Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Journey to Certification

Wow, it's been almost a month since I last wrote anything in this blog. It is not for the lack of ideas. I think of things to write all the time. I have a little note book that I keep in my purse and it has pages of blog post ideas. Nope, my problem is time.

At the present time I am working with about six clients and attempting to work on my certification. I have attempted to get my certification before and just never seemed to be able to get to the point where I felt I was ready to "start the clock." Let me explain.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) is the governing body that certifies genealogists. You can also apply for accreditation from the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogist (ICAPGen). Either one of these gives validation to your work as a genealogist. You must achieve a high degree of research standards to qualify for certification or accreditation. In affect the two governing bodies set the bar that you must jump over.

You can of course work as a professional genealogist without being certified or accredited, furthermore, one need not become a professional to "do" genealogy. But I have chosen to become certified to challenge myself, to see if I can meet the standards set forth.

I have to admit it is a bit intimidating. For certification one must complete a portfolio of work. You present client reports, research plans, a three generation pedigree chart and family group sheets and a lot more. When I write it out like that it doesn't seem so scary and complicated. But, the reality is it is tough. Each and every fact must be sourced by more than one source. That's every date, every name, every place. My dreams are filled with census records, death certificates, succession records and the like. The data entry alone is making my hands hurt (not to mention my head.)

It takes about a year to complete all the work asked for in the portfolio and then it is evaluated by three or four judges. When you think you have obtained enough education and experience to go for your certification you submit an application for certification. That "starts the clock" and you have one year to complete the portfolio and submit it to the judges.

I have been stuck at the education/experience level. I keep attending conferences, taking online classes, participating in Webinars and such, but never seem to actually get down to brass tacks.

To learn more about what is required for certification go to the BCG website and view their samples or take the "Test Your Skills" test. It is a good way to gage how well you know what you think you know.

The process for Accreditation is a bit different. ICAPGen requires you to pick an area of specialty. While the BCG allows you to test your skills in a specialty area such as German research, the ICAPGen requires you pick either an area (locality) of the United States (say Southern, or New England) or a country of concentration (such as Germany or France.) There are eight possibilities to choose from for the United States
You can also specialize in an area of expertize such as: Librarian, African American Genealogy or Native American Genealogy. Or you could choose to be tested in one of the other areas such as British Isles, Scandinavia, Canada, Pacific Area, Latin America, or any of the Continental European Countries. 

After you have decided on an area of study you must find a family to focus on from that area that lived in the region for four generations from 1900 back. (In other words...from 1900 towards 1700)

You must complete the four generation pedigree/family history project with all facts documented just as in the certification project mentioned above. In addition, there is a written exam containing six parts: Handwriting, Document recognition, Electronic Database familiarity, General questions and answers (to show your knowledge of the area/locality/region you have chosen it's history and the records you can find there, a pedigree evaluation (they give you a pedigree with problems and you evaluate it) and a research problem. And oh yes, there is the Oral Review... a tiny little 2 to 3 hours. Go here for more information on ICAPGen.

So this is my year for getting on with it. I am working very hard at gathering together my materials and putting them into the portfolio for certification. I'm taking online classes to remind myself the level at which I need to do research, and I'm meeting with a group of people who have also been procrastinating getting their certification. We cheer each other on and keep each other accountable. Each week we tell each other what we hope to accomplish that week and we report on what we actually got done. It will probably take me about a year before I "start the clock" and then another year to finish up the work. But I'm getting down to brass tacks.