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.




Genealogy Junket I: Winter 2016

Clock 4I am going on a genealogy junket–actually two of them in 2016!  I am very excited.  All of this is made possible because I am retiring from the University of Washington after 10 years on 6 January 2016.  After that date, my genealogical career stretches in front of me!

But– not so fast!

There’s a submission to BCG that calls me (and sometimes weighs heavily on me) to complete.

Here is a general itinerary (note: I am driving, which my husband thinks is a little nuts because of the roads etc. in the winter, but you are only “young” once.) The dates are subject to some variation

17 January: leave Seattle for SLC
18 or 19 January: arrive SLC
goals: research in the library. This is the week after SLIG. I will share some of that time with my friend Trish from Seattle.
23 January: leave SLC
24 January:  arrive in Silverthorne, CO
goals: start writing like crazy and meet up with a friend from OSU who lives now in Denver and continue my conversation with Annette. I will be up in the mountains.
28 January: leave CO
29 January: arrive Santa Fe
goal: meet up with cousin and reconnaissance on future possible retirement spots
1 February: leave for Tucson, AZ
2 February: arrive in Tucson and stay at a friend’s “la casita”
goal: “complete” portfolio; I suspect I will still have some missing documents but I want to get it to 98% ready to submit.
22 February: fly to Savannah GA
goal: annual meet up with WAUA (Women Association of University Architects)
25 February: fly back to Tucson
26 February: leave Tucson for San Diego
goal: visit brother and sister-in-law and long time friend from Ohio
29 February: leave SD for Fresno
goal: visit with Ostfriesen friend in Fresno
2 March: leave Fresno and head north to Seattle

In the summer I will do a similar marathon to the Midwest. Along the way I will attend three genealogy conferences (BYU, Ostfriesen and FGS) and a milestone high school class reunion.  I will also drive and take about 6 weeks.

On the to do list: prepare for SLC, i.e. work up a research plan for each of the issues that I want to explore while I am there.  If I have a good plan or series of plans then the writing will come easier when I am in Tucson.

I have to be back in Seattle no later than 10 March as I make presentations for two national academic conferences back-to-back: Nordic Immigration & Emigration conference and the Association of Popular Culture (co-presenting with Lisa Oberg).

If your travels or your life intersects with any of those stops, I would love to have coffee/tea with you.  Let me know.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: submitted 3 proposals to Legacy for “member bonus” webinars; mostly worked on getting ready to go to CO for Christmas, baked biscotti like a maniac to give as gifts at work. Heard back from Minnesota Genealogical Society–I will be doing a webinar for them in November of 2016.


NGS 2015: “Take-Aways”

I like to ask each attendee at my presentations to identify one of their “take-aways”–those ideas or thoughts which resonated strongly with them.  These “take-aways” (TA) are often just a couple of comments related to each presentation. By writing them down, the attendee will better remember something about the presentation and I can tell what portion of the presentation was important to that particular attendee.  Those thoughts give me ideas about the parts I should emphasize the next time I give it.

2015 NGS crowdSo here are some of the sessions I attended at NGS and my “take-aways.”  The non-genealogists who read this blog might find the variety of the titles interesting.  The genealogist who attended NGS this year might compare their TAs with mine. And, the genealogists who didn’t attend might want to put the NGS conference on their “bucket list” for next year (Fort Lauderdale FL, 4-7 May 2016)

“Iowa: Fields of Genealogical Opportunity” (Marieta Grissom):  a general overview of the resources of the state of Iowa presented by the writer of the NGS Series on the States.

TA: there are numerous small repositories in the state but I feel that I have exhausted most of the relevant ones; the author missed the Ostfriesen collection in Wellsburg, Iowa. And you have to love the Iowa censuses.

“Analyzing Deeds and Wills: I See What It “Says” But What Does it “Mean”?” (Elizabeth Shown Mills):

TA: One of the best presentations i attended; she wrings information out of a deed.  It gave me lots of hints about how to systematically review a deed for my portfolio.

Transcriptions, Abstraction & the Records” (David McDonald).  Transcription and abstraction is a critical skill for a genealogist.

TA: Narrow the focus of the research question associated with the document, e.g “why is the grantor selling the land?” As you do a research plan, make sure you indicate where (repository) you would probably find the information.  A “gold star” presentation.

“So You Think You Want to Get Married: Marriage Records, Laws and German Customs” (Baerbel K. Johnson):

TA: Unfortunately what I remember is that the speaker was not feeling well and coughed through the entire presentation.  The presentation was on customs of Bavaria, a much different area than Ostfriesland.  Ostfriesland’s freedoms, tho’ limited in this same time period (1800s), were more liberal than Bavaria’s, e.g. individuals had a greater ability to move around and had lesser stigma associated with illegitimacy.

“Overcoming Surprising Research Barriers: A Case Study” (Tom Jones)

TA:  another memorable session on research plans and their development; this will also be applicable to my BCG portfolio.

“Introduction to Tracing your Czech Roots” (Amy Wachs)

TA: Hubby’s background on his maternal side is Czech.  This gave me a great background of some readily available records. Unfortunately, the presenter felt compelled to treat the audience like they had never done any genealogical research and spent the first 45 min. discussing US records.  I would have appreciated a little different balance but there were probably others in the audience who felt it was very appropriate.

“A Methodology for Irish Emigration to North America” (David Rencher): Head of FamilySearch and an excellent presenter.

TA: David presented a very interesting statistical approach to determining the most likely parish within a County to investigate to find your ancestor.   I am hoping this may help my friend who does not know the parish of birth of her ancestor but knows he came from County Roscomman.

That was the first two days.  There were still two days to go!  No wonder I came back energized and exhausted.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  I have worked with about 6 or the 8 authors for the next SGS Bulletin to get documents to the editor for proofing.  I also set up the template for the Bulletin, changing what I could for this issue, etc. I want to publish before I go to a conference the end of June.  Also, realized I had forgotten to send a contract to Cape Cod/Falmouth so worked on that and I submitted my 6 proposals to Ohio Genealogical society for their 2016 conference.  Getting excited for Jamboree.

Photo: taken by the author prior to the live streaming session of Alison Hare, “A Time of Cholera: A Case Study about Context,” another gold star presentation.  Read the book about the topic: The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson.

Questions for NGSQ Study Group: Linkenheim

to educate clipI volunteered to facilitate the NGSQ Study Group for September.  For these online events, an article is selected from the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ), one per month.  The group then meets online on the third Tuesday of  every month to discuss about the article.  The facilitator ‘s responsibility is to questions and lead the discussion.  The goal is to educate ourselves about writing successful proof arguments by reading and analyzing articles selected from the magazine.  About 8-10 participate in each chat.

After reading a few of the “Q” articles, as they are often called, you realize that these are not about whether you have a family member mentioned in the article the discovery of the methodology the author used to uncover the answer to the research question.  Each article is a case study of a proof argument.

I thought I would blog about the study group and the questions I will pose to the group on 16 September.  Sometime after the 16th, I will post a summary of the answers to the questions.

The article:  Lynn Fisher, “Uncovering the Linkenheim, Baden, Origin of Ludwig Fischer of Cook County, Illinois,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 99 (September 2011) 199-212.

The questions:

  1. What is the research question?
  2. Based on Tom Jones’s book, Mastering Genealogical Proof, there are three methodologies for the organization of a proof argument: single hypothesis, multiple hypotheses or building blocks. (MGP p. 89) What type of proof argument do you think this article represents and why?
  3. The author says this was solved using “standard genealogical methods.” Do you agree? (NGSQ p. 208)  What are your standard genealogical methods?
  4. Which of the tables helped your understanding of the argument?  Did any tables seem superfluous or even  hinder your understanding of the argument?
  5. Did the author convince you of her conclusion?
  6. There are different approaches the author could have taken in writing her conclusion.  Discuss some alternatives for this article.
  7. This article had a Genealogical Summary.  Have you every written one?  If so, tell us about your experience.  What style did you use — Register or NGSQ?
  8. What did you learn from this article that you can apply to your own writing or research?

Thanks to Patty McIntyre for organizing us and being a great cheerleader for the group. If you would like to join contact Patty at

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since I last posted: Went to yoga!  restrategized my submission to BCG for certification.  I am transcribing a different document.  got pretty far with it.  woohoo!  filled out an evaluation about the Washington State Genealogical Conference; got to final draft on the client report and worked on a couple of my new presentations.

How does one revigorate certification?

I am not sure what “switch was flipped” but in the past few weeks I have been totally reinvigorated about certification.  Maybe what happened is I passed through the typical stages…you know them:

"light at the end of the tunnel"

“light at the end of the tunnel”

Stage 1:  I don’t know what I don’t know:  This led to an overconfidence of my abilities and made certification seem easily within reach.

Stage 2: I know what I don’t know:  This was the scary time, especially at the beginning.  It was a time when it seemed like there was so much to know that I couldn’t possibly ever be qualified to be certified, much less write the portfolio for submission.

Stage 3:  I know what I know.  I am not at this stage yet. I definitely feel like I am in the middle of Stage 2 but “feel like” I can see the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

So, what pulled me out of this crisis of conscience?  Action! Taking the ProGen course helped a lot. (I am on lesson 8 of 19) and holding my own.  In one week I will start start the 8 week course based on Mastering Genealogical Proof by Tom Jones and mentored by Karen Stanbury.  In January I will be attending the Salt Lake Institute for Genealogy’s class Advanced Methodologies taught by Tom Jones.  I am looking forward to all of these opportunities to improve my skills.

But, those are looking forward…ie. they are the “light at the end of the tunnel.”  What has happened that has made me get to the point where I can even see the light?  (at some point this metaphor will run its course!).  There were a number of things.

The article on Grietje Wientjes and her sister Eda being accepted in the Illinois State Genealogy Quarterly was definitely an ego boost when I really needed it.  I also had a long talk with the Publications Editor of the Quarterly and her issues were my issues for the SGS Bulletin…..I think the various publications chairs would be a very supportive community if we could tap into it in a more organized way.  She, too, was taking ProGen, so we had much to talk about.  In addition, I received a very nice note from Judy Russell (The Legal Genealogist) who was very supportive of what I had written and who encouraged me to apply.

I am working very hard at ProGen and really want to bring my “A-game” to the group.  There seems to be 3 or 4 of us in our cohort that have these same goals.  We work hard, critique using BCG standards and just “take it.”  It’s working.

I have started writing the Case Study….I realized that I was making the determination of the problem too hard.  I thought I didn’t have any unresolved issues (Stage 1) but as soon as I got a good (better?) handle on the Genealogical Process Map I realized that every relationship qualifies, it’s just that some are more challenging than others.  I picked one with conflicting direct evidence and I am writing, writing, writing.

While I haven’t decided for sure which of my family lines to use for the Kinship Determination Project. I have several good ones I could use, even after publishing Grietje Wientjes.  While I could extract her section from my submission exactly, I think that I will probably not do that.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  Prepped for my MGP class, writing a great blog on Mrs. Frank Bunce (d. 1881) which will not be posted until January (you’ll know why when you read the posting.), cleaned my office because of my aunt’s visit,  reading about Swedish emigration/immigration, trying to find any published materials other than OGSA’s on the Ostfriesens (not finding anything), sewed 6 cute linen tops–with adorable buttons.  Attended a conference in San Diego for my “day job”.  started getting ready for a speaking gig for SGS on self publishing (note: the 210 hardbound books arrived just in time for the big event for my client–woo hoo!) ,  worked with Puget Sound Association of Professional Genealogists to determine the viability of submitting a program to UW continuing education which would revamp the program.  It will be presented tomorrow.  Played golf with hubby.

Have you done a research plan before?

I haven’t, not really.  The development of a research plan is our next assignment for the ProGen virtual study group.  I am  challenged by by the assignment because I have a hard time conceptualizing all the sources there could be for any particular problem. Yet, the development of a research plan is a component of the portfolio for BCG Certification with the transcription of the documents.  My anxiety over the assignment was increased when the class was referred to a research plan by Elizabeth Shown Mills which was 8 pages long!  I doubt my report of findings on the work I do related to the research plan will be 8 pages long.  (Anyone see the movie, The Paper Chase? 🙂 )

The link for the ESM research plan is:

I googled “genealogy research plans” and got articles about writing research plans but no real examples.  (Is this one of those things where we say we ought to do this but the reality is quite different?)  I even listed to a webinar concerning research plans which was more of a source cataloging spreadsheet system.

So….I asked two experts, Tom Jones and Craig Scott.

The issue of research plans was bothering me even last September when I was on the cruise.  I had drafted, what I thought, was a pretty good research plan.  I had my genealogical question, background information, an assessment, and I included likely sources, an assessment of the sources and some questions about what to do next.

Tom and Craig were consistent:  They both said I needed to reduce what I wanted to find out to a single measurable question and that their research plans only include some questions about what to do next and none of the other “stuff”.

The single question comment was very interesting…My focus was to “What could I find about the elusive Frederick Eilers, second husband of Ida (nee Van Hoorn) Berg.”  Both of them said that my question was too broad and must be modified to be measurable.  So I changed it to “What was the death date of Frederick Eilers, second husband of Eda/Ida Berg.”

My assignment will not measure up to outlined standards if I just include the research question and a list of possible places to look.  So, I will have to do more; but, I found it interesting what nationally known researchers do for a research plan.  I will also find it interesting to see what others in the class create.

I think the “bottom line” is that research plans vary widely. What you write depends on whether you are trying to glean all information from an historical document or whether you have trod the research path you are traveling before.  The problems may result in a plan that is 1 or 8 pages long depending on the scale of the problem.  I have decided to write a plan around a relationship that I am verifying. I’ll post what I end up with (or maybe after I incorporate some of the good ideas of the study group!).

Happy Hunting


What I have done since the last posting:  not much since it was just a few minutes ago…made breakfast,  pet the cat,  Packed book to send back to Amazon and remembered that one of my SF friends wants to hire me.  I will have to contact her.  Woo hoo!

What would be an effective way to conduct an assessment of my reports?

“…6. Review up to five reports or articles against the BCG Genealogical Standards Manual and determine how many meet all acceptable standards and how many meet only some of them.” (1)

Some time ago I took the readiness quiz for BCG certification on their website and found they recommended that I assess my reports against the standards by which BCG determines whether you are eligible to become a “certified genealogist.”  The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (2) is a guide published by the BCG to assist those interested in knowing the standards of any genealogist and/or the process to become a certified genealogist. On the website however, is a series of rubrics which are used to assess the qualifications of the applications.  I decided to use those rubrics for my standards, assess five of my client reports and then assess these reports as viable candidates for submission. (3)

There is good news and good news….

They are better than I thought and I am getting better and I can still improve!  That is all great news.  I still have not succeeded in accumulating 20 points; I do not read enough peer reviewed articles for the past two years to qualify.  I have, however, figured out whether I went wrong on the count of the total number of possible points (21).  The use of courthouses, archives and major genealogical libraries is only valued at one point, not one for each, i.e. three points)

Here is the assessment with analysis.  Comments are welcomed.

Assessment Rubrics

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  fed the cat, called my daughter as it is her birthday!

(1) Board for Certification of Genealogists®, “Are you ready for certification?”, online <> accessed 23 September 2012.

(2) Board for Certification of Genealogists®, The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, (Orem, Utah: Ancestry,2000).

(3) Board for Certification of Genealogists®, “Rubrics for Evaluation New Applications for BCG Certification,” online as a PDF file named BCGNewAppRubricsMar2012(3).pdf, revised 15 March 2012, online <>, downloaded 23 September 2012.