Thursday, March 21, 2013

Professional Genealogists

There was a discussion on the Association of Professional Genealogists mailing list about whether or not there should be minimum mandatory educational requirements for professional genealogists.  If such a requirement was instituted, it would most likely mean that the states would be involved and licensing would be required.  I posted a poll question on the blog about this because I wanted to see what the blog readers think.  Here is the question and the results:

“Do you think genealogists that work professionally should be licensed by the state and have minimum/specific educational requirements?”

Yes   18%
No   77%
Not Sure   5%

I promised that I would tell you my opinion on this and here it is.  The answer for me is a resounding NO!  Here are my reasons:

  • There are many educational paths to sound research practices. Mandating one over another limits the researcher in the depth and breadth of their knowledge.
  • There would be no acknowledgement of actual research experience which is just as valuable as “book learning.”
  • Having a license does not mean you do quality work.  I am sure you have had dealings with a licensed “professional” whose work was not up to snuff. 
  • Bureaucracy always means a higher cost for the consumer.  The added costs of specific educational requirements and licensing fees will be passed on to you.

So what is the answer?  The consumer must take some responsibility.  He/she must do a little background work on the potential researchers.  Recommendations?  Work samples?  Professional affiliations?  Here is an excellent article on the FamilySearch Wiki on Hiring A Professional Researcher.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Thank you for sharing the results. I couldn't agree more. I have been researching for nearly 30 years and have developed some critical detective skills. I feel I would be equally qualified to be a professional genealogist as someone with a special degree.

  2. I think formal education is important but not everything. I started out learning the hard way. I then took formal classes from BYU which really helped. Now I soak up as much "book learning" as I can but the practical experience in invaluable. Sometimes the best way to learn is to make a few mistakes.