Sunday, December 23, 2007

Transitioning from Family Researcher to Professional Genealogist

Elizabeth Shown Mills' 10-point blueprint that would provide solid grounding and enhanced skills for any genealogist who is making or considering the transition from "family researcher" to "professional." (extracted from post to Transitional-Genealogists-Forum list, 19 Dec 2007:


Read all the "Skillbuilding" articles, study all the work samples, and do the "Test Your Skills" module at the Board for Certification of Genealogists website.


2. Greenwood, Val D. Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. 3d ed. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001.
Amazon: $29.95 or used from $14.95.

Read Greenwood from cover to cover--several times or until you feel you have well learned its content. For three decades, this has been the leading textbook for genealogical study, and Greenwood has kept it up to date. It's big, but easily digestible. This is the textbook for the NGS Home Study course and is the equivalent of Samford IGHR's Course 2 (Intermediate Genealogy).

3. Professional Genealogy: A Manual For Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001.
Amazon: $35.96 or used from $25.88.

For skillbuilding (as opposed to building a business practice), focus first on these chapters:
1 "Defining Professionalism," Donn Devine, J.D., CG, CGI
14 "Problem Analyses and Research Plans," Helen Leary, CG,CGL, FASG
15 "Research Procedures," Linda Woodward Geiger, CGRS, CGL
16 "Transcripts and Abstracts," Mary McCampbell Bell, CLS, CGL
17 "Evidence Analysis," Donn Devine
18 "Research Reports," Elizabeth Shown Mills
20 "Proof Arguments and Case Studies," E. S. Mills
23 "Family Histories," Christine Rose, CG, CGL, FASG
24 "Lineage Papers," Mary Bell & Elisabeth Schmidt, CLS

4. Mills, E. S. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007.
Amazon: $38.81 or used from $34.98. DOWNLOAD from, $24.95.

Thoroughly study the first two chapters (ca. 90 pages of the 885 pp. total):
1 Fundamentals of Evidence Analysis
2 Fundamentals of Citation

(These are not the same as chapters 1 and 2 of the little 1997 "briefcase edition" of Evidence.)

5. The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual. Provo: Ancestry, 2000.
Amazon: $13.56, used from $12.45.

Read *all* of the standards, starting with the Genealogical Proof Standard. Examine the appendixes for the models they provide.


6. (for Methodology)
National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 1987-to date. **Study** the case studies in every issue you can get your hands on. It does not matter what family or what region the case study deals with. You are studying it for techniques and methods. Almost every library with a genealogical collection, as well as many university libraries, have NGSQ. At you can identify libraries in your region that carry it. NGS has also begun to put back issues online at, if you are a member.

7. (for Methodology)
Rising, Marsha Hoffman, CG, FASG. The Family Tree Problem Solver.
Cincinnati: Family Tree Books, 2005. Amazon: $13.59. Used from $12.48.

8. (for Sources)
Luebking, Sandra Hargreaves, and Loretto D. Szucs, The Source. 3d ed. Provo: Ancestry, 2006).
Amazon: $79.95, used from $54.32.

9. If you live within driving distance of other serious genealogists, consider starting a study group along the Litchman Model that has been discussed over the years in various NGS and APG forums. Basically: the groups that follow the Litchman Model meet monthly, choose a case study (usually from NGSQ) for each month's meeting, require participants to read the assigned case study at least three times, make notes, and come prepared to discuss the methodology, sources, and strengths and weaknesses in the research or analysis. Check the APG-L archives for discussions particularly by the late Ken Aitken regarding his group.

10. Scholarships and awards to attend conferences and institutes (typically in the $500 range) are available through several genealogical channels, particularly these:

A. ASG Scholar Award (for attendance at either IGHR or NIGR)

B. BCG Education Fund Scholarship (for attendance at IGHR, NIGR, NGS Conference, or FGS Conference)

C. IGHR Jean Thompson Scholarship (to attend IGHR)

D. NGS Family History Writing Contest (to attend NGS Conf)

E. NIGR Richard Lackey Scholarship (to attend NIGR)

New! A list just for those transitioning from hobbyist genealogy to professional: TRANSITIONAL-GENEALOGISTS-FORUM, at

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At 7:21 AM, Blogger Heraldwolf said...

Bonjour !

Bravo pour votre site très intéressant pour la généalogie aux USA. merci pour les liens.
Je reviendrai !
heraldwolf ( Normandie )

At 5:59 PM, Blogger Elizabeth O'Neal said...

Thanks for the links, Valorie. I'm hoping to pursue certification in the not-too-distant future.

BTW, my mom and aunt used to live in Black Diamond, WA. Isn't that near Tacoma?

Little Bytes of Life


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