Evaluating My Genealogy Education

Lately, I have been challenging myself to push my own genealogy research to the level required for application for certification by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). Most recently, I have been working on cataloging and evaluating my development activities, or the educational efforts that have helped me enhance my genealogy knowledge and refine my research skills. 

I have been keeping track of my genealogy education activities in a spreadsheet for the past few years. I’m now taking a more careful look at my list, though, because want to make sure I’ve considered any educational efforts that my spreadsheet may have missed, or anything that I might have done before I began keeping track. Taking the BCG materials as a guide, I have been trying to think about any activities that may have helped me to work to genealogy standards, to become more familiar with genealogy research materials, to be able to solve genealogical problems, or to clearly present my research.1

I’ve written a list of all of the educational experiences that have helped me to improve my genealogy research, and I have made notes about what I have gotten out of each experience and what particular aspects of my genealogy skillset each of these have enhanced. I have tried to list just about every experience I can think of that has helped in some way. If I ever turn this into a part of a portfolio for certification, it will most likely be streamlined (at least in part because the portfolios have a page limit);2 for now, though, I wanted to consider everything that has helped in my journey to become a better genealogist.

To meet the standards of certification for the BCG, an applicant should show that they have “engaged in a variety of development activities aimed at improving genealogical standards attainment.”3 In one sense, this doesn’t sound that difficult, taking part “in a variety of development activities.” As I look at my ability to meet genealogy standards in all of the research I do, though, I want to think about what I need to learn more about to better collect evidence from all relevant sources, understand the appropriate context for analyzing evidence and understanding family life stories, and in general use genealogy research methods and techniques efficiently and effectively.

One of the biggest reasons for me to compile this list is to evaluate where I might have gaps I need to fill, or at least to identify topics that I would like to learn more about as I have time. One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve seen regarding (genealogy) education comes from Jill Morelli, who emphasizes the importance of “strengthening your weaknesses” and not just spending time learning more about the topics you already enjoy and know something about.4

As I compiled the educational efforts I have made so far, I turned it into an aspirational list – as I noticed activities that I would really like to be able to say that I’ve done, I’ve included them (with an asterisk or some sort of highlight to keep them distinct). There were a couple of books I know I want to read, so I listed them. There are a few other educational opportunities I want to make use of, so I added them as well, turning this into not just a record, but also a “to-do” list. I may not complete all of these items (or at least not in the immediate future), but I like being able to see where I stand with my educational accomplishments and goals.

Fortunately, we genealogists are living and researching at a time when there are abundant educational resources available. We can use formal and informal ways to learn about basic genealogy methods, analysis, and writing; about location-specific materials; and about numerous other tools, techniques, and resources that can help our genealogy research. Many of these are online/virtual, and in other cases, in-person activities occur across the country and around the world. Some programs can be expensive, but much can be learned without spending a great deal of money. I have put together a list of educational activities that I have found particularly interesting and/or helpful, and I will share some of my experiences and recommendations in the next couple of posts.

What types of genealogy education have you taken advantage of? Have you identified areas you would particularly like to strengthen as you learn more?


Image attribution: National Park Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

1. Board for Certification of Genealogists, The BCG Application Guide 2021 (https://bcgcertification.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/BCG_Application_Guide_2021revised.pdf : accessed 19 August 2021), 4, “Development Activities.” 

2. Board for Certification of Genealogists, The BCG Application Guide 2021 (https://bcgcertification.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/BCG_Application_Guide_2021revised.pdf : accessed 19 August 2021), 2, “Portfolio Size.” 

3. Board for Certification of Genealogists, Rubrics for Evaluating New Applications for BCG Certification Revised 1 January 2021 (https://bcgcertification.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/BCG-New-Application-Rubrics-2021.pdf : accessed 22 March 2022), “Requirement 2—Development Activities.” 

4. Jill Morelli, “My ‘Moments of Change’,” Genealogy Certification: My Personal Journal (https://genealogycertification.wordpress.com/2020/12/19/my-moments-of-change/ : accessed 18 March 2022).

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