Wednesday, September 26, 2012

BCG portfolio Q & A

Some folks have asked questions about my recent BCG portfolio posts. They may be of interest to others who don't go back and look for comments!

Please observe my usual caveat: read the rubrics and the 2011 edition of the Application Guide, ask the authoritative folks on BCG ACTION list once you are on the clock, and don't take my unsupported word for anything. When necessary consult the key underlying document, the 2000 (current) BCG Standards Manual as well. In other words, use your research skills to get the best information available on certification just as you already do in genealogy itself.

Q1: In the Kinship Determination Project (requirement #7), is the applicant required to name every child -- for instance, if a record states that a woman had eleven children, two living, but information cannot be found for most of them?

The rubrics and the Application Guide appear to disagree on this point, but my non-authoritative opinion is that if you explain the situation and show that you consulted a wide variety of sources and correlated and analyzed them, and convincingly concluded (for instance) that the woman did have nine children but names of only five can be ascertained, then you would be meeting standards. In such a quest one would not limit oneself to direct evidence either.

Such a sub-problem in the KDP would certainly allow the applicant to display ability to locate, correlate, and analyze a wide variety of relevant sources, perhaps including business accounts, military records, and siblings' vital records among many more (some Cook County, Illinois, birth records gave the number of the birth to that mother). If an authoritative answer to this question were not forthcoming, however, I might choose a different family or a different set of generations in the same family. The point is to show what you can do (reread the rubrics!), not to tread on gray areas that might prove to be quicksand.

Q2: Does the Case Study (requirement #6) have to be a solved problem, or could it be "a no-stone-unturned study that did not answer the main question as to the end of a person's life-path"?

My answer: You have to solve the problem. The Application Guide asks applicants to "supply a case study (proof argument) drawn from your own research that (a) demonstrates application of the Genealogical Proof Standard and (b) resolves, in your opinion, a problem of relationship or identity that cannot be resolved from uncontested direct evidence."

Note that determining a date or place of death or burial, in itself, would not constitute a problem of relationship or identity IMO.

Note also that you can define the problem's scope. For my case study I defined the scope so that I was able to solve it. I sought the mother of a child born out of wedlock, not both parents. (It was still plenty hard.)

Finally, be wary of thinking that "no stone unturned" refers to a search only for direct evidence (that tells you the answer). Most hard problems require indirect evidence (clues) in order to resolve them: either there is no direct evidence at all,  as in many NGSQ articles blogged about here earlier, or you have to use indirect evidence to get to the unindexed, unmicrofilmed, undigitized direct evidence. Often consultation with a more experienced researcher (or reading an article on a similar problem) will open up additional possibilities for building such a case. For portfolio purposes, I personally prefer to select cases where there is conflicting direct evidence to start with.

Harold Henderson, "BCG Portfolio Q and A," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 26 September 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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