A matter of trust


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.


  1. Taylor Caldwell, Grandmother and the Priests, Kindle edition (Lake Oswego, Oregon : eNet Press 2012), location 389.
  2. Judy G. Russell, “Certified, yes; certifiable… well…,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 25 Feb 2012 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : accessed 14 Oct 2012).
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67 Responses to A matter of trust

  1. Sara Gredler says:

    Congrats! I know you will be great!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Sara! I hope I can contribute. (And I did promise the incoming president that I wouldn’t be a deliberate obstructionist more than once … per meeting…)

  2. J. Paul Hawthorne says:

    So, that was David McDonald I saw on the 2nd. floor of FHL a few days ago! I wasn’t sure because I didn’t see a bow tie on him … lol. Congratulations on your new post. You are one of MY mentors!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      I think Dave takes the bowtie off when he’s going incognito! Thanks for the kind words, Paul.

      • Dave says:

        Better incognito than “commando”–and when I’m hiding among the genealogy crowd, it’s in jeans and sweatshirt, or perhaps a clerical collar.

        Happy New Year, friend!

  3. This is awesome. Congratulations!

  4. You are awesome Judy! Your work is VERY impressive and there is no chance that you’ll ever be sent to bed without tea…no chance.

  5. Hilltownroots, AG & FH says:

    There was a reason you were invited to the table yesterday and I’ll bet luck had nothing to do with it. But you asked for it, so, Good Luck! Those people surrounding you with all the initials after their names were probably thinking similar thoughts about you as you were about them. You bring a lot to the table and the Trustees (and the genealogical community) are better off as a result!

  6. Judy, You said it yourself:

    “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 …to make our field as strong as it can be, to maintain the highest standards for the work we all want to do….”

    Everyone at the table deserved to be there, including you. You will do great. Thank you for your service for all of us.

  7. Dave says:

    Very nice. 8-)

  8. Congratulations. Do I now greet you with, “Hello, oh great one of the Genealogy Round Table?”

  9. Carolyn Barkley says:

    Congratulations! Much deserved.

  10. Randy Seaver says:

    Congratulations, and I completely understand your feelings of awe. Great story! My first time meeting Elizabeth Shown Mills was on the 2008 TMG cruise when she analyzed one of my brick wall problems. The daunting thing was she said “I know who you are…”

    You belong in this group, and have earned this honor and responsibility. I know that you will excel in this endeavor as you have excelled in all others (including blogging!).

    Enjoy your experience, and I know that you realize that this is another learning opportunity for you.

  11. Randy Seaver says:

    Are you the first genea-blogger on this august board? If so, a momentous achievement!

  12. John Tracy Cunningham says:

    Congratulations, Judy! You are already a great help to genealogists everywhere and will no doubt be of even greater value on the BCG. Regards, John

  13. Congratulations, Judy! Yes, you do belong at the ‘grownup’ table. I’ve admired your writing and research skills ever since I discovered your blog shortly after you began blogging. I recognized then that you were among the “higher echelon” of genealogists/family researchers. I have learned so much from reading your blog and gotten a great deal of pleasure from your wit and candor. Thank you for all that you do. You don’t really need it, but I do wish you ‘Good Luck’ in this latest endeavor.

  14. Dawn Watson says:

    Congratulations, Judy! A well-deserved honor. I know you’ll do us all proud. :)

  15. Laura DeGrazia says:

    Judy,I felt exactly the same way when I was elected trustee. It was overwhelming. But we are the lucky ones to have you join us on the board. We’re all looking forward to working with you! I know you’re going to bring great ideas and lots of energy to BCG.

  16. JoF says:

    I reckon the folks preceding me have already gushed the appropriate sentiments. So, I guess there’s not much left for me to say but ditto all of the above.

  17. Barbara Schenck says:

    So glad you are there amongst the Heavyweights, Judy. You will bring even more wisdom and common sense to the table, I’m sure. I don’t think you need luck, but I wish it for you, anyway.

  18. Pat Morgan says:

    Just wanted to add my congratulations. You will do just fine!

  19. Considering how cool it was just to see all of these wonderful “stars of genealogy” at film readers, on the elevator, and just around the FHL on Saturday, I can definitely understand your trepidation. But you are on the BCG board, as I told you on Saturday, because you absolutely deserve to be there. BCG has placed its trust in excellent hands!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks for the great big vote of confidence, Kimberly. I’m sure going to work as hard as I can not to disappoint!

  20. Char White says:

    Well deserved !Congratulations! to someone who is, for many of we genealogist/family historians and humble followers of your blog, an inspiration and mentor.

  21. Celia Lewis says:

    Ohmygoodness! Wow!! Woo-hoo!! And so much more – whew! I actually have a little misty stuff in my eyes reading your news, and visualizing you looking around the table of grownups. And of course you will be bringing your own inimitable style and specialized knowledge to the table. Extremely valuable. Plus of course your wonderful sense of humour when needed, and strong opinions based on sound analysis! Yup. You belong. Congrats.

  22. Jeff says:

    I talk to Ms. Mills all the time. Over at her forum that is.(vbg)

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      So I’ve noticed, Jeff! (I’m a big fan of her forums, website, and more.)

      • Jeff says:

        Btw, as the “newest, most junior member of that most distinguished of bodies” does that mean you get the coffee and donuts at the meetings until your replacement as the newest, most junior member is named?(vbg) Congrats! Your honor is well deserved!

  23. Love it, Judy! I’m sure you’ll feel right at home very soon. You have much to contribute to the field of genealogy. Thanks for giving of your time and resources. I am sure that we will all benefit from your involvement on this board. I look forward to hearing more about your adventures within this new sphere of yours!

  24. Keith Bouldin says:

    Congratulations Judy
    You’ll be a great board member

  25. Brenda says:

    Some day .. you will (modestly) recognize what a good fit you are on the board, Judy!

  26. Linda Vert says:

    Judy, Congratulations on your new position. You will do a wonderful job. I hope to meet you in person someday so I can shake your hand. I learn so much following your blog, thanks for sharing and teaching those of us hoping to follow the road to certification.


  27. Connie Lenzen says:


    My family has a saying, “There’s always room at the table for one more.” The thought was that we always learned and grew from the interactions.

    There’s always room for more at the BCG table. It is my hope that you and the other new trustees will be at that table for a long time.

    Connie Lenzen

  28. It seems to me you will fit right in! Do keep on blogging. We learn sooooo much from you

    PS I lovethe way you told thisstory!

  29. Your attitude proves you will be worthy! Your leading anecdote conveys your attitude wonderfully–that you are awed to be in such august company. It’s very impressive, this determination to be correct and honorable in genealogy, and I’ve learned to deeply respect all of you. Although I’m an amateur and “autodidact” with only a blog and a recently published family history memoir, I’ve been so thoroughly influenced by tweeting with so many scrupulous genealogists for the last few months that I just bought Professional Genealogy by Elizabeth Shown Mills. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

    Congratulations on your new position as a BCG Trustee. I’m sure you will be an honor to the profession.

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