This year I’m starting the journey that I hope will end with my becoming an Accredited Genealogist. What exactly does that mean? What steps do I need to take? Keep reading and I’ll fill you in!
I had never considered becoming a professional genealogist until Nicole broached the subject several months ago. She had looked into the certification process and decided to start working slowly toward that long term goal. About the same time, a neighbor approached me with an offer to pay me for helping him straighten out his family lines. I had my first client! I discovered that I love researching so much, it doesn’t matter whose family I am researching. As I worked on my first client project, I gained confidence in my research abilities.
I decided to learn what exactly the professional world of genealogy looks like. I discovered that two organizations exist for gaining a professional credential: ICAPGen (International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists) and BGS (Board For Certification of Genealogists). Each program has a different process, but the end result is pretty much the same. Upon completion of a research project and testing to determine that you have the skills to perform accurate, ethical research, you receive Accreditation from ICAPGen or Certification from BGS . With their stamp of approval, you can add the initials AG or CG to your name, be listed on their websites, and know that you are fully qualified to help others find their family.
I chose to go through ICAPGen because I live close to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, one of their testing locations. ICAPGen also had a track of classes at the 2015 BYU Family History Conference I could attend.
Learning from the AG professionals turned out to be a wise decision. The presenters broke down the accreditation process and helped me understand exactly what this would entail. Briefly, here is what I learned:
- For ICAPGen, you certify in a specific geographical area, showing your proficiency in researching in that area. The U.S. is divided up into several different regions.
- An applicant needs 1000 hours of combined research and education experience, with more than 500 of those hours in your chosen region.
- You prepare a four-generation project that should be about 25 pages long complete with footnotes, sources, and a research log.
- When you pass the four-generation project, you take the written exam that tests your research skills in several areas.
- Once you have passed the written exam, you go through an oral review where you are given the opportunity to defend your work.
- Upon completion you receive a certificate verifying your status as an Accredited Genealogist and are added to the ICAPGen website.
Sitting in the ICAPGen classes I gradually realized that this was a a doable goal. I certainly had 1000 hours or more of research and education. I could accredit in the Gulf South Region of the United States since the majority of my research has been in Texas, Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas. I could work on Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana to get more experience researching. I have a four- generation project starting with an individual born before 1900 with each generation having lived for a time in the Gulf South Region. I also have access to the Family History Library where I can learn more about the records for each state and explore researching in the Gulf South Region.
So what’s next? ICAPGen offers study groups to help with the four-generation project. The study groups meet via Skype a couple of times a month. I’ve applied to be part of a study group and I also have a friend working towards the same goal. We’ll be working together to prepare for the written exam. I’m working on learning to research in Florida, the only state in my region I have no experience with. I created a spreadsheet to track my hours since I need eighty hours for each state in my region. Working just an hour a day, the hours add up quickly.
If you’re interested in becoming a professional genealogist through ICAPGen, here are some suggestions I noted from the BYU Conference classes:
- Help someone else do their genealogy
- Start keeping track of your research hours: create a spreadsheet, start a notebook – whatever you will actually use.
- Pick a geographical research area and attend classes or webinars specifically for that area.
- Read books on good research practices; “Becoming an Excellent Genealogist” is fabulous.
- Try out the ICAPGen prep course.
- Talk to a professional genealogist to learn their tips.
- Find a friend who wants to take the journey with you.
I have no idea how long it will take me to become an Accredited Genealogist. But this year, I will get started and who knows, I might make it. If not, there’s always 2017!