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.




Webinar: Tips for Presenters

headset and meI have recently been asked to conduct two webinars, one for the Southern California Genealogical Society and the other for Legacy Software Webinars. I am very excited as I have never presented in that media before. (that’s me on the left reading the instructions–it’s pretty much “plug and play.”)

For the uninitiated, “webinar” is a combo word joining “web” + “seminar” and is an on line educational event where attendees listen to the lecture and view the slides on their own device–laptop, tablet–I have even listed to one from my phone.  During the live portion of the webinar, participants can ask questions and make comments. Webinars are often then archived by the host forming a library of genealogical presentations for use of their members or subscribers.

I have listened to many webinars and try to listen to the SCGS and the Legacy webinars whenever I can, but I have not previously participated with the intent of listening for the “good” and the “bad” of webinar speakers.  Here are a few comments I received about how to be a better webinar speaker and how to deliver a successful webinar.

  • get comfortable with “talking to yourself,” i.e. there is no audience and so no immediate audience feedback.
  • script or no script? People’s advice varied but all said it was a matter of personal choice and what you are most comfortable with. A script can sound, well, “scripted.” Ultimately, you must use the system that is most comfortable for you which still allows you to convey a warm friendly presentation.
  • know your presentation cold
  • practice the technology at least 24 hours ahead of time; not two hours before.
  • watch the time…you do not want to go over the limit.
  • consider taping yourself and listening to it.  When one does that, small idiosyncrasies reveal themselves.  Unnecessary speech patterns–ahs, ums, or others– or verbal descriptions which seem vague can then be corrected for the final presentation.
  • give the presentation live in other venues first.
  • at the time of presentation, get into the right mindset–wear the clothes you would wear for a formal “in person” presentation, have water handy and act and be your professional self.

Great comments from my friends and mentors–thank you!

If you have never participated in a webinar, it is very easy. Most require a preregistration.

January 2: 10:00 am PT: “The ‘Push’ and the ‘Pull’: Decision-Making of a 19th Century Emigrant,”   hosted by the Southern California Genealogical Society (SCGS). On their main page, find the webinar and click on “sign up now.” (  Once you fill out the form and submit, an email will be sent to you with a link to the webinar.  You can register any time that the webinar is advertised on the site, usually a month in advance (it should be posted on the 18th of December). A few minutes before the presentation time, click on the link sent in the email and the viewing software will automatically enable after you give it permission. That’s it!  If your computer does not have speakers, then call using the phone number provided.  It’s very easy and very free.  If you miss the webinar and want to listen later, you have to be an SCGS member.

April 20, 10:00 am PT: “Fire Insurance Maps: Google Maps of their Day” hosted by Legacy Software Webinars. Legacy webinars have a similar signup process as SCGS. Log on to and click on “Upcoming Live Webinars.” Click on the webinar you want to watch and fill out the same type of form as SCGS. Similarly, you will be sent an email in advance on how to access the webinar on the day. A few moments before the webinar click on the link and watch.  If you miss the initial live presentation, Legacy allows you to view it free in the archive for about a week. After the first week you must be a subscriber to view.

Be careful of the time zone differences. Since the initial webinar is live, you must account for the differences in time zones.  If you are viewing an archived webinar, you can watch at your own convenience.

If you haven’t watched a webinar before, give it a try.  Many genealogical organizations present webinars which are often offered free. For example, check with your state genealogical society as they may have a webinar program as well (I know MN, WI and IL each have their own webinar series.) They are great fun and you can learn a lot.

A calendar of some genealogy webinars is posted at Geneawebinars: I counted 36 webinars or other online genealogy events for the month of January. It appears neither SCGS nor Legacy post their events there.

This might be my final post before the Christmas holidays and so I wish you and your family the best of holiday seasons and…Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post: I worked on my transcripts and made great progress.  I even found a better document to transcribe and switched. I started work on a new client report (The others  were two years old and I have learned much since then.) Talked to a new client–I am not encouraging new clients these days due to other demands– but this was interesting and local. I am preparing for my “Winter Genealogy Junket”–making reservations and contacting friends along the way to reduce the cost.  The goal of the junket is to complete the portfolio (may be some wrap up items), submit my syllabi for NGS and Jamboree, refresh the presentation for NGS on “Death and Dying” and complete the two short presentations for the academic conferences in March. I will be blogging about my progress so be prepared for my “genealogical travel journal.”


How do you do research plans?

I struggle with what works and I would like to hear from you about your approach to research plans/planning.

I have come to the following conclusions:

  • what works for me, probably won’t work for you.
  • every problem is different enough that perhaps the research plan “template” varies from problem to problem
  • I want to be able to see all my investigative work together

I started out by trying to make my research plan “do too much”.  I listened to a webinar by Marion Pierre-Louis on research plans.  I thought her system might work; she had a series of forms and filled them in as she went along.  After trying her system it ended up being too cumbersome for me; every problem had four templates.  It seemed redundant to me.  I spent more time figureing which form I was to use than doing the research.  I also found that the forms do not allow for the serendipity to be recorded, i.e. the discovery you find that you didn’t plan on.  I ended up with too many pieces of paper, with very little on some and a significant number of insertions on another.  And none of which allowed me to see what I was doing in a single glance.  I am just better off writing up each problem in the following way:

  1. Name of Person (b. ____, d._____)
  2. Today’s Date
  3. What is the question I am trying to answer?
  4. What is known?
  5. What sources may help me answer the question?
  6. Where are these sources located?
  7. When pursued, what information=> evidence did these sources provide?

I admit I am still trying to figure out an approach to identifying Frederick Eilers, second husband of my Ida/Eda (van) Berg(en), b. 1811, d. 1889.  Using the approach numbered above, I discovered that though I knew very little, I did know his birth location.  This is huge.  So by writing this up, I think my next avenue is to pursue him from Germany to the US and try to see if I can work his life forward, rather than trying to work it backward….and which I was having no luck.

I think I will formally write up this research problem and see if there are any other discoveries.

This may be my last posting for a week, as I will be away with little internet access.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: finished a difficult client report for Theresa.  This took many more hours than I wanted to expend but I also do not like shortchanging reports.  I also did more clean up on the conference, watched another legacy webinar on Indirect Evidence and compiled some information for the cruise so I can be prepared whatever “extra” one-on-one I get (assuming I get one at all!) I also started working on Mary’s German (Mettendorf/Messerich) investigation.  Read an Illinois Research Guide to see if there were any clues there for how to get to Mr. Eilers. No big revelations but some leads to pursue.

Ever gone down a rabbit hole so far that you had trouble digging yourself out?

Well, I did today!  I share this experience because it might be helpful to some one out there  and it might foster a laugh, if nothing else because it happened to me and not to you!

I have been working on Susan’s project.  This is a very interesting project with the ultimate goal of self publishing a family book.  I was determining the parents of one of Susan’s ancestors.  the known ancestor had a common surname but an uncommon given name.  I easily found her exactly in the county she should be in and I proceeded to enter the data, and enter the data, and enter the data…..census after census, until I discovered that this ancestor showed up in an early census with her parents when she was supposed to have been married!  I started looking and discovered there were two women with the same given and surname, in the same county born two years apart (certainly within the guesstimate gauge of the censuses).  And, of two choices, I had picked wrong.  I had tied Susan’s ancestor to the wrong person.  OUCH.

It was relatively easy to fix but it was a bit of a “reveille” for me.  I need to be more careful with every ancestral relationship.

Susan would like to have a book.  I have recently published the Jens T. Dahle project. It took me many hours.  I want to develop a method for setting the graphic standard and putting the book together in as short a time as reasonable.

Here are some ideas that I will use:

  • don’t let the book that must be written quickly be the first one.  I took a long time (months) with book number one.  Almost wrote the whole thing in landscape orientation before rewriting the whole book in portrait
  • do a “story board,” where you lay out each page in draft form so you get the idea of what data you are missing and what you have.
  • come up with a graphic scheme that is pleasing to your client and live with it.
  • leave lots of “air” for readability and last minute add ins.  The Jens book is the most densely written of any of my three. At the end I added four pages at the front.
  • focus on what information you have, not on what you do not have.  In my first book, I had a lot of original BMD information from Sweden.  I used that.  The second book, I only had access to transcriptions and so I built the book around a letter the ancestor had written about the immigration experience (yes, the letter still exists, all 37 pages of it, written in 1865.)
  • follow the KISS principle

I would love to hear your ideas.  If you can help me be more efficient with my time to get a quality ancestral book written, let me know.

You can see the Jens book on  Here is the link:

Happy hunting!


Done since the last post:  Wrote up two more contracts for work.  Listened to two webinars, “Putting Flesh on the bones” (an interesting case study) and one on German research (very elementary.  I was hoping for a higher level presentation.); worked on Susan’s project and ordered some films from the FHL for Mary’s project. Sent the Jens book to Mary just in time for her to take it with her to her family reunion.  They found a death date I had missed on Jens’s Dad.  Good job, Mary and Paul!