Friday, January 28, 2011

UWS Family Histories Course Correction

Hello All -

Just a quick note to say that the Family Histories module at the University of the West of Scotland in Paisley will be held on Mondays 6-8 pm each week for 10 weeks. It was to be on Thursdays, but their has been an instructor change which means the day has also needed to change due to scheduling conflicts.

I am pleased to see that the university is doing this course. I wish it great success and a great turn out of students. Maybe there will be further advanced courses that they will do if this turns out well for them.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

University of the West of Scotland Offers Family History Module

Hello All -

Just read in the Paisley Daily Express today that the University of the West of Scotland (formerly known as Paisley University) will be conducting a new module on Family History starting on 3rd February. It is scheduled to last for 10 weeks - held on Thursdays for two hours each week. I can't remember the times, but I think it is in the evening. These courses will be conducted on location, so unfortunately this is not going to be an online study option.

If anyone is interested you can contact the university (Lifelong Learning Academy) at 0800 027 1000 or email them at You can also go to the university's website at (it will be in the part time study section/lifelong learning section).

Not much time left to apply so those interested will need to hurry.

Until Next Time ...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Universal Source Citation System for Genealogists

Hello All -

One of the things that I have been thinking about is a need for a universal source citation system for genealogists/family historians. What I mean by universal is a recognized system for citing sources that is world-wide. The thought came to me after doing my BCG portfolio and also finding out about how other people do their citations. These thoughts are purely my own opinion, and are not really meant to cause a big debate.

I cannot really speak about how other countries do things, apart from the US and UK. However, from working in these two countries as a genealogist the citing of sources is not the same. The USA and possibly Canada trend toward the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the basis for Elizabeth Shown Mills' two books on the subject, "Evidence: Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian" (1997) and "Evidence Explained" (2007).

In the UK (at least some parts of Scotland) source citations trend toward the Harvard System (sort of an APA style). This is from what I have been led to believe is the main system taught at Univ. of Strathclyde's Genealogical Studies course. However, if I am wrong on this please let me know as I don't want to give out wrong information. Personally, I have been using Mills' books (Chicago Style) for my own work, but it is just what I have been used to so I stick with it.

There are few other styles of citation as well that are used in other academic disciplines such as MLA, Turabian, AMA, APA, etc. In my opinion, I am one that thinks genealogy is an academic discipline too. Some may think it as just a past time or hobby, but in my view it is not much different from studying pure History in university or college. But, I digress.

However, I do realize that there are some who are only interested in doing family history as a hobby. That is fine, but to make one's work credible the sources should be cited. If down the road a person would like to publish their work either as a simple manuscript, self-published such as My Canvas or Blurb, or having a publishing company do the work, it is very important to have the documents and other sources cited as others will be reading it. I know that citing one's work can be a pain, but it is necessary and serves a purpose.

I think as a genealogical community worldwide there should be a universal citing system that can be agreed upon and used by all researchers. This could be either the Chicago or Harvard Style or perhaps something else. I am not too sure that Mills' books are that known in UK and other parts of the world apart from US and Canada. But, that is just speculation on my part. I personally am not fussed by which system is used. My main concern is to have a universal system that we can all agree upon worldwide. I think it would make things easier for everyone is we are all the same in our citing in reports, essays, articles, etc.

In my opinion, I think that genealogy is becoming more recognized as an academic study. We are seeing more and more classes and courses being offered at colleges and universities and online. And as most academic disciplines there should be a proper system in place to cite sources recognized universally. It shouldn't matter if one is from US, UK, Australia, or France.

Well, I suppose I better leave it there. I just thought I would tell my thoughts and observations on the subject.

Until Next Time ...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My BCG Experience

Hello All -

As I mentioned in my previous posts (not too far back from today) I was going to talk about my experience with applying for my CG with the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). I received my portfolio along with the judges comment in the mail roughly a couple of weeks ago, but I wanted to digest everything before reporting back. I know that there are some who are going through the process, or are thinking about going through it sometime in the future.

I wanted to share a bit about my experience with those who may be interested, as I know that I was keen to know of other folks' experiences that had gone through it. I can only really speak on my own behalf on these matters, as I know that everyone has a different story to tell on this.

I had in the past been curious about the BCG certification process, but I found it to be a bit intimidating. However, at that time, I knew that I would not be ready for it. I thought it would be best to wait a few more years before I went for it to get more experience.

I initially sent my preliminary application in September 2009. Before, this I purchased the Standards Manual and the Application Materials. This is a must purchase for anyone applying - the application materials mainly, but I would not even try to send an application without having the Standards Manual as well (reading and studying it completely backwards and forwards).

Before I sent away my preliminary application, I started to do some work on my portfolio to get a head start on things. I wanted to be familiar and comfortable with the process and standards needed. It would mean less pressure on me by not being on the one year "clock."

I then sent away my application and then waited for the BCG to send me their document for transcribing, etc. Because, I live in the UK it was a bit longer to wait for correspondence back and forth. Once received in the mail, I got seriously started on work.

To briefly describe the application parts, there are seven parts to the BCG portfolio application. First is the Genealogist's Code that is to be signed by the applicant; secondly there is the background resume; thirdly there is the document work (BCG supplied document) to transcribe, abstract, analyize, research focus, etc.; fourthly there is another document work but this one is applicant supplied document that goes through the same process as the BCG supplied document.

The average wait time for an applicant's results are 5-6 months. However, I waited a bit longer to get my results back. The unfortunate holdup was that there was a loss of my portfolio in the mail between Judge 2 and Judge 3. They do warn that this can potentially happen. I was very glad that I made a copy of my portfolio before I mailed it away. This is a very important piece of advice I can give to any potential applicant.

It was now December and still no further word from the BCG. Then, unexpectedly, I received an email from the BCG office to welcome me to their ranks. This would be around 20th of December. It was a very surprising early Christmas gift. I think that I was in utter shock for most of the day after getting word, as I thought that I hadn't done as well as I could have.

Now, the dreaded judges critiques. This is probably the most frightening aspect of the application process. Some of the comments can really sting and it helps to have a thick skin. It is very easy to take the negative comments to heart and feel a bit down in the dumps about your work. I know that reading the criticism that I received was a blow to the old self-esteem. I read the criticism over and over again to get to grips with what the judges were saying. After mulling it all over and having time to reflect on things, I knew that the judges were just doing their job and wanting to point me in the right direction to be a better genealogist. I can now really appreciate their comments and will definitely learn from them when it comes time to renew in 5 years time.

It was interesting to see the three judges' range of comments. The second judge really tore the portfolio to shreds. One judge would find something acceptable, then another judge will find the same thing done poorly. It is really in the eye of the particular judge what meets the standards set by the BCG Manual when it comes to an applicant's work. I think though for my portfolio the judges were for the most part in agreement on most things. Thankfully, many of the marks were "Meets Standards" with a few "Partially Meets Standards" in the mix. The mistakes I did make were stupid, careless ones. If I took a bit more time with it and not been in a rush to get the portfolio out the door I think it would have been a better application. It is important to really focus on the little things and pay careful attention to detail.

In the end, I am glad that I went through the application process. It was a stressful and nerve-racking experience. It is definitely an education in itself. I realized how much I have learned. The judges remarks will definitely be a big help for next time.

Why Genealogy Is More Than A Hobby

Hello All -

Upon reading many of the other genealogy blogs that I like to read each day, there was one that really struck a cord with me. The blog is from James Tanner's Genealogy Star. He had an entry entitled "The Heart and Soul of Genealogy." I think that his writing on this subject is worth sharing to others as it really hits home why some people become so "addicted" to genealogy and family history. Why some people cannot let go of finding that elusive ancestor. Genealogy is more than just names and dates, but it is your ancestor's life. Also, it comes back to who you are yourself (who am I and where did I come from ... types of questions).

It makes historical events become more personal and more interesting when an ancestor can be placed at a particular time and place. For example, one of my g, g, grandfathers was captured at the battle of Island Number 10 by Union soldiers during the US Civil War. I had never heard of this battle before (it wasn't one of the more major ones that are better known), but when I learned of this from his service records, I immediately went to look for further information about it.

I think I will leave it here and let you read Mr. Tanner's words yourself, as I don't think I could really say it any better.

Until Next Time ...

Sunday, January 02, 2011

New Year Means New Fee Increases in Scotland

Hello All -

Hope everyone had a good Christmas and are settling into the new year well. For my first post of the year is a bit of important news regarding fee increases across the board from the Scottish GRO, etc. So, it looks like doing research in Scotland will cost us a bit more for this new year.
The General Register Office for Scotland has issued a news posting on their website about the
new fee increases, along with a pdf of the listings of the fees themselves.

In turn, this is going to affect everyone - those who are amateur researchers as well as those who work in the profession as professional genealogists, who will have to put the increase into their costs of working with a client.

This is unfortunate for us all, but there isn't much that can be done. The government has spoken. It is hoped that perhaps when things get better economically things will not increase any further for a good while, but I suppose this is wishful thinking on my part.

Sorry to have to bring such a damper on the new year, but I felt that it was important to notify folks of the new fees happening here in Scotland.