31WBGB Week 7 – The Link Post

This week’s challenge was less difficult for me than last week’s – in fact, here I am, completing it early! I find it a lot easier to do link posts, I suppose, because it allows me to promote the sites of others I enjoy reading and it also gives me a kernel to begin with, when being original is often – let’s face it – not easy.

A site that I enjoy reading and referring to for consistently quality, professional advice is Heirlines. I could link to any number of articles over there that deal with a variety of topics and speak quite highly of them – pop on over and poke around the ‘Consumer Education’, ‘Professional Genealogy Tips’, and more.

What I like most about Heirlines is that I think the topics raised there about the quality and standards of professional genealogy are important ones. Recent articles have pointed out we need these standards to be developed for the industry as a whole as it burgeons with interest, and this is important to me as someone who wants to become a professional. In fact, early on in my blog, I posted about my struggle to define just what professional means to me, so it’s interesting to see what professional means to someone else.

The latest article I’ve read, though, leaves me feeling a bit uneasy. It’s called ‘The 12 hallmarks of a real professional genealogist‘. The title makes it clear they wish to distinguish between ‘real’ professionals and “posers”, and the 12 hallmarks are as follows: 

1. Bachelor’s Degree in Genealogy – check out school’s accreditation
2. Professional Genealogy Training – Internship prior to graduation
3. Full-time years of Experience in Client Research – how many years.
4. Career is Professional Genealogy Research – how many years in commercial business research services for client family tree discovery and documentation
5. Professional Genealogy Credentials – CG (Certified Genealogist – www.bcgcertification.org ), AG (Accredited Genealogist – www.icapgen.org ) – for Standards of Performance, Ethical Codes of Conduct, continuing education. requirements for re-certification and re-accreditation, and arbitration of problems.
6. Business License as per state and local requirements
7. Business owner or sub-contractor
8. Continuing Education – how do they keep abreast in this industry?
9. Member of APG (Association of Professional Genealogists – www.apgen.org ) – Ethical Codes of Conduct and for arbitration of problems.
10. Better Business Bureau – Accredited Business ( www.bbb.org ) – Consumer Rights issues and arbitration of consumer problems.
11. Chamber of Commerce Member
12. Contact Information and Access – Website, e-mail, toll free phone, mail address, professional membership – accountability and responsibility for project.

Most of those seem very reasonable, and as a consumer, I would want to be able to consider all of those. But I have to admit, I feel like #1 is a little misleading. An actual degree in genealogy or family history is not something every genealogist will be able to get. It’s a good goal for the industry, yes, but is it realistic just now? I don’t think so.

Hang on, hear me out.

Some of the most well-known people in the industry do have family history degrees, like the one everyone likes to use as a benchmark, Ms. Elizabeth Shown Mills. But I know there are others that I respect and admire that do not. Ms. Elissa Scalise Powell doesn’t have one, that I’m aware. Nor does Ms. Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (please correct me if I’m wrong). No, fame does not a genealogist make. But solid research and skills do, and these ladies all have it.

How about someone less famous? I worked with a very professional genealogist in Ohio who broke down brick walls for me who did not have a degree in genealogy or family history. What they did have was 20 years of working as a librarian in their area, so they had a degree in library science and a keen interest in history, plus experience with the records of the locale. She did a fantastic job.

Maybe I take issue with this standard because I will also never have a genealogy degree. I want one, but I am past my college years, and I can’t afford tuition at BYU, anyway (I looked into it, trust me). If I’m lucky, I will one day take the Boston certification course. For now, I am settling for self-education through conferences like the one I’m doing through UGA this Friday and Saturday, and there’s lots of others who have done the same. Many CGs and AGs I’m sure haven’t done an actual degree, and I think it’s an unfair expectation. Someday, it will be a good expectation. But while only one or two institutions offered a genealogy degree in the U.S. at the moment, I think it’s misleading and ridiculous. No, you wouldn’t hire a lawyer without a law degree. But you can go to law school in any state. And what about genealogists who come to the field later in life, who are also past their college years, but have decades of experience to deem them ‘professional’?

In this case, we need to relax that standard a bit and say ‘genealogy education’, which could include self-education, conferences, mentoring or many other things. Besides, I have a B.A. and a B.S. both, and I don’t remember even half of what I learned. :) The M.A. was what stuck with me. How much difference will a bachelor’s in genealogy make over a self-made master’s program for the dedicated would-be professional striving towards certification?

Do you think they’re being too picky? Or am I? Leave a comment and let me know.

© 2011, copyright Genealady & JustFolks


31WBGB Week 7 – The Link Post — 4 Comments

  1. I don’t think you are being too picky. I agree with you. There are simply too few options for obtaining a bachelor’s degree in genealogy in the U. S. for it to be a “hallmark” of professional genealogists. This list would have been more realistic if it were positioned as a menu that professional genealogists choose from, rather than implying that professionals should meet all twelve steps.

    • Agreed, Tonia. There’s only one place to get a Bachelor’s that I know of, but many places to get certificates, like Salt Lake Comm. College or Boston U. I think I’d rather see there be one of several options or part of a certain numbers of research in the field or training, which could include conferences, things like SLIG or NIGR and so on.

      Also, I’m not trying to pick it to pieces. I’m just trying to define what professional means for me, so I take a hard look at what I should be measuring myself against. It’s part of the learning process for me. :)

  2. While the standards may look nice, I view them as elitist. To me experience is more important than the degree. If such standards are accepted, then the handful that meet the standards will be sitting pretty.

    Personally, I am a police officer who has been a detective for the past 21 years. Conducting genealogy research is no different than conducting a criminal investigation. I have been documenting and citing sources for many, many years before becoming an unprofessional genealogist.

    My guess is the 12 Hallmarks above have been crafted to match the credentials of the hallmark creators.

    • I’m afraid your assessments may be correct in this case. I respect their opinions, but I’ll just have to agree to disagree with them on this one.

      Thanks for dropping by! I’ve really enjoyed checking out your site! And such an original title. :)

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