Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why I Will Not Seek Certification

I have decided not to become a Certified Genealogist.

Now don't get me wrong.  I AM a professional, having been accredited through ICAPGen for nearly fifteen years.
But, that is where it ends.

For several years prior to taking the test for accreditation, I thoroughly researched the difference between becoming certified through BCG (Board for Certification of Genealogists), and even going on to pursue that of being a CGL (Certified Genealogical Lecturer).

There wasn't a lot out there to help me at the time I was seeking the credentials that would identify me as a professional.  Accredited Genealogists (AG) seemed to be more of a western thing, for the testing was done by the LDS Church at the Family History Library.  Certified Genealogists (CG) seemed to be more well known, but I didn't know if I could pass the testing process.

Actually I didn't know if I could pass either of the testing processes.

I decided to become an AG for the Southern States.

It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  I thought I was fairly good, but this process refined me and polished me.  I submitted my paperwork and received word that it had been accepted.  The next step would be to make an appointment at the Family History Library.  This would not be a problem since we travel to Utah frequently to visit family.

At the time I tested, the Southern States included everything from Virginia to Texas.  That was a bit of a problem for me, for I didn't really know much about Texas, or Louisiana, or the other states associated with the deep south.

But, I had to learn.

On a Wednesday in October, I dropped my oldest son off at the Missionary Training Center to leave for a two-year mission, drove to Salt Lake City with tears in my eyes, and began my testing that evening.

Little did I know how difficult the next three days would be.  At the end of each day, I had to wait to find out if my test results came back at 90% or above.  If they did, I would be invited back for the next day for more testing.

This went on until the final day, which included a minimum of four hours of an oral examination in a room with eight individuals from the Family History Library.  Oh, my!  I was grilled.  I sweated bullets.  I twisted in my seat.

But, I passed.

During the last thirty minutes, I was asked to leave the room while they discussed me.  I gladly left!  Soon, I was invited back in.  A question was asked of me:  If I were to be granted this Accreditation, what would I do with it?

I answered without pausing.  I simply stated that I would take what I learn and teach it to others for the rest of my life.

They concurred that I had indeed passed the necessary requirements, and they felt good about the work I had done.

And, it's enough for me.

I have renewed my credentials every five years, as required.  I have had to show that I am keeping up with current trends, both as a genealogist and as a speaker.  I keep a spreadsheet showing the classes I have taught, as well as the many opportunities I have had for learning.  I have almost as much to submit for renewal as I did at the beginning.  I was the last person to be tested by the Church before the testing facility evolved into what is now known as ICAPGen (The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists).

Now, why do I even bring this up?

This past weekend was the annual OGS Conference (Ohio Genealogical Society), of which I am a frequent presenter.  I love this event, for it's right here in my home state.  People come from all over the country to attend.

A few conversations rolled around to my becoming "double credentialed".  In other words, to add being a CG and CGL to my postnomial AG might be a good idea to consider.  I was encouraged, for having been a professional for most of my life, it would not be hard to complete the process.  However, I left the conference feeling this is not to be.

Though the two credentialing parties have different focuses, they are every bit as stringent.  Methodology is used in both cases, with the exception that AG's must test in a specific area.  (Since my initial testing, the Southern States have been divided.  I am now accredited in the Mid-South.)

One of the last people I talked to before leaving informed me that becoming a CG involved such rigorous testing that I would literally be astounded.  Apparently, becoming an AG was a piece of cake compared to becoming a CG.  I believe I had just been insulted.  And, it takes a lot to insult me.  All of the respect I had for this individual suddenly diminished, for it was obvious they had no respect for the process of becoming an AG.

So, I will maintain my status as an Accredited Genealogist and will not seek for more.  Some people have no postnomials at all, and are every bit the professional that I am - and even more!  I will continue to lift up and build the confidence of my colleagues.

And, I will take what I learn and teach it to others - for the rest of my life.


  1. Great post, Peggy! Personally, I don't see any reason for you to get certified - it seems to me that you are doing just fine with the accreditation.

    I consider both the accreditation process and the certification process to just be two learning opportunities - and you have to ask yourself if you'd be getting much return on investment at this point in your life and career. My guess is that your time and energy could be better spent elsewhere.

  2. Elyse, how very kind of you!

    After giving this a lot of thought, I came to the same conclusion that you did. I am doing what I love, and don't feel the need to create the added stress of certification.

    I'm glad you brought up the financial aspect, as well. Perhaps the time and the money spent on certification could be used for subscription sites, books, software, and all of the other goodies we genealogists love.

    Thank you so much!

  3. Karen Mauer Green, CGApril 30, 2013 at 11:58 PM

    Peggy, while the two testing procedures are different, they simply test two different skill sets. I believe you use both skill sets in your daily work and certainly have the talent and ability to succeed at both. Yes, applying for the CG will be difficult and will challenge you, just as the accreditation process challenged you. The latter made you even better; so will the former.

    However, I am dismayed at your post for two reasons. First, that you would feel insulted when I know that you have talent and potential. It was wrong of this person to imply that getting an AG was a piece of cake compared to getting a CG. He/she does not speak for me.

    Which brings me to my second reason. Your post implies that what this person said is the general attitude of BCG as a whole, not the attitude of one person.

    Don't let one insensitive, ill-informed person dissuade you from growing as a professional. Every avenue to that growth is a worthwhile pursuit. The application process for CG, just like the application process for AG, is a growth opportunity. Both will stretch you, each in a different way. The combination should be dynamite. Don't let one person dissuade you.

  4. Karen, you have spoken many true statements. I certainly do not disagree with any of them.

    I might add that over the years there have been a few that have misspoken about the difference between AG's and CG's. I absolutely do not hold it against them, for they probably didn't realize the rigorous testing process than an AG must go through.

    Those people absolutely did not offend me in the least. It led to some great conversations.

    However, the individual I talked with was actually a bit self-righteous, and simply walked away after making the aforementioned statement. I was standing there with another AG, and we both looked at each other dumbfounded.

    I believe that my time and talent would be better used in doing what I'm now doing. And, I'm fine with that. I do not harbor any ill feelings toward the certification process, or the hundreds, if not thousands, of CG's that have gone through the process. I don't work that way. I know better than that, for one person does not represent the whole in any organization. Thank goodness for their desire to better themselves in every way.

    And, if I ever behave with an air of superiority, shame on me.

  5. Thank you for your comments. I totally agree about the two credentials. Before I worked on and received my AG I helped a friend working on a CGL. I know what it takes to do both, I appreciate both, but the AG was for me. It helped me prove to myself that after earning a BA focused in Family History I had the knowledge and ability to take the next step. Recently I presented to our local APG group the requirements for earning an AG. The other accredited person in the room has a CG. We complimented each other in sharing what was unique to each. I am very happy with where I am today in my personal growth as a genealogist. Not knowing what the future may bring I won't say never, but it is highly unlikely that I will pursue a CG.

  6. Peggy,
    It was wonderful to see you at OGS again. I always enjoy your presentations and your knowledge. You have a great way of connecting with audiences. I am very glad you took the time with me to review some of the successful certification portfolios at the BCG booth and to discuss the process.

    At the same time, I was happy to learn of your personal experience with accreditation before ICAPGen. I think you and I credentialed about the same time--before there was much help in the way of webinars, books like the Standards Manual or Professional Genealogy or even websites or email lists!

    With your long-standing background rooted in experience I know you were thinking of the possibility of certification because many of the BCG requirements you have already experienced. It would not be new territory for you to choose a research report, transcribe a document, or write a proof argument. These are things that credentialed people do all the time.

    For anyone else reading this, I would like to invite you to look into the Salt Lake Institute (SLIG) course in January titled "Credentialing: Accreditation, Certification, or Both?" Apryl Cox, AG, and I are co-coordinators in this joint course between BCG and ICAPGen. In it we will explore both sets of requirements, processes, and tested skills.

    And Peggy, I am glad that you are not holding accountable an entire organization for one off-hand remark. I look forward to the next time our paths cross.

    Best wishes,
    Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL
    President, BCG

  7. Peggy, I have always been taught that either AG or CG is essentially "a Certified Professional". I was told in many NGS conferences that either or is acceptable and they stand equally. You are an accredited professional and have been for 15 years. You do not need to seek anyone else's approval or acceptance. You are not inferior. You are AG. Go ahead and roar.

  8. Hi Peggy,

    I want to let you know that this blog post and your blog post "There is no credential war" are listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2013/05/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-may-3-2013.html

    Have a great weekend!

  9. Great Post !
    Don't stop yourself to get motivated as the motivation would always drive you towards success in life . Professionals always require some inspiration for doing their work .

    Motivational Speaker

    Mark Duin