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.

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).

Am I ready to apply for BCG certification?


I spent last night reviewing a number of the subsites at the BCG site.  They have a quiz there that you are to take to determine whether you are skilled/knowledgeable enough to do the work at a level that is necessary to have a credible application.  It was interesting.  You are “supposed” to score 20 of 23 points on all questions or you should reconsider whether you are ready to apply.  The one I lost the most points on was the question pertaining to reading five peer-reviewed journals (NGSQ, TAG, NEHGR, NYGBR, The Genealogist. I subscribe and read only one–NGSQ) for two years minimum.  I would be interested in your opinion of the relative value of subscribing vs. just taking a trip to my local library regularly and copying/reading a few of the articles. And, which ones?  Is there value for a person from the NW and who works in the Midwest to subscribing to either NEHGR or NYGBR?  if so which one makes for a better illustration of scholarly writing?

Here is the link for the quiz: 

I do think that the rigor of my education is lacking and so last night I put myself on the waiting list for ProGen.  I am very interested in its structure.  It’s an 18 month program and uses Professional Genealogist by ESM as its text.  It meets virtually with a mentor to discuss the assignments that have already been shared and reviewed by the class.  Since much of the class is oriented towards serving clients, I think that I have enough experience to find a professional mentor helpful.  And you would have the camaraderie of a group of like minded genealogists.

Here is the link for the ProGen Study Group:

My next post (probably) will cover the analysis related to the last question on the quiz: assess five of your reports against the rubrics of the BCG Certification.  I think this will not only re-acquaint me with the standards against which you are measured but also show me if I am consistently missing any particular area and be a terribly humbling experience!  Stay tuned for this one.

The rubrics are in PDF format so you will have to click on the link after getting to the site via:

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  made an appt. to meet with my client, Stephanie, to review the draft of the book; did some research on the paternal side for her report.  I am gaining experience working in the southern states but it is harder for this “northerner” than I was expecting.  You really do have to live in any area to do genealogy in the area well.  It seems like there are far fewer documents than in the north.  (of course, being from Iowa which has an enormous amounts of on-line records, I admit to being spoiled! I signed up for ProGen (they place you on a waiting list until they have 24). I finished up my reimbursibles for the conference and submitted them to the association’s Treasurer.