in the fall of 1890. I have found 31 so far.

[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists to Jill Morelli, CG, CGL, letter, 18 June 2022, attachment, Judges’ comments, Judge no. 1, p. 3.
[2] Jill Morelli, CG, “Finding a Father for Marie “Molly” (Fisch/Lancour) Morelli,” work sample 2. This submission was originally published as an article in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, “DNA Helps Identify “Molly” (Frisch/Lancour) Morelli’s Father”, 106 (December 2018) 293-306. Emphasis by author.
[3] International Society of Genetic Genealogists, Wiki, (https://isogg.org/w/index.php?search=multiple+shared+lines)

AppGen Registration now open!

The registration window for the Applied Genealogy Institute 2022 winter courses is now open. Please go to https://appliedgen.institute webpage to review the course offerings and to Register Here! The week long registration window is open until 9 January.

We have superb instructors teaching five unique courses:

  • Catholic Records; Margaret S. Fortier, CG
  • Applied Genetic Genealogy; Leah Larkin, Ph.D
  • Foundations I: Using the Records; Lisa Gorrell, CG
  • Advanced Swedish Genealogy; Jill Morelli, CG
  • Learning from Ledgers: Diane L. Richard

You can review the dates, cost, class outlines on the website. We have recently instituted a Contact Us! page and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to fill it out, we will respond as quickly as we can.

AppGen is a unique institute, born virtual in 2021, that focuses on practicum based learning. It is offered twice a year. We are committed to small classes (15 max.), direct and frequent interaction from the instructor and “learning by doing”.

Hope you had a happy holiday and are looking forward to a great 2022!

Happy hunting!


What i have been doing since the last post: working on my renewal for my BCG certification, (it is 99.9% complete and in it’s “let it rest” mode so I can go back and do one more look with fresh eyes.) and writing the syllabus and assignments for the Advanced Swedish Research course. Next up: CDG starts with 60 new students on 31 Jan.

Applied Genealogy Institute Inauguration

“If you see a vacuum, fill it,” said my boss to me in the 1990s when I was at The Ohio State University as their University Architect. It might be better said, “When you see a need, how can you not fill it?”

Such was the case of the Certification Discussion Group (CDG). I saw a need, based on this blog, for a more systematic presentation of the tips and techniques that I (and others) had gathered by talking to those who had received the credential and those who had not. CDG was born in winter of 2017.

Then it happened again. Early in the pandemic I was monitoring the private CDG Facebook (FB) page (alumni of the program) and noticed a recurring theme of laments about lack of focus and purpose, lethargy and sense of loss. I started weekly (now every 2 week) sessions with successful CGs explaining their journey, outside speakers, and projects. Oh, did I mention– and an outstanding mentoring group program for those “on the clock” managed by Pam Anderson. These offerings have been very popular. One person said the FB page was worth the price of the course! I might not go that far but…. CDG FB page became active in summer 2019.

Well, “opportunity” has struck again. While monitoring that same FB page in early 2021, Mary Roddy, Lisa Gorrell and I identified that people were frustrated with certain aspects of institute learning or loved portions of it that were not regularly presented. We identified some key principles for a new institute, and Applied Genealogy Institute was born in the summer of 2021. Applied Genealogy or AppGen is a virtual institute for intermediate to advanced genealogical learners who want to delve deeply into a topic in a practicum-based environment. Our moniker is “Learn by Doing,” as we believe small classes (15), homework (due weekly) and high interaction with the instructor (who responds to homework) make for a better learning experience.

We kicked off the 2021 fall session with three classes, Irish Research, Land Records and Broad Context. This winter 2022 session will include:

  • Catholic records, Margaret R. Fortier, CG
  • Foundations I: Using the Records: Lisa S. Gorrell, CG
  • Applied Genetic Genealogy: Leah Larkin, Ph.D.
  • Advanced Swedish Research, Jill Morelli, CG
  • Getting Lost in Ledgers, Diane L.Richards

If you are interested in AppGen, please sign up for our Mailing LIst. If you are interested in the winter offerings, our window of registration will open 2 January until 9 January 2022 at our website.

Meanwhile the winter classes for CDG are assembled and will launch the end of January. Sign up at the CDG website if you wish to be considered for the Fall class.

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post: well, Christmas is to celebrate, isn’t it? I also have been working very hard on the assignments for my AppGen course and starting to write the syllabus (it may end up 60+ pages!)