How Not to Become Certified, part two

I promised in my post “How Not to Become Certified, part one,” to share some of the judge’s comments from my unsuccessful 2007 application to the Board for the Certification of Genealogists. I feel that this can be a valuable learning experience for those planning their own application for certification. Read the first post for my own opinions as to why that portfolio was unsuccessful.

Please note that the judging system in use at that time is no longer used by the BCG. However, the judge’s comments are still appropriate. To learn about the current BCG judging process, read “The Judging Process” on the BCG website, and review the current evaluation rubrics.

This application received a mixed decision: one judge approved the application, two judges disapproved it. The BCG regulations require all mixed decisions to be reviewed by a fourth judge, whose decision is final. Below are comments from all four judges, both positive and negative, that address common problems that researchers have. I will not add my own commentary but allow the judge’s words to speak for themselves.

[Regarding “Understanding & use of contradictory evidence”] “While noted as contradictory, no resolution was offered…”

“Did not apply the Genealogical Proof Standard.”

“An efficient research plan would call for identifying the location prior to searching for a document.”

“The abstract has entirely too many abbreviations, and the style changes from naming the devisee first, to naming the property first.”

“The outline form for results works well.”

“The applicant consistently referred to the typescript extract of a letter as a transcript. As he demonstrated with the document work, a transcript is a full, word for word, copy of a document. These few lines, taken out of a letter, are not a transcript.”

“A lot of interesting information is still in the footnotes. Moving information from footnotes into the text would create a more interesting story.”

“The text hinted at discrepancies, but did not develop the proof.”

“It is disappointing ot read between the lines and see a competent genealogist, yet realize that the work presented in this portfolio does  not meet the BCG Standards for Certification. The problems with the Case Study and report could be rectified with experience and attention to detail. However, due to the fact there was no attempt to apply the Genealogical Proof Standard or write a proof summary in any part of the portfolio, this judge is unable to recommend approval.”

“Use a wide range of sources per standard 19.”

“Heavy reliance on derivative sources.”

“Some kinship proof weak, see standard 50.”

“Proof summary inadequate, insufficient discussion, see standard 41.”

“Need a wider range of sources, see standard 19.”

“[T]he applicatioin guide states that applicants should show which of the three formats they chose for the case study. This was not done and therefore creates another area of uncertainty for judges.”

“Judges do expect more biographical data and historical or cultural context in the Kinship-Determination report and the portfolio was weak in these areas.”

“Footnote 5 might also be a possibility [for creating a proof summary] as it summarizes indirect evidence for the parents of Mary Lusby, but it wasn’t developed into a proof summary.”

“The Kinship-Determination project was the weakest part of the portfolio. There was very little biographical information, the format was not a recommended style, and it lacked the required two proof summaries. Without demonstrations of proof summaries this portfolio cannot be approved.”

“It is unfortunate that although Mr. Hait has satisfactorily met many of the standards, several major ones are unmet and they are so serious that certification cannot be recommended. However, Mr. Hait is encouraged to learn from the judges’ comments, correct the noted deficiencies and omissions, and later apply with a new portfolio that demonstrates what he has learned.”

And I did just that.

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “How Not to Become Certified, part two,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 16 Jul 2011 ( : accessed [access date]).

17 thoughts on “How Not to Become Certified, part two

  1. And yes you did. Thank you for supplying Part II. Again, a great learning experience for all of us. I find myself referring to the BCG website regularly for guidance. I really like that they include so many examples of quality work on the site regarding many types of records, time frames, and reasons the reports are created. I look forward to future entries.

  2. Michael,

    Your last sentence, “And I did just that.” in response to the judge’s comment, “Mr. Hait is encouraged to learn from the judges’ comments, correct the noted deficiencies and omissions, and later apply with a new portfolio that demonstrates what he has learned.” is awesome. Rather than resorting to a fuss and argue mode, you used the comments to become what we all see today as a strong genealogist. You have become a role model for all of us.
    Connie Lenzen, CG
    Former BCG President

  3. Reading your first post yesterday and the comments and now today’s post I think I will more seriously consider starting certification work sooner rather than later. And I’ll try not to be fearful of the process. Thanks so much for sharing the comments.

  4. The message I am hearing loud and clear is to read and re-read the BCG Standards Manual. I am surprised by the comment where they address you as Mr. Hait. I thought the judging was supposed to be blind.

    • The judging is blind, in that we do not know who the judges are, but not double-blind. The judges do know who we are. Part of the application is a resume, whereby, even if our name was not on the resume, it would probably not be too difficult to discover who we are.

      • Yes, Michael. I concur. In fact, I felt strongly that my ‘resume was being judged’ by some of the comments. My portfolio, submitted about the same time period, also got one positive, two negative, and a negative from the fourth judge.
        Thank you, again, for posting these results. It should be an excellent learning experience for everyone interested in the process… P.S. You writing always does that, by the way! 😉

  5. I really love these two posts. You always hear people say that the certification process is itself a learning experience and worth its weight in gold just for the experience it brings, and part of that experience is receiving the comments, even in the negative. But I’ve never actually seen the kinds of comments that are received and the backstory and context behind them. You’ve done both in these posts and it’s extremely helpful to see the sum up of the experience as it was for you.

  6. Michael,

    Thanks for sharing the judges comments. As stated in a comment above, this information is very helpful even if one is not considering certification; it helps to know what’s expected.

  7. Michael, Thanks for sharing this information. Knowing the types of concerns expressed by the judges helps all of us who are preparing for certification.

  8. These posts are very helpful to those of us working on our own portfolios. Thanks for sharing the judges’ comments. Like Marian I will reread the standards manual and use it as a guide for judging my own portfolio before submitting it.

  9. This is HUGELY helpful. It’s great to be able to see what sort of feedback you get for the application fee. It really is a relatively good value for the money, education-wise. They told you what you needed to work on, and you did, and here you are. That’s a success story, for them and for you.

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  12. Thanks for sharing. I must say by emphasizing the experience and education gained presents a compelling argument for at least going through the exercise with gusto. Up to lately, my question was how would it help my business…my question has moved to how will it help my clients? Looking forward to learning more.

  13. Thank you for being so candid in your experience with becomeing certified. I’ve heard a saying to the effect that if we do not understand the past we are destined to repeat those mistakes in the future. I believe you have helped many of us who are considering professional certification avoid some of those mistakes. Thank you.

  14. I enjoyed reading your blog posts! For years I have been fussing over the garbage in-garbage out “genealogy” data- the informal and untrained research that has become permanently part of the internet as a result of the point and click crowd. I have followed the BCG standards after learning a beginner’s harsh lesson. I belong to several organizations…read the journals, participate in several forums…electronic and otherwise. Though I don’t plan to become certified…I don’t see myself making it a business…I do take the research seriously. I found your candid posts about the BCG certification experience refreshing and encouraging and highly educational. You may have even motivated me to apply!

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