The Kinship Determination Project and Its Emotional Impact

Originally published on 24 Jan 2016

The Kinship Determination Project, aka KDP, has been looming as the last requirement I need to complete before submitting my portfolio for analysis to become a Certified Genealogist.  I had started writing before I submitted my application but in November, a few weeks into being “on the clock,” I rewrote most of it.  I changed from end notes to footnotes so the judges would have an easier time tracking citations,  I wrote for many needed documents to give a more thorough look at the individuals’ lives.   I  added additional background data, too much, in fact, which I removed yesterday. Not to worry, it’s full of very interesting stories of the ancestors I’ll be focusing on later so I’m keeping it safe for another project.  I think that it was good to start 3 generations prior to the 3 generations I’m focusing on as it gave me a better perspective of my main characters’ lives.  We often become who we are because of the influence of our parents, grandparents and perhaps, our great grandparents.

Back in the day, meaning when submitting more than 3 families was permitted, my paper would have been fine but I’m trying to stick to the application guide.  I had viewed Judy Russell’s webinar, “Kinship Determination:  From Generation to Generation” which is free to view on the BCG site (click Skillbuilding, then click Webinars, then scroll down.)  I loved Judy’s passion about her project!  I share that passion when I start analyzing the evidence I’ve accumulated;  the humanness behind the paper record is revealed and I begin to understand what occurred in their lives.  Sometimes it’s something personal from my own life that I can relate to and sometimes, not.  Makes me wonder how I would have reacted if the event had happened to me.

I just reread what I wrote about the first generation and I’ve very excited.  I didn’t quite finish that first generation individual’s life but plan on doing so today after my company leaves.  I want to get back into the story as there were two twists of compassion that I hadn’t known existed prior to analyzing the records.  Although I can’t share much due to the requirement of submission, I will say that those tick marks on early census returns come alive when you attach a name to them.  Pondering why you have extra marks is important – was their a child or two that died prior to being revealed in later censuses or other documents?  Did other family members, an apprentice, an indentured servant, or a neighbor reside with the family the day the census was being enumerated?  Did the family provide the enumerator misinformation, meaning the missing son was marked as a daughter or did the enumerator err?  That’s a lot to think about and oftentimes, later records will help explain what was happening in the household.

The impact on a child when there’s a change in a household unit is important to consider.  When community influences and national events occur there are additional effects.  Such was the case with my generation 1. Now I think I better understand why the individual exemplified compassion, an interest in politics and education, and safety for future generations.

What really struck me was discovering that three of the siblings of the individual I’m focusing on relocated in the mid 19th century across the continent.  I can’t imagine the anguish that must have been felt when communication was cut off.  Strangely, I happened to visit 2 of the 3 places that the siblings had moved to this past year.  I even blogged about one of the buildings in the town that I visited.  Most likely, that building played an important role in the lives of the sibling’s children!  It was such a strange feeling when the realization hit.  I began to wonder how many times I’ve walked in the footsteps of my ancestors and never known it. It’s one thing to purposely go to a location you’ve discovered to visit.  I’ve dragged my family on many vacations to visit homes where prior family members resided, ports they disembarked and battlefields where they were injured but I’ve never had the experience of visiting a place, feeling quite at home there, writing about it and then discovering months later that there was more of a connection then I was aware of at the time.

Today, I hope to make more headway on the KDP as next week, I’ll be traveling for business and won’t be able to work on it.  My new goal is to try to get the draft complete by the end of February as I may be making a trip to obtain a few documents during my spring break.

I hope your week is filled with wonderful discoveries!

Becoming a Pro Genealogist

Originally published on 3 May2015

Thinking about becoming a professional genealogist?  That thought hadn’t occurred to me until last fall.  My professional background is in counseling psychology and I’ve been employed as a school counselor in public and private settings for most of my career, with side ventures as a reading teacher, day care owner, rehab counseling supervisor, and an educational placement specialist (finding the right fit for both child and school).  I admit I’ve always been passionate about counseling but passion alone does not make a professional. To be considered a professional, one must have completed the educational requirements, obtained licensure and demonstrate day-to-day ethics in the field.

I looked at genealogy as my hobby and counseling as my profession.  In fact, several years ago when I overheard my husband tell a neighbor I was an expert genealogist I quickly told him to stop saying that. Granted, I was passionate about my hobby but a professional genealogist, no way.  I didn’t even know how someone became professional.

Over the years I’ve helped several family members become Daughters of the American Revolution and founding members of the Society of Descendants of Lady Godiva.  Alhough these experiences helped me gain confidence in my work they did not put me on the level of a professional genealogist.

Co-workers, friends and distant relatives have asked for help and referred others to me – Can you locate my birth parents?  What happened to my Great Uncle George?  Can you show me how to find the names of my great grandparents?  Why did my family move to Florida?  How is this person related to me?  Seeing the recipient’s joy when the result of my findings was presented was rewarding to me. I felt like I had joined my two passions – counseling and genealogy – especially when I had to delicately tell the person about some difficult truth – your great grandpa was an alcoholic who never married your great grandma, and by the way, he murdered someone.

About 5 years ago I began a surname update project on my husband’s mother’s line.  I entered all of the Harbaugh family from the 1947 Cooprider & Cooprider Harbaugh Family History:  A Directory, Genealogy and Source Book of Family Records into my Main Tree on  Then, I added info from Henry Harbaugh’s 1856 Annals of the Harbaugh Family in America .  (Yes, this is the same family as Coaches John& Jim Harbaugh who are my husband’s 3rd cousins and no, we haven’t met them.)

Since I made the project publicly accessible I was contacted by a lot of descendants who helped update the records further.  Then I decided to do a surname project with my dad’s line – the Leininger family.  I added into my tree all of the various branches and tried to connect them together back to the original who knows how many times great grandpa across the pond.  A work in progress which most likely only dna will ever be able to solve. By making my findings public, though, I have been able to corroborate with extended family. Still, I was shocked when a Nebraska librarian emailed me her appreciation as a number of her patrons were helped by my tree. I valued that feedback.  Then a professor contacted me as he was looking for an authority on the Leininger family.  I forwarded him on to a cousin who pointed out I had a more documented tree than he had.

Around the same time I was contacted by a reporter of a major newspaper requesting assistance – could I help locate a photo for a story that was being featured.  I love a challenge and this was certainly going to test my skill level.  I began to seriously start thinking about becoming a professional genealogist.

Online I found the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) which is an organization dedicated to promoting professionalism in the field of genealogy.  When I think of a genealogist, I think of an individual who is researching lineage.  I never thought about all of the specialty areas and related fields, such as adoption, author, geneticist, heir locator, lecturer, lineage society specialist, and document translator.  Joining a professional organization would be moving in the right direction but I wanted to compare my work with those that are considered the experts.

I’ve noticed the initials after the names of presenters on webinars but I never stopped to think what those initials meant.  Digging further I discovered that there are only two credentialing genealogical organizations:  The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) in Washington, DC and the International Commission for the Accreditation of Genealogists (ICAPGen) in Orem, Utah.  This means BCG certifies (CG-Certified Genealogist and CGL-Certified Genealogical Lecturer) and ICAPGen accredits (AG-Accredited Genealogist).

What’s the difference?  Per Google, certification is confirmation “provided by some form of external review, education, assessment, or audit.”  Accreditation is a “…process of validation…” with standards being set by peer review.  Nice definitions but I still was unsure which I wanted to achieve and more importantly, if I was ready to do it. I took an online quiz at  The results identified areas in which I needed to improve.  I began reading more journals and referred to the Genealogical Standards when I was writing reports.  The area that I still need to look further into is attending a Genealogical Institute.  I’ve taken a variety of workshops locally and online over the years to improve my skills but I’ve never been formally trained.

In reality, the greatest hindrance was I lacked the confidence that I was ready for the next big step.  I put the information aside and enjoyed the winter, snuggling on the couch in front of the fire with my laptop happily researching my Duer’s and Hatton’s and working on an EBook I’m writing about my husband’s grandpa in World War I.

My recent visit to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City motivated me to go forward in the field.  The genealogists I met with to discuss my brick walls so impressed me with their expertise that I wanted to become like them.  I asked a couple about becoming credentialed and was directed to ICAPGen and BCG.  Understandably, since ICAPGen is Utah based and historically associated with the Church of Latter Day Saints, ICAPGen was what they had achieved.

So my next big decision was to become either certified or accredited.  Next time, I’ll continue on how the requirements influenced my decision

I’m officially OFF the Clock


Originally published on on 13 Aug 2016.

I just submitted electronically my portfolio to the Board for Certification of Genealogists so I’m no longer considered “On the Clock.”  My husband had made me this cute magnet when I first submitted my application:


I’m going to miss it!

Although, at times, the workload was challenging it was do-able. The Google group for On the Clockers was helpful in clarifying requirements, offering suggestions and providing general support during a stressful time.

I’m most fortunate that my family was very understanding and supportive.  They were facing their own challenges over the past year – daughter relocated back to our area and became board certified in two areas – pediatrics and internal medicine.  She just finished an acupuncture course and should be certified in that by the end of the year.  Son graduated with another degree and is now working as a chemical engineer.  Hubby is writing a book besides his full time job as a counselor.  I’m proud of their accomplishments and their ability to overcome the obstacles that life threw in their paths.

I also am thankful for the clients – their ancestors and mine – that I researched.  The lives of those individuals was inspiring!  Whenever I got stuck, be it writer’s block or due to an inaccessible record, I only needed to re-examine their documents for a gentle reminder that my situation was minor.  The past certainly put the present in perspective!

I began this blog to follow my journey through the certification process.  I’ll continue until I hear – yay or nay – that I’m certified.  I’m not quite sure how long that will be.  Like the song says, “The waiting is the hardest part…”