“Take the process seriously. It’s harder than it looks and takes investment in ongoing genealogical learning, whether you possess a degree or more in another field or not.”
When interviewed for a SpringBoard blog post, new BCG associate Shannon Terwedo offered advice she would give to someone considering applying for certification. Her suggestions are so on-target, they deserve their own post.
Over a period of years before applying to BCG, Shannon had attended the National Institute of Genealogical Research in Washington, D.C., and other week-long seminars and National Genealogical Society conferences. Although not required, they certainly added to her preparation. Many of her hints for successful preparation are much less expensive and require no travel. Some are free.
Here is Shannon’s advice for specific ways to prepare:
• Take the courses offered by the National Genealogical Society, even if they seem too basic. You may be surprised by some of the essentials you’ve missed.
• Attend conferences and training that provide in-depth training on genealogical research, source analysis and writing techniques.
• Attend sessions on BCG certification several times and pay attention.
• Subscribe to the National Genealogical Society Quarterly at minimum, but I think The American Genealogist and The Genealogist are important and instructive too. Read them regularly and flag the articles most applicable to your own research interests.
• Take clients, even if they’re pro bono, and practice client research and reports.
• Write up your own research and practice proof arguments and source citations.
• Read and refer regularly to both of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ reference books: Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001) and Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, rev. ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2009). (Evidence Explained is now available as a 2012 second revised edition.)
• Read Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2013), then read it again.
• After all that, look at the example certification portfolios at conferences.
• Take advantage of online guidance offered by the BCG. The questions you didn’t think to ask will get answered.
Shannon offers this encouragement: “Don’t give up, even if you have to extend beyond a year (or more).” She knows from experience the benefit of persistence, as work and family obligations forced her to extend four times before submitting her (successful) portfolio.