Note: I hold a Certified Genealogist credential but this blog post contains my own thoughts and does not reflect the opinions of the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

My path to completing my portfolio and earning the Certified Genealogist® credential was a long and windy adventure!

2009 February 4Went “on the clock” for the first time
2010 September 10Went back “on the clock”
2011 September 10Renewed (started ProGen 13 June 2011)
2012 September 10Started BU and renewed again – YIKES!
2018 August 22Back “on the clock”
2019 August 22Renewed – Are you surprised?
2020 March 21Granted COVID extension of 60 days
2020 October 12Joined Certification Discussion Group 2020.3 with most elements complete
2020 October 20Submitted TWO days before my deadline!
2021 January 11Earned my credential! Certified Genealogist® #1133

While on and off the clock, I spent significant time attending conferences, institutes, and additional educational opportunities because continuing education is what initially attracted me to genealogy—I love to learn.

What pushed me to finally actually get on with it? I guess it was a perfect storm of events!

A subtle reminder came in the form of a meme posted by Elizabeth Shown Mills in the Facebook group of the Board for Certification of Genealogists. The group is open to anyone who is a certified associate or interested in becoming a board-certified genealogist. Elizabeth is among the great cheerleaders of genealogists seeking certification. The meme that set me in motion talked about time passing either way. Oh my! With the start of Covid seclusion and my children attending school from home, I knew I needed to get going! And so, I did.

A colleague and I began discussing our plans for certification and decided that we would begin working on our portfolios in earnest. We committed to be accountability partners, keeping each other on track and sharing encouraging words and check-ins, but never discussing the details. When one of us was dragging, the other would encourage baby steps—just a little bit of progress. “Can you write two citations each day for your case study?” There were days, and sometimes weeks, that it was all we could do just to push on with those baby steps, but they added up. We both submitted and passed!

There is no one “right way” to complete each portfolio element. Any way that meets the requirements set forth in the BCG Application Guide, rubrics, and Genealogy Standards is sufficient. In fact, the Board for Certification of Genealogists does not require perfectionism, either. We can meet standards or even sometimes partially meet standards and still be deemed “sufficient for certification.”  One successful colleague told me that they had a rubric item that was rated “does not meet standards” but they passed. I suspect the rest of their portfolio was reasonably strong.

For each of the required elements, three judges evaluate the submission based on these rubrics. If any of the three judges rates a portfolio as insufficient for certification, a fourth judge reviews the portfolio and the comments of the three initial judges. The fourth judge ultimately makes the final determination about the portfolio.

To get a birds-eye view of my outcomes in a visual way, I put them into a spreadsheet, assigning green for “meets standards” (go),  yellow for “partially meets” (caution), and red for “does not meet” (stop). To me, green means I’ve got baseline skills and should continue to develop them, yellow provides an area of focus for skillbuilding, and for red I would seek information to remediate those weaker areas as soon as possible. I was also particularly interested in identifying rubric items that more than one judge rated less than “meets standards.”

Each of the three judges provided tremendously useful feedback. Judge 1 evaluated with the toughest ratings but their detailed feedback allowed the most growth opportunity. I am grateful for the time and knowledge that all three judges freely gifted me. Their feedback helped me to identify opportunities for improvement.

Jill Morelli’s Certification Discussion Group has been an excellent opportunity both to give back by mentoring and to take some time for personal reflection and growth. I used this graphic to share my outcomes during my “Journey to Certification” presentation for Certification Discussion Group peers on 31 March 2021.[1] (And yes, here I am two years later blogging about it! Progress not perfection, right?) When I presented my spreadsheet to the CDG group, I broke it down by section so that it would fit on slides.

The first element I presented was Requirement 2, Development Activities. In my portfolio, I presented my Development Activities by category, much like a resume or CV. As far as I know, there’s no right or wrong way to present this information, so I just did it in a way that made sense to me. The important part is to meet Standards 89 and 90.

Note to self: Keep building the Development Activities document. It will be handy for renewal and serve as a timeline and reference for skill development.

The second item was my document work. I felt that this was my weakest element, but apparently the judges weren’t quite as hard on me as I was on myself. After submitting my portfolio, I found several rubric items that I had initially thought I addressed but likely did not. I learned an important lesson about how I used (or perhaps misused?) rubrics. Countless times I read the rubrics and somehow managed to convince myself that I had met all of the standards related to particular categories. Shortly after turning it in, I realized that I had not actually addressed some of the requirements and Judge 1 noticed some of these weak areas, too.

My research report was probably my strongest element. It is shared on the BCG Work Samples page. I learned to write reports around the time that I first went “on the clock” and continued to develop my skills while writing client reports over the next decade. I also served as a facilitator/grader in the fourth module of the Boston University Genealogical Research Certificate Program, where I graded research report assignments against rubrics.  For the RR rubrics, I definitely dug in. This element was a long-coming gift for a local friend and her family that I had committed to do “someday when I complete my professional portfolio” and finally “someday” arrived.

The case study was the first element I started and the last one I completed. I continue to take courses and work on narrative writing. For both CS1 and CS7, two judges determined that I had partially met standards. One judge also identified areas for improvement within the CS4, CS5, and CS6 rubric categories. Not all judges select the same ratings because no person has the same experience and training as another and different people notice different things. In my opinion, that is one of the benefits of having three judges review the portfolio—we get three sets of eyes to provide valuable feedback.

Two judges saw room for improvement in CS7, clarity of writing. My submitted case study was seventeen pages and when I took Karen Jones’s writing class at SLIG, I literally cut it into pieces. (Yes, with scissors! Thanks, Accountability Partner!) When I put it back together, it was only ten pages. Less is more! Another “ding” came from my election to use entirely full reference note citations in my submission. While the language of the related standard is permissive rather than restrictive, as aptly noted by the judge, they felt it impacted clarity.

My Kinship-Determination Project addressed my direct female line and I learned many details about their lives that I had never understood before. Like with the Case Study element, I have rewritten the KDP to improve clarity. In fact, I’ve rewritten it in reverse. My submission was descending, starting with the most distant generation and moving forward. My rewrite starts with the most recent generation and goes back. It’s amazing how many additional holes appear when we quite literally reverse our work, turning it on its head.

Since initially sharing my outcomes with the CDG alumni group, fellow genealogist Pam Anderson, CG® has supported the development of a group of mentors for CDG and I am happy to serve. Working with mentees, I encourage them to look at their results in this visual way. It only takes a few minutes to color the boxes and the graphic helps to understand both where we are and where it would be helpful to go in our genealogical education.

I hope anyone who wishes to do so will feel free to download and adapt the template in whatever way is helpful to them.

Have fun and learn lots!

10 March 2023 update: I heard from Jill Morelli that she had seen something similar—a decade ago! In 2013 genealogist Claudia Reed Breland created a similar spreadsheet that she privately shared with Jill. Even though it was not something I personally saw, I wanted to acknowledge that there may be others out there. I also hope this will encourage genealogists to share! What other excellent tools and spreadsheets have people created? I’d love to hear about them!

[1] Certification Discussion Group’s Facebook page is open to all CDG Alumni. Members of the Certification Discussion Group’s Facebook page can find this post by searching my name and the date within the group.

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