New BCG Standards and Manual

Genealogy StandardsDo you want to become a professional genealogist–or just research like one?

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) recently released an updated, revised version of Genealogy Standards in honor of its 50th anniversary. It’s a 100-page paperback manual that presents “the standards family historians use to obtain valid results.”

They also just announced that, effective March 3, 2014, the new BCG standards apply to anyone who applies for professional certification or recertification through BCG.

“As the standards are at heart unchanged, genealogists whose work meets the old standards should meet the new standards as well,” states a press release. “The revision, however, means the new standards offer superior guidance as to the qualities necessary for credible genealogical work.”

To help researchers familiarize themselves with the recent changes, BCG has also released two charts that compare the new and old standards. They can be downloaded from the “Skillbuilding” page of BCG’s website.

10 Top Tips for Breaking Down Your Genealogy Brick Wall

“One of the most incredible and likely true stories I’ve ever seen!” announced Dave Obee as he met with Genealogy Gems Listener Sarah Stout, the winner of our #RootsTech 2013 conference registration contest.

The question to contestant was “who’s class would you most like to attend at RootsTech?” Sarah’s answer was Dave Obee, and that was because she was running up against a Canadian brick wall in her family history research, and Dave is a Canadian Research Guru!

Read more about Sarah’s incredible genealogical brick wall:

WATCH THE VIDEO

In my new video at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel I get the two together and Dave dishes up 10 terrific tips that will not only help Sarah, but are sure to prove their worth in your own family tree climbing.

Dave Obee’s Top 10 Tips:

1. Create a Timeline – “plot her life…it’s easier to see the holes.”
2. Understand Geography – “plot movements”
3. Find Every Possible Record
4. Understand How Records Were Created
5. Read Every Local Story in Newspapers at that Time
6. Tap into Local Knowledge – “Locals know more” (historical and genealogical societies)
7. Go There if You Can in Person
8. Look for Negative Proof
9. Collaborate with Other Researchers
10. Be Diligent About Proof

Resources Mentioned in the video:

Subscribe to the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel for free to receive instant updates of all of my latest videos from RootsTech 2013 and beyond.

 

Meet the Author of a Riveting Family History Tale in the Newest Episode of The Genealogy Gems Podcast

Recently I got an email from Jay in New York :

“I have been catching up with all of your family history podcasts. Over the years I have collected a wealth of information on the family. Some good, some not-so-good, some out in-the-open, some hidden.
 
How do you deal with revealing “forgotten” items about family members to other family members? I had an uncle who had a marriage at a very young age, and would like to have forgotten about it. My mother told me about it. I put it on the tree. While showing off the fruits of my labor to his family this “forgotten” marriage was revealed with not happy responses.
 
The things we find in our tree may not always be “good”, How does a person deal with that? and revealing it to others?”
 
This is a great question! And in the newest Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #120 I have some answers for you.
 
Secrets, small and large can be found in many families.  Skeletons in the closet are often secrets closely guarded by family members.
 
It’s a tricky business navigating your way through the shakier branches of the family tree, so I’ve invited a special guest to join me on the show who has done an incredible job of climbing those branches in his own family.
 
Steve Luxenberg is a Washington Post associate editor and award-winning author. In his 25 years at The Post, he has headed the newspaper’s investigative staff and its Sunday section of commentary and opinion.  Steve is going to join me for the full episode to talk about investigating and dealing with family secrets as he did in  his book Annie’s Ghosts.  It’s a riveting tale that kept me feverishly tapping the “Next Page” key on my kindle. 
 
Annie’s Ghosts is about a family secret that Steve stumbled upon in the late 1990s.  His mother, who had always claimed to be an only child, had a sister, Annie.  And while that was a big surprise all by itself, it was just the beginning of a series of secrets and revelations that Steve unearthed by tapping into his long career as an investigative journalist, and employing newly found genealogy techniques and strategies. 

In this interview we talk about being aware of what’s missing in records and stories, rather than just focusing on what is on the page.  For those of you who are Premium Members this discussion is a great follow up to Premium Episode #77 where we talked about being more keenly aware during our research.

Steve’s also going to share he thoughts on storytelling, which he truly masters in this book. 
 
And then we get into some of the genealogical techniques he used: how to avoid tainting memories in Interviews, and how to balance the give and take as well as win trust with the person you are interviewing.  


And speaking of trust, Steve describes how he was able to be incredibly successful in obtaining sensitive documents and getting cooperation from various government agencies and other repositories.
 
He’s also going to tell us about a little known legal maneuver that he made that really made the difference for him in obtaining some of the most closely held documents and how you can use it too!
 
And finally he’ll share his personal feelings about what it was like to get a add a new member to his family, his long lost Aunt Annie.


Enjoy!
 
Quotes from Annie’s Ghosts:
 
“What I didn’t expect, as the week wore on, was that the family would expand to take in a new member.  But that’s what happened.  As people dipped in and out of the records, as the debates flew about what we knew and what we didn’t and whether we should be digging around in the past, Annie gradually became a part of the family consciousness.  She was no longer just a name on a hospital record.  She was no longer just a secret.”
 
“I stopped thinking like a son and started thinking like a journalist.”
 
“I offer to send her the letters; it’s an unexpected present for her, and I’m glad to be able to make the offer, because it allows me to give as well as take, something reporters can’t often do. It’s also a good way to win trust.” 
 
“I want to make sure that if she knows about Annie, she tells me before I tell her, so that I capture her spontaneous memory first.”
 

Returning Orphaned Heirlooms to the Family

custom_text_present_14586Recently my Premium Podcast included a letter from Pat, who was looking for advice on how to return lost or orphaned heirlooms to a family. Ancestry.com had a few family trees posted. Pat didn’t know “whom to contact to get the materials to the most interested, closest family members.” This was my advice–and here’s the inspirational report back.

My advice:

I would first focus on the tree where the tree owner is most closely related to the folks mentioned in the memorabilia. I would probably make copies (depending on what the items are) and offer to all. If I didn’t get a confirmed answer from the first choice in a reasonable time I would offer to my second choice. I would ask the recipient to allow me to pass their contact info on to any others who get around to responding after the fact since it’s everyone’s “family”.

Pat’s response:

“I finally took up the challenge, determined to find a family and offer up the material I had recovered. This material contained old (labeled!) photos, school records, dance cards and letters home to Mom and Dad and seemed potentially quite precious.

It proved difficult to determine which family seemed to have the closest connection, so I decided to offer the material to the person whose Ancestry.com tree contained the most (valid) sources. Fortunately, the tree owner was quick to respond, eager to receive the materials I had to offer. I sent them off and the tree owner is delighted as she is the granddaughter to the original party and believes herself to be the only living descendant of that person!

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistIt feels just right to get those materials back “home”!  I encourage other listeners to do the same.  It produces a great sense of genealogical balance.  So many others have done blessedly wonderful things for me in my research, making it easy to pay it forward just a little bit.

Thank you for the encouragement and the advice. I have loved both podcasts for a number of years now–you are consistently wonderful!”

Thanks, Pat, both for the compliment and for the inspiring message! I love hearing these kinds of stories.

BillionGraves Challenge for June: Win a FitBit!

BillionGraves June challengeAfter a long winter in the U.S., it’s finally warming up! Just last week I did my first BillionGraves cemetery field trip of the season. So I’m pleased to see that they’re offering a BillionGraves challenge to those who take pictures or index:

“This month we are giving away Fitbit’s 5 cutting edge fitness monitoring devices to the top 5 photographers AND transcribers! Read the details on our blog HERE.

“It can’t be any better than doing your favorite thing- taking pictures of headstones and transcribing them, AND winning prizes! So take advantage of the rising temperatures to capture some headstone images at your local cemetery or get your transcribing game on.”

We’ve blogged about BillionGraves before: it’s a leading site for capturing cemetery headstones around the world. Their free app (for iPhone and Android) makes it easy to find a cemetery near you (wherever you are) that needs imaging; use your smart phone to take geo-tagged tombstone photos; transcribe any images you care to; and upload them to their site. (I always upload when I return home so my phone will upload images using my home’s wi-fi instead of charging me data.) But you can also participate in the challenge by indexing records already on their site, if cemetery visits aren’t your thing.

Got kids who are out of school and looking for something to do? Take them with you to image headstones. My kids don’t necessarily prefer this to going to the pool, but they’re game sometimes, especially if a stop at an ice cream stand is part of the deal. Here’s Lisa Louise Cooke’s interview with BillionGraves staffer and tips for getting started:

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