I did it! I finished and submitted my portfolio for the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). BCG is an international organization that certifies genealogists whose work meets standards.
They do this by judging a portfolio consisting of the following elements:
- Genealogists’ Code, signed by the applicant. Many of these items are similar to the Code of Ethics of the Association of Professional Genealogists, of which I am also a member.
- Background Résumé, which includes information about past education, memberships and publications. Since I submitted under the old rules, mine won’t be judged but under the new rules that became effective this month it will be for new applicants.
- BCG supplied document, in which you transcribe, abstract and analyze a document provided by the BCG and then create a research plan. This allows the judges to see that you are adept at reading and interpreting documents and creating an efficient and effective research plan. It was exciting to see what they would throw at me. The document they sent me was a rather common one but I managed to squeeze some things out of it that I hope will demonstrate that my analytical skills are sound.
- Document selected by the candidate, same as #3. I selected a court record from Warmond, Holland in 1661 in which about 20 heirs of a man sold a house they inherited. I used their names and patronymics to analyze how they could be related to the man to create a hypothesis about the identity of the man’s parents. I then created a research plan to find more evidence. Since I never actually did the research I planned (the original project in which I found this document went in a different direction), I’ll never know if my hypothesis was right 🙂
- Report for another person. I selected one of my client reports involving New Netherland ancestry. I was lucky to have a wide choice of reports available as several clients gave me permission to use their reports for my submission. In the end, I chose a report that showcased some skills that I did not demonstrate in other portfolio elements.
- Case study using indirect or conflicting evidence. My first two attempts for this were examples from my own tree that I solved using indirect evidence. As part of the case study, I examined some sources that I had not consulted before, and in both cases I turned up non-conflicting direct evidence, so I could not use this for my portfolio. I then decided to re-use some of the research I did to locate the house of Hendrickje Stoffels, the mistress of Rembrandt van Rijn, which led me to reconstruct the owners of every house in Bredevoort in the 1600s. The BCG requirements are that the case study should solve a question of identity or relationship. Since the location of a house is neither, I could not use the research as-is. But in the process of finding the location of the house, I also identified two generations of Hendrickje’s neighbors. So I wrote a case-study about proving the identity of the neighbor’s parents. Since I had already exhausted all surviving sources for my Hendrickje Stofels project, I knew I would not find direct evidence.
- Kinship Determination Project. This is a narrative about three generations of the same family, whereby you show how the different generations are linked. This was by far my favorite part of the portfolio and I spent a great amount of time on it. I chose my favorite ancestor, Arend Kastein, as generation 2.
His father Gerrit Jan Kastein (1781-1858) was a wooden-shoe-maker in Suderwick, Germany who moved across the street. Since that street formed the border between Germany and the Netherlands, that meant he was an immigrant to the Netherlands. His parentage was an interesting puzzle since there were two same-named cousins and I had to build an intricate proof argument to conclude which cousin was ‘my’ Gerrit Jan Kastein. Many records of that part of Germany were destroyed in World War II so I had to work with whatever was left.
His son Arend Kastein (1817-1903) became a police constable. I found so much information about him: police reports, a royal decree naturalizing him, reports about an international incident he caused, a letter written to the Secretary of Justice to ask to be transferred since his wife was homesick and a photo of him and his wife Dora Buitink, the earliest generation for whom I have a photo. Three of Arend’s siblings emigrated to Wisconsin.
Arend’s son Johan Frederik Kastein became a teacher and moved to the Transvaal to teach there. He and his family got caught up in the Anglo-Boer War, and Johan Frederik was shipped to Madras, India as a POW while his family was sent to a concentration camp in Transvaal, where two of his children died under appalling conditions. He kept a journal the whole time, that I consulted at an Amsterdam archive.
In the end, my Kinship Determination Project used sources from six different countries on four continents in seven languages (Dutch, German, Latin, English, French, Afrikaans, and Low Saxon). I did on-site research in four of these countries myself (Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, United States). I finished the last bit of the research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City last month.
In the end my portfolio was 183 pages long, not far from the 200-page-limit. It will probably take about six months for the judges to review my portfolio and determine if I pass or fail. About 40% of people pass on their first attempt, so it is definitely not a done deal. If I do become certified, I would be the first in the Netherlands. My birthday is in September, so I’m hoping for an early birthday present 🙂