Saturday, January 8, 2011

Officially Completed the NGS Home Course...Now What? Post 1

As most of you who visit the site probably already know, I'm in the process of training myself to become ready for the BCG (Board for Certification of Genealogists) Certification process. What this means is that if I can get my skills up to the point where my portfolio holds up to their rigorous reviewing standards, I would become a "CG", or Certified Genealogist, and that holds great weight for me. Not all professional genealogists are CGs, or have received their accreditation through ICAPGEN (the other credentialing body in the field) and there is nothing that says those who haven't gotten their CG or AG aren't as good as those who do. But to me, being a CG tells my clients that I've made the commitment to standards and good business practice to deliver the best product available to them. It also tells me that I can take the challenges that will come my way and gives me something to be extraordinarily proud of.

So, on this path I've taken numerous steps to prepare, in addition to the rather obvious step of delving into all corners of my own family history as well as that of my husband and any friends who stay awake long enough while I explain what I want to do. But there are still a few things I'd like to get done before submitting a portfolio because I still don't quite feel ready. So I thought maybe this post might be helpful to make people aware of the possibilities if you decide that genealogical education might be for you, whether with the ultimate goal of certification or without it...

1-I joined APG, the Association of Professional Genealogists. Besides getting their publication, as a member you also join a prestigious group of professionals in the field and get listed in their directory to help clients find you. See their site at

2-I joined the NGS, the National Genealogical Society as well as other societies of interest to the work that I was doing. NGS offers one of the most valued periodicals in the field as well as many courses, such as the Home Course that I just finished. You can read more about NGS at At the time I first started, I began with the New England side of the family since that was the side I had the most info to begin with so I found the NEHGS, the New England Historic Genealogy Society, to be of immense importance. Like the NGS journal, the periodical for the NEHGS is among the best for those with or without New England Ancestry. You can find them at

3-Just to be clear, local societies should not be neglected. Yes, costs for carrying membership fees for all of these societies can be pricey but the importance of the information you receive topped off by the opportunities you can find through the local societies is really priceless. The local societies are also a great way to get connected and bring in clients. Some geographic societies that I belong to are: The Virginia Genealogical Society,, and the Indiana Genealogical Society, The VGS is another society that is great whether you have VA ancestors (that you know of yet) or not. Keep in mind that a great deal of our early ancestors either traveled through Virginia or settled there, even temporarily. Somehow, most roads tend to lead there so it's good to have the information included in their wonderful periodical.

4-Sign up for ProGen. If you have any thoughts on possibly taking on clients, whether paying or not, you really should take this course. Not only does it help you understand how to deal with business dealings related to a genealogical business, it also helps point you in the right direction for work that you do for clients, as well as for yourself. Can we say, research reports people? Yeah, it's covered in ProGen. Best of all, ProGen is free! Find info here

5-Take the NGS Home Course, especially the graded option. This course is extremely in-depth. It literally starts you off with the basics and works all the way up to a narrative genealogy using all of the records you've learned to use throughout the course. And let's face it, if you're going to dive head-first into the vat of research and resources, you might as well take full advantage of it and get some valuable feedback from people who have been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. Graded option all the way.

6-Go to a week long course whether it's NIGR,, IGHR,, or SLIG, you need to attend at least one of these in-depth sessions. Ideally, all of them at least once because the offerings are different and equally valuable. NIGR is a course with a focus on federal records at the National Archives and considering how standards these records are to our research, it's super important to be able to understand them. It is high on the list of my priorities. The courses available through IGHR and SLIG are similar but both take broad topics like you find at the conferences through NGS or FGS and take you step by step, source by source, and allow you to do coursework to understand them and ask questions of the most recognizable names in the field like Tom Jones and Elizabeth Shown Mills. You will not find a more interesting and valuable week than a course through these programs.

7-Attend the big conferences like NGS or FGS. This is pretty self-explanatory really. While it might not be necessary to attend every year, they can get pricey, it's a good way to network with others and see big names give seminars on some interesting topics. It also looks good in your certification portfolio to let them know you get involved and get around.

8-Get involved with the original records as much as possible. This is an on-going process that you will ideally use throughout your career. While having availability online is great, especially for people like me who live at a distance from their focus areas, there is no substitute for going on-site and discovering how those records are kept, where they are, what's included in them and how they change over time, and getting as familiar with the records in that Courthouse as you possibly can without having them superglued to your eyelids.

That's kind of the rundown that I've got in my head right now but I know there are lots of other ways to train yourself and get yourself prepared and on the right path for certification. One that comes to mind now is the new course available through Boston University. It's been getting some great feedback and would be a great option for those who could swing it. It's a bit pricey for me but slight discounts are available for members of APG or NGS. Also the University of Toronto program (also known as NIGS) comes to mind. Their program is a bit easier to handle financially and is also very well respected. Info on these programs can be found at and respectively.

If I think of anything else, I'll be sure to post it. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to jump into now that the NGS course is over, but I'm sure I'll post about that here too :)


  1. Congrats on finishing it! I'll be reading to see what you take on next. BCG is on my list too but not for a while. I want to finish the NGS and do BU first. I'll be at FGS in September. Cannot wait to go.

    When the weather is nicer, we should try to meet up in the city with the kids. Or without the kids is even better -we could have a conversation!

  2. I'm bookmarking this post... I'm just now starting off on getting my skills up enough to consider becoming a CG... These are excellent tips. Thank you so much!