Is becoming a genealogist right for me?

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What do genealogists do?

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How to become a Genealogist

Becoming a genealogist involves a combination of education, research experience, and building a specialized skill set. Here is a general guide on how to become a genealogist:

  • Educational Background: While there is no specific degree required to become a genealogist, having a background in history, library science, archival studies, or a related field can be beneficial. Many genealogists have bachelor's or master's degrees in these areas.
  • Develop Research Skills: Acquire strong research skills, including the ability to navigate archives, libraries, and online databases effectively. Familiarize yourselfelf with various genealogical research methodologies and sources, including census records, vital records, immigration records, military records, and probate records.
  • Gain Practical Experience: Volunteer or work on personal genealogical projects to gain hands-on experience. This practical experience is invaluable in developing research techniques and problem-solving skills. Join local genealogical societies or attend workshops and conferences to connect with experienced genealogists and learn from their expertise.
  • Learn about DNA Testing: Familiarize yourself with DNA testing and genetic genealogy. Understanding how to interpret DNA test results can be particularly valuable in certain genealogical research projects. Consider taking courses or attending workshops on genetic genealogy.
  • Build a Specialization: Decide on a specific genealogical niche or specialization. This could include researching specific ethnic groups, time periods, geographical regions, or focusing on DNA-related research. Developing expertise in a particular area can set you apart and attract clients with specific research needs.
  • Networking and Professional Organizations: Join genealogical societies, both local and national, to connect with other professionals in the field. Attend conferences, workshops, and seminars to stay updated on industry trends, network with fellow genealogists, and access learning opportunities.
  • Consider Certification: While not mandatory, obtaining professional certification can enhance your credibility as a genealogist. Organizations such as the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) offer certification programs (see below).
  • Build a Portfolio: Develop a professional portfolio showcasing your successful genealogical research projects. This can be helpful when attracting clients or seeking employment.
  • Legal and Ethical Considerations: Familiarize yourself with legal and ethical considerations in genealogical research, especially regarding privacy and confidentiality. Adhere to ethical standards set by professional organizations and maintain the highest level of integrity in your work.
  • Start a Genealogy Business (if applicable): If your goal is to work independently, consider starting your own genealogy business. Develop a business plan, create a website, and market your services to potential clients.

Genealogists have the option to pursue certification to enhance their professional credibility and demonstrate their expertise in the field. One of the most recognized certifications for genealogists is offered by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). Here are the key steps to obtaining certification:

  • Meet Eligibility Requirements: To be eligible for certification through BCG, applicants must have completed at least 60 credit hours of college-level education. Additionally, they should have completed at least 1500 hours of genealogical research within the last five years.
  • Prepare a Portfolio: As part of the certification process, applicants are required to submit a portfolio that showcases their genealogical research skills. The portfolio includes work samples that demonstrate competence in research, analysis, and reporting.
  • Demonstrate Competence: The portfolio is designed to demonstrate the applicant's ability to conduct quality genealogical research. It should include examples of research reports, written analysis, and a case study showcasing the applicant's skills.
  • Pass a Written Exam: Successful completion of a written exam is a component of the certification process. The exam assesses the applicant's knowledge of genealogical methodologies, record analysis, and ethical considerations.
  • Adhere to Ethical Standards: Applicants must adhere to the BCG's Code of Ethics and Professional Practices, demonstrating a commitment to ethical conduct in genealogical research.
  • Maintain Continuing Education: Certified genealogists are required to engage in continuing education to stay current with advancements in the field. This commitment to ongoing learning is a key aspect of maintaining certification.

Certification through BCG is voluntary, and genealogists may choose to pursue other educational opportunities and certifications to further specialize in areas such as DNA testing or specific research methodologies. However, achieving certification from a reputable organization like BCG can enhance a genealogist's professional standing and build trust with clients seeking their services.