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Educational Preparation

Do you wonder . . .

  • How you can better prepare yourself for a successful application?
  • How you can strengthen your knowledge of records?
  • Where you can learn the latest methodology?
  • What educational programs exist beyond the introductory courses in your community?
  • Whether specific academic degrees are necessary?
  • What guidebooks you can depend upon for sound advice?
  • What qualities the successful applicant typically offers?

Success in almost every field of endeavor is built upon four cornerstones: specialized education, practical experience, a desire to be the best one can be, and a determination to do a superior job of every task. The successful applicant for certification exhibits these same traits.

Because you are curious about the rewards of certification, you surely have the desire and the determination. Odds are that you also possess a measurable amount of experience by the time you reach the point of thinking about certification. This page, then, will emphasize the first of the four cornerstones— educational preparation.

No specific program of education is required for a successful application. Yet candidates who pursue one or more of the following suggestions — whether by self-education or through a formal program — typically submit applications that exhibit deeper knowledge and stronger skills.

Formal Educational Opportunities

Many superb programs exist nationwide. The following lists some of the programs that successful applicants have found helpful. Most offer "certificates of completion," but they also caution that their programs and certificates are not to be confused with actual certification. BCG does not require or specifically recommend any of them for certification.

Academic Programs

Boston University:  Certificate in Genealogical Studies
This online fourteen-week program offered by the BU Center for Professional Education provides classes in basic research, problem solving, evidence evaluation, documentation, and more.

Brigham Young University
BYU (Provo, Utah) offers genealogical education with a conventional on-campus B. A. in Family History.

Excelsior College
Excelsior College offers two 15-week online programs in genealogy: a practicum in genealogical research, and genetic genealogy.

University of Toronto, St. Michael’s College: National Institute for Genealogical Studies (NIGS)
NIGS offers web-based courses at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Most last six to eight weeks, and some are worth credit towards NIGS’s certificate in genealogical studies.

Independent Study Courses

National Genealogical Society
NGS, founded in 1903 and based in Arlington, Virginia, also offers options:

  • American Genealogy: A Home Study Course. Sixteen lessons that students can pursue at their own pace offer thorough instruction and hands-on experience with major resources and record analysis.
  • Various online mini-courses, covering such skills topics as abstracting and transcribing, working with deeds, etc.


Genealogical Institute on Federal Records [Gen-Fed]
Held each July since 1950 at the National Archives (Washington, D.C.), this concentrated 5 -day program focuses upon NA holdings. Limited enrollment. Cosponsored by BCG.

Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh [GRIP]
Five-day program held each July on the LaRoche campus (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) with numerous courses on topics that vary annually. Limited enrollment.

Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy [SLIG]
Five-day program held each January in Salt Lake City, Utah, with 10 to 12 courses on topics that vary annually. Limited enrollment


Local and state societies nationwide sponsor dozens of one- and two-day seminars each year, taught by the nation's leading genealogists at a very modest fee. The newsletters of the two national societies (see addresses for FGS and NGS below) carry regular notices of these events.

Major Conferences

Federation of Genealogical Societies [FGS]
Annual conference held in late summer or early fall at various sites nationwide. Circa 150 hours of widely varied instruction.

National Genealogical Society [NGS]
Annual conference held in late spring at various sites nationwide. Circa 150-200 hours of widely varied instruction.

  • Digital recordings of national conference lectures are available through Jamb, Inc.


Access to formal classes of advanced instruction may be restricted by travel or financial limitations, but opportunities for learning are open to everyone who can subscribe to a good periodical or visit an area library. Your application will be stronger if you apply the following:

Study major journals

The serious genealogist learns new methodology and resources by regularly and thoroughly reading journals that offer well-crafted, well-documented case studies of difficult problems that have been resolved. Among the most-often recommended publications are the following:

Study major guide books

Successful applicants are those whose personal library includes a well-rounded stock of major guides to sources, methods, and repositories. Above all, successful applicants have absorbed the contents of these volumes! The knowledge you will glean from works such as those suggested below will be evident in all phases of your well-prepared certification application.

  • Board for Certification of Genealogists. Genealogy Standards, 50th-anniversary edition. Nashville, Tennessee: Ancestry, 2014.
  • Eales, Anne Bruner, and Robert M. Kvasnicka, editors. Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States. 3rd edition. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2000.
  • Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. 3rd edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2000.
  • Jones, Thomas W. Mastering Genealogical Proof. Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society, 2013.
  • Mills, Elizabeth Shown.  Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. 2nd ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2009.
  • Mills, Elizabeth Shown, editor. Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2001.

For additional self-study recommendations, click here.

Join the Association of Professional Genealogists

Association of Professional Genealogists [APG]
With an open membership and a quarterly periodical that focuses exclusively on professional practices and advanced-level skills, APG is an ideal forum for learning the practical facets of a variety of genealogical endeavors, from client work to librarianship to teaching.

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