One of the books The Legal Genealogist loved as a kid — predating but perhaps presaging my interest in genealogy and family history — was Taylor Caldwell’s Grandmother and the Priests. It’s the story of a fiery Irish lass who marries a dour Scot but, once widowed, ends up entertaining a tableful of storytelling priests whose tales make up the bulk of the book.
There’s a fair amount of family history included in the overarching storyline of the book, told by the granddaughter Rose who is sent to stay with her grandmother each time her parents start fighting. It’s fiction, folks, so don’t go charting out a family tree here.
Rose, a very well-brought-up child, is summoned one evening (at the start of the book) to do something no well-brought-up child did in those days: join the adults for dinner in the main dining room. And so, the story goes:
…when Grandmother, with another flourish of her diamond-laden arm, indicated that Rose was to sit halfway down at the table between two priests she was dumbfounded. She had never, at any time, sat in the presence of adults, at a dinner table, except on the most extraordinary of occasions. She crept onto the damask chair, half fearing that she would be yanked from it immediately for the grossest impertinence, and sent to bed without even a light tea.1
And that pretty much sums up how I felt yesterday in a hotel meeting room in Salt Lake City where I crept onto a chair in a meeting of the Board of Trustees for the Board for Certification of Genealogists, and, even more, at the end of the day when my name was added to the list of trustees as the newest, most junior member of that most distinguished of bodies.
Sitting not far to my left was Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, past president of the Board. To her left was Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG, past president of the Board. To her left, Connie Miller Lenzen, CG, past president of the Board. To her left, Dr. Thomas W. Jones, CG, CGL, FASG, past president of the board. To his left, Kay Haviland Freilich, CG, CGL, past president of the Board.
To my right, outgoing BCG President David McDonald, CG. To his right incoming BCG President Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL. And so it went around the room.
Everywhere I looked, no matter where I rested my gaze, there were people whose work I admire. Authors of genealogical reference books that I use and treasure. People whose lectures I’ve attended and learned from. Many of them — Dave McDonald and Elizabeth Shown Mills among them — people I consider mentors. All of them people I hope to consider friends.
But all of them, all of them without exception, the heavyweights of our chosen field.
Committed. Dedicated. Determined. Every one of them giving up time and money (trustees are not compensated, not even for travel) to make our field as strong as it can be, to maintain the highest standards for the work we all want to do (and that we all want so very much to do right).
Now, anybody who reads this blog regularly knows that (a) I am so very proud of being a Certified GenealogistSM and (b) I am a rather new Certified GenealogistSM.2
I believe very strongly that every single one of us should be striving, all the time, to do the very best we can in our genealogical work. Not just for any clients we may take — but for ourselves. Your family deserves your best, doesn’t it? You deserve it, too, don’t you? None of us wants to leave a family history legacy that’s … well … a mess.
That’s why I went for certification — to be sure for myself and for my family that I was working to that high standard we all want. And I promise, as a BCG trustee, to do everything in my power to work to that standard and to encourage the advancement of our chosen field in every way I can.
But … oh man … sitting there in that room yesterday? With all those stars of genealogy?
All I could think was… what in the name of all that’s holy am I doing sitting at the main dining table with these grownups?
And… how can I do a good enough job in this group that maybe, just maybe, I won’t be sent off to bed without even a light tea?
Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.