Coming from OnBoard in September 2015

OnBoard: Newsletter of the Board for Certification of Genealogists is scheduled for publication in September 2015. We’re privileged to offer a preview of the content.

“Planning Effective Research”

Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG, understands how some genealogists struggle with the idea of planning ahead in their research. If you are sometimes less efficient than you’d like in online searches or when visiting a repository, Laura has some practical advice for maximizing your effectiveness with advance preparation and sound research-plan design.

“Genealogy Experiments: Indirect Evidence Up Close”

If you’re stuck in your research with no apparent way over the brick wall, Harold Henderson, CG, may have an answer for you. He tells us how adopting an “experimental attitude” to genealogy might be the key to a breakthrough in a tough problem. His article dissects a case of migrating, common-surnamed individuals and describes how evidence mining and correlation led to identifying parents.

OnBoard is published in January, May, and September. A subscription is included in annual associate fees and for applicants “on the clock.” Subscriptions are also available to the general public for $15.00 a year (currently) through the BCG website. Issues back to 1995 can also be ordered online.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer, are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

BCG Education Fund Announces New Trustee

Trish Hackett Nicola, CG

The trustees of the BCG Education Fund announce that Patricia “Trish” Hackett Nicola, CG, of Seattle, Washington, will join the board as a trustee. Trish is an accomplished genealogist specializing in nineteenth- and twentieth-century family history research and historical research in Washington State. Since 2001 she has volunteered with the National Archives-Seattle Branch, which holds the Chinese Exclusion Act case files. Her blog, Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, shows the types of information that can be found and how researchers can access it. Trish has a Bachelor of Science in accounting from the University of Colorado and is a retired CPA. She has a Master of Science degree in library service and worked as a reference librarian before becoming a full-time professional genealogist. The skills Trish honed as a CPA, librarian, and archive volunteer will benefit the BCG Education Fund. BCG Education Fund trustee Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, said, “We are fortunate to welcome a colleague of her caliber, and we look forward to working with her.”

Trish replaces  Kathy Gunter Sullivan, CG, resigning in her eighth year of service with the BCG Education Fund. Kathy led the trustees in creating the Education Fund’s substantial presence in genealogical education.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

BCG Education Fund: Kathy Gunter Sullivan Retires from Board

After eight years of volunteer service, Kathy Gunter Sullivan, CG, of Charlotte, North Carolina, has retired from the BCG Education Fund board of trustees. From 2007 through 2014, Kathy was the Education Fund secretary and streamlined its administrative procedures. She led the trustees in planning and executing its programs, which are the annual Putting Skills To Work workshop, the biannual Helen F. M. Leary Distinguished Lecture series, and the Mosher Award for Colonial Virginia Research. She secured exclusive one-year rights for the Education Fund to outstanding lectures by Thomas W. Jones and Elizabeth Shown Mills. She promoted incorporating additional topics into the Education Fund’s offerings, such as law, proof arguments, and genetics. In 2015, Kathy stepped forward to serve as treasurer pro tem. Her forward thinking and organizational skills contributed to the Education Fund’s substantial presence in genealogical education.

Kathy Gunter Sullivan, CG

Kathy is celebrating her twentieth year as a BCG associate. In addition to a 1992 history of her German-descent Dellinger ancestors, she edited and published nine volumes of original records of five different North Carolina counties. Her work was recognized in 1990 and again in 2003 by the North Carolina Genealogical Society with its Award of Excellence in Publishing and by the North Carolina Historical Society’s 1990 Award of Excellence. She created the Lincoln County Tax Records Project 1778–1840, making it available on  North Carolina GenWeb. She frequently teaches, presents, and publishes in her geographical region. Numerous articles have appeared in the North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal, and she is presenting a webinar for the Society on 18 September 2015. Kathy is an assistant editor of OnBoard, BCG’s in-house publication, and co-administrator of a private Dellinger family website.

CG and Certified Genealogist are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Welcome, Michael J. Leclerc, CG

Michael J. Leclerc has been involved in the field of genealogy for better than two decades. He worked for seventeen years at the New England Historic Genealogical Society before moving to his present position as Mocavo’s Chief Genealogist. Amassing decades of practice was the best thing he did to prepare for certification, according to Michael, who says he believes that “one needs a certain level of experience to be best prepared for the process.”

Born and raised in New England, Michael has called the city of Boston his home for more than twenty-five years. Both his paternal and maternal ancestors are French Canadian. His grandparents and great-grandparents immigrated to New England.

Michael J. Leclerc, CG

Michael’s greatest passions are music and genealogy. As a member of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, he has had the opportunity to travel in America, Europe, and the Middle East. His work in genealogy has taken him throughout North America, the Caribbean, and England. “I’ve always been interested in history,” he exclaims. “Genealogy is one way of bringing history down to the personal level. It allows me to look at history from a different angle. Also, I’ve always been a bit of a mystery buff, and genealogy is just an endless series of mysteries. Every time you find one answer, you create two new mysteries.”

Two such mysteries comprise Michael’s most stubborn brick-wall problems. One involves his research on a young man in his own family who was carried captive from New England to Quebec during the Colonial Wars. The other stems from his research on Benjamin Franklin’s family. Michael has been frustrated in attempts to identify the given name of one of Franklin’s nieces. He explains that the niece “does not have a first name in her birth record. In a letter written by the niece’s sister to Benjamin, she makes reference to the unnamed niece and that niece’s son, a ship captain in Wales. And the estate of Benjamin Franklin gives me the niece’s married surname: ‘Games.’ Unfortunately, I have no first names for the niece, her husband, or her son. And this little area of Wales is ground zero for that name.”

Teaching others about genealogy is one of Michael’s favorite genealogy-related activities. “Seeing the lights go on in someone’s eyes when they finally figure out a concept that they can apply to their own work and break down their brick walls is so much fun,” he reveals. He also enjoys writing, and he stresses that “having . . . work published is the best way to be certain that it will be there for future researchers to find.” Michael appreciates opportunities to explore new ground—different time periods, locations, and ethnic backgrounds that let him “start all over and learn from scratch.”

Michael submitted his portfolio after having extended the clock several times. He confesses that if he were starting again, he would have submitted his preliminary application only after having the major components of the portfolio complete or nearly complete. He found the client report challenging, as he has not conducted research for clients in some time, but the most difficult aspect of the application process for Michael was editing his own work. Being forced to work on his portfolio alone, he says, “illustrated . . . how collaborative I am in my work.”

Michael says he “draws inspiration from people,” including genealogists Gary Boyd Roberts, Paula Stuart-Warren, Jim Warren, Cyndi Ingle, Henry B. Hoff, and Patricia Law Hatcher. He counts Donald Lines Jacobus, John Insley Coddington, and the Holmans, genealogists who “did so much in the twentieth century to introduce quality research and standards to the field,” among his genealogical heroes.

He also draws strength from the words of others. Michael’s college band director taught him a Teddy Roosevelt quote that is still a source of encouragement:

 “It is not the critic who counts; nor the one who points out how the strong person stumbled, or where the doer of a deed could have done better. The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the field . . . Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

In the coming years Michael hopes to continue writing and teaching about genealogy, adding “. . . if I am doing this while moving between homes in Boston, midtown Manhattan, and London with a fantastic husband, I wouldn’t object!”

“I like to think that between music and genealogy, I am leaving the world a bit better off than before I was here,” he said. “Life is too short. We need to do our best, reach, stretch, and soar. Don’t let people knock down our dreams and ideas. As Helen Keller said ‘Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing.’ ”

Michael may be reached at michael@genprof.net.

Welcome, Michael!

CG and Certified Genealogist are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Free BCG Webinar: Manuscript Gems with Shellee A. Morehead

Tuesday, 21 July 2015, 8:00 p.m. EDT, Shellee A. Morehead, Ph.D., CG, will present ”Diamonds in the Rough: Finding and Using Manuscript Collections.”

Unique, unpublished materials can be valuable resources for solving those pesky genealogical problems and adding insight and flavor to our family histories. Research is not complete without looking through unusual and one-of-a-kind materials that may be available for the time and place our ancestors lived. Diaries, letters, journals, scrapbooks, and other ephemera can be found in a variety of repositories across the United States. A genealogical society, public or private library, historical society, university, or other entity may have that one piece of paper that illuminates our family’s history. But how can we  find it?

Shellee Morehead, Ph.D., CG

This lecture describes the types of collections that may be hiding in plain sight and how to access them online and in person. Materials that may be found in manuscript collections include maps, photographs, genealogists’ research notes, unpublished histories, business ledgers, journals, and vertical files. Shellee gives examples of how these materials provide insight into our families’ lives and neighborhoods and provides suggestions on where to find the “diamonds in the rough.”

Shellee A. Morehead, Ph.D. (evolutionary ecology), CG, researches, writes, and lectures on family history. Recently she has written about using DNA to reveal the Ulster origins of Thomas Hamilton, progenitor of a colonial American family. She has spoken at The Genealogy Event in New York and at various local societies. She also appeared in a 2010 episode of the Danish television adaptation of Who Do You Think You Are?

Attendance is limited for this free webinar. Once registered, please sign in early to avoid disappointment.

To register for Shellee A. Morehead, Ph.D., CG, “Diamonds in the Rough: Finding and Using Manuscript Collections” on 21 July 2015, 8:00 p.m. EDT (7:00 CDT, 6:00 MDT, 5:00 PDT): https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1093371223246598658.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

BCG Webinars will be on vacation in August 2015. We will resume broadcast in September 2015.

CG and Certified Genealogist are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

10-Minute Methodology: Are You Searching or Researching?

Are you up to date? From the old Standards Manual to the new Genealogy Standards the first component of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) is different. Have you noticed? We used to say, “We conduct a reasonably exhaustive search.”[1] That’s still true, but there’s more. We conduct reasonably exhaustive research.[2] Those two added letters bring much more to what others expect of us as genealogists and what we must expect of ourselves.

Research connotes more than search. It covers searching, of course—careful and thorough searching in a wide variety of sources. It also includes planning, critical thinking, and evaluation. And research includes strategies that go considerably beyond identifying relevant records and searching for a name of interest.[3]

Let’s look at how the concept is presented in reference works we use often.

The Encyclopedia Britannica dictionary includes in its definition of research

  • “careful or diligent search” and
  • “studious inquiry or examination, especially critical and exhaustive investigation . . . having for its aim
    • discovery of new facts and their correct interpretation;
    • revision of accepted conclusions . . . in the light of newly discovered facts;
    • practical applications of such new or revised conclusions.”[4]

The glossary in Genealogy Standards describes research as “an investigation designed to discover or interpret facts and thus to advance knowledge.”[5]

As genealogists, we examine sources and collect information, always subjecting both to critical evaluation. Standards 35 and 36 advise us to “appraise [the] likely accuracy, integrity, and completeness” of our sources and information.[6]

We also interpret the information we find. We think about it and decide if it becomes evidence to support our hypotheses. Standards in “Reasoning from Evidence” apply to the mental processes we perform on our collected data to turn it into evidence and to use that evidence to draw conclusions.[7]

Evidence Explained sheds more light on the concept of research:

  • “As history researchers, we do not speculate. We test. We critically observe and carefully record. Then we weigh the accumulated evidence, analyzing the individual parts as well as the whole, without favoring any theory.”[8]
  • “Research is much more than an accumulation of data. It is a process that requires continual comparison of new information against the old.”[9]

This first element of the GPS, even the word research alone, carries in it the sense and the value of the whole standard. The words of the GPS define us as not just lookup artists, no matter how skilled or experienced. We are more. As researchers we collect data, subject it to rigorous evaluation, compare and contrast it with other data and conclusions, and propose new information or conclusions. That’s a big responsibility. The GPS takes us there with the mindset of researchers, not just seekers.


[1] The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (Orem, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 2000), 1.

[2] Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014), 1.

[3] The author is grateful to Elizabeth Shown Mills for input to this paragraph and encouragement overall.

[4] “Dictionary,” Encyclopædia Britannica (http://www.britannica.com/dictionary/research : accessed 28 June 2015), s.v. “research.”

[5] Genealogy Standards, 76.

[6] Ibid., 21, 22.

[7] Ibid., 23–29.

[8] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2015), 15.

[9] Ibid., 16.

Welcome, Amanda Gonzalez, CG

Amanda Gonzalez’s family is firmly rooted in the Delmarva (Delaware-Maryland-Virginia) area. All her ancestors but one were from colonial Pennsylvania and the Delmarva Peninsula. She first became interested in genealogy when her great-grandmother explained about membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. Amanda followed in her footsteps, joining at age eighteen. A lifelong love of history translated into a degree in history from the University of Delaware. Then followed work for the New Castle [Delaware] Court House Museum and the Hagley Museum, where she offered tours and researched for exhibits. Employment at the New Castle County Library system and the Palomar College Library in San Marcos, California, increased her awareness of the multitude of research resources available and how to access them. Amanda also worked briefly for Genealogists.com.

Amanda Gonzalez, CG

Through bookstore/publisher Colonial Roots’s Facebook page, Amanda met former publisher F. Edward Wright, who engaged her to transcribe court orders. This resulted in two publications, Westmoreland County, Virginia, Court Orders 1726–1729 and Westmoreland County, Virginia, Court Orders 1729–1731.[1] She expects to continue the series with one or two more publications.

Amanda’s personal genealogical research takes her on two different paths. Her own colonial family challenges her with a puzzle of mis-attributed paternity. A Y-DNA tester from her maiden name line, Warren, most closely matches West-surnamed testers. She hopes to narrow down, through documentary research and more DNA testing, when and where the West-Warren link occurred.

On the other hand, the Gonzalez surname strongly suggests Hispanic roots, and in fact Amanda’s husband’s family is Mexican American. Preparing to trace their ancestry means Amanda will be learning more Spanish and studying colonial Spanish handwriting.

Amanda based her portfolio preparation on a thorough knowledge of three books, Genealogy Standards, Evidence Explained, and Professional Genealogy.[2] She read, re-read, and did more re-reading of the standards and the portfolio requirements. Seminars, conferences, and Facebook pages sponsored by local genealogical societies filled in blanks. She took her time, paid attention to every detail, and became more critical in her research process.

Amanda’s father accompanied her on research trips to archives and cemeteries. Before his passing he gifted her the fee for BCG certification, keen to support her interest and career path. With certification under her belt Amanda now feels ready to take clients and looks forward to a thriving genealogical service business. She can be reached at adgulf@cs.com. Welcome, Amanda!


[1] Amanda Gonzalez, Westmoreland County, Virginia, Court Orders 1726–1729 (Millsboro, Del.: Colonial Roots, 2013). Amanda Gonzalez, Westmoreland County, Virginia, Court Orders 1729–1731 (Millsboro, Del.: Colonial Roots, 2013).

[2] Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014). Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 2nd edition (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2009). Elizabeth Shown Mills, ed., Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001).

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Patti Hobbs, CG, New BCG Education Fund Trustee

One of our new BCG associates has recently joined the Board of Trustees of the BCG Education Fund. This non-profit charitable trust furthers BCG’s standards-based education goals. It funds lectures and workshops and provides incentives for study and scholarly research.

Patti Hobbs, CG

The trustees of the BCG Education Fund announce that Patricia “Patti” Lee Hobbs, CG, of Clever, Missouri, joins the board as a trustee. Patti is an accomplished genealogist specializing in DNA analysis and working with original records. She is particularly interested in genealogical education, as evidenced by her longtime position as Local History and Genealogy reference associate at the Springfield-Greene County Library District, where she has taught classes on genetic genealogy and traditional research methodology. This summer she will teach in the genetic genealogy course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

Patti’s teaching and library experience, her skill as a webmaster for the ProGen Study Group, and her leadership roles with the Ozarks Genealogical Society all will benefit the BCG Education Fund going forward. We are fortunate to welcome a colleague of her caliber, and we look forward to working with her.

by Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL
on behalf of the BCG Education Fund Trustees

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Welcome, Barbara Ball, CG

Earlier this month, BCG granted the designation of Certified Genealogist to Barbara Ball of Tucson, Arizona. SpringBoard invites readers to meet Barbara through this interview with editor Judy Kellar Fox, CG.

Who are you, Barbara?

Daughter of a psychologist and a Presbyterian minister, I was born in Montana and moved to Arizona as a toddler.  I’m a Westerner.  I was a tomboy, a motocross racer, and a bookish nerd.  I played the flute, marched in the band, rode horses, and read every book I could get.  I walked barefoot in the desert, loved the summer rains, and became a passionate nature and animal lover.

Barbara Ball, CG

As an adult, I’ve been a bookkeeper, medical transcriptionist, code writer, scientist, cartographer, genealogist, and lifetime student.  I have three university degrees.  I’m a wife, mother, and grandmother.  I still play the flute, do needlework, sew, quilt, play bridge, garden, do jigsaw puzzles, draw, read, and swim.

Tell us about how your academic career has informed your genealogical work.

I was a GIS (geographic information systems) analyst, mapping endangered species habitat.  I loved this work, which involved geographic location of plants and animals, analysis of historic maps, production of current maps, and spatial analysis of patterns found in migration and habitation.  Maps are so crucial to genealogists, and I suppose I will always strive to find a niche in the world of genealogy that involves incorporating more geography and demographics into our work. Oh, I could write a book.  Maybe I will.

You have already published an article about GIS for genealogists, right?

Yes, “Geographic Information Systems for Genealogists,” Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly (APGQ) 32 (June 2014), 78–81. Another is forthcoming in the June 2015 issue of APGQ.

Why do you pursue genealogical research?

Originally it was a fun hobby when I lost my university job.  After I completed the Boston University Online Certificate in Genealogical Research, I realized genealogy could be another career.  Now I see it as I did my academic work—a field of research that is just beginning to develop into a potential academic discipline on its own merits.  While I don’t know exactly how that might happen, I find it a fascinating possibility.  The field is rigorous enough to satisfy my need for academic/scientific discipline, not only in the research process, but also in the logically supported approach to solving a problem or reaching a conclusion.  The hypothesis-research-conclusions process appeals to me.  The field is wide enough to encompass those who just want to click on the leaf as well as those who want to engage in intellectual stretching.

How did you prepare for certification?

Education.  I went through the National Genealogical Society [NGS] American Genealogy: Home Study Course, then the Boston University course, then a ProGen Study Group.  I’ve attended the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy Advanced Evidence Practicum course every year it has been offered, and that has been extremely valuable.

About four months before my due date, I listened to a seminar by Judy Russell, J.D., CG, CGL, about writing the Kinship Determination Project [KDP].  She was adamant that you should never do a KDP without access to onsite research.  I was so unhinged that I immediately scheduled a last-minute and rather expensive trip to Ohio, where I spent four days in the basement of a county courthouse that I had been in already twice before!

Who are your genealogical heroes?

My personal heroes would be Angela McGhie and Kimberly Powell.  These two ladies are busy with their own work and their own lives, yet they always have time to offer support, encouragement, and a smile. They make the profession human. I can’t forget Harold Henderson, Michael Hait, and Melinde Lutz Byrne.  Thank you.

Generically speaking, as a former academic, I have a great deal of respect for those genealogists who have retired from their academic careers and brought that rigorous discipline into the genealogy field.

What is your most satisfying genealogical work?

I love building up a picture of a family system.  While producing the KDP required for my portfolio seemed akin to writing a master’s thesis, it was one of the most interesting things I’ve done.  I love solving a riddle, but more satisfying is just the continual process of describing a family and how their dynamics resulted in a particular descendant, whether it be a family member of mine or a client.

What’s your most frustrating work?

I have two ancestors from Ireland that drive me batty.  I also have a fellow named Ball that seemed to have dropped out of the sky.  My most interesting brick wall involves the members of a very tangled family in England. I have letters from them in my archives, and a whole book of unlabeled photos that I’m sure would help me straighten them out!

How do you see yourself in five years, Barbara?

My husband’s retirement hobby is photography, so I see us taking many trips to areas where I can do research and he can wander around any nearby wildlife areas taking pictures.  I would like to do more client work, and I really enjoy helping my friends with their family research. I hope to be able to move further into the professional realm of genealogy. I would like to do more mapping and spatial analysis projects, demonstrating the value of these tools, as well as writing articles that will be educational for other genealogists.

Congratulations on becoming a BCG associate, Barbara. Welcome!

 Barbara Ball, CG, can be reached at barb@copestoneresources.com and http://www.copestoneresources.com.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

BCG’s Newest Certified Genealogical Lecturer

David Ouimette is a busy man. As head of FamilySearch’s Content Strategy Team, he travels the globe analyzing and evaluating records of genealogical interest and determining where they fall in terms of acquisition priority. As father of eight children ranging in age from eighteen to twenty-eight, he balances his professional and personal lives to make time for playing Irish music on the harp, hammered dulcimer, and tin whistle; going bowling and golfing with his sons; and doing family history with his wife, Deanna. David is an author, lecturer, coordinator of the “Finding Immigrant Origins” track at Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and a family historian who values standards. He regularly sets aside time to learn and to practice his skills in genealogical research, analysis, and writing.

First certified in February 2010, earlier this year David submitted his renewal portfolio—and, at the same time, he applied for the designation of Certified Genealogical Lecturer (CGL). On 1 June 2015 he received word that judges approved both applications.

Congratulations to David Ouimette, CG, CGL, on his accomplishments!


CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.