My Diversity Pledge for Genealogy

I recently had a conversation with a genealogy colleague whose subtle comment about a gay genealogist made me uncomfortable. I think they assumed that because I belong to a church that doesn’t perform gay marriages, I somehow disapprove of gays, but nothing could be further from the truth — and I politely made that clear. My gay loved ones are cherished beyond measure, and gays are protected people for reasons that are obvious to all by now. I believe that professional, credentialed genealogists should be held to the highest standard of sensitivity to diversity and inclusion in their speech about and treatment of protected peoples, especially in genealogy circles. 

Although I belong to both a church and a career field where I encounter these kinds of obstacles to diversity and inclusion (don’t we all? Certain generations/populations are still learning to embrace diversity), I believe that influencers must lead out, showing everyone a better way by example. This can lead to more inclusive policies and more peaceful, harmonious institutions (and world!) for everyone.

I studied the code of ethics for the APG, BCG, and ICAPGen, where I earned my Accredited Genealogist® credential. None of these institutions mentions diversity or inclusion in their code of ethics, though they do mention not disparaging other genealogists. However, the comment made by my colleague didn’t technically disparage; it was a subtle dig at the genealogist’s sexual orientation. The person was admired even as their orientation was shamed. See the dilemma here, when none of our codes of ethics has any wording about such language? I have since decided that it is up to me to draft my own, personal standard of diversity and inclusion, and post it where others can see.

Here is what I have come up with so far, and have posted to my web site’s homepage:

Diversity Pledge

The section on repositories stems from the nine years I spent living in the rural south. There are actually government-funded historical societies (think: public library branches) that only curate historical records of white people (in counties that are predominantly black!), so while I lived there, I sometimes turned down research cases for certain counties and referred them to local researchers who did not find patronizing such establishments as abhorrent as I did. Also, I am somewhat leery of lineage societies, but with greater nods to diversity, they too can win me over one day in the future.

Recognition for LGBTQIA individuals is another issue very dear to my heart. There is so much I could say about this, but my pledge sums it up for me. I will further add: all the present-day focus on DNA and bloodlines (ie: journal articles requiring that authors include DNA evidence along with the paper trail), needs to draft policies allowing for inclusiveness of those who have chosen to recognize their legal family instead of their biological and still qualify for publication in our literature. For example, an article tracing two maternal lines (ie, the child of two gay mothers who prefers to identify with her adoptive parents) who chooses not to submit her DNA evidence because she chooses to identify with her legal and not biological ancestry.  If she is gay and wants to research legal family as a matter of principle, or if her gay parents choose to identify with their legal and not biological parentage (due to adoption, foster care, disowning, etc), they should not be required to submit DNA results in order to publish, either. As long as the research is sound and performed according to standard, editors should not exclude such researchers from publication, simply because they choose not to furnish DNA evidence. Editorial exclusions based on DNA evidence requirements and antiquated gendered numbering systems in our publications might exclude LGBTQIA researchers from participating and publishing.

Because genealogists are renowned for researching and recording the life stories of little-known deceased individuals cast aside by other disciplines, we genealogists should be equally renowned for inclusiveness and embracing diversity among the living. We are, after all, the ancestors of tomorrow, and how we treat each other is making history.

My Genealogy Lecture in Andover, Massachusetts

I will be speaking on Italian genealogy at the Memorial Hall Library in Andover, Massachusetts.

They are an incredible library with a wonderful foundation that made it possible for me to travel out there and speak to their patrons about this topic.

Interested in a Pursuing a Genealogy Credential?


I will be leading the upcoming FREE study group offered by the International Commission for Accreditation of Professional Genealogists for those who want to apply to take their exam to earn the Accredited Genealogist® credential.

To demonstrate an interest in participating in my study group, fill out the form at this web page under the “Study Group Interest Form” link:

I hope to see you there! 🙂

New Italian-Language Genealogy Book

Hot off the presses in Italy, a new Italian-language book about genealogy research in the bel paese!

I just ordered my own copy, and Amazon Italia tells me it will be here sometime in June, so stay tuned for my review, which I will have ready sometime next month! 🙂

Click the image to view where to purchase a copy:


Click to view in Amazon Italia

My Review in the APGQ

I recently wrote a review of Robert Charles Anderson’s book Elements of Genealogical Analysis, an excellent book that I recommend for all serious genealogy researchers:

My review was published in the Dec. 2014 issue of the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly:

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 8.15.08 AM


New Italian Document Transcription on My Site

I sometimes tell my top-performing university students that their excellent research reports would make for great advertisements on their web sites once they become professional genealogists. But then it occurred to me: I had never posted sample work products on my own site!

So in order to set a better example for my students, I plan to start rolling out samples of my genealogy work products in the coming months.

This week, I added to my web site a 1700’s Italian letter that I translated and transcribed for a client. I post it here with the client’s permission, and hope it adequately illustrates just how fun Italian genealogy research can be. These old, often deteriorating, documents make for fun reading, don’t they? I couldn’t imagine a career more exciting than genealogy!

To see my eventual transcription and translation of this document, click on the image itself:

1770Letter_01 with sig


The Other Side of My Forensic Genealogy Work

A recent article in Popular Science shows the KIA/POW soldier remains repatriation efforts in which I am involved as a forensic genealogist for US Army Contractor SNA International.

Here is a link to the full article:

While these brave men are pulling downed planes form the ocean, I am on the other side of the story, researching the descendants of the soldiers aboard such planes, so that a living DNA donor can be found to help identify those remains:

My Work With the US Army’s JPAC

This article details the effort for which I work behind the scenes as a forensic genealogist:

While I am busy researching the family trees of fallen soldiers, in search of living DNA donors who can be matched to their fallen soldier-ancestor’s remains, these brave men and women are out exploring, excavating, and–as this powerful photo shows–honoring the brave soldiers who lost their lives in past wars:

Rescuers saluting the recovered remains of fallen soldiers; photo originated at this link.

Rescuers saluting the recovered remains of fallen soldiers; photo originated at this link.

My Article in BYU-Idaho’s Magazine

My faculty conference presentation was selected for publication in the Winter 2013 edition of BYU-Idaho’s magazine, Perspective. You can view my article at the “Pattern of the Prophets” link when you click on the image, below:


Also, because the magazine’s version left out all italics in the titles I cited and the emphases I added to certain quotes, I’ve posted an image copy of my original, italics-included draft in Word at

My Speaking Engagement

I teach online genealogy courses for BYU-Idaho

I will be speaking tomorrow at the Brigham Young University-Idaho 2012 Faculty Conference tomorrow. I am in Idaho all week for this event, so if you are having a hard time reaching me, this blog post explains why. I will be in Salt Lake doing research for the remainder of the week, so you probably won’t hear from me until after I return to Virginia next week.


  • Introducing

    Jenny Tonks, M.A.


  • My Credentials


    View Jenny Tonks, MA, AG's profile on LinkedIn

    Click above image to view my LinkedIn page