Five years ago I was thrilled to be awarded the Accredited Genealogist credential for the Gulf South U.S. region through ICAPGen (The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists). Although it would be nice if that was a lifetime achievement, to stay fresh with research skills in this ever-changing genealogy world, AGs are required to renew their credential every five years. What does that entail? I’ll share the various elements in this blog post, show what I did, and give some advice to those thinking of earning a similar credential.
How has the genealogy world changed in the last five years? Here are a few things I’ve identified.
- DNA has completely revolutionized brick wall research by giving us a new avenue of evidence to pursue. Although DNA experience is not yet a requirement for accreditation, I personally feel I owe it to my clients to understand how to use DNA to further their research goals.
- Many more record collections have been digitized and put online by all the large companies such as Family Search and Ancestry. Keeping abreast of new places to search for records is important for all of us.
- Technology continues to expand and personally, I’ve learned how to use Airtable, Zoom, Vimeo, and other tech tools in my work. Part of professional work is sharing your knowledge and podcasting and presenting lectures online require using technology!
Although the accreditation process tests your proficiency in a chosen location, you aren’t expected to know every record collection, repository, and methodology – just a good knowledge of them. As you continue to grow professionally, you learn by doing more research, attending courses or institutes, lecturing, writing, and much more. AG professionals are expected to keep growing their skillset.
How does renewal work? Several months before renewal is due, the ICAPGen testing secretary will send an email with the instructions and requirements. The AG professional can then start to gather the needed documents. When all is ready, you email your documents to the ICAPGen renewal committee who will review the documents and then notify you that you have successfully renewed. The ICAPGen website renewal page has all the requirements spelled out and here is a recap.
Professional Ethics Agreement
The final step in earning your credential is signing the Professional Ethics Agreement which spells out how you can use the AG trademark and perform ethical research for clients. Every five years you have the opportunity to review the agreement and sign it again.
Accreditation Renewal Form
AG professionals have two options for showing their continuing education and proficiency in their accreditation region. The Accreditation Renewal Form specifies all the details.
Option A applies to a full-time research professional who has accrued at least 3,000 hours of documented research time in the last five years – half of which must be in the accreditation region. My colleagues who work full-time at the Family History Library can use this option since they are hired as specialists in specific regions that generally correspond to their accreditation regions.
Option B applies to all other AG professionals. You must either have published an article in a peer-reviewed journal in the last five years in your area of accreditation or submit a report covering at least ten hours of original research in your region. Along with the article or report, you submit a cover letter summarizing your research and genealogical activities over the past five years. You also submit a document describing two educational genealogical activities in your region or expertise and a description of volunteer hours provided for ICAPGen.
AG Renewal Checklist
To help you track your renewal documents, you can use the AG Renewal Checklist which summarizes the requirements and allows you to check them off as you get them ready.
So how did this process play out for me? Knowing this day was coming, last fall I created my own document in One Note and made a plan for what I needed to do. Then as I started getting things ready I checked them off. I made some notes about additional items I needed to do and then put those on my calendar. My list below shows those satisfying check marks!
Some of the documents were easy to complete such as the renewal form and signed ethics agreement. Others took more work.
Renewal Cover Letter
Compiling the list of research and genealogical activities I had completed during the past five years showed how fully immersed in this career I’ve been. I counted 70+ client projects completed, 200+ episodes of the Research Like a Pro Genealogy Podcast recorded, numerous presentations for conferences and societies given, two books published, two courses and study groups developed, eight institute courses attended, and many blog posts written.
Because I do this pretty much full-time, I have completed many research and genealogical activities. But there is no requirement for a certain amount of hours or activities – you just need to show that you’ve been involved with the genealogy field!
ICAPGen provides an extensive list of approved educational activities and you need to describe two of those that you’ve completed during the past five years in your chosen region. Although I attended eight institute courses, two of those were specific to my Gulf South region: “Advanced Southern Research and Sources” coordinated by J. Mark Lowe, and “From Spanish Rule to Republic: Research in the Lone Star State” coordinated by Kelvin L. Meyers and Colleen Robledo Green. I fulfilled the requirement by listing when and where I attended and bulleted the covered topics.
My second educational item was creating and presenting two lectures specific to the Gulf South region. I fulfilled this requirement with my lectures “Navigating the Unique Texas Land Grant System,” and “Finding that Elusive Southern Ancestor.” I detailed the dates and places given and included the class description and handouts with my submission.
ICAPGen Volunteer Hours
A new renewal requirement is the listing of at least 25 hours of volunteer service for ICAPGen or another genealogy organization in the past five years – five years per year. The website lists many opportunities for an AG professional to give back to the credentialing organization. Many people are needed to rate the projects and exams that are part of the accreditation process. The ICAPGen study groups need mentors and other opportunities involve developing new exams and creating videos for the YouTube channel.
As soon as I was given the good news that I was now an AG, the testing committee chair, Lynn, asked me to head up the presentation committee and redo the accreditation process videos, which had become outdated. Working with my team, we created the ICAPGen YouTube channel and continue to add videos regularly on the accreditation process and skill-building.
I have also given many presentations on the accreditation process and recently co-coordinated a week-long institute course for the 2022 Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy titled “Becoming an Accredited Genealogist Professional: The Why, What, and How.” Lisa Stokes and I will be repeating this course in the spring of 2023 and registration opens on July 16th, so if you’re interested in becoming an Accredited Genealogist Professional, check it out here: 2023 SLIG Virtual Academy.
My work as an ICAPGen commissioner gives me the opportunity to work with my colleagues in furthering the work of the organization. I once heard a speaker talk about the importance of volunteering because of the wonderful networking opportunities it will bring, and I can attest to the truth of that statement. My volunteer work with ICAPGen has given me a voice in the genealogy world and provided me with rich experiences.
Submitting a research project was the final bit of the renewal process. I extracted eight pages from a Texas research project and submitted a PDF with the report, family group record, and research log. The most difficult part was paring down a twenty-page report to eight pages! The project can be an excerpt which is what I submitted.
Tips for Renewal
If you’re a newly accredited AG or interested in the process, here are some tips that will make it easier when it comes to renewing the credential.
- Start early. Review the renewal requirements well in advance so you are aware of what is necessary and don’t leave anything to the last minute.
- Make a plan. Decide on your educational goals and find a place to volunteer. Either consider writing an article for publication or do plenty of research projects that could meet the requirement.
- Enjoy the process and celebrate another five years as an AG professional!
If you’re interested in reading about my original journey to accreditation, my 2017 post, “Becoming an Accredited Genealogy Professional – Diana Elder, AG” explains how I did it! I can honestly say that earning the credential was the best choice I could have made to further my genealogical skills and education.
Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!