Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Journey to Certification

Wow, it's been almost a month since I last wrote anything in this blog. It is not for the lack of ideas. I think of things to write all the time. I have a little note book that I keep in my purse and it has pages of blog post ideas. Nope, my problem is time.

At the present time I am working with about six clients and attempting to work on my certification. I have attempted to get my certification before and just never seemed to be able to get to the point where I felt I was ready to "start the clock." Let me explain.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) is the governing body that certifies genealogists. You can also apply for accreditation from the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogist (ICAPGen). Either one of these gives validation to your work as a genealogist. You must achieve a high degree of research standards to qualify for certification or accreditation. In affect the two governing bodies set the bar that you must jump over.

You can of course work as a professional genealogist without being certified or accredited, furthermore, one need not become a professional to "do" genealogy. But I have chosen to become certified to challenge myself, to see if I can meet the standards set forth.

I have to admit it is a bit intimidating. For certification one must complete a portfolio of work. You present client reports, research plans, a three generation pedigree chart and family group sheets and a lot more. When I write it out like that it doesn't seem so scary and complicated. But, the reality is it is tough. Each and every fact must be sourced by more than one source. That's every date, every name, every place. My dreams are filled with census records, death certificates, succession records and the like. The data entry alone is making my hands hurt (not to mention my head.)

It takes about a year to complete all the work asked for in the portfolio and then it is evaluated by three or four judges. When you think you have obtained enough education and experience to go for your certification you submit an application for certification. That "starts the clock" and you have one year to complete the portfolio and submit it to the judges.

I have been stuck at the education/experience level. I keep attending conferences, taking online classes, participating in Webinars and such, but never seem to actually get down to brass tacks.

To learn more about what is required for certification go to the BCG website and view their samples or take the "Test Your Skills" test. It is a good way to gage how well you know what you think you know.

The process for Accreditation is a bit different. ICAPGen requires you to pick an area of specialty. While the BCG allows you to test your skills in a specialty area such as German research, the ICAPGen requires you pick either an area (locality) of the United States (say Southern, or New England) or a country of concentration (such as Germany or France.) There are eight possibilities to choose from for the United States
You can also specialize in an area of expertize such as: Librarian, African American Genealogy or Native American Genealogy. Or you could choose to be tested in one of the other areas such as British Isles, Scandinavia, Canada, Pacific Area, Latin America, or any of the Continental European Countries. 

After you have decided on an area of study you must find a family to focus on from that area that lived in the region for four generations from 1900 back. (In other words...from 1900 towards 1700)

You must complete the four generation pedigree/family history project with all facts documented just as in the certification project mentioned above. In addition, there is a written exam containing six parts: Handwriting, Document recognition, Electronic Database familiarity, General questions and answers (to show your knowledge of the area/locality/region you have chosen it's history and the records you can find there, a pedigree evaluation (they give you a pedigree with problems and you evaluate it) and a research problem. And oh yes, there is the Oral Review... a tiny little 2 to 3 hours. Go here for more information on ICAPGen.

So this is my year for getting on with it. I am working very hard at gathering together my materials and putting them into the portfolio for certification. I'm taking online classes to remind myself the level at which I need to do research, and I'm meeting with a group of people who have also been procrastinating getting their certification. We cheer each other on and keep each other accountable. Each week we tell each other what we hope to accomplish that week and we report on what we actually got done. It will probably take me about a year before I "start the clock" and then another year to finish up the work. But I'm getting down to brass tacks.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Marguerite Irma Domingue

Marguerite, or some form of the name, has always been present in my family tree at least once in every generation. In my generation we have my cousin Peggy (Margaret Odette,) in my mother's generation it was my mother Margaret Audrey. My grandmother's generation Flavie Margarite (my grandmother,) her mother had a sister named Victoria Marguerite and Flavie's grandmother was Marguerite Irma. It keeps on going like that for many more generations. But I'm going to stop at Marguerite Irma.

Needless to say, with all those Marguerites or Margarets running around the "girls" were called by their other name. Marguerite Irma was always Irma or Erema, Margaret Audrey was Audrey, and Flavie Margarite was called Fly, although I don't know if that is how she would have spelled it.

I don't know why my attention has been drawn to Irma lately. Perhaps she is wanting me to discover her story. Do you ever feel like that...that they are reaching out to you, trying to get you to find them or find out something about them? Well, that's how I have felt for the last couple of months concerning Irma and her mother Marguerite Tonton Broussard. Actually Tonton has been on my mind or in my heart now for about a year and she will get my undivided attention soon; but we have to work backwards right? So it's Irma's turn.

On this trip to Louisiana I was determined to find the death date and place of death for my great great grandmother. That in itself is not too difficult. Not really.

There was this priest a while back named Father Hebert. He had a passion for genealogy and those of us who research South West Louisiana records are forever in his debt. He transcribed all the church records for the Catholic Churches in South West Louisiana and some of the Protestant ones too. Forty-Seven Volumes. All the births, marriages and deaths that the Church had recorded and a lot of court house records too. The only tricky part is those 47 Volumes are readily available in Louisiana and a little harder to come by in California. So I spent a great deal of time during my visit to Louisiana looking up records in Fr. Hebert's books.

There she was on page 122 of Volume 25.

DOMINGUE, Marguerite Irma m. Sylvestre ROMERO d. 30 Aug. 1894 at age 54 yrs. (NI Ch. : Fun. Reg.: v. 3, p. 35
DOMINGUE, Irma wid. of Sylvester ROMERO Succ.: 20 Nov 1894 (NI Ct. Hse.: Succ. #743)

This confirms she was married to Sylvestre Romero (as well as confirming I have the right Marguerite Irma Domingue) and tells me her death record was transcribed from the New Iberia Church (NI Ch) record Funeral Register Vol. 3, page 35. The second record told me that she had Succession Records (Succ.) in the New Iberia Court House (NI Ct. Hse.) and that the record number was #743 filed in 1894.


Now some researchers might stop there. I had "proven" her death date. But I did not really...what if Fr. Hebert had made a mistake in his transcription? So I went to the Catholic Church in New Iberia.

Now, New Iberia is small but not so small as to only have one Catholic Church. It has three public libraries for heavens sake. So I had to dig a little to find out which church was the one that would have been around in the 1890s. I went to the library and that librarian told me to go to another library (the second one having a genealogy collection) and there I found, once again, that genealogists are a great collection of human beings. One woman stopped her research and started digging with me to help me find "my church." We found out which one it was in a little over 20 minutes and I was off.

St. Peter's Catholic Church
New Iberia, LA
I made a beeline to St. Peter's Catholic Church in New Iberia. A wonderful woman working behind the counter pulled the old books and made copies of Irma and Sylvestre's entries.  They're in French.  I don't read French...at least not very well...not yet. But obviously I will be learning it.

I could not believe that St. Peter's Church was still actually allowing copies to be made from these books. They are in danger of falling apart. I would have understood had they told me they no longer were making copies. But, no, they happily made my copies for me.

So now I had a copy of the original record. Hot Dog!

"Do you happen to know the location of the grave?" I asked the nice lady. She checked her book that lists all the people buried in St. Peter's Cemetery and sadly informed me that she did not.

I called my cousin Eric and he agreed to meet me that afternoon and help me look for the graves.

Eric Wilkerson-Theaux
Eric and I are the two genealogists in the family. He has been working on one of the other lines that we share for more than a decade now. He and I both share that same "craziness" that makes us think "tomb hunting" is a great way to spend an afternoon.

St. Peter's Cemetery
So I picked him up and we went to St. Peter's Cemetery to find Irma.

St. Peter's Cemetery is a huge cemetery and has hundreds of graves in it. Where to start. Eric and I decided that the cemetery would have been started either in the back or in the center and grown outward. So we decided to start in the center. Luckily for us the center was marked with a big cross. About 20 minutes and about 6 rows later I found her. The tomb is clearly marked. Eric and I gave each other hugs and a high 5.
The Romero Tomb where Irma is buried
Marguerite Irma Domingue Romero's grave

Headstone for the tomb

Several hours and a sunburn later we decided we could not find Irma's mother and father who should be buried in the same cemetery. Of course they could have been buried out on the farm but these were highly religious people and they would have wanted to be buried in sacred soil. So my vote is for them being in St. Peter's, but the tombstone may long ago have deteriorated.

So Irma has been found. She lays at rest in St. Peter's Cemetery with her husband Sylvestre, in a grave marked Romero.