So, are you ready for certification?

I have been absolutely amazed at the responses to my last two posts. My intention was to give people a glimpse “behind the curtain,” to see the actual judging process for themselves, as well as raise awareness of some common mistakes. If you have not yet read them, you can read part one here and part two here.

I just want to also remind people that this was an unsuccessful application. My recent successful application is much different.

So, after reading these posts, do you feel ready for certification?

The Board for the Certification of Genealogists offers a short checklist on its website, entitled, “Are You Ready for Certification?” I would recommend that everyone interested in becoming certified go through this checklist to test your readiness. Be honest with yourself though. If you exaggerate your qualifications, you are only hurting yourself.

The BCG also offers other resources to help you in your goal. You should definitely take advantage of all of these as learning opportunities.

1. Read the Application Guide thorougly. Be sure that you understand all of the requirements. Practice them. For example, take a handful of records from your private collection and transcribe them, abstract them, and perform the other “Document Work” requirements. Use a wide variety of record types — deeds, wills, tax lists, census records, etc. If you are not currently conducting client research, take a few of you own research problems and write them up as if you were conducting the research for a client. The BCG also provides two practice records on their website, with the Document work completed. The full Application Guide is available online here.

2. Study the Judging Rubrics. If you have practiced parts of your application on your own, try honestly evaluating these parts according to the rubrics. The best part of the rubrics (in my opinion) is that they state plainly which of the BCG Standards are applicable to each evaluation. You can read the rubrics online here.

3. Read and understand the BCG Standards Manual. A very active and enlightening discussion took place on the Transitional Genealogists Forum mailing list beginning in January 2010. This discussion went through the BCG Standards one by one, with discussion from many Board-certified genealogists, professional genealogists, and “transitional” genealogists. You can see the start of this discussion here. A new thread was started for each individual standard following this one, so you may have to go back to the list archives index to find them all. However, I would credit this discussion with some of the understandings of the standards that I have come to. You can purchase The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual on Amazon.com, or purchase it directly from the BCG.

4. Read the books and articles suggested on the BCG’s “Supplemental Study List.” This list is available on the BCG’s website here. Several of these books were also mentioned in my blog post “The top 5 books on my bookshelf.” Of particular importance, in my opinion, are Elizabeth Shown Mills’s Evidence!, Christine Rose’s The Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case, and Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families, and International Kin, by Joan F. Curran, Madilyn Coen Crane, and John H. Wray. This last book, published by the National Genealogical Society, will help you tremendously when writing your Kinship Determination Project. If you are a member of the National Genealogical Society, you will also want to be sure to read the special issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly dealing with evidence. This issue was published in September 1999 (vol. 87, no. 3), and can be read online by NGS members.

5. Consider a formal education program. The BCG has compiled a list of educational programs, including university-sponsored programs, institutes, major conferences, and independent study courses. This list can be read here.

6. Read the “Skillbuilding” articles. These articles provide some great tips for using specific record groups in great depth, tips for methodology, and other articles that will help to prepare you for the depth of research expected of Board-certified genealogists. These articles, originally printed in OnBoard, can be found on the BCG website here. Of particular interest to the readers of this series of posts is “Skillbuilding: A Judge’s Notes From an Application for CG,” which provides similar information from the perspective of a BCG judge.

7. Read the “Ten Tips for Success” article. This article shares some common elements with this blog post. It can be read here.

8. Study the Work Samples. Several examples of case studies, proof arguments, compiled genealogies, narrative lineages, and research reports have been posted on the BCG website here. Read them and study them. Compare them to the rubrics and standards, to see how they meet each one. And then apply the lessons you have learned to your own work.

9. Watch the seminar video. Thomas Jones, CG, and Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, present a seminar on becoming certified at various national conferences and institutes. If you have not attended the seminar in person, you can still benefit by watching the video. This video can be viewed on the BCG website here.

10. Read the “Application Strategies.” Five articles, originally published in the BCG’s OnBoard journal, have been reprinted on the BCG website. These articles specifically deal with the application process, from details on putting together the physical portfolio to a survey of a group of successful applicants. You can read these articles here.

In addition to all of the above resources provided by the Board itself, I would also make the following recommendations:

11. Join the Transitional Genealogists Forum mailing list. This list often has some great discussions, as noted above on the BCG Standards, and as noted before when discussing citations in my post “Source Citations: Why Form Matters, part one.” The list is extremely welcoming of genealogists of all levels, and is frequented by many professional and Board-certified genealogists, including Elizabeth Shown Mills, Elissa Scalise Powell, Thomas Jones, and others! The Archives of the mailing list comprise another great source for information, as we discuss issues relevant to conducting professional-level genealogical research. Details of this Rootsweb-hosted mailing list can be seen here.

12. Join a study group. The ProGen Study Group is great for those aspiring professional genealogists who are considering certification. This 18-month program take an in-depth look at the book Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Each month studies an individual chapter with a practical assignment for each, including several that will help you with the basics of establishing a business. Other assignments help with evidence analysis and writing a proof argument. A second useful study group meets monthly to discuss a selected article from the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. This group picks apart the article and discusses what went right, what went wrong, what could have been explained better, etc. There is not currently a website, but you can obtain more information by sending an email to the coordinator, Sheri Fenley.

There is, of course, no amount of education and practice than can guarantee success. Some people may be able to succeed without all of the preparatory steps I note above. Others may be able to perform all of these tasks and not succeed the first time. But stick with it if you are interested. The judges comments are a great learning experience in and of themselves, as noted in the previous post.

If you think you are ready to begin certification, go ahead and submit your Preliminary Application. You have a full year to complete the portfolio, and during that time you will have access to the BCG-ACTION mailing list for help on preparing the application itself, as well as a complimentary subscription to OnBoard. If you are not ready after the first year, you can always request an extension, at the cost of $50 per year. It is better to pay $50 for the extension and succeed, than to pay $220 to fail.

So, are you ready for certification?

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “So, are you ready for certification?,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 17 Jul 2011 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed [access date]).

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11 responses to this post.

  1. I’m not…but I knew that already. My goal is to keep my feet wet in the genealogy pool until my youngest child is in school and I can focus more seriously on my research. I’m more or less on track with that.

    I definitely view this as a marathon and not a sprint…a fact that tries my patience from time to time, but there’s not much I can do about that.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Lisa Gorrell on July 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Thank you, Michael, for your three commentaries. I have learned so much from them. I know that I have a lot more learning to do if I want to be certified. Still, even if I decide to not be certified, learning what it takes to be certified will make me a better genealogist with my own family research.

    Reply

  3. Posted by James Ronnie Green on July 17, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    I am nearing my completion for application but would still appreciate your input.

    James Ronnie Green

    Reply

  4. Three excellent posts on this important process. Thank you, again, Michael. I really enjoyed ‘reliving’ my experience, in the same time period, as yours in the 2006-2007 time period. I have chosen not to go back through the process, because of my life status… but I will admit, the review does make it very enticing, just for the challenge, again! ;-)

    Reply

  5. Posted by Claire Bettag on July 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Michael,
    IMO—and judging from the comments your three posts have generated—all three have been enormously helpful and encouraging to those considering application, or who are in the process already. A great big “merci.”

    Claire

    Reply

  6. I am having trouble understasnding how and what is expected in an analysis of a document to plan a research plan. I am used to data analysis in teaching school but need some suggestions on how to do a data analysis when numbers aren’t used. Sarah

    Reply

  7. What a wonderful series of articles – they should be required reading for anyone thinking about certification! I’m planning on it, but I realize I still have a long way to go. These posts were very illuminating, thank you.

    Reply

  8. Thanks for this series Michael. I hope to apply sometime in the next two years and these artcles were very helpful

    Reply

  9. Thank you for all of the resources to help us with professional certification. The best part is, it’s all in one place to refer to again and again!

    Reply

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