Tuesday, March 21, 2017

So you want to pursue certification

You can read the background for this post HERE.  I wanted to give you a little bit of advice based on a failed portfolio and a successful portfolio.

  • Read The BCG Application Guide
    This is easier than it sounds. You need to understand exactly what they are asking you to do for each component. If you don’t follow the directions you will get seriously dinged, possibly to the point of instant failure.
  • Compare each section of your portfolio to the BCG Rubrics
    The Judges use the BCG rubrics to evaluate your portfolio so you need to make sure your portfolio passes each rubric before you submit it.  You are lucky to have the rubrics up front.

  • Pay attention to the Standards listed in each Rubric
    The BCG has listed each standard that applies to that rubric which you can look up in the
    Genealogy Standards manual.  This book is essential. When you look up the standard you will see expanded information. You should be familiar with ALL of the standards in this book but pay special attention to the ones listed in the rubrics.

  • Take advantage of the helps the BCG offers
    Visit their Skillbuilding page as well as the Sample Work Products page to see samples of the different components of the portfolio and helpful articles from OnBoard, their educational newsletter. All applicants are subscribed to OnBoard when they submit their initial application. I would also follow the BCG’s Springboard News and Notes blog to keep up to date with the latest news.
    They have a page with their recommendations for Educational Preparation which you should review.  

    The BCG now contracts with Legacy Family Tree Webinars to host the BCG Webinars Series. You can register for these ahead of time and they are free to watch live and for 7 days after they have been archived. After that you will need a webinar subscription to view them. A benefit of having a webinar subscription is that you can go back and watch any of the webinars whenever you want and you will have access to the syllabuses.

  • Enroll in a ProGen Study Group
    The study group is 19 months long and it is based on the book, Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CGSM. I think this is the best prep for the portfolio because each component of the portfolio is addressed (and more). I signed up right after my failed portfolio. I was in ProGen 18 with Laurel Baty, CGSM as my coordinator and Beverly Rice (former CG) as my mentor. The members of my group still stay in touch via a secret Facebook group.

  • Read peer reviewed journals
    The National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ), The New England Historic Genealogical Society Register (The Register), and
    The American Genealogist (TAG) are at the top of the list. I also recommend that you join one of the NGSQ Study Groups. Each month you evaluate an article against the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). Being able to apply the GPS to the work of others will help you apply it to yourself. I have been in a couple of different groups because my work schedule changed. I am now in Study Group A which meets on Google+ for an asynchronous chat with Leslie Karr moderating.

  • Read Mastering Genealogical Proof by Dr. Thomas W. Jones, CGSM
    I recommend that you join one of the
    GenProof Study Groups which is based on this book. This study group is only 8 weeks long and is fast paced so you might want to go through more than once. Understanding the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) is essential for your portfolio. I was in GenProof 2 with Harold Henderson, CGSM as my mentor and then I went through the special mentors’ training group with Dr. Jones himself. I have been a mentor for GenProof for two years and I am mentoring a group now (GenProof 50).  

  • Be aware that no one can give you specific help/advice on your projects nor can anyone proofread your work
    There is a special mailing list for those that are “on the clock” and you can get answers to procedural type questions there. You can also see answers to the most common questions on BCG’s Frequently Asked Questions page. As far as the portfolio work itself, you are on your own. You also can’t use any material that has been previously peer-reviewed such as a
    ProGen assignment.

  • However, proofreading is important
    When you are ready to submit set your portfolio aside for at least 24 hours (a week would be better) and then proofread it for the last time. I recommend reading it out loud. You are apt to catch something that you didn’t see before because when you read something over and over again you tend to skim. Grammar and punctuation are important as are good editing skills. More words doesn’t mean it’s a better report. Once you have done your final read through, don’t start second guessing yourself and try to go back and “fix” things. There comes a point when you just need to let it go.

  • This one was specific to me
    I don’t know if this is something you need to worry about or not but in my first portfolio I chose families for my KDP and for my Case Study that I had been working on for years. I thought that would give me a head start but it didn’t turn out that way. I had to redo everything to make sure that it was up to the current standards (some of this work was 10 years old). Going through old research and trying to fix everything that needed to be fixed made it very easy for me to make a mistake. I would have been better of starting from scratch with lines I hadn’t worked on before so that I could document everything right the first time.


  1. I think your last piece of advice is the best. I plan to do some pro-bono work in the next few months and hopefully will use some things from that for the portfolio. My families have been run over so much, it's hard to see them as fresh anymore.

  2. Thanks for your advice. I long ago got my mother into the DAR and recently established my Mayflower connection. It would be great to obtain the certification.

  3. This is a great list, though I would respectfully disagree with the last comment. Conducting "reasonably thorough research" on TWO major projects (the Case Study and KDP) from scratch in a year seems daunting to me. And I was mostly retired when I went on the clock. (And I mailed my portfolio on the last possible day!) For my case study, I took a question of relationship I thought I had figured out the answer, to based on indirect evidence, in a family I'd worked on for two decades, but had never written up as a proof argument. Additional research to meet the "reasonably thorough" bar led to a stronger argument. The KDP was a family I'd also worked on a lot before, a challenging case with little direct evidence in two generations. And I made several archival trips in the year I was on the clock to ferret out additional evidence and details on the lives of the family members. If I had to do it over, I would have one of those drafted before I went on the clock.

    1. A lot of people actually start working on their portfolios long before they actually apply which I think is a good idea. Once you are on the clock you really feel the pressure of the clock even though you can extend if you need to.