When Elizabeth Shown Mills speaks, we listen. She graciously offers us advice and encouragement through BCG’s Facebook group. In case you’re not yet a member of that group or you missed this post, SpringBoard reprints here Elizabeth’s advice about how long you have to practice genealogy before becoming certified.1

When a new associate is announced, we here at BCG often hear this question: How long has she/he been a genealogist?

Here’s the inside skinny: “How long” doesn’t matter. What matters is whether we have learned the discipline of genealogy and how successfully we apply our knowledge to solving research problems. Contrary to the TV ads that do a wonderful job of bringing in new people, research is not a matter of searching for names in data bases and plugging together random findings to create families. “The name’s the same” does not mean the person is.

Correctly identifying people and assembling them into family groups require an analytical mindset, thorough research, and disciplined research habits. It requires thoughtful correlation and analysis of evidence and a commitment to genealogical principles and standards—not those of some other field in which we originally trained. Across the years, we’ve seen some individuals produce NGSQ-quality research within two years of being bitten by ancestral curiosity. We’ve seen a few certify almost as quickly. And we’ve seen too many portfolios that demonstrate scant awareness of genealogical standards, methods, or principles even though their preparers have been “doing genealogy” for twenty or thirty years.

If you’ve followed the BCG Facebook page for long, you’ve undoubtedly picked up on three things: (1) Educational prep helps. (2) That education can be virtually free or cost a fortune. (3) Success rate does not depend upon how much our education costs us.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA


1 Elizabeth Shown Mills, “The Board for Certification of Genealogists®,” Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/101216820578/: accessed 21 June 2016), posting 24 May 2016.

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.