Archiver > TRANSITIONAL-GENEALOGISTS-FORUM > 2008-05 > 1211735274

From: "Elizabeth Shown Mills" <>
Subject: [TGF] Peer review, picking brains,and preparing portfolios for certification
Date: Sun, 25 May 2008 12:07:54 -0500

Dear all:

Yesterday, the ProGen Study Group, which is part of the Transitional
Genealogists Forum contacted me offline to ask for guidance on a "fuzzy
issue." It's one that, I suspect, many on APG-L have as well, so I'm posting
the query and the response to both groups, with the permission of the


How much help is permissible with projects that will be submitted as part of
one's portfolio for BCG certification. Is peer support allowable, ranging
from "Is this paragraph clear?" to "Can you give me your thoughts on
interpreting this record?" What bounds are there on assistance with a
portfolio project? To my mind, asking for help is a sign of a good
genealogist, and as long as the assistance was noted, it would be
acceptable. Some others have disagreed with me, saying that the portfolio is
akin to a final exam, and that no one may assist or read any part of it
before submission to BCG. Would you be willing to share your thoughts on
this topic?

Portfolio contributions consist of several types of material, each of which
need to be viewed in a slightly different light insofar as “outside help” is
Document work:
This should be entirely the work of the applicant. Applicants are being
tested on their ability to read a document, distill what is important from
it, and create a work plan---just as they would for any client any day of
the week.  Applicants should not take this to a support group or other
people (online or off) to get their opinions.
Client report:
The applicant should send exactly what was sent to the client. Again, it
should be the applicant’s work entirely. Applicants who want feedback on
their reports from support groups should take to the group a report that
will not be part of the application package. The feedback in such cases is
usually valuable—in which case, applicants can apply to future client work
what they have learned from the critique. They can apply it to a new client
report that would eventually be sent to BCG, but the one that becomes part
of the portfolio should not be vetted by the group.
Case study & Narrative genealogy:
Narrative writings of these types fall into a “gray area.”  They are the
result of many research segments across time. Typically, applicants will
have discussed the research problems with any number of colleagues during
those months or years. In the end, the conclusions they reach will be
attributed to themselves and they will have to write the arguments to
support those conclusions. Some will have written manuscripts and submitted
them to one or more journals by the time they reach this stage—or to family
history writing contests—and will have received feedback, if not editorial
amendations on whatever is published.
BCG recognizes that, with ongoing projects, it is rarely possible to
completely separate our final conclusions from thoughts picked up from
others. If applicants have received substantive help from anyone on any
point, they should acknowledge it in a footnote—as one does with a journal
article and should do with a self-published book. If they have published in
a journal the case study or narrative genealogy they send in their
portfolio, BCG would like to see not just the edited, published version but
also the version that was submitted.
Within this framework, BCG has no objection to applicants asking colleagues
to read their manuscripts for clarity of argument, etc. If they have a BCG
mentor, however, that mentor cannot vet anything that will become part of
the portfolio.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
Ombudsperson, Board for Certification of Genealogy
& ProGen Editor

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