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From the Green Valley News, Sunday 5 February 2012, pages C7-8

Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG

What is a Certified Genealogist?

I am often asked what a certified genealogist is, how I became one, and/or what it means to be one. This week I will attempt to define the term Certified Genealogist and answer questions about its meaning.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists was founded in 1964 by a group of professional genealogists according to its online Mission Statement: "To foster public confidence in genealogy as a respected branch of history by promoting an attainable, uniform standard of competence and ethics among genealogical practitioners, and by publicly recognizing persons who meet that standard."

The Board promotes standards by which genealogical work can be judged and in 2000 published The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, to clarify, codify, and organize standards generally accepted in the field. Publication of this work makes the standards readily available to all genealogists who desire to do work that will pass peer review, whether or not they expect to apply for certification.

Certification says that a genealogist has met the rigorous standards of knowledge and competence recognized by others working in the discipline. An applicant for Certified Genealogist submits a portfolio of work samples to be reviewed and judged by three or four judges independently and anonymously. The judges must be in agreement as to passing an applicant and provide comments about the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate.

No prescribed course of education is required. Rather it is breadth of experience, attendance at genealogical seminars, institutes and workshops, self-study of case studies developed and published by qualified genealogists in leading genealogical journals, and the desire and discipline to do professionally acceptable work that will lead to a successful portfolio.

Currently, the portfolio must include up-to-date research and biographical information; transcription and analysis of genealogical documents; a case study solving an identity problem dealing with conflicting evidence or skilled use of various pieces of indirect evidence to provide a solution to the problem; and an actual client report demonstrating approved format and adherence to standards.

In addition, a kinship determination project must be submitted covering at least three generations, naming all descendants in each generation with at least two proof arguments proving kinship. This project is not just a narrative lineage but a meaningful account of the life of each subject, placing them in the context of their time and showing their unique individuality.

All work submitted must be thoroughly documented and meet the Genealogical Proof Standard based on BCG's seventy-four standards as mentioned above. In other words, it must include a reasonably exhaustive search; complete and accurate source citations; analysis and correlation of the collected information; resolution of any conflicting evidence; and a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.

As professional genealogists, we use every tool available to research and solve complex and sometimes confusing relational problems, reconstructing lives and producing interesting and informative narratives about the subjects we study. We not only do research, we teach, write, edit, lecture, solve problems, and review and advise others who do their own research. We find doing research for others as interesting and exciting as doing our own.

Certification is like a stamp of approval on the work we do, an indication that we are conscientious and serious about presenting our best efforts in every case studied. I am proud to have been awarded the title of Certified Genealogist No. 977 by the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

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