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


  1. Question - Were you referring to combining two sources for one citation? I've always used separate citations for everything. For example, no marriage license/certificate is available so instead I have found a newspaper clipping regarding the marriage and something else (will, census, etc). I've always citing them as two single citations even though they both support the same fact.


    1. “When we convert our notes into narrative or permanent database, we select the best evidence we have found. If several sources for a fact are of equal value, we may cite all of them in the same reference note.” Evidence Explained, 3rd Ed., sec. 2.20, p. 51.

  2. Hi Jackie! I started noticing while reading the NGS Quarterly that if one fact was supported by more than one source, the first citation would be written and ended with a period and then it would say "Also, blah, blah, blah." Two source citations for that number footnote. I just found it interesting, but I am not necessarily saying that is or is not the way to "do it." Sometimes, the NGS Quarterly is written in a way for publishing purposes, that might be different than how one would write normally.

  3. How much is enough was one of the biggest struggles I had. BCG often has example portfolios in their booth at national meetings for candidates to review. Prior to my own submission I was review the examples and feeling very overwhelmed. Sandie Clunies, CG was manning the booth that day and said in a voice that sounded like my grandmother: “Honey, these are all A’s, you only need to get a C.” I told her I hope to do a little better than that, and took a deep breath to relax.
    I was manning the BCG booth at the last meeting I went to. One of the portfolios had a client report of 100 pages, another had a Kinship Report over 75 pages. These are definitely the best of the best. I don’t think my whole portfolio was 75 pages. It is not the quantity, it’s the quality. The most important question to ask is: does my example fulfill all of the requirements?

    1. Joseph...thank you for writing that. I am going to write that down so I can see it every time I work on the portfolio. It helps so much to hear these things!

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  4. Amie,

    I'm so glad you're talking about your experiences while being "on the clock." I also took the NGS CD course a couple of years ago, but I was not as impressed with the program as you were, and I quit after lesson 13 due to some differences in opinion and the length of time it was taking to return my grades (4 months at one point). Anyway, I'm currently in ProGen 24, which will end in April 2016, and I've been dabbling in some client work in the meantime (all while trying to maintain a full-time job, too). It is my intention to submit my application shortly after I complete the ProGen program, but we'll see how that shakes out.

    In any case, your tip about making notes on the covers of your NGSQ is BRILLIANT! I never even thought about doing that ... I highlight and make notes within the articles, but never on the cover (mine are all still very pristine - for now).

    I'm going to be following your journey with great interest. Keep writing! :)

    1. Hi Jenny! Thanks for commenting. I have heard wonderful things about the ProGen course. I am sure you will be very well prepared after taking it! Here's to the both of becoming certified genealogists in the near future!

  5. Amie,

    I'd like to let you know that your wonderful blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a wonderful weekend!


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