How to Become a Certified Genealogist

Have you been thinking about turning your love of genealogy into a possible career option? Being paid to take on genealogy research for other people might sound like a dream come true, but how do you get going on such a path? Technically, you just have to offer your services and hope someone trusts your skills enough to hire you. If you are serious about doing this, your best first step would be to get certified. It’s the best way to present yourself as a professional, and it adds credibility to your claims of being a skilled genealogist.

To be clear, “certified” in this case means that an official body has appraised your genealogy skills and that they have judged your abilities to meet their standards. The concept is found all through many industries, though the specifics will change. For genealogy, it’s the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) that you will be dealing with.

The BCG is the central body of genealogists that will test your abilities and maintain the records of your certification. Their website has a full application as well as a detailed explanation of the requirements. I’m just summarizing for this article, but you should read through all the documentation with them before you proceed.

When you apply for genealogy certification, you will need to provide them with:

  • Agreement to follow their code of ethics
  • Description of your education level
  • Additional courses, seminars or workshops you’ve attended
  • Other genealogy related memberships or activities
  • Description of your past research experience
  • An explanation of why you want to become certified
  • A list of record sources you personally have access to

This material would make up your application package. Along with this, you will have to pass at least one specified genealogy research project assigned by the BCG. Potential test projects might include:

  • Transcription and analysis of a historical document, including any details on how it relates to genealogy. Document may be provided by the board, or you may be expected to provide one.
  • Provide an existing research report you have already done for another person
  • A case study of the Genealogical Proof of Standard, showing that you understand the concepts and know how to practically apply it.
  • A relationship project that covers multiple generations, and includes narrative and pedigree.

Once you have completed your assignment, your genealogy portfolio is judged by 3 sitting members of the BCG and you typically get your documents and their comments back within 5 months.

If you are accepted, you are expected to pay membership dues to remain certified. And the application itself also has a cost attached to it. When I wrote this piece, the costs were $200 to apply, and $45 per year to stay in good standing.

Even if you aren’t going to be taking on a genealogy career, you might find it helpful in your own personal research to get certified. It gives you credibility when approaching historical institutions, court buildings, archive centers and even other researchers.

This is just an outline of the process. Visit the BCG website in order to get the full and current application detail, and good luck on your goal of becoming a certified genealogist.