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Overheard in GenForum: Becoming a Certified Genealogist
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

April 19, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: Does anyone know how old you have to be to become certified as a professional genealogist? -- Nicole

A: Certification is based on your experience as a researcher, not your age. You are encouraged to attend conferences, take classes and hone your skills before applying for certification. The process is designed to award the most qualified of researchers who have submitted certain required documents for review by their peers.

When seeking to become certified, you will be required to accomplish certain tasks that will then be reviewed by the Board for Certification of Genealogists. You will be transcribing certain record types, offering up evaluations of record types and displaying how you conduct research for clients.

Certification is a process that awards qualified researchers.

A Look at the History

Before the creation of the Board of Certification in 1964, a researcher's word was like gold. In the 1930s and the 1940s, a researcher could include an oath of sorts to certify the accuracy of the information compiled on behalf of the client. In those simpler times, it was somehow easier to accept such a statement.

However, that is no longer the case. Today we hear of questionable offers and misleading promises from companies that prey on the innocence of the many people getting involved in genealogy each day. Sometimes, enthusiastic, but as yet unprepared, hobbyists jump the gun, hanging out their "shingle" so to speak before they perhaps have the training needed to research the families of other clients.

The Goals of the BCG

The Board for Certification of Genealogists is a nonprofit organization "dedicated to promoting the highest standards of competence and ethics in the genealogical field."

The Board, in its efforts to meet its goals have set up a number of different certification categories that are designed to allow a researcher to display their knowledge and experience. Those who go through the process not only submit their work but benefit from the critiques of three judges from the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

Taking the Plunge

If you are interested in pursuing certification, you will want to be sure to visit the Board for Certification of Genealogists web site. They have put together many useful pages that will detail the different aspects of what is involved in following through the certification process.

Reading the many pages on the web site will introduce you to some of the ideals of the Board and what they are trying to accomplish through certification. While there is no set age, the more time you have spent researching, and the more time you have invested in genealogical educational activities, the better prepared you will be for this in-depth process.

In Conclusion

Certification says to the world, "I have allowed my work to be critiqued and evaluated by my peers." Other genealogists will respect you for the effort. The process, though, is not something that can be accomplished in a day. As you will see when you begin to read all the pages at the BCG site, this is a commitment. You are given a year to complete the certification requirements. This alone reminds me that it is for the more serious-minded of genealogists.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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