NGS 2021 On-Demand! BCG Skillbuilding Lectures – Nicole LaRue, Jill Morelli, Judy Russell, and Karen Stanbary

The BCG Skillbuilding track is a series of lectures designed for genealogists interested in improving their research techniques. Targeted to intermediate and advanced skill levels, but open to all registered conference attendees, the presentations focus on evaluating evidence, advanced problem solving, and research reporting. Lectures are co-sponsored by NGS and the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

Nicole Gilkison LaRue, CG

Their Mark Here: Signatures and Marks as Identifying Tools


Learn how to identify and use original marks and signatures as tools to untangle the shadowy identities of our forebears. Before you can effectively seek out original signatures and use them in building a case, you must first understand your sources and be able to evaluate them. To that end, this lecture begins with a discussion of how to analyze your sources, as well as where to find sources with marks and signatures. A case study is used as an example showing how to use marks and signatures as evidence for identity, and references to further examples are given.

This lecture would be appropriate for an audience of any skill level, but might be especially helpful for those who are looking to build on their already existing skills. A useful companion for this lecture would be my second lecture at the conference this year, “Is that an L or an S: Transcribing Documents to Meet Standards,” session NGS2104-RES-03.

BIO: Nicole Gilkison LaRue, CG, is a full-time professional genealogist with articles in NGS Magazine and NGSQ. Special interests include researching women, “brick-wall” obstacles, and paleography.


Jill Morelli, CG

Jill Morelli, CG

Content and context: Conducting a Literature Search


A brand new line in a new area appears! What is the first thing you do?  You probably put that name into a genealogical search engine and start trying to figure out if the first Jane Smith is “your” Jane Smith! Don’t be surprised if this type of search identifies the wrong woman and attaches her to the wrong family. A preliminary literature search can make the difference in successful identification of the right “Jane Smith” and avoid just another “mashed-up ancestor.”

A literature search for broad context is conducted before you insert that name into a search field. It is topically focused. It continues throughout the entire research process as new topics of inquiry appear. A literature search directs your research in a more constructive way by improving your ability to interpret what you are reading. It deepens your understanding of the records once found, and helps you identify behaviors of your ancestor outside of the norms. Your evidence-based research once begun will become more effective and efficient. By conducting a topical search first, you will be closer to solving your toughest problems.

This presentation will discuss how to conduct an effective literature search by first identifying your topics. You will gain an understanding of the connection between context and content. Jill will identify some excellent online repositories. Finally, when you cannot find the information you seek, Jill will provide some examples of DIY context.

This presentation is a part of the BCG Skillbuilding Track. All who attend should become more skillful at researching for evidence once the contextual research has been undertaken, even for that brick wall.

Please join I hope you will join me to learn how to research more efficiently and effectively by conducting a literature search. Check out my other presentation “Lessons Learned from the Pandemic,” (NGS2105-GS-01)  a look at genealogical societies and how they successfully pivoted in 2020, an example of DIY context!

Jill’s Website:

BIO: Jill Morelli, CG, is a writer, lecturer and researcher specializing in the Midwest, and Scandinavia. She lectures nationally and has been published in the NGSQ, Swedish American Genealogist, etc. She founded the Certification Discussion Group, sharing her journey to receive the credential and is past president of the Seattle Genealogical Society.


Judy G. Russell

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

May I Please Have Your Permission? Using the Work of Others


Genealogists use other people’s work as building blocks in family histories. But much of what we need to use is protected by copyright, and genealogical ethics require us to respect the rights of the copyright owners. In so many cases, getting to use those materials is a matter of asking for and getting permission.

So how do we know when permission is needed? What does it mean for something to be in the public domain or a fair use of a copyrighted item, and how do we tell when it is or isn’t free for us to use? And once we determine that we need to get permission, how do we get permission in a way that’s legal, ethical, and smart? What records do we need to make and keep?

In this session, part of the Board for Certification of Genealogists’ Skillbuilding track, we’ll go over these and other questions, and review the steps to ensuring we’ve gotten the permissions we need—including the keys to making a successful request.

BIO: Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, The Legal Genealogist (, is a genealogist with a law degree. With deep roots in the American south and in Germany, she provides expert guidance through the murky territory where law, history, and genealogy come together.


Karen Stanbary, CG

Chasing Opportunity from Bas Rhin to Burlington, Iowa


This case study features a deep dive into the documentary records that follow an Alsatian immigrant on his journey through three states accompanied by three wives. Analysis of DNA test results integrated with information from documentary sources accurately reconstructs his family.

Frantz Joseph Weyer (1810–1861) was born and raised in a place and time characterized by the combination of stagnation at home and the enticing call of possibilities in far off lands.   France, in general, and the northeastern region, in particular, was caught in the grip of economic depression and overpopulation just as Joseph was beginning his adult life. Likely in pursuit of an improved economic situation, Joseph sought his fortune in America.  Over the course of his life, he began anew five different times:

  • Immigration to the United States (1837)
  • Mississippi (1837 to about 1841)
  • Posey County, Indiana (about 1841 to 1853)
  • Jackson, Mississippi (1853)
  • Burlington, Iowa (1853 to 1860)

The written narrative was submitted to the Board for Certification of Genealogists to fulfill the Kinship Determination Project requirement in application for the CG credential.  The lecture features a 1) proof summary connecting Frantz Joseph Weyer to his parents and a 2) proof argument resolving conflicting evidence about his son John’s biological parents. DNA test results form part of the body of evidence for both relationship conclusions.

Documentary research reconstructs the narrative of Frantz Joseph’s life from birth to death and includes a variety of records that uniquely identifies him within the context of his historical era, society, and geographic place.  Historical context resources aid in the accurate interpretation of the findings.

The accompanying syllabus material includes a step-by-step guide to confirm traced relationships with genetic evidence.

Karen’s website:

BIO: Karen Stanbary, CG®, holds the Certified Genealogist credential. She lectures nationally on the use of DNA test results in genealogical problem-solving, always within the framework of the Genealogical Proof Standard. She is a Trustee for the Board for Certification of Genealogists and chairs that organization’s DNA Committee.


The Virtual NGS 2021 On-Demand! Viewing Starts 15 June

This lecture series is available to view from home on your computer or mobile device and offers you the opportunity to develop exceptional genealogy skills with a highly comprehensive set of on-demand webinars from NGS’s expert conference speakers. On-Demand! packages of audio-visual lectures are now available for purchase.

Select from the 20 or 40 On-Demand! lecture packages with over 85 sessions to choose from. Watch starting 15 June 2021 through 31 December 2021. Both packages come with access to two full days of NGS 2021 Live! from 19-20 May 2021, the virtual conference syllabus, and sponsored bonus sessions. Plus, view the sessions from NGS 2021 Live! and any sessions you did not choose from the breakouts (nine more) beginning 15 June. All sessions will be closed captioned.


To learn more about the NGS 2021 Virtual Family History Conference’s week-long events, 17-21 May, visit the conference and download a copy of the program brochure.