My Path to Certification

Last month I alluded to big news coming later this summer. I just returned from my annual summer vacation with my children Monday night. We visited with family and friends this year throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We even managed to squeeze in a day trip to New York City to see a Broadway show. Many have asked if I conducted any genealogy research. As much as I would have liked to do so, the priority for this summer trip has always been to take a vacation with my kids. They support my obsession enough but I would rather not have a rebellion to squash. Instead we visit many historical sites where I periodically interject how the site may be relevant to our family. This year’s itinerary included many Revolutionary War stops such as Philadelphia and Valley Forge. Both my children will be studying U.S. history this upcoming school year. Being a teacher, I cannot pass up the opportunity to provide hands-on and on-site history for my own children.

Since recovering from minimal jet lag, unpacking, and washing a pile of laundry, I must now return to my genealogy agenda. First the big news…after dragging my feet for a year, I have finally decided to begin the certification process to become a Certified Genealogist. Before I left on vacation, I filled in the application for certification. Applicants have a full year from the date of the application to submit a portfolio of work samples. I decided to wait until August 1st to mail and date the application. This gives me two summers to work on the portfolio. Applicants are allowed, and in fact, encouraged to begin working on elements before submitting the application. Extensions are also allowed (because of course life happens!) but I would prefer to have the process over within my allotted year. Once my application is received and accepted, I will be considered to be “on the clock.”

While enjoying my vacation, the Family Search library announced that they would be discontinuing their microfilm ordering service as of August 31st. This, of course, caused me quite a bit of anxiety. Last February, I began ordering microfilm in earnest to research my re-write of the Jacob Troxell book, but it quickly turned into a wealth of information which convinced me to turn towards certification instead. I anticipated ordering many more rolls of microfilm over the next year as I worked on various parts of my portfolio. Family Search’s announcement was horrible in my opinion (mostly because it came unexpectedly for a lot of people). In the past, the counties I tended to research were underrepresented in digitizing projects. Having to wait until 2020 to access some records was not good! I devised a plan (and a budget) to order as much microfilm as I could before the August 31st deadline. Last week I ordered my first batch of land deed indexes. However, this last weekend, as I sat in my hotel room late at night, I began looking through the catalog to plan my next order. To my surprise, many of the records I wanted are now available as digital images. The only caveat—I must view them at a Family History Center.

This morning, I ventured forth to see what I could view at my nearer local center. The greater Sacramento area has two centers, one of which is relatively near my house. As the smaller of the two centers, it possesses a half dozen computers on which to access the digital images. I arrived when the center opened to be sure that I would have a computer to use. Of course, I was the only one there…other than the two volunteers!

This morning was a fact finding mission. Could I access what I needed? Yes, indeed I could! But I have a few takeaways…

  • The center’s computers do not allow downloading files to a flash drive. Luckily I have a google account so I was able to transfer the files to my google drive. However, this process was time consuming. I find it much easier to copy large batches of microfilm and then bring it home to analyze.
  • Copying a large number of images from a database is prohibited. After a certain number of images are copied, the website locks you down. For me, I do find this frustrating because I am looking at every single page. I want to make sure I am conducting my “reasonably exhaustive search” and I want to find all those FAN club members of my ancestors. Just because I do not recognize a name today, does not mean that a name won’t be relevant next week.
  • I still have several rolls of microfilm that I ordered and I plan to look at them all.

Divorce decree, Martha A. Lawhead vs. James H. Lawhead, Greene County, Indiana, 1868

Overall, I am pleased with the new digital images. It was so nice to jump from county to county and look at different land deeds instead of having to wait and order additional reels of microfilm. This will be especially helpful for my KDP project as well as the re-write of the Jacob Troxell book. I look forward to what Family Search adds to their online catalog in the future.

Acronyms to know:

KDP = Kinship-Determination Project This is element number 7 in the portfolio, described in the BCG Application Guide: “Submit a narrative genealogy, narrative lineage, or narrative pedigree that documents and explains linkages among individuals through three ancestral generations—ascending or descending…” Additional information can be found on the BCG website.

Additional Links:

Board of Certification of Genealogists

Family Search

Article “Family History Microfilm Discontinuation”

©2017 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found:

12 thoughts on “My Path to Certification

  1. davidmadison1942

    “I decided to wait until August 1st to mail and date the application. This gives me two summers to work on the portfolio. Applicants are allowed, and in fact, encouraged to begin working on elements before submitting the application.” Good strategy!

    “Copying a large number of images from a database is prohibited. After a certain number of images are copied, the website locks you down.” 😦 frustrating indeed!

  2. Amy

    Congratulations and best of luck in your new venture!

    As for the FHL decision, I am hoping that this will make it easier in the long run. My biggest problem is that the closest FHC is an hour away and has limited hours. I’ve been there once and was exhausted by the time I got home. But I hate reading microfilm and will find using a computer much easier so maybe it will be worth the two hours of driving at some point.

    1. Deborah Sweeney Post author

      Thank you Amy!

      I generally become motion sick using the traditional microfilm reader. However, since I started viewing microfilm with the local center’s digital scanner I haven’t had any motion sickness issues. There is definitely something about viewing microfilm on a computer monitor that makes the film easier to read.

      And I agree, in the long run, I think this has great potential. I mostly disagree with the way the library is rolling out the discontinuation and not knowing which films can be digitized versus those that can’t. 2020 is a long time to wait and the limitation of viewing at a center will be difficult for many people, especially those with limited access to a center.

      1. Amy

        I agree with you on that. I am not sure why they would limit access to computers at a center. Isn’t the whole point of digitization to make it easier for anyone to get access?

      2. Deborah Sweeney Post author

        I think part of the limitations has to do with the licensing agreements with the various agencies who have provided the records. Viewing the records at a center allows them to conform to the terms of the licensing.

  3. Jill Morelli

    Way to go! Glad to see you starting and sharing your information and discoveries with others. Like you, I discovered many more records online than I was expecting. And, some could only be read at a family history center (FHC). So, it was a great tip to check the catalog. Jill

    1. Deborah Sweeney Post author

      Thank you Jill!

      I loved your tip about the subtlety different camera icons (earlier this week).I also love how you blogged about your certification process so I am emulating you by blogging about my journey. 😁

  4. thegenealogygirl

    What great news Deborah! Congratulations on taking this big step. I hope to be doing this in the near future too.

    I am curious about something, will you be able to get the other images from the digitized film that you need on a subsequent visit? Or is the number limit linked to your account? I’m wondering because I work in my center and I know our number of visitors will be going up because of this change.

    I wish I had thought to warn you. I knew this was coming several months ago and was surprised by how long it took for the general announcement and implementation.

    1. Deborah Sweeney Post author

      Thank you! I am excited some days but others I feel overwhelmed by how much I need to do. 😁

      It has been interesting to see who in the “professional” community has said the writing was on the wall and they knew about this for months but then I received an email from a volunteer at one of the local centers and she had no idea.

      I actually wasn’t signed into my account when I was downloading images so I don’t know what happens. I think I read somewhere in the last week that someone else had a similar experience so it wasn’t a complete surprise when I was shut down.

      1. thegenealogygirl

        Please let me know how it goes with the images so I can be prepared to help others.

        I knew it was coming because I live near a bunch of FS high ups. I was sooooo surprised that it stayed under wraps for so long. I kept expecting the announcement.

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