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From: "Elizabeth Shown Mills" <>
Subject: [APG] Narrative genealogy and/or compiled genealogy
Date: Thu, 1 Feb 2007 23:01:17 -0600

Dear All --

The following was posted to BCG-L earlier in the week. Readers have asked if
it we would cross-post it to APG-L. For those of you who have seen it, my
apologies for the cross-posting. For those who aren't interested: just hit
the delete key.

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 3:21 PM
To: 'BCG'
Subject: Narrative genealogy and/or compiled genealogy

Questions have arisen as to the use of the terms "compiled genealogy" and
"narrative genealogy." Rather than respond privately to one individual, I am
posting a response to the list. Others may be wondering the same.

BCG has not changed the term "compiled genealogy" to "narrative genealogy."
The two terms are not interchangeable. The term "narrative genealogy" is
used by BCG to describe the kind (or quality) of genealogy expected under
BCG's Portfolio Requirement 7.

Since the advent of genealogical software, many applicants have
misunderstood the nature of the "compiled genealogy" required for the CG
credential. Genealogical programs offer various forms of "compiled
genealogy," and many who use this software assume that a "journal style"
printout from their relational database will meet portfolio requirements. To
avoid that misunderstanding, BCG no longer uses the term "compiled" for the
skillful writing that Requirement 7 requires.

Genealogy has undergone a sea change in terms of quality and standards.
Originally, genealogies *were* compilations---i.e., an assembly of data:
names, dates, and places. The term "compiled* genealogy" was appropriate.
When genealogical software was developed, it innovatively enabled users to
enter those names, dates, and places into fields within a database that
would automatically "compile" a genealogy for them.

*Compiled* genealogy is a time-honored form. It is certainly a practical
approach if one is sorting and assembling, say, 10,000 offspring of the
Whozit Family. A well-done presentation of even bare begats is a valuable
reference work when the research, analysis, and documentation are careful
and thorough.

On the other hand, many genealogists today prefer to write family history.
Even when they use a traditional "journal style" structure (NGSQ Style or
Register Style), they put great effort into crafting something more
meaningful than "compiled begats." Creators of this kind of genealogy study
the society in which ancestors lived. They place ancestral lives into the
context of history, law, religion, etc. They interpret their findings
against the backdrop of this context. They discuss what their findings mean.
By integrating their well-rounded research into a truly *authored*
narrative, they help family members understand their heritage and appreciate
each forebear as a real person, not just a name and a date.

To clarify the point that applicants should submit a meaningful
narrative---not just report bare begats---BCG now uses the term "narrative
genealogy" to describe the product expected under Requirement 7. Within the
public sector, some others have begun to use the term to describe
genealogies of this quality, anywhere they are found.

Every mature literary form has its genres. Genealogy is no different. We may
prefer to "compile" genealogy or we may prefer to "author" narrative
genealogies that place ancestral lives into context. In our daily work, we
have a choice. For an initial BCG portfolio, however, applicants should
submit a narrative genealogy (or narrative lineage or narrative pedigree or
a case study embodying one of these). BCG judges then evaluate it against
the standards BCG sets for this type of research and writing.

For BCG definitions of these various writing forms, see Q&A 13, "What is
the difference between a Compiled Genealogy, a Narrative Genealogy, a
Narrative Lineage, and a Narrative Pedigree?" posted in August 2006 at

Within the next few days, there should also be posted at the BCG website,
under "Work Samples," a contribution by President Connie Lenzen
demonstrating a narrative genealogy with two embedded proof arguments, as
called for by the new Requirement 7.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
BCG Ombudsperson

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