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Why a Professional Genealogist Should Be Certified
From an article by: Gale Williams Bamman, Certified Genealogist
P.O. Box 70161, Nashville, TN 37207
Most genealogists would agree that verification of facts is important; however,
standards of proof have changed radically. In the simpler days of the '30s and '40s a
professional genealogist authenticated his or her client report by including a signed statement
worded something like this: "I certify the within to be accurate." Who nowadays would be
willing to accept the contents of a report bearing only that kind of verification? Probably not
even a beginning researcher! With technological advances and the increasingly educated
awareness of the genealogical community, today's sophisticated clients want and expect to see
documented proof backing up a report's findings. Furthermore, those clients are more selective
when they hire researchers to locate that proof. They look for experienced and capable
professionals, of course; but also, more and more, they want professionals who are certified as
Certification status (in its various categories) is granted by the Board for Certification
of Genealogists, a non-profit organization created in 1964 and dedicated to promoting the
highest standards of competence and ethics in the genealogical field.
Rewards of Certification
Approval and acceptance of your application for certification announces to your peers
that you have met certain requirements and standards and that you are recognized as a capable
and knowledgeable researcher. Your certification commands recognition also from those with
whom you have contact in your workaday world -- librarians, clerks, historians, and other
If you are a professional researcher, benefits accrue for your client, as well. The BCG
offers an arbitration service to handle misunderstandings that may arise between client and
researcher. This feature protects both parties and is non-partisan. Clients who understand what
certification in this field entails know that as a certified researcher you will be working at a
high level of expertise, that you will render quality research, and that you will abide by a code
of ethics. The results are exemplified in a statement made by one of my recent clients: "I'm so
pleased with your work I'm going to use only certified persons from now on."
Genealogical research is as valid a field of study as historical research; and, in my
opinion, it's now more viable in the public eye. This is due in large measure to the upgrading
of research standards encouraged by the BCG. As more and more professionals attain
certification, the field gains respect from professionals in other arenas. As an example,
geneticists and physicians are increasingly calling on genealogists to supply background health
data on their patients' ancestors or on subjects in their clinical research projects.
Requirements and Standards for Certification as a Certified Genealogical Record Specialist.
As a volunteer at the Board for Certification of Genealogists booth during recent
national genealogical conferences, I've repeatedly been asked three questions: "Do you need a
certain number of years of research experience, professional or otherwise, before you can
apply for certification? Must you have published books and articles in the field? Are you
required to attend genealogical conferences, seminars, institutes and workshops?" The answer
to all of these is no. However, these arenas do provide learning opportunities that can help you
increase your knowledge and upgrade your skills and abilities. The expertise you gain as a
result of your participation will be reflected in your application.
& MARCH 1 99
Texas State Genealogical Society. Stirpes, Volume 34, Number 1, March 1994. San Antonio, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth39868/. Accessed July 10, 2014.