I went to GRIP!

More accurately, GRIP came to me, virtually. I mentioned the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) (1) in my post Genealogy Education and Certification (2). So when the opportunity to sign up for its virtual offerings came up, I was excited that I was able to get into a class for both the June and July sessions.

The first session was Mastering Genealogical Documentation with Tom Jones. As I mentioned in Cite Your Sources (3), citations are a key component of solid genealogy work. They are also the bane of my existence. I have been making an effort to add citations to all of my blog posts, and it adds tremendously to the work of blogging. I’ve also been trying to work on my own “house style” (because consistency is key) and write a citation for all the documents I have so that when I want to write something, adding citations to it won’t be much more complicated than cut and paste.

The class is based on Dr. Jones’ book Mastering Genealogical Documentation (4), and it was phenomenal. First of all, Dr. Jones is an amazing teacher. I will definitely be looking to take more classes taught by him. He has a remarkable knowledge base, and is incredibly patient and kind. No matter how many questions you asked, or how many answers you got wrong – and trust me, I had a lot of both – he never made me feel dumb when responding to me.

Confession: I own Dr. Jones’ book, but I have never read it. It is a fantastic resource, with very clear explanations and exercises at the end of each chapter. If you were never able to take this class, you could do very well for yourself just reading the book and doing the exercises. The advantage of the class, of course, is the ability to ask questions as you go along and to have classmates ask the questions you never even thought to ask (and I was fortunate to have brilliant classmates who asked so many good questions). The homework assignments in the course were amazing as well – they really solidified the learning that we did each day. I feel like I have a much more solid view of the art of constructing citations. Instead of just providing a template, we were informed of all the different components that go into making a citation so we can carefully consider the source (another reason for citations that I glossed over in my blog post). I was pleased to see that a few of my classmates didn’t have things like certification or publication in mind when taking this course. They recognized, as I do, that citations are fundamental to good genealogy. I am proud to be a part of a field that holds such high standards for itself!

(5)

The second session was Advanced DNA Evidence, coordinated by Blaine Bettinger, with additional instructors Angie Bush and Karen Stanbary, CG. Part of me worried that by not taking the basic DNA first, that I would be a bit lost taking the advanced DNA, but I was also concerned that I would be bored even in the advanced course, given that I work with DNA evidence almost every day. I was glad to be wrong on both counts.

Again the instructors were fabulous and I learned a lot, even a new technique which I hope to write about in the future (visual phasing requires 3 siblings, so my first order to business is to get the required DNA for it). I really appreciated seeing how DNA evidence goes hand in hand with documentary evidence, no matter how much some people try to separate the two. The sessions on citing DNA evidence coupled nicely with the previous session’s course, and looking at the case studies showed me that while my DNA knowledge base may be advanced, if I want to be able to use it (to one day be certified or to publish, for example), I really need to level up my other skills. One of my classmates mentioned a new tool for organizing genealogy, and I hope to write about that soon!

Overall I was extremely impressed with virtual GRIP. The courses went so smoothly with hardly any technical hiccups, which is a huge accomplishment. I’m sure a great deal of that credit belongs to the tech hosts in each meeting, who made sure everyone was able to get into the ZOOM meetings, kept people muted when they needed to be, and other things I didn’t notice because it all went so well. My one complaint about the virtual experience has nothing to do with the organization but with my own situation: when you’re at home, you get distracted by things at home. Personally I was logging into meetings on my phone at a certain point each day to go pick my kids up from school and camp, doing my best to listen and follow along while driving. At the end of the day, when my brain was completely taxed and I still had homework to do, I then had to make supper and do other home stuff. If I was actually in Pittsburgh, I could focus 100% on my course, and get supper made for me. Something to consider if they continue to have virtual offerings when in-person learning begins again.

Continuing education is fundamental to the field of genealogy and I was heartened to see veteran genealogists in my courses. I would encourage everyone who has the opportunity to do so to attend GRIP!


1) Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (https://www.gripitt.org/: accessed 23 July 2021).

2) Jennifer Wiebe, “Genealogy Education and Certification,” Jennealogie (https://maltsoda.wordpress.com/2019/10/10/genealogy-education-and-certification/: accessed 22 July 2021).

3) Jennifer Wiebe, “Cite Your Sources,” Jennealogie (https://maltsoda.wordpress.com/2019/05/24/cite-your-sources/: accessed 22 July 2021).

4) Tom Jones, Mastering Genealogical Documentation (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2017).

5) Jennifer Wiebe, digital photo, GRIP Advanced DNA Certificate of Attendance, July 2021, author’s files.

Opting In

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time now – since April 2018, when the Golden State Killer case changed the genealogy world forever. Since then, genealogy has been combined with law enforcement efforts to find the perpetrators of violent crimes, as well as to identify unknown remains. Unidentified remains are often left out of this discussion, and it’s important to include them because they are invariably the victims of violent crimes. Immediately genealogists and genealogy companies began picking sides, and what we’re left with now is two companies (FamilyTreeDNA and Gedmatch) that allow law enforcement to use their databases and give their users the choice of opting in to matching with these law enforcement kits.

I’m not going to pretend I’m writing from an unbiased position, because I have opted in to law enforcement matching and I believe it’s the right thing to do. My bottom line is that if someone commits a violent crime, and my DNA can help identify them, I want to help. I especially want to help the victims of these violent crimes and their families get closure. However, I’m not here to convince those staunchly against it, just to explain the process of what’s now called Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG).

Step 1: DNA is found at a crime scene and is thought to belong to the suspect/unidentified remains are found

Step 2: The DNA is uploaded to a national criminal DNA database (in the US, this is called CODIS). No matches are found.

Step 3: The DNA is then prepared to be uploaded to the DNA databases, much in the same way our swabs are prepared when we mail them in.

Step 4: Exactly like we would get from submitting our DNA, the crime scene DNA is processed and gets an ethnicity estimate and a list of matches. There’s a lot of nonsense about how police are “searching” DNA databases, when the reality is that they are only able to access the matches to the crime scene DNA (and at this point, the work has entirely been handed over to the genealogist anyway).

Step 5: Exactly like would be done for an adoptee, a genealogist will work the list of matches and put together a family tree for the crime scene DNA. However, unlike work with adoptees, there is no contact with the DNA matches. If you are a match to crime scene DNA, it’s not likely that you’ll know about it, except in very rare cases.

Step 6: If a suspect can be identified, a surreptitious DNA sample will be taken and compared to the original crime scene DNA. In the case of unidentified remains, a close family member (ideally a parent or child) will be asked to test.

Step 7: If the suspect’s DNA matches the crime scene DNA, they will be arrested and legal proceedings will take place.

If you feel, as I do, that you want the perpetrators and the victims to be identified, please upload your DNA to FTDNA and Gedmatch and opt in (here’s a good link for how to download and upload your DNA to and from various sites). It will only cost you the time it takes to do the downloading/uploading. If you have already done so, could you double check to make sure you’re still opted in, and add a family tree?

Ça va aller

I’ve written before about what a vital force my great-grandma was (1). One of my greatest possessions is the hand-written memoir and genealogy notes she made when she was still alive. In it, she very briefly mentions major events that happened in her life: WWI, the 1919 Winnipeg Strike and the flu. “Then the 1919 Flu struck + so many died because the doctors didn’t know what it was + how to cure it. It went through our family by ones and two, but thanks to father we all recovered.” (2)

There’s so much more I’d like to know about what her life was like during the event. I find it interesting that she noted that it was her father who took care of them. Was her mother sick? Did her father also get sick? Who did she know that died? Were they scared? How did it change the way they lived their lives?

Reading articles about what it was like then are interesting. In Winnipeg, everything shut down in October 1918, including ” all schools, cinemas, church services and other such gathering places.” (3) Although there was no emphasis on wearing masks in Winnipeg, there was in other places and it was as poorly received by a segment of the population as it is today. (4) The pandemic today has also been highlighting race and class inequalities as it did then (5) and it’s unfortunate that things haven’t changed much in 100 years.

In Quebec we have been using the expression “Ça va aller” which means “this will pass.” I think about how lucky we are to live in the modern age where we not only have a better understanding of disease but better medicine to treat it. I think of how fortunate we are that despite having to isolate ourselves from each other, we are more connected now than ever before thanks to the technologies we have. I think especially of how connected I am to a woman who lived through an event like this 100 years ago, how her vital force also flows in me, and I know that no matter what happens, ça va aller.


1 Jennifer Wiebe, Jennealogie, (https://maltsoda.wordpress.com/2020/01/10/happy-birthday-great-grandma/ : accessed 6 October 2020), “Happy Birthday, Great-Grandma!”

2 Ethel Garner, “Memoirs,” handwritten notes, 1993 (Chilliwack, BC); privately held by Jennifer Wiebe, Montreal, Quebec, 2020.

3 Christian Cassidy, West End Dumplings  (https://westenddumplings.blogspot.com/2013/10/spanish-influenza-visits-manitoba.html : accessed 6 October 2020), “”Spanish” Influenza visits Manitoba”.

4  Christine Hauser, The New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/03/us/mask-protests-1918.html: accessed 6 October 2020), “The Mask Slackers of 1918.”

5 CBC Radio, CBC (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/winnipeg-spanish-flu-100-years-1.4843940 : accessed 6 October 2020), “Lessons for today from the Spanish flu of 1918.”

6 Rainbow, photograph 2020; digital image ca, privately held by Jennifer Wiebe, Montreal, Quebec, 2020.

Why I Love Scapple

Way back what feels like 3 centuries ago, I watched a webinar by Blaine Bettinger called LucidChart and Other Tools for Genetic Genealogy. He talked about a few different third party tools, some of which we might not think of when we think of genealogy, such as a charting program called LucidChart. Sometimes we need to make charts in genealogy, in order to see things more clearly, or to make family trees for blog posts and presentations. I finally got around to checking out LucidChart, since they offer a limited use of the program for free. You can use it on a variety of platforms and that appealed to me because I use my iPad a lot. However, it is not a very intuitive program and I consider myself to be pretty technologically adept. I was finally able to create a few text boxes but the ability to connect them with a simple line was beyond me. No matter whether it was on the iPad or PC, I could not get the lines to do what they were supposed to, nor could I move them where I wanted them or get them to be the correct length without dragging them out in silly ways.

Other genealogists I know have successfully used a similar program called Scapple. It is available on Mac and PC and also offers limited use of the program for free. I found this program to be incredibly intuitive and easy to use and had a family tree comparing DNA matches set up very quickly. Here’s a little tutorial of the very basics you will need to set up a family tree.

Step 1) Double click anywhere to create a “note” (basically a text box), which you can then edit. I started with John Smith. If you right click on the note “John Smith”, you will see and option to “Apply Note Style.” I made him in a blue bubble.

Step 2) I made John Smith’s wife, Mary Jones following step 1, but I made her bubble pink. Now to connect John and Mary. If you hold CTRL and click on each note, then right click, you’ll see “connect.”

Step 3) Back to step 1, this time creating their son, John Smith Jr. Following Step 2 again, I connected him to his parents.

The cool thing about when they’re connected is that no matter where you move John Smith Jr, he stays connected.

If you CTRL click on multiple people, you can move them around together. For example, here I clicked on John Smith Jr and Mary Jones and dragged them over.

However, if there are a lot of people you want to move, you can also hold down your left mouse button and highlight everyone you want to move and then drag them over to wherever you want

A free trial of Scapple last 30 days of use (so if you don’t use it everyday, you can extend the 30 days over a period of time). I don’t know that I’d use Scapple all that much, but for Windows the price of the program is 24$ which I consider reasonable. When I run out of free trial, I will certainly consider buying a license.

UPDATE:

When you start to add multiple children to a family, it can get kind of messy:

Since you can’t make connections between the lines, it was suggested in the Scapple forum to make a note in between two connected notes (you don’t even have to disconnect them, you can just click on the line connecting two notes and it will make a new note in between them). Then you can connect all the children to that note. For example, here I connected John Smith and Mary Jones to a note “m.” with no colour, and then connected all of their children to that note.

The GPS: A Recipe for Success

Most people know GPS as “global positioning system,” the device in their phone/car that gets them where they’re going. Today I’m going to write about the acronym as it applies to genealogy: it stands for Genealogical Proof Standard. While it will get you where you’re going if you follow it —much like your car’s GPS — since I was using the baking analogy in my last post (1) about improving your genealogy skills, that’s the analogy I’m going to use here.

While the GPS is used by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (2) as a way to evaluate genealogists’ work when they apply for certification, it is not just a tool for professionals or those who want to work at a professional level. Even if we consider genealogy “just” a hobby, we still want to end up with good results! The same is true in the baking world.

As a hobby baker, I want to make things that taste good, even if I don’t want to sell my cakes or win baking competitions. I could say that I just want to enjoy the process of baking, without worrying about getting weighted down with baking standards, but that sounds ridiculous. Anyone who has ever tried to bake something knows the importance of following a recipe and measuring ingredients properly — my first experience with this was that time as a child when I accidentally used 1/4 c. of salt instead of 1/4 tsp. Thankfully I’m a much better baker now.

The GPS is not there to make our work more onerous but to make sure our results are good, much like a recipe is not there to get in our way but to ensure our results are edible. The product of genealogy is like the product of baking. If our sources are ingredients, then the GPS is the recipe that tells us how to evaluate those ingredients and use them for the best outcome. Genealogy isn’t about collecting as many sources as we can any more than baking is about collecting as many ingredients as we can. Nor is genealogy about creating the biggest or longest family tree we can any more than baking is about making the biggest cake, without paying any heed to the ingredients that go into it.

If you’re convinced that following a recipe is a good way to ensure success, here’s the recipe for good genealogy. The GPS has 5 components (3):

1. Reasonably exhaustive research. This means we looked in all the places where we would expect to find sources. I like that the word “exhaustive” is tempered by the word “reasonably.”

2. Complete and accurate source citations. I’ve talked about why citing your sources (4) is important, but it’s also important to note that the easiest way to know if someone has successfully attained the first criteria is by reviewing their citations.

3. Analysis and correlation of the collected information. One of the first things to do is to comb through the sources and check if they’re derivative or original (5). There are other criteria for evaluating sources that I hope to discuss in future posts.

4. Resolution of conflicting evidence. Do all the sources agree? If they don’t, can you satisfactorily resolve any conflicts?

5. Well-reasoned, written conclusion. This is the final product, our cake. It doesn’t have to be fancy, academic or ready for publication. It just has to be written. Otherwise we are leaving our research as a jumbled collection of ingredients for the next person to pick up, which is a real shame if we’ve gone to all the trouble of following the first four steps.

Yellow cake with chocolate icing (6)

Both genealogy and baking can be challenging sometimes, but in both subjects, having the right recipe will help us achieve our goals. Happy researching!


1 Jennifer Wiebe, Jennealogie (https://maltsoda.wordpress.com/2019/07/12/sources-evidence-and-proof/: accessed 8 May 2020) “Sources, Evidence and Proof.”

2 Board for Certification of Genealogists (https://bcgcertification.org/: accessed 8 May 2020).

3 Wikipedia (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogical_Proof_Standard: accessed 8 May 2020) “Genealogical Proof Standard.”

4 Jennifer Wiebe, Jennealogie (https://maltsoda.wordpress.com/2019/05/24/cite-your-sources/: accessed 8 May 2020) “Cite Your Sources.”

5 Jennifer Wiebe, Jennealogie (https://maltsoda.wordpress.com/2019/10/17/derivative-vs-original-sources//: accessed 8 May 2020) “Derivative vs. Original Sources.”

6 Jennifer Wiebe, photograph of yellow cake with chocolate icing, October 2018, privately held by Jennifer Wiebe, Montreal, Quebec, 2018.

I got my DNA tested, now what?

I’ve organized this post so that it goes from the very basics to things that require more advanced skills. Once you’ve mastered the earlier stuff you should be ready to move onto the more difficult stuff.

Try Lost Cousins’ Masterclass. While you’re there, if you have ancestors on the 1880 UK, Canadian or American census, make an account and enter those family members to see if you can connect with your Lost Cousins. You can sign up for the newsletter which is both informative and entertaining, especially if you have ancestors from the UK.

Make a family tree! Ideally the tree is connected to your DNA results at the site where you did your DNA test, but there are many places online you can build a family tree, some of which are completely free. I wrote a post about where you can do this. Here’s an interesting post from the DNAgeek that talks about how you can colour code your tree using the colours used to tag your DNA matches on Ancestry.

Figure out who your DNA matches are! Use shared matches to classify people by family -if a DNA match shares DNA with a known cousin, then they must somehow be related to the same branch of the family that cousin is on. Make notes and, if you’re using Ancestry, colour code your DNA matches. Here’s another post by the DNAgeek that talks about this feature. You may even want to send a message to the match, especially if they have no family tree and there are no shared matches. Here’s a post I wrote about how to do that. Connecting with cousins is my favourite part of DNA testing!

Here’s a post I made about clustering. It will give you the basics of clustering and why it might help you. Try the Leeds Method to do manual clustering, or check out places online that are doing automatic clustering, like Genetic Affairs.

Consider joining a surname project. Some surname projects are for YDNA and mtDNA results, but some are for autosomal results and there are gathering places (like Facebook pages) for people who have a surname in their tree.

Read my two posts on DNA here and here. If you understood the concepts In those posts and want to delve more deeply into those topics, read this book.

Learn about centimorgans (cM). You can verify that your known matches fall in the correct range or see what the most likely relationship is for unknown matches here. This is probably the tool I use the most when working with DNA.

Download your DNA and then upload your DNA to other sites. Here’s a great post from Roberta Estes with links to other posts on how to download/upload your DNA from/to various sites.

If you originally did your DNA test with Ancestry, you won’t have access to a chromosome browser. But once you transfer your DNA to other sites that do, you can learn about chromosome browsers and how they can help further your DNA research.

Once you’ve got chromosome browsers down pat, learn about triangulation.

Once you understand the principle of triangulation, you can give it a try. If you need a way to keep track of all your overlapping DNA matches, check out DNAPainter. You can watch a YouTube video of how to use it here, and read a post that explains very clearly how to use it here.

Rootsfinder is a third party tool that does a number of things. It also has a clustering tool, and a way to paint your matches. You can try out a basic plan for free.

Did I miss any DNA basics? Are there other third party tools you like to use? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Birthday, Great-Grandma!

I was fortunate enough to know my great-grandma, who was born on this day 118 years ago today.  We spent lots of time with her as children until she moved to the other side of the country, and even then she came back to visit and we vacationed there a few times. I even got to celebrate her 100th birthday with her! My favourite memory of that event was my great-aunt speaking about what a great mother-in-law my great-grandmother was, and how they had never had a fight, to which my great-grandma responded, “There’s still time!”

When I started doing genealogy I was able to learn more about her and her life and I loved her even more. In fact, I think it was because of her love for her family and her family history that her daughter caught the genealogy bug and passed it onto me!

Ethel was one of eight children, the oldest girl. She had one other sister with whom she was very close, and often made trips to visit. Apparently the only time they ever fought was when Edna borrowed Ethel’s silk stockings without asking! (1)

lockhart kids

5 of the 8 Lockhart kids (2)

Her parents had grown up near a Hudson’s Bay Company post and had come to the city as young adults. They passed on their love of nature to their children. Ethel loved the outdoors, and spent her time canoeing and swimming in the Summer and snowshoeing in the winter. (3)

ethelbertsnowshoe

Ethel and her soon to be husband, Bert (4)

Ethel came of age in the roaring 20s, and was a bit of a rebel. She bobbed her hair and wore a Jantzen bathing suit, which was a considered shocking at the time. (5)

etheljantzen

Ethel in her Jantzen (6)

She wanted to become a teacher, but her parents couldn’t afford the tuition, so she worked at Eaton’s in the mailing room. (7) I wrote in Happy Birthday, Bert! how she met and married her husband.

When they lived at the Winnipeg Swim Club, she created a warm and welcoming place. Maybe a little too welcoming, as she once told a bunch of kids crashing a meal for the umpteenth time, “Don’t you have families to go home to?!” (8)

20170323145157_00201A

Lunch  (9)

I also wrote about how they found and built their property, and how it flooded. The first time it flooded in 1948 they had to scrub all the mud from the house. When it flooded again in 1950, my great-grandmother said, “Well, at least we don’t have to clean this time!” (10)

She was a vital force, helping to bring money into the home by growing seedlings to sell in greenhouses and later working selling cosmetics door-to-door. Her brothers bought her a car so she could visit and care for her aging mother until her mother came to live with her. She worked the property, turning it into a beautiful park-like space. (11)

20170325164915_00082A

Ethel plowing (12)

She did not slow down, even after her husband passed away. It was only in her 80s that she finally moved from her beloved home into an apartment. Even in her 80s and 90s she was well enough to travel, visiting her sister in California, and making a few trips to Hawaii.

20170324094436_00075A.jpg

One of my favourite photos: Ethel scuba diving in her 80s. I hope I am as healthy if I reach that age! (13)

Ethel knew how to make a house into a welcoming home for her family and friends. She loved cooking and making fancy treats. Here I will leave you with her recipe for lemon pie that she passed on to me:

Juice and rind of 1 lemon

1 c. sugar

1 c.  boiling water

Pinch salt

Boil together

Add 2 tbsp. cornstarch

Cook till clear

Add butter size of walnut

Add 2 egg yolks

Remove from heat. Pour into already baked pie shell.


 

1 conversation with SR

2 Andy, Ethel, Edna, Bob and Lawrie, photograph ca. 1911; digital image ca. 2018, privately held by Jennifer Wiebe, Montreal, Quebec, 2019.

3 conversation with SR

4 Ethel and Bert, photograph ca. 1925; digital image ca. 2018, privately held by Jennifer Wiebe, Montreal, Quebec, 2019.

5 conversation with SR

6 Ethel in her Janzen, photograph ca. 1925; digital image ca. 2018, privately held by Jennifer Wiebe, Montreal, Quebec, 2019.

7 Ethel’s memoirs

8 conversation with SR

9 Ethel and friends at lunch, photograph ca. 1930; digital image ca. 2018, privately held by Jennifer Wiebe, Montreal, Quebec, 2019.

10 conversation with SR

11 conversation with SR

12 Ethel plowing, photograph ca. 1945; digital image ca. 2018, privately held by Jennifer Wiebe, Montreal, Quebec, 2019.

13 Ethel scuba diving, photograph ca. 1988; digital image ca. 2018, privately held by Jennifer Wiebe, Montreal, Quebec, 2019.

Remembering our Canadian WWI Ancestors

Have you seen the Disney movie Coco? I learned a lot about the traditions of the Día de Muertos such as the ofrenda. I love the ritual involved in remembering and honouring ancestors. I think this is especially important when the ancestor in question has no direct descendants to remember them, like my third great uncle, George Thomas MacBean. George was a military man, a bachelor with no children. He was killed in WWI during the Battle of Flers–Courcelette on 15 September 1916 (1). Thanks to really great archives, I am able to learn more about him over a hundred years later.

Looking for your Canadian ancestors who fought in WWI? Check out these links:

Library and Archives Canada WWI Personnel Records (2)

Canadian Virtual War Memorial (all fallen Canadian and Newfoundland soldiers who have died in battle since Confederation are remembered here) (3)

If your Canadian ancestor who fought in WWI, WWII or the Korean Conflict had no known grave, you can register (4) to help identify them. If newly discovered human remains of Canadian war dead are found, you will be contacted and, using DNA, the remains could be identified as your ancestor. Since George is on the Vimy Memorial with over 11,000 other soldiers with no known burial place (5), I have registered for this project.

Another great site is The Canadian Letters and Images Project. This website is “online archive of the Canadian war experience, from any war, as told through the letters and images of Canadians themselves.” You can look through what has already been submitted, or, if you have documents and images from a Canadian ancestor who fought in a war, you can submit it to the project. (6)

Finally, Regimental Rogue (7) has an amazing website. If you really want to get into the nitty gritty of your ancestor’s military service, this is the place to start!

George MacBean (1879-1916) (8)


1  “Personnel Records of the First World War,” database with images, Library and Archives Canada (http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/personnel-records/Pages/personnel-records.aspx : accessed 31 October 2019), service file for George MacBean, Regiment no. 622417; citing LAC Record Group 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 6589 – 39: 144519.

2  “Personnel Records of the First World War,” database with images, Library and Archives Canada (http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/personnel-records/Pages/personnel-records.aspx : accessed 31 October 2019); citing LAC Record Group 150, Accession 1992-93/166.

3 Veterans Affairs Canada, Canadian Virtual War Memorial (https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial: accessed 31 October 2019).

4 Government of Canada, Register to help identify Canadian war dead with no known grave  (https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/services/military-history/history-heritage/casualty-identification-military/register-missing-military-family.html : accessed 31 October 2019).

5 Veterans Affairs Canada, Canadian Virtual War Memorial (https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/overseas/first-world-war/france/vimy/fast-facts: accessed 31 October 2019), “Fast facts – Canadian National Vimy Memorial.”

6 Stephen Davies The Canadian Letters and Images Project (https://www.canadianletters.ca/content/about-us : accessed 10 November 2019), “About Us.”

7 Regimental Rogue (http://regimentalrogue.com/misc/researching_first_world_war_soldiers.htm : accessed 31 October 2019), “Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War.”

8 George MacBean, photograph ca. 1915; digital image ca. 2018, privately held by Jennifer Wiebe, Montreal, Quebec, 2019.

Derivative vs. Original Sources

I was really proud of my post How to Order Records from the GRO (1) until it was pointed out to me that GRO records aren’t original records, they are copies of the original records. The copies were made at the end of each quarter, so they date back to almost the time the original record was created. However, anyone who has ever played broken telephone knows that errors can crop up once information is being copied.

When we are evaluating sources to come to some kind of a conclusion (see my post Sources, Evidence and Proof (2) for more on that) one of the first evaluations we make is whether the source is original or derivative. An original source is, well, original. A derivative source is anything that was copied (transcribed) from that original record. Obviously we can trust the original source more than a derivative one since we know that errors could have been introduced when making the transcription. An exception to this would be extremely good copies, such as a clear microfilm, photocopy or digitized image. We’ll save talking about evaluating the information in the source for another day.

Given this, I decided to send away for the original record. Although the original district was Warrington, the area now falls under the district of St. Helens. 14£ and a few weeks later, I now have a copy of the original birth record. Upon inspection, it doesn’t look like any errors were introduced when the GRO copy was made. Given how similar the copies are, I wouldn’t be surprised if the registrar made the copy very soon after the original was made. In fact, the only difference I can see is the signature of his mother -she had lovely penmanship!

Orignal (3)

Derivative (4)


1 Jennifer Wiebe, Jennealogie (https://maltsoda.wordpress.com/2019/09/20/ordering-records-from-the-gro/ : accessed 14 October 2019) “How to Order Records from the GRO.”

2 Jennifer Wiebe, Jennealogie (https://maltsoda.wordpress.com/2019/07/12/sources-evidence-and-proof/: accessed 14 October 2019) “Sources, Evidence and Proof.”

3 Cropped image from St. Helen’s, General Register Office, photocopy of a entry of birth for Herbert Garner, born 30 September 1903; an entry in the register of births in the registration district of Newton in Makerfield, Warrington; digital image 2019, privately held by Jennifer Wiebe, Montreal, Quebec, 2019.

4 Cropped image from England, General Register Office, PDF copy for an entry of birth for Herbert Garner, born 30 September 1903, registered October quarter 1903; a copy of an entry in the certified copy of register of births in the registration district of Newton in Makerfield, Warrington; digital image 2019, privately held by Jennifer Wiebe, Montreal, Quebec, 2019.

Genealogy Education and Certification

A lot of people ask in the Genealogy Squad Facebook Group (1) about genealogy education (usually with a goal of becoming a professional genealogist). Since this is something I’ve looked at, I thought it would be helpful to write a blog post detailing various educational opportunities and how I’m planning on working my way towards becoming a professional genealogist. However, education is something every genealogist should think about, (aspiring) professional or not, so we can keep up with the latest tools and technologies and continue to expand our skills and knowledge.

I’m going to talk about informal educational opportunities, then different certificate programs and finally about certification. This is by no means going to be an exhaustive list; check out Cyndi’s List (2) for more options. One important thing I want to mention before getting started is the difference between getting a certificate and certification. These are two different processes, and while getting a certificate can be a step on your path towards certification, it doesn’t mean you are certified. Likewise, one can be certified without having any certificates in genealogy.

Genealogy can be really expensive, and not everyone has the money or time to invest in formal courses. Fortunately, there are a lot of learning opportunities available for free or for much less expensive than a formal course. For instance, there are a lot of genealogy blogs and webinars that can be read or watched for free. Even Legacy Family Tree Webinars (3) which offers webinars for a fee, has webinars that are free, and some webinars are free as they are presented and for a limited time after. FamilySearch has classes and webinars (4) and Ancestry has an Academy (5) full of articles and videos to watch. Useful informal learning opportunities available at a cost include study groups such as NGSQ study group (6) (there is no fee for the group itself, but you will need to join the NGS (7) in order to participate -and the NGS also offers classes with its membership, some for free, some at a cost) or ProGen (8) study group (if you are thinking of becoming a professional genealogist, you will definitely want to participate in this one). There are many books and magazines you can buy or subscribe to, depending on your area of interest. Membership in a local genealogy society may not be free, but they may have access to many books, journals and other tools available for free as well as offer lectures and conferences in your area of interest. Attending larger conferences, like Rootstech (9) and NGS (10) can also be a good educational opportunity. For people who are not near any societies or who would find it difficult to travel to a conference, there is even a Virtual Genealogical Association (11).

When we start to think about more formal coursework, the cost and time investment increases. There are week long intensives, either in person or virtual, such as SLIG (12) GRIP (13) and IGHR (14). One of the reasons why people would want to take a certificate course (either online or in person) is that you don’t know what you don’t know. While a person could piece together enough courses to gain a deep understanding of genealogy topics, it’s obviously a lot easier to have the courses laid out for you and know that a respected institution will cover all the topics you need to know. I will mention two such Institutes, although many exist: Boston University (15) offers an intensive 15 week online course, and the National Institute for Genealogical Studies (16) is where I’m working towards a certificate in Canadian records (40 courses). If you have 15 weeks to spare, I’ve heard good things about the BU course. While it will take me much, much longer to finish my courses at NIGS, I like that I can do them at my own pace (which is currently one course per month, although most courses allow two months for completion, and you can do as many courses at a time as you can handle).

Go me! (17)

Switching gears a little, I’m going to talk about certification. It bears mentioning again that certification is a different process than getting a certificate. Getting a certificate is a learning process; certification is a process that can pursued once enough genealogical knowledge has been obtained. There are a few certifying bodies; the two big ones are BCG (18) and ICAPGen (19). Locally, I also have the Fédération québécoise des sociétés de généalogie (20) which certifies Quebec genealogists to do French-Canadian research. While certification isn’t necessary to do genealogy work professionally, it does ensure that a genealogist meets certain standards, as a portfolio has to be submitted and judged to meet the requirements before certification is granted. For the genealogist, it can be point of pride; for consumers, it can be an easy way to ensure you are hiring someone with expertise. One day I’d like to be certified by the BCG, and anyone who’s interested in exploring BCG certification should consider taking the Certification Discussion Group (21) course. I’m currently taking it even though certification is a long way off (and I’ll probably take the ProGen course before as well). I’m learning a lot about the requirements so I can prepare myself well in advance and tailor my education (formal and informal) to be more prepared when I’m ready to pursue certification.

I think it’s really wonderful that there are so many different ways we can educate ourselves in this day and age. Whether I do something in person or online, with a group or on my own, everyday I can achieve my goal of going to bed a little less stupid. If you value this as well, I hope this post was helpful in pointing out opportunities to you. Let me know in the comments about your experiences with both formal and informal genealogy education!


1 Genealogy Squad (https://www.facebook.com/groups/genealogysquad/ : accessed 10 October 2019).

2 Cyndi Howells, Cyndi’s List (https://www.cyndislist.com/education/ : accessed 10 October 2019) “Education (Genealogical).”

3 Legacy Family Tree Webinars (https://familytreewebinars.com/index.php : accessed 10 October 2019).

4 Family Search (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Family_History_Library_Classes_and_Webinars : accessed 10 October 2019) “Family History Library Classes and Webinars.”

5 Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/academy/courses/recommended : accessed 10 October 2019).

6 The NGSQ Study Group (https://ngsqstudygroup.com/ : accessed 10 October 2019).

7 National Genealogical Society (https://www.ngsgenealogy.org/ : accessed 10 October 2019).

8 ProGen Study Groups (https://progenstudy.org/ : accessed 10 October 2019).

9 Rootstech (https://www.rootstech.org/ : accessed 10 October 2019).

10 National Genealogical Society (https://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/ : accessed 10 October 2019), “Conference.”

11 Virtual Genealogical Association (https://virtualgenealogy.org/ : accessed 10 October 2019).

12 Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (https://slig.ugagenealogy.org/index.php : accessed 10 October 2019).

13 Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (https://www.gripitt.org/ : accessed 10 October 2019).

14 Georgia Genealogical Society, Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (https://ighr.gagensociety.org/ : accessed 10 October 2019).

15 Boston University, Genealogy Studies Program (https://genealogyonline.bu.edu/certificate : accessed 10 October 2019) “Certificate Course.”

16 National Institute for Genealogical Studies (https://www.genealogicalstudies.com/ : accessed 10 October 2019).

17 National Institute for Genealogical Studies, Basic Level Professional Learning Certificate in Canadian Records, 2019, digital image 2019, privately held by Jennifer Wiebe, Montreal, Quebec, 2019.

18 Board for Certification of Genealogists (https://www.bcgcertification.org/ : accessed 10 October 2019).

19 International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (https://www.icapgen.org/ : accessed 10 October 2019).

20 Fédération québécoise des sociétés de généalogie (http://federationgenealogie.qc.ca/bureau-attestation/bqacg-comp-filiation : accessed 10 October 2019) “Attestation.”

21 Jill Morelli, Our Portfolio Journey (https://thecdgseries.wordpress.com/home/ : accessed 10 October 2019).