Tag Archives: genealogy standards

My Path to Certification – Issue No. 5

Last week I was immersed in my pre-service teaching days and getting to know my new students. My school district is converting to a new online records-keeping system so the next year will be a learning experience for everyone. I spent little time working on genealogy, although I did sneak away for a few hours last Wednesday to the Family History Center.

Mostly I continued to scan the civil court records for my ancestor’s county. So much good stuff! I found one record for a man exposing himself in public. Oh my! And another for a woman accused of adultery. Apparently she had been living in sin with the gentleman for quite a while. The court’s punishment was to spend one minute in jail. However, the best part of the afternoon was finding the divorce record for a many times great aunt.

Judgement from the adultery case of Nancy King

Indiana appears to have been quite lenient in granting divorces in the 19th century. Most every quarter session of the civil court has two or three divorce cases in my county of interest. I figured my aunt had to have been divorced because I found two marriage records and the first husband appeared to be alive after the second marriage. The complete court records spell out very neatly why she wanted a divorce. Her husband had deserted her. Five years previously he had been wanted for larceny. It seems he fled the county and hadn’t been seen since.

Since my last post, I received a sampling of documents from the Indiana State Historical Society. I found a manuscript in their collection online through ArchiveGrid. I can’t recommend ArchiveGrid highly enough at the moment. Managed by WorldCat, ArchiveGrid is an online catalog of manuscript collections around the world. Unpublished manuscripts are an untapped resource for genealogical and historical information. They are also the least likely to be digitized, and can only be accessed by going to a repository. Or in my case, contacting the repository and/or hiring a researcher.

The document in question was an 1830s account book from a local merchant. I had no idea if any of my ancestors favored this merchant—there was more than one store in town. But I had to find out! I sent the historical society a preliminary surname list while the research form and my check followed in the mail. My ancestor appears over thirty times in the register. Below is one of my ancestor’s entries, likely purchases by, or for, his wife.

Account book entry for my ancestor

Jackonet is a lightweight cotton fabric. During the 1830s, Greek and Roman motifs/style influenced fashion.

The Rubrics

Another essential part of the portfolio process is understanding the rubrics. As a teacher, I rely on rubrics whenever I correct writing assignments or score non-multiple choice test questions. My biggest complaint during the Boston University Research Certificate program was the lack of rubrics. (I graduated many years ago so I do not know if this aspect has changed. I just know what it was like when I participated.)

I do not like to be graded in a vacuum. How do I know if I am achieving the goal of an assignment? Students perform better when they know their expectations. The same is true with the BCG portfolio. The portfolio rubrics are available to download on the BCG website. Two books are referenced in the rubrics: Genealogy Standards: 50th-anniversay edition and Val Greenwood’s The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. These books should have a place in every serious genealogist’s library.

Other Genealogy Related Activities

  • I submitted six lecture proposals for the 2018 SCGS Jamboree. Hopefully, at least one will be chosen!
  • Yesterday was the monthly meeting of my DNA study group and my volunteer hours at the local library. I consider volunteering or mentoring others as a valuable component of my long-term education plan. One of my clients had a branch of her family who immigrated from Canada in the 1920s. There were many great record groups that I explored with her. I do not have anyone in my family who immigrated to the United States in the 20th century, so I have no reason to look at those records. Helping others is a great way to learn about records you might not access regularly.

©2017 copyright owned by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/08/20/my-path-to-certification-issue-no-5/

My Path to Certification – Issue No. 4

Today is August 1st. I promised to submit my application to the BCG on August 1st. Well, I completed the application last Friday and put it in the mail. Hopefully, it arrived in Washington, D.C., about today. I can’t take it back at this point so I should consider myself officially on the clock. I feel a mixture of emotions from excitement to panic. I wonder if I can possibly pull this off in the next year. We shall see!

After taking the plunge and finally submitting the application, I worked on some other aspects of my plan. I don’t really have a plan, per se, past knowing that I have a year to submit my portfolio. I know some people who schedule what element they will work on each month. I do want to do a major portion of work on my KDP first so that I can put it aside and come back to it later. I feel such a large piece of writing needs to sit so I can go back and make improvements with a clearer vision. I can only do that if I walk away at some point. Right now I’m try to figure out how to continue researching but transition from research to writing. One strategy I am trying is—to just sit with a pad of paper and pencil and write with a purpose. For example, chose one section of the KDP to write about. No fact-checking or writing footnotes. Just write. I can go back later and correct the specifics and add the footnotes.

I received a great recommendation for a book this week—On Writing Well by William Zinsser. The 30th anniversary edition includes a chapter on writing family history (which I haven’t read yet). I believe the book is helping my brain make this transition from researching to putting pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard). Writing is such an important part of the portfolio (or the job of being a genealogist). Learning to write well should be an integral part of any genealogist’s education plan. I have read my share of absolutely boring family histories. I do not want to be one of those family history writers who strings a bunch of facts with footnotes together to make a narrative. I want to breathe life into my ancestors! Finding a balance between sound technical genealogical writing and entertaining family narrative is my goal. A couple take-a-ways from the book so far:

  • Use action verbs and consistent verb tenses – These are both lessons I learned during my time at BU and ProGen, and I cannot stress them enough. I hear them repeated at genealogy seminars and conventions continually. It’s great to read a non-genealogy related person give the same advice.
  • Writing is hard work. It requires practice just like any other craft. Find a writer whose style you admire. Read the journals—NEHGS, NGS, TAG, etc.—to find a fellow genealogist whose style you like.
  • Use a dictionary and thesaurus – I have a beat-up copy of Roget’s Thesaurus that I have used since my college days. I still use it!
  • De-clutter your words – If you can get the point across with fewer words, do it!

In the last week, besides my trip to the Family History Library to copy microfilm, I spent part of my weekend downloading journal articles (and not genealogy ones!) In order to add historical context and knowledge to my narrative, I must learn about the social, historical, and economic factors that may have influenced my ancestors lives. Sites like JSTOR and Internet Archive provide access to historical texts. I downloaded articles on the early history of my county as well as contemporary books that were written for people interested in migrating to the region where my ancestors lived. With these, for example, I gained insight on diseases that may have affected my ancestors or construction projects (railroads, canals) that impacted their lives.

Genealogical Standard 57: Background information“Assembled research results provide sufficient background information for readers to understand…what [an item] means in context of…place and time…[which] may include concepts from economics, ethnic studies, genetics, geography, government, history, law, religion, sociology, and other fields.”


I finished my sweater this weekend. Now, I’m working on completing another “almost-done” project—a sweater I started for my son last fall. He has grown a couple inches since then so hopefully he will get some use out of it!

My teacher hat goes back on this week. School starts next week so I must parcel out my time and prioritize my various projects more efficiently. Until next time!

©2017 copyright owned Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/08/01/my-path-to-certification-issue-no-4/