Why is Certification Needed?
In every profession, certification serves as a seal of confidence for careful consumers. Certification says a practitioner has met the field’s rigorous standards for knowledge and competence. Genealogy is no exception. As an example, for legal or medical information we know to seek out designated bodies sponsored by legitimate medical and legal organizations. For strong genealogical work, the same should be true.
The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) has administered a program that provides valid skill assessment, respected credentials, and consumer protection since 1964. BCG is a nationally and internationally recognized standards organization. It is an independent organization, not affiliated with or part of any society, institution, or governmental jurisdiction.
The credential of a professional researcher, writer, or teacher (earned by successfully meeting the Board’s rigorous requirements) assures others that the individual is producing quality research and writing. Consumers who retain the services of a Board-certified genealogist know the credential is backed by an independent, professional body that will serve as an arbiter in the rare event that a problem occurs related to genealogical activity.
What is Reliable and What is Not?
Genealogy seems simple enough. Anyone who types an ancestor’s name into an Internet browser or a genealogy website can easily find lots of information. The Internet is full of ideas, facts, contradictions, and outright misinformation. To give us a basis for determining reliability, genealogists apply common standards.
Historical research of any type is a complex pursuit. We need to know all reasonable sources that exist for the time and place—and we must use them all if our conclusions are to be reliable. We need to know the handwriting of past eras and how to interpret words that meant something different then, from what they mean today. We need to know the laws that governed each time and place, or we will misinterpret the legal documents we find and reach erroneous conclusions about identity, parentage and other matters. We need to know when DNA evidence is needed, and which test is appropriate, and how to interpret the results. We need to know how to evaluate the evidence—how to identify reliable sources and information. For genealogical research, we also need to know how to assemble lives correctly and separate the identities of all those same-name people who lived in the same place and time.
Certification is open to any applicant who successfully demonstrates his or her ability to meet research and ethical standards. Two credentials are available:
— Certified Genealogist® (CG), a core research credential, and
— Certified Genealogical LecturerSM (CGL), an optional teaching credential.
Genealogists who earn one or more BCG credentials are called BCG associates.
Certification in the research category attests to the competence of an individual’s research, analysis, kinship determination, and reporting skills. All BCG associates are certified in the research category. The teaching credential is an option for associates who lecture or teach courses and wish validation of those specialized skills.
Individuals who earn one or both credentials include genealogists who engage in genealogy for a living, as well as family historians, librarians, archivists, and others who value certification for personal reasons.