Monday, November 16, 2015

My Journey of the Certification Process: What's the Cost?

So many of you have written your best wishes to me in my endeavor. Thank you for reading My Journey of the Certification Process: Entry 1.

I have had several comments regarding cost of preparation and cost of the certification process itself. I want to share with you today some ideas on preliminary preparation and the overall costs involved.

Suggested Preparation Ideas

The very first society (other than my local county society) I joined was the National Genealogical Society. The cost of a membership is $65.00 (as Nov 2015). This membership was my first step to preparing for certification.

Once you have become a member of the NGS, you will begin to receive the NGS Quarterly and the NGS Magazine. The NGS Quarterly is a great example of scholarly works. If you are unable to purchase a membership right now, you can enjoy these publications at many local libraries and Family History Centers. In fact, ask around at your next county genealogical society meeting to see if anyone is getting rid of their old ones. That is how I stumbled across the first NGS Quarterly I ever read.

This NGS publication was vital to my learning how to properly compose proof arguments and summaries. It also gave me more experience with proper source citation techniques.

Source citations are really important in putting together a portfolio and for me, the most difficult. I use Elizabeth Shown Mills Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace as my reference volume on how to write a source citation. [PS...this book is now in its third edition.] As I read the articles in the NGS Quarterly, I make notes all over them. On the front cover, I put important things that can be found in that volume. For example, if I find a fact that required TWO source citations, I look to see how that was done. If I find an article in which someone sourced a fact where they found nothing (called negative evidence,) I look to see how they cited a negative source. I mark the page, then write on the front of the volume "Negative Source Citation" or "Two Source Citations Together."

If I find a great Kinship Determination Project, I write so on the front cover. This makes for easy reference later.

If I find a well thought out case study that is clear and easy to follow that reminds me of something I have researched myself, I mark it. Then, I go back and write my own article taking cues from their train-of-thought as practice. I find I am not very organized in my actual thinking, but one thing I learned from my mentors is that it does not really matter in what order you researched, but it does matter in what order you WRITE about that research. In other words, you might be all over the place, but when it comes time to write your case studies, you need to be organized. That organization can be learned by reading these NGS articles.

As of 2016, the requirements for certification have changed slightly to include a resume of your enrichment activities and education. In other words, they are looking for what workshops and course work you are taking. I mentioned that I took the NGS American Genealogy: Home Study Course. At that time, it was a CD course and cost $500 USD. Today, this course has been revised, updated, and moved to the Cloud. The course is now in a series of three. The classes are American Genealogical Studies: The Basics; American Genealogical Studies: Guide to Documentation and Source Citation; and American Genealogical Studies: Beyond the Basics. To take this last course, you must complete the "Basics" and "Documentation" courses. A course syllabus for the "Basics" course can be seen here.

You do not need to be a member of the NGS to take these courses, however the price for members is discounted.

The breakdown in USD as of Nov 2015:
"Basics" course is $45.00 for members, $65.00 for non-members
"Source Citation and Documentation" same as above
"Beyond Basics" is $175.00 for members, $200.00 for non-members
"Basics" and "Source Citation and Documentation" bundled together are $75.00 for members, $100.00 for non-members

Want to take the courses for free? NGS offers the John T. Humphrey, CG Memorial Scholarship Award each year. The scholarship covers the cost of all three American Genealogical Studies courses. You can read more about the requirements by clicking here.

There are many other great preparation courses out there, so take a look.

Certification Fees

Once you have decided to start the certification process, you will need to send in a $75.00 application fee. This puts you "on the clock" for one year. If you do not complete the portfolio in a year's time, you can file for an extension for another $75.00 fee.

After you complete your portfolio, you will send it in with a $300.00 fee.

My Week in Review

This week I worked more on my "Report for another person" portion of the portfolio. I read over all of the examples suggested in the rubric and the BCG Action list. The rubric and BCG Action lists are very helpful and give you a breakdown of what each report should include. 

I found myself second guessing as I realized the example reports were more lengthy than mine. However, I noticed that one example report included that the research had been commissioned for 30 hours. My client hired me for less than half of that! Less hours of research will likely equal a shorter report, so I think I'm okay. I used the hours the client gave me and did some great research with that time using a variety of sources. Best of all, we found the answer to her question.

Well friends, this week I hope to finish up the "Report for another person" entirely and maybe have time to put some hours into the Kinship Determination Project. I have just received some key evidence in that case and I am anxious to dig into it more!

Follow along on my journey of certification by reading:
Entry 3 of the Certification Process: Keeping Motivated
Entry 4 of the Certification Process: Power of the Cold Call
Entry 5 of the Certification Process: Absolute Must-haves

Monday, November 9, 2015

My Journey of the Certification Process: Entry 1

I have debated back and forth as to whether it would be helpful for me to blog about the certification process I am going through. I am currently "on the clock" for the Board for Certified Genealogists certification program. I might be putting myself on-the-line here by sharing the fact that I am attempting to become certified. Let's face it...I might not "pass." But, I do not want to let this time pass by and not keep a record of it.

Many years ago in college, I let several teachers convince me I would never pass the certification process to become a licensed interpreter for the Deaf. It was expensive and difficult, they said, you'll never pass the first time. So, I simply decided I would not try.

Ten years later, I was older, wiser, and had nothing to lose. I studied and practiced for five months and took the test. I passed with no problem at all. Why had I waited ten years and allowed other people to convince me I would fail?

The process of genealogy certification has been completely opposite. I kept hearing things like, "You can do it," "You are ready," and "You'll do great!" I still have fear of failing, but those voices are in my own mind.

To begin the process, I started with a five year plan. Not absolutely necessary, but I always like a well thought out plan. I watched an interview with Elizabeth Shown Mills about her genealogy journey. She suggested (this was in 2010) anyone wishing to certify should take the NGS American Genealogy Home Study Course. It was a $500 graded course, a little too expensive at the time. But...NGS offers a yearly scholarship! I applied and was granted the scholarship in 2011. The course was wonderful. I was graded by certified genealogists for each assignment. I did not always pass the first time I sent in an assignment. Sometimes, they would send me suggestions and say "do it over."

I was so busy. A stay-at-home mom with three children, active in my church responsibilities, and babysitting children before school and after, left me precious little time to work on the course work. Looking back, I do not know how I did it, but I finished the course in just under 3 years. That was a loooong time! It certainly would not take most people that long by a long shot. The point is, it did not matter how long it took. I was learning.

The next step the BCG (Board for Certified Genealogists) suggested was to find a mentor who had already gone through the certification process. At the time, I was living near Chicago. I searched the BCG website for a certified genealogist in my area. I found Teresa Steinkamp McMillin. I sent her over an email. I peppered her with all sorts of questions, which she quickly answered.

From Teresa, I learned that it is a good idea to do some client work and report writing before attempting your certification. Boy, was she right! I started calling around to some friends and asking if I could do their family history for them. There was no shortage of willing people!

I worked and eventually people started hiring me for more difficult research. BCG and Teresa reminded me to look at every "client case" as a potential piece of my portfolio. For your certification, you turn in a portfolio of several reports. A kinship determination paper, a transcription and abstraction of a supplied document (as well as one that you provide,) a research report for another person, and a case study involving conflicting, indirect, or negative evidence. If I found that my client work would make a great report or had some interesting conflicting or indirect evidence, I would ask the client's written permission to include it in a future portfolio.

Over the last four years, I have started speaking to groups about genealogy, writing blog articles for, and have written A LOT of client reports. Last spring while attending the Ohio Genealogical Society Annual Conference, I finally met Teresa Steinkamp McMillin. It was so good to meet her in person. She gave me that final push to "go for it" and turn in the paperwork to get "on the clock."

"On the clock" means that you have sent in an application to the BCG. They send you further information and helps to start the portfolio and you have one year to complete it and send it in.

It has been five months "on the clock" for me. I have finished the applicant supplied document portion, the resume, and have only a few tweaks left on the report for another person. I have a good start on the kinship determination project and the case study. I think I am right on track.

My learning has not stopped just because I am in the certification process. I think I am learning more now than I ever did! I have purchased all sorts of books and read the NGS Quarterly and other scholarly works every chance I get. I highlight, I scribble notes, I attend seminars and watch webinars.

Will I pass, I do not know. I do know that if I don't pass the first time, my friends and mentors will work with me and help me try again. If you want to become certified, YOU CAN DO IT! Create a plan and start today!

Follow along on my journey of certification by reading:
Entry 2 of the Certification Process: What's the cost?
Entry 3 of the Certification Process: Keeping Motivated
Entry 4 of the Certification Process: Power of the Cold Call
Entry 5 of the Certification Process: Absolute Must-haves