2021.07.07 – Become Certified

Seekerz

Become Certified
By Dale E. Lee
2021.07.07

Summary:

  • Understanding Certification
  • Credentials Offered
  • Knowledge Required
  • Experience Required
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Employment Opportunities
  • Books Available

Detail:

Over time fields of specialization tend to build up knowledge and expertise. Genealogy is a field of specialization just like Law, or Accounting or Dentistry. However, Genealogy has not yet achieved the force of law, as other professions have. As this field of knowledge progresses and matures it has and will become more formalized and the need for professionals in this area will increase. Already we are seeing off-shoots, such as forensic genealogy being used to good effect in crime detection and other areas. As the knowledge base grows and the number of people involved increases, it becomes more and more important for the profession as a whole to define its scope of work and its required ethics.

The field of Genealogy, though not totally mature, has reached the point of creating organizations which offer professional credentials. These organizations test those desiring professional credentials on their ability to perform professional level services and to adhere to a code of ethics.

Credentials are useful to the public because they show a level of competence, experience, and ability. They protect the public by requiring a code of conduct which can be enforced by the loss of membership in the organization. Membership in a Credentialing organization is important because it gives the professional access to instruction, resources and conferences. It also gives access to the organization’s contact list and publications which can be useful in obtaining clients.

  • Understanding Certification

If you wish to be a lawyer, you take the law board exam. If you wish to be a Dentist, you take the dental board exam and if you wish to be a certified public accountant, you take the CPA exam. Each of these examinations are thorough and in the case of the CPA exam, very broad in application. Each of them attempts to discover whether or not the participant has built up enough knowledge to be effective in that particular profession. They want to ensure that someone that is not qualified does not practice in the field and have the ability to harm others by way of malpractice.

However, Genealogy is a bit different. There are so many different and varied circumstances family history research can run into, that Certification boards in Genealogy not only want to know that you understand what is required of you, they want you to actually prove it in both theory and experience. And the way to prove experience is to show proof of actual work you did for a client. They review examples of your work to see how well you have been able to apply the principles to the real world.

  • Credentials Offered

There are many different organizations that provide guidance and education in Family History. However, there are relatively few that offer Professional Credentials. Each Credentialing Body has a different objective it is attempting to achieve, so if you are looking to become credentialed, it is important to understand the differences.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) offers a core certification Certified Genealogist (CG) and a specialized certification Certified Genealogical Lecturer (CGL). The trust of the BCG credentials is to show competence in the practice of Family History in general.

The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen) offers a certification called Accredited Genealogist (AG). The Accredited Genealogist certification is different than the BCG certifications in that its thrust is to prove competence in specific geographic areas of the world and or subject specialties.

Another organization, the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) focuses on England and Wales and has members and associates (those working toward membership). One of AGRA’s requirements for membership is to pass an interview with the Board of Assessors.

The Accredited Genealogists Ireland (AGI) is an association that promotes high standards and attempts to protect the public. It has a unique requirement that you have no other full-time work.

The Association of Scottish Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (ASGRA) focuses on Scottish research and is open to those living in the UK. It has four levels of membership credentials, depending on experience and knowledge.

The Bureau Québécois D’attestation de Compétence en Généalogie (BQACG) is a Canadian organization based in Quebec which has three levels of membership.

The Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes is also a Canadian organization, but based in Halifax. It specializes in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island provinces and has two levels of membership.

The Australasian Association of Genealogists and record Agents (AAGRA) focuses on Australia and New Zealand, but research other parts of the world also. It has two levels of membership credentials, one for research management and the other for specific records and holdings.

  • Knowledge Required

The knowledge required depends on the Certification you are applying for. However, a good starting place is with a generic understanding of what genealogists do and that can be had by studying the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) from The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). This was discussed in the lesson on How to Research and is the focus of the Certified Genealogist (CG) credential. You can find information on how to become certified by BCG by going to their website at https://www.bcgcertification.org/.

Once you have a broad understanding of what Genealogists do, you can branch out into specific areas and specialties. This is what the Accredited Genealogist (AG) certification from The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen) does. You can find out how to get an AG accreditation by going to https://www.icapgen.org/.

In addition to having a knowledge of Genealogical methodology and analysis, you will also be expected to gain skills in understanding how to read the following kinds of records:

  1. Lineage
  2. Probate
  3. Land
  4. Tribal
  5. Legal
  6. Historical
  7. Foreign language
  8. Library numbering
  9. Periodical
  10. Archival
  11. Internet
  12. Image
  13. Grave
  14. Census
  15. Vital Statistics
  16. Newspaper
  17. Emigration / Immigration
  18. Religious (Christening)
  19. Microfilm
  20. Microfiche
  21. DNA Match Report
  22. Military
  23. Handwritten
  24. Personal History
  25. Biographical
  26. Adoption
  27. Deeds
  28. Etc.

  • Experience Required

Certifications in Family History require working experience as well as educational theory. The way that Certification Bodies determine if you have truly learned the skills is they require you to send in examples of your work. They they review the samples based on their experience and the skills required of you for the profession. It is much like a singing contest. It is not enough to know music theory, the notes, the songs and etc., you actually have to perform for them.

For the BCG, the most important thing is how you show your adherence to the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). Are you able to analyze the client’s problem effectively? Did you conduct your research properly? Did you understand what the records were telling you? Were you able to resolve conflicting information from multiple sources? Did you prepare a solid report showing evidence and reasoning skills? We’re you able to support your conclusions? And so forth.

For a beginner, this would be a very daunting task and they actually warn against the attempt. With experience and a growing knowledge base it becomes less difficult. As you involve yourself in genealogical periodicals, associations and training activities, and actual work, you become more knowledgeable and valuable to your clients. As you prepare papers and client reports you gain expertise. And as you interface with others in the field, you build networks of people you call call on to help resolve issues in geographical areas you may not be able to go physically.

For example, to certify BCG requires a list of activities you have been engaged in to develop your career, it also requires you to prove you can abstract, analyze, and develop a research plan. It also requires you to produce a clear and objective report of your research and you are even given a case study as a way to compare your analytic abilities with others. In addition to the above, they also require you to build a three generation pedigree or similar chart that shows proper relationships and the proofs to support them.

  • Educational Opportunities

As mentioned above, you can get information on how to certify by going to the Credentialing organization’s website. But you can also get educational information from Associations which support the Credentialing organizations.

There are many Genealogical Associations available, as a quick search of the internet will show. If you have a particular area of research you are interested in, such as African-American ancestry, it may be worth your while to take a little time to search for one that has the education opportunities you desire.

Although formal accredited University training is not as prevalent as in other professions, there are opportunities for study leading to degrees.

  1. Brigham Young University at Provo was the first University to offer a fully accredited degree program. It offers a four-year B.A. degree. However, it is not offered to students that have already earned a bachelor’s degree.
  2. On the other hand, Brigham Young University at Idaho, offers an A.A.S. in Family History Research that is a little more flexible and can be done part-time.
  3. The Scottish University of Strathclyde offers a MSc in Genealogical, Palaeographic, and Heraldic Studies for those with a background in history, genealogy, etc. This is an on-line Master’s program and can take 1-3 years.
  4. Boston University offers a Certificate in Genealogical Research that takes multiple weeks to complete.
  5. The National Institute for Genealogical Studies offers multiple courses in General Methodology and Country Specific studies. It is affiliated with the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto.

There are also non-degreed certificate programs from various educational institutions. The following have certificate programs which are shorter and mostly on-line:

  1. BYU-Idaho
  2. Salt Lake City Community College
  3. Boston University
  4. University of Washington
  5. National Institute for Genealogical Studies
  6. University of Strathclyde (Scotland)
  7. University of Limerick (Ireland)
  8. Society of Australian Genealogists
  9. Aberystwyth University (Wales)

Brigham Young University main campus offers a non-certificated Independent Study course.

And in addition, there are many conferences, societies and blogs that can be accessed on-line. The following are some of the conferences available.

  1. RootsTech
  2. National Genealogical Society (NGS)
  3. Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS)
  4. Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG)
  5. National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR) (one week)
  6. The Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR) is a one week program put on by Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama
  7. The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies (IHGS) in Canterbury, England offers multiple courses on a variety of topics.
  8. Family Tree University put on by Family Tree Magazine also offers multiple independent study courses and webinars
  • Employment Opportunities

Genealogy is an expanding profession. The past 20 years have seen a lot of growth. Where before there was little movement for many years, now computers have expanded the capabilities of this field to a great degree.

Genealogists used to be involved in pure research for clients, but now they have gotten involved in many more activities. Auxiliary activities are becoming more and more common and if the past is any indication, they will expand from here.

The following opportunities for future genealogists to consider:

  1. Support staff at companies with large on-line repositories
  2. Archives
  3. Independent Professionals
  4. Bloggers
  5. Software Engineers
  6. Military Repatriation Experts
  7. Teachers
  8. Book Writers
  9. Citizenship Reclamation Specialists
  10. Lecturers
  11. Course Writers
  12. Video Webinars
  13. Forensic Genealogists
  14. Heir Searchers
  15. Historic Preservationists
  16. Genetic Genealogists
  17. Podcasters
  18. Photographic Services
  19. Private investigators
  20. Etc.
  • Books Available

Although becoming a Professional Genealogist may not be for everyone, it is a good idea to become familiar with the requirements to become one. This way you’ll have a better understanding of how Professionals approach their work and you’ll be able to see whether or not someone that is working for you is doing a professional job.
For those that are serious about becoming certified, the following are a list of books that are recommended reading:

  1. The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual
  2. The Researchers Guide to American Genealogy by Greenwood
  3. The Source by Eakle and Cerny
  4. Practical Genealogy by Sheffey
  5. Mastering Genealogical Proof by Jones
  6. Elements of Genealogical Analysis by Anderson
  7. Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies by Wayne
  8. Black Genesis: A Resource Book for African-American Genealogy by Rose

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