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 RootsBid.com, 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