Evaluating My Genealogy Research: The Genealogist’s Code of Ethics

As I mentioned previously, I’m challenging myself to compare my work to the standards set by the Board for Certification of Genealogists. The first component of a portfolio for those applying for certification with the BCG (or for those aiming to perform genealogy research at that level) is to agree to abide by The Genealogist’s Code of Ethics.

In one sense, this is the smallest component of the portfolio – the only thing physically supplied by the researcher is a signature, without any additional written components. In another sense, agreeing to follow this Code of Ethics is the largest part of a genealogist’s portfolio, since these ethical guidelines pertain to every piece of work produced by the researcher moving forward, whether the work is submitted for certification or not. 

If I’m not actually applying for certification, do I need to pay attention to these guidelines?

I could ignore some or all of these recommendations, and I could share information without regard for its accuracy or without noting where it came from. I could share someone else’s work without attribution. I could share others’ personal details without their knowledge or permission. But what does any of that gain me? It doesn’t help my research. It won’t allow others to trust my work, and it won’t even let me have faith in my own work when I go back to review it and build on it later. And it may offend others if I have disrespected their work or their privacy.

I think that these recommendations are truly good advice for all researchers. While not every one of these rules is pertinent to every research situation, abiding by those that are relevant can benefit all genealogists – and the field as a whole – whether we work casually on our own family history, perform in-depth research for ourselves or others, or take on paying clients. 

I’ve become familiar with this Genealogist’s Code of Ethics (and others, such as that from The Association of Professional Genealogists) over the past few years, and I feel pretty good about my research habits and how well they follow this code. I do find it helpful to review guidelines like this every so often, though, to keep them fresh in my mind as I research and present my findings.


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