Tag Archives: certified genealogist

My Path to Certification – Issue No. 3

Since bringing home so many land deeds last week, I began the task of transcribing them. Out of seventy plus deeds, nine are completed. While doing this is important for the sake of my research (for my comprehension), transcribing the deeds serves a secondary purpose as well. For the Board of Certified Genealogists’ portfolio, items 3 and 4 (Document Work) consist of transcribing and abstracting a document, as well as constructing a research question, analysis, and formulating a research plan. There are no limitations on what type of document one chooses to transcribe and abstract, but two of the most common types of documents are wills and land deeds. The first time one transcribes a document should not be for the portfolio. Practice is required!

I consider myself a fairly competent transcriber, especially after deciphering my grandparents’ handwriting over the course of the WWII project. But transcribing wills and deeds requires an additional set of skills. Because these are legal documents, having a familiarity with legal terms is a must. Learning to recognize unfamiliar terms in a clerk’s chicken scratch can be difficult. Even though I have only transcribed nine deeds so far, I am very familiar with the terms “hereditaments” and “appurtenances” at this point. After a while the boilerplate language becomes predictable and easier to transcribe. Again, this is where I stress practice!

The Genealogy Standards address transcriptions in a couple of places. Standard 32: Transcribing, Abstracting, and Quoting Principles goes into great detail as to what is expected in a transcription, including “…when quoting and transcribing, genealogists render wording, spelling, numbering, abbreviations, superscripts, and similar features exactly as they appear in the original.” Doing this can be difficult with auto correct in a word processing program. Most of us cringe at misspelled words, phonetic challenges, and inconsistent spellings. However, when doing a transcription, it is vitally important to keep everything the same. I am reminded of the song from the second act of Hamilton when Angelica frets over the placement of a comma in one of Alexander’s letters because it changes the meaning of the phrase. This is why we must retain accuracy in transcriptions. For example, an incorrectly placed comma may create two children in a will when there is only one. (John, William vs. John William)

The book Professional Genealogy edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills has a chapter on transcribing and abstracting documents. Chapter 16 provides a variety of examples and forms, including wills, land deeds, and estate inventories. I highly recommend this chapter for anyone attempting transcriptions or abstracts. In fact, the book lays open on the floor by my desk as I work on my transcriptions.

Until next week! Sadly my summer vacation is almost over as I must return to the classroom very, very soon. August 1st—my self-imposed date for mailing in my preliminary application form to the Board for Certification of Genealogists is rapidly approaching as well!

Things I do in my spare time…I knit. I am almost done with a sweater for this fall. I should have it completed by next week.

My newest, soon-to-be finished, sweater, 2017

©2017 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/07/25/my-path-to-certification-issue-no-3/

My Path to Certification

As much as I freaked out when the Family History Library announced that they would be discontinuing microfilm ordering, I now think I’m in heaven with access to all sorts of digital images! I still wish I knew more about the Family History Library’s schedule for digitizing and uploading to the internet; what are their priorities and limitations due to licensing? Last week I ventured into one of my local centers to see how viewing images at a center would be. I was optimistic and pleased when I left. I copied and uploaded about 100 images to my Google drive. The pain happened when I returned home to download the images. I had not taken the time to name the files so I spent too much organizing them later.

Today I arrived at the center with an organized plan. I spent a good portion of my genealogy time this last week working on a spreadsheet for one of my ancestors. He is featured in the first section of my Kinship-Determination project.  While his parents will provide fodder for my first proof argument in the narrative, he produced a wealth of documents during his lifetime. I am using this spreadsheet to construct a timeline as well as to catalog all the documents I have for him. By knowing exactly what I have, I will see what I do not have or where I may need to do further research. The timeline will also be helpful for when I sit down to begin writing the narrative.

Having a plan really optimized my time at the center today. I retrieved and saved about 80 images. Of that number at least 70 were on my list. I found everything on the list except two lands deeds. Either I copied the page numbers wrong from the index at home or the indexer made an error I need to track down. The rest were bonus and lucky happen-stance. I found a couple of documents that the index had missed; I did not even know to look for them but I still found them!

A compiled general land deed index

Over the next week, I may begin the laborious task of transcribing all the documents I just found! Stay tuned!

“Standard 53 (Chapter 4—Standards of Writing): Selection of appropriate options. Genealogists select the proof option appropriate for the proved conclusion’s context.” – Genealogy Standards, Board for Certification of Genealogist

The Kinship-Determination Project (KDP) requires the use of at least two proof summaries or arguments justifying kinship of two parent-child relationships in different generations. There are three options for writing a proof: proof statement, proof summary, and proof argument.

The BCG website blog has a series of posts called “Ten-Minute Methodologies.” In January 2015, Judy Keller Fox wrote a piece on proof arguments and summaries, explaining the differences between the two.


©2017 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/07/18/my-path-to-certification-2/

Jamboree 2017


Last week I attended my third Jamboree, the Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual conference, in Burbank, California. This year I crossed the imaginary divide and became a speaker as well. On Saturday morning, I presented one lecture, Dating Fashion in Photographs, and then sat on a panel The Next Generation: Young Genealogists and Your Society. As usual the conference was a blast. The committee did an excellent job making everyone feel welcome. And in one case, when a session was too full, the speaker gracefully consented to give his talk again later that same evening.


Divided into two parts, Jamboree begins with a separate DNA day on Thursday, then continues Friday thru Sunday with a wide variety of lectures and a full lineup of vendors in the exhibition hall. I generally arrive Wednesday afternoon and leave sometime Sunday morning. Over the course of this year’s Jamboree, I attended seventeen sessions, one banquet with keynote speaker Debbie Kennett, and the NextGen meetup. I hosted two ProGen meetups, sat in the Author’s Nook, gave one lecture, and participated in a panel discussion. Most importantly, I connected with old genealogy friends, and made a lot of new ones. At home, I have few opportunities to connect with fellow genealogy enthusiasts and professionals in person. It was wonderful to talk about genealogy and share family stories, without people’s eyes glazing over. I’m sure you know what I mean!

NextGen Panel: Eric Wells, Deborah Sweeney, Lisa Medina, Melanie Frick, Randy Whited, Paul Woodbury (Photo credit: Victoria Wells)

Various ProGen members, including Blaine T. Bettinger, Patricia Stanard, Lisa Gorrell, Mike Bronner, Jill Morelli, Dennis VanderWerff, Jane Neff Rollins, Janice Lovelace, Annette Burke Lyttle, Janice M. Sellers, Elissa Scalise Powell, and me (Deborah Sweeney).

Knitting in the hotel lobby Wednesday before the conference began

I always like to hang out in the lobby when I arrive in Burbank. It’s a long day for me since I drive from Northern California. It’s a great way to find old friends and make new ones. Plus I usually get some knitting done, like this sweater.

Melanie Frick and I

This year I didn’t get to spend as much time with fellow genealogist (and panel leader), Melanie Frick. But we found time to take our annual photograph.


Blaine T. Bettinger and I

Blaine and I spent 18 months in the together in the ProGen Study program. We always take a reunion photo! Maybe someday we can convince the rest of our group to come to Jamboree as well!

Ready to speak first thing Saturday morning!

My session was packed! Over 60 people came to hear me speak. Audio of my presentation is available through the Jamboree website.

James M. Baker, CG and I

While hanging out at the Author’s Nook, I was able to meet Northern California’s resident certified genealogist (CG), James M. Baker. It was great to finally meet him in person, instead of just hearing about him.

I spent a couple evenings hanging out with a fantastic group of genealogists, including Lauren McGuire, Lara Diamond, Debra Dudek, Brad Larkin, Mark Hammond, Jon Nedry, and Blaine Bettinger. After a LONG day attending sessions, it was great to sit back enjoy their company.

If you have never attended an all day genealogy seminar or conference, I encourage you to do so. Conferences provide a wonderful opportunity to learn new skills as well as to network with other genealogists. Stay tuned this summer for an exciting announcement and a new series of blog posts.

©2017 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/06/18/jamboree-2017-2/