Development Activities

Clock 3I decided to “take a break” from the client report and work on the new Development Activities (DA) requirement.[1] This is the certification portfolio component that replaces the resume.


The Development Activity document is different in two significant ways:

  1. The DA is now part of the evaluation of your qualifications.
  2. The requirements of the DA focus on your genealogical education and what you learned.

The reason why this change occurred is because the Board for Certification of Genealogists discovered there was a direct correlation between rigorous education courses and successful portfolios. Their survey of past applicants and successful portfolios showed that ProGen, the series of classes I took in 2013-2014, results in the highest percentage of success.

This DA component seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? And, assuming that you have some reasonable educational opportunities in your genealogical tool chest, it is.

My primary tip? Do not take this too lightly.

  • Organize the DA carefully. What do you want to highlight? Do you put elements of your education into clusters or is it a list?
  • Focus on what you learned at each educational opportunity. Clearly make the connection between your education and the four learning areas BCG lists in their Guide.
  • Work at making this succinct. The guidelines ask for only one to two sentences for each educational opportunity describing what you learned.

After you have the opportunities arranged in a way that works for you and you have listed what you learned in each–step back. Assess if it is as good as you can make it. Assess if you have any gaps in your Development Activities and if so, identify what can you do to rectify the gap–either by filling it or focusing on an alternative.

At this point, I went through and tried to reduce each entry to two sentences.  I wasn’t always successful, but I didn’t do too badly in achieving that goal. I really want to “ingratiate” myself to the judges by having a fairly small number of pages for the portfolio!  🙂 With the new rules for this extension, I have to submit fewer than 150 pages.  I am hoping for a portfolio of no more than 120 pages.

If you want to read the guide or better yet, considering getting your certification, click on this link.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post: presented my “Fire Insurance Maps: the Google Maps of their day” at Legacy Software Webinars. It was a wonderful experience and the presentation was well received. Geoff Rasmussen is a gracious host and does a very nice job of prepping the inexperience webinar presenter (me!) and then having a smooth transition to the actual presentation. At Geoff’s urging, I submitted five other presentations for his consideration (finding your parish, Danish records, Norwegian records, Swedish taxation and 19th c. insanity.) I also continue to refine the client report.  Just when I think I have it polished up–something rears up. Next up? Getting ready for my presentations at NGS the first week of May.

[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, The BCG Application Guide (Washington, DC: Board for Certification of Genealogists, 2016) 3.




Client Report Comments

Clock 6I have been working on a client report for a while.  And, as I usually do, I learn something along the way that might be of help to you.

I am also working on my portfolio for submission for certification for review by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG.) I hope to submit the portfolio during the Fall of 2016 after my Midwest driving/research trip.

You probably noticed, if you are a regular reader, the countdown clock  now has enough months to get me to 2017. BCG allows  you to be “on the clock” for 1 year, then you have to extend (pay $75). I have extended twice. I now have until 12 May 2017 to submit. Some things changed when I submitted because  the “rules” changed.  I must now keep the portfolio to less than 150 pages (shouldn’t be a problem) and instead of a resume, I have to report my learning activities with a short statement of what I learned. This will now be graded; whereas, the resume was not.

One of the requirments is to submit a real client report. I don’t take a lot of clients, but I had the opportunity to do so right before Christmas. We mutually agreed to wait until I returned from my driving vacation #1 to begin. Here are some observations after I have almost finished the report:

  • I thought I had a couple of good reports in the bag that I could submit. I was wrong.
  • BCG has a monthly webinar about the segments of the portfolio. Any one can listen in; they are outstanding. I was lucky. Right before I started writing this client report, Tom Jones gave a BCG webinar on writing a good client report! Lucky?  You bet! Here are a few things I learned.
    • Have a header on every page that identifies you so no page can “get away from you” without your authorship being attached to it
    • A good client report starts with a good contract, which does not have to be long or formal. (look to ProGen for some more formal ones; they can be simpler.)
    • Write your research plan with citations of where you are going to start.
    • Write as you research
  • Do a minimum of two client reports and then pick which one you think is the better. (I will do a second one in May.)
  • Read the standards carefully–I think you almost have to “read between the lines,” but a  genealogist who had done multiple reports, would probably call me to task and say that to him/her, the requirement was obvious! You can find the standards by which all portfolios are graded, on the BCG website, or you can click here.
  • look at what the standards use as examples which are usually within parentheses.  For example, standard 67, bullet no. 8, says you should include sources you researched that did not result in any findings….OK, got that. But it goes on to say “along with findings of direct, indirect and negative evidence…” [1] Hmmm. I will have to review what I have done to see if I am being consistent, not only in my vocabulary but also with where I apply the analysis of the source.

I hope these hints are helpful.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: gave my first (and not my last) Legacy Software webinar on Fire Insurance Maps. The reviews were terrific and I was on “cloud 9” for two days–but, what are “clouds 1-8 about?” I worked on my client report and worked on the client report and worked on…you get the idea. I am now prepping for my NGS presentations. My next blog will probably describe how I do that.

[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville:, 2014), 39.

[2] Elgin watch, photo taken by Jill Morelli at the Elgin Historical Society, Elgin, Illinois, 2012.

OTC: Elgin Watch Works

watch 1(I am sorry–I couldn’t resist the pun!)

How much more “on the clock ” can one be except at the Elgin (IL) Historical Museum–touring the exhibit about the Elgin Watch Factory?  Yes, Elgin watches were made in my genealogical destination of Elgin, Illinois.  I was there not to see the watches and other time pieces or to learn about Elgin Watch Works but like so many of our adventures, we learn something about a topic we had no idea we would be interested in.

I had a special tour of the Historical Museum by William Briska, who wrote the history of the Elgin Watch Factory. While most of our time was spent discussing his other book, The History of the Elgin Mental Health Center, I had a few moments to tour the watch exhibit before going on our road trip out to the asylum.[1]

Elgin Watch Works produced its first movement in Elgin in 1867.   Individual Elgin watch models were known by a name much like automobiles are now.  These high end timepieces were often made of gold and msot were pocket watches.  Later, the wristband type were made.  A single watch could take months to make and the machinists who made them were more artists than craftspeople. [2] Notice the photo.  This is clearly a woman’s timepiece. embedded in a cigarette case of mother of pearl and gold. It brings visions to me of a “Great Gatsby” type of a setting.  I would feel glamorous just holding it!

In the months ahead I will be highlighting some of the beautiful watches and timepieces designed and created in Elgin, Illinois.  Most timepieces I will show are ones that are on display in the museum as I explore the process of being “on the clock” or OTC.  The inclusion of a timepiece in the blog posting will let you know that the article is about being “on the clock”.  Like my work product right now, not all timepieces will be glamorous; some are down-right “homely.”

I am also glad to report that the attitude of giving back to the community is still strong in Elgin and is manifested in the persona of William Briska. William rattled off six, seven, -or was it eight? — different organizations that he actively supports with his time and talents. He is the type of guy  every organization wants as a member and every town wants as a citizen.

Thanks, Bill. It was truly a pleasure to meet you and one I will remember for a long time, including the BLT at Al’s-I owe you lunch!

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  This posting sat while I became totally engrossed in the conference planning for the OGSA Family Reunion, a genealogy conference for Ostfriesens.  We had 130 attendees from across the country and Germany.  The 3.5 day conference culminated in a banquet with party hats and clappers!  I have done no BCG work this past month.  I got out the SGS newsletter to the proofreaders.  I print next weekend.  Then I start work on a major article for the SGS Bulletin which prints in November.  I had better start carving out time for the BCG or I will get caught up in that renewal thing-y!  I did write a note to Nicki of BCG with a question about what constitutes “publishing” per the Application Manual’s directive that you cannot use something that has been published previously unless you use it as it was submitted.

[1] The Museum is housed in an 1856 landmark building known as Old Main that was once part of the Elgin Academy. The docents there will, for a fee, assess the historic value of your Elgin watch. So, check them out if you have that old watch in the box you do not know what to do with.

[2] Kevin James, The Watch Guy ( : accessed 23 August 2014), “Elgin Watch Works.”

What did I learn about certification at SLIG?

The tone of the conversation about certification is changing.  I noticed the “change” in the first day of the Advanced Methodology course as Dr. Jones took numerous opportunities to make the process of applying and obtaining certification seem attainable to a greater number of potential applicants than before.

In my own mind, a mystique built around the application process.  I felt, even understood, that I must have certain institutes and other criteria met before I am eligible to apply.  Certain materials reinforced my mindset:

  • Quiz on the BCG page [1]:  Have you read two years of five journals worth of articles?  These are valuable to read but if you haven’t, you lose points and then you may not be “qualified.” I am not sure that the family lineages of the east coast as presented in the NEHGR and TAG are all that pertinent to me whose earliest ancestor immigrated in 1854 and went straight to Illinois.  NGSQ focuses more on methodology and I learn a lot from those articles, wherever the proof argument is located.
  • BCG portfolios at conferences:  These nearly “perfect” examples have certainly made this potential applicant reticent to apply.
  •  Number who are certified yearly:  It does not help when we see one person get certified in a quarter.  This makes it appear that of the many that must apply (of course, we don’t know how many actually apply) only an extremely small percentage must qualify.

I am sure that none of the above is the single thing that has kept me from applying but it does ascribe a criteria which if not accomplished sent a negative message to this potential applicant.

At a breakfast at the end of SLIG attended by 15+ attendees including certified and uncertified individuals, the discussion centered around how there are two types of genealogists who apply for certification: those that aren’t ready at all and the “over readies.”  The latter group has every box checked, every institute attended, every NGSQ+ article read and analyzed and every citation template memorized.  The “over readies” work beyond the level necessary to achieve certification and seem to be striving for perfection.

 Let’s be clear…I am not, nor are the people I spoke to, saying it is easy or frivolous to attain certification, just attainable–and perhaps more attainable than we, the applicants, are making it.

Tom Jones and Judy Russell also reduced the focus from citations to correlation.  The application process is less about the form and more about substance.  Both iterated that getting an A was not the goal but that passing was.  Judy noted that no one gets a different certificate if they “pass” better than the next applicant.

Some certified individuals made it clear that the reason why they failed the first time was because they did not follow directions.  Lesson Learned:  Follow the directions!  But one individual also failed a portion of an element of the portfolio and still passed! The advice was– it is better to fail on form–something correctable–then to fail on correlation or analytical thought process.  Form is easily corrected; an inability to correlate is not.

I am being urged to apply and submit.  I will put in my application to go “on the clock” in the next four weeks.  I want to time this so it doesn’t land too close to the holidays and after my computer comes back from the Apple Hospital!

A new standards manual comes out in the next week and I have my copy on pre-order.  I will be pouring over it and I am sure that in short time frame it will be as dog eared and tabbed as the previous edition.  Tom Jones noted a significant change is the title.  Have you noticed?  It is no longer The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual [2] but is rather Genealogy Standards [3]– for all genealogists– a significant and important modification.

 Happy Hunting!


 What I have done since the last posting: watched my two favorite pro football teams duke it out to play each other in the Super Bowl!  Now who do I root for? I have a couple of posts ready to publish but I had to wait until my desk top got back from the Apple Hospital which it now is.  Woo hoo!  I apologize in advance for a cluster of postings which are appearing a week after the SLIG event.  corrected this post per Judy Russell’s comment.

[1], accessed 25 January 2014.

[2] Board for Certification of Genealogists, The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (New York: Turner Publishing Co., 2000).

[3] — , Genealogy Standards, 50th Anniversary Edition (Nashville, Tenn. : Ancestry, 2014).  Book has yet to be distributed but the preorder price is less if you purchase by January 27th!

What happened today?

(I started this blog posting on the ship.  Unfortunately, due to connectivity problems it did not get posted.)

We had two great days of presentations while we sailed from Skagway, Alaska, back to Seattle.

There were a couple of the presentations that warrant some comment and they may be of help to you.  (Note:  I asked the presenters if i could blog about their presentations and they gave approval.)  Here are my comments about Tom Jones’s presentation on the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS).

In an early lecture, Dr. Jones mentioned that the BCG Standards Manual was being revised (1).  At a scheduled on-on-one session, I asked him the extent/type of changes that we might expect.  Dr. Jones stated that the changes were more clarifications of some concepts (2).

In a lecture later that week, Dr. Jones presented “This Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS): What It is and What It is Not,” and outlined specifically what constitutes “a reasonably exhaustive search.”  He made special note of the fact that the emphasis should not be on the phrase “exhaustive search” but rather on the word “reasonably”.  He pointed out that “overkill” was to be avoided.

He outlined six criteria:

“GPS Element 1–A reasonably exhaustive search:

  1. At least two independent sources in agreement
  2. All sources competent genealogists would examine (varies with time, place, and the research question and answer)
  3. Some primary information
  4. Some original sources
  5. Relevant derivative sources or secondary information replaced by findable corresponding originals and primary information
  6. All findable sources suggested by relevant sources databases and indexes.” (3)

My “takeaways” were:

  • Dr. Jones is defining for us what a “reasonably exhaustive search” constitutes, a discussion topic by genealogists for many years.
  • He may be “testing’ the standard before it is incorporated into the BCG certification criteria.
  • I could see that we may need to assess our sources in the reports we write for certification.  Perhaps this will take the form of an additional rubric or it might be an internal assessment within the report itself.
  • In a presentation later in the cruise and not yet presented at a national conference, “Overcoming Surprising Research Barriers: A Case Study,” he presented a methodology for the assessment of sources which was very helpful.
  • Researchers who wish to achieve a high standard of professionalism should not use transcribed indexes as the source, e.g. SSDI, CaDI, or many of the family search finds which do not have an image.  One must go to the source of information on the index if it exists.
  • Books should be considered “finding aids.”  When using a book as a source, we need to assess where the author obtained the information and go there instead.  (This also was stressed later in the week by Craig Scott in his “Brick Walls” sessions.)

This was one lecture on one day!  And the rest of the lectures were “chockablock” with info throughout.  I will blog about some of my other enlightenments I received on the way to and from Alaska in subsequent postings.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: Arrived in Seattle this morning, and was picked up by our neighbor and friend, Joan.  Very well coordinated exiting of 2500 people from a ship to the ground (an amazing feat).  I went to yoga but for some reason couldn’t do “tree” very well!  🙂 ; cleaned out the suitcase and petted the cat.  Did an BCG assessment of 5 client reports I have completed.  I will post that assessment and solicit your input in the coming few days.

(1) Lecture by Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG (SM), CGL (SM), FASG, FUGA, FNGS,  (address withheld), “Missing Something?  Getting the Most out of Genealogical Evidence,” referring to the Board for Certification of Genealogists, The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, (Orem, Utah: Ancestry,2000), 1a. 2012 Genealogy Conference and Cruise, 16-23 September 2012.  Syllabus held by Jill Morelli (address withheld).

(2) Interview with Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG (SM), CGL (SM), FASG, FUGA, FNGS, (address withheld), 2012 Genealogy Conference and Cruise, 20 September 2012.  Notes held by Jill Morelli (address withheld).

(3) Lecture by Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG (SM), CGL (SM), FASG, FUGA, FNGS,  (address withheld), “The Genealogical Proof Standard: What It Is and What It Is Not,” 2012 Genealogy Conference and Cruise, 16-23 September 2012.  Syllabus held by Jill Morelli (address withheld).

Do you have any hints about writing the Case Study?

One of the requirements is to write a case study which indicates the usage of indirect evidence in formulating the proof.  You have three choices (note: these are taken directly from the BCG Application Manual).  I am using the first:

  •  assembling and correlating indirect evidence
  • resolving a conflict between two or more items of direct evidence
  • resolving conflict between direct evidence and indirect evidence

For the past couple of days I have been rewriting my case study based on my readings.  It is a difficult paper to write because you have to get the information to flow logically and you probably obtained the information out of sequence.  For this paper I am really relying on my reading of examples, the ESM article in the September 1999 NGS quarterly and the examples in the Standards Manual.

The problem I am using is that of my great grandmother, Grietje (nee Wienenga) Bode.  She immigrated with a family that was not her birth family at age 15.  She married at 19.  I have lots of information about her in the US.   I had looked for a long time but hadn’t found a link to the name of her village in Europe.  Eventually I had to 1.) identify a sister, 2.) find out where the sister was from, 3.) see if the sister and Grietje showed up in the same village parish record and then 4.) see if they had the same parents.  There was enough information from a wide variety of sources that led me to finally conclude that Eda Eckhoff (married name) was her sister.  I admit that with today’s electronic databases (IL marriage, e.g.) this problem would not have taken so long to resolve.

Here are some hints for writing this paper.  I am no expert on these….in fact, I am listing them because I am still struggling with them.

  1. pick a simple discovery.  Do not go for your most complex one.  I say this because by the time you are done, even the simple one will be many pages, and many sources long
  2. define the problem you wish to write about.  I struggled with whether I was going to prove a tradition or find Grietje’s village or her parents or what.  Carefully define what you are trying to solve.
  3. Start at the beginning.  This is often hard to determine or at least harder than you think.
  4. Build your information from the perspective of the reader not from your perspective.  This may mean some sources come into the narrative earlier than you actually discovered them.
  5. Walk away from it every once in a while.  When you come back you will look at it with fresh eyes.
  6. If your argument is weak in some areas admit it and see what you can do to strengthen it (a source you hadn’t thought about, an interview you hadn’t done)
  7. I think the hardest part is deciding what NOT to put in.  There are often so much “chaff” surrounding these types of conclusions it can be difficult deciding what not to include.  (That’s why I am at 11 pages!)

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  written and rewritten the case study document.  It is better now than it was primarily because it is more tightly defined, I worked at starting at the beginning.  It still suffers from too much “chaff”.