Genealogist helps people reconnect to their roots

November 08, 2000

Genealogist helps people reconnect to their roots


Marsha L. Fuller said she feels like a detective - one who takes a "pit bull approach" to finding dead people.

Fuller, of Hagerstown, pieces together clues that she finds everywhere from courthouses to cemeteries to help solve her clients' family history mysteries.

In October, Fuller was certified as a genealogical records specialist by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), a national organization established in 1964 to set standards of competence and ethics for genealogists.

She said she is one of only 325 genealogists in the U.S. to be certified by the BCG.

Genealogy is the most popular hobby in the nation, said Fuller, who specializes in researching records dated from 1776 to 1900.


"As we become increasingly impersonal as a society, I think we all feel the need to find our roots, to be connected," she said.

A 1990 family reunion sparked the history major's interest in tracing her own roots, she said. The five-year effort led Fuller to documents dated as early as 1671 in Germany.

During that time, she began getting referred to others tangled in the twisted limbs of their family trees.

Many of her clients start their own research but find their heritage quests are difficult than they anticipated. Other nationwide clients trace their family lines to Washington County but don't have access to local records, Fuller said.

That's when she hits the family history trail.

Fuller first gets written authorization and any completed research from clients who request her help with genealogical queries. She then begins to look for clues in such places as wills, land records, equity cases, death certificates, marriage records, baptismal records and minutes and proceedings from Orphan's Court.

She studies documents and indexes found in the Western Maryland Room at the library, the Washington County Historical Society, county courthouse and State and National Archives.

Fuller said she rarely uses the Internet as a research tool because the Web isn't reliable.

The part-time public relations coordinator at the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown decided to seek national genealogical certification to ensure that her clients were receiving the highest standard of genealogical expertise available, she said.

She spent almost a year fulfilling the requirements of the BCG's certification process.

Fuller had to transcribe old handwriting, formulate a research focus, write an abstract, comment on the value of the evidence as it pertained to the research focus, and develop a research plan for each document sent to her from the Board.

She also had to critique printed research materials and submit three in-depth client research reports.

Fuller said the certification process was tough, but waiting 4 1/2 months after mailing her application package to learn whether she'd been certified was the hardest part.

She was elated when she got the good news. "I think it's a sense of personal accomplishment," she said.

The certification process and the feedback she got from three independent judges made her a stronger researcher by honing her skills and pinpointing her strengths and weaknesses, she said.

Fuller can be reached at P.O. Box 3622, Hagerstown, MD 21742.

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