Thankful Thursday: Boston University Genealogical Research Certificate Program

As I mentioned in a previous post, I complete the Boston University’s 15 week course called the Genealogical Research Certificate Program. I had heard this program was intense and hard but incredibly worth it for those wishing to bring their genealogy to a more professional level. I’ll break down what the course entails and give you my review of it.

The course is broken up into five modules. Each module is run by a different set of instructors and assistants. The five modules are:

  • Foundations of Genealogical Research: This covers some of the basics of genealogy like kinship, genealogical methods, genealogy standards, documentation (which gets more in depth later), finding information, documents to find them in, and the research process.
  • Problem-Solving Techniques and Technology: Self-explanatory really
  • Evidence Evaluation and Documentation: This course was taught by Tom Jones and I was VERY excited about it since genealogy citations are hard for me as I am used to a basic format like in MLA, APA, or even Chicago.
  • Forensic Genealogical Research: This focuses on some of the fields that genealogists can find themselves working in as well as ethics, finding the most efficient path to a solution, and thinking like a genealogist. This was probably my favorite module.
  • Professional Genealogy: again, self explanatory

There are about 30 students in a class and as each module goes along, there are readings (online and in the required books), discussions, and assignments. These are graded and you need at least a C in every module and a final grade of a B- to earn the certificate.

Not only do you get to meet and work with some wonderful classmates who are just as genealogy obsessed as you, but you also get to learn from some of the best genealogy minds that are out there! Besides the mentioned Tom Jones, Elissa Powell (the current president of BCG) also taught two of the courses. There was also Allison Ryall, and Melinde Lutz Byrne. You can read about all of the instructors accomplishments here.  We also had a range of assistants with great experiences who had such wonderful and interesting stories to share. I learned from them all and they were all wonderful instructors.

So my overall expectations were that this would be a time-consuming class (20-30 hours of work a week) with hard work, but that it was incredibly beneficial. These expectations were all met and even exceeded! The course work IS really 20-30 hours of work a week. I read through every chapter, even the recommended ones or the ones we were told we could skim, and kept notes on ALL of my readings. So perhaps, if you weren’t as attentive to detail like that, you could work through the course work faster as I know several of my colleagues did. However, I learn best by reading everything I can and taking notes; it helps me to understand fully. Since this is my chosen career, I did not want to miss a thing!

The homework is difficult. There’s no way around that. I felt myself unsure about my assignments whenever I turned them in and always felt like second-guessing on what I turned in. This seemed to be a common feeling too among my classmates. It was the first time I had ever done work like that and I was unsure of the expectations (even with all the examples and directions). Now this is probably just me as I was always that type of student in school: the over-doer and over-achiever. However, the comments and the work are probably some of the best things I received from the class. We did do client reports with a time limit (like genealogists have for clients) and I made sure to write the report as if I was honestly doing it for a client. The remarks and grade I received on that assignment made me feel very good about the work I did and feel like I was doing good professional genealogy work. Again, as this is my chosen career, I am VERY happy to have this time to practice and confirmation that yes, I can do this and do it well.

My expectations were exceeded when it came to how valuable I found this class. I loved the learning, the assignments, the real-life practice, the discussions, and getting to know other like-minded people. I know this may sound weird, but I really do miss this class. I hope my time on the ProGen waiting list won’t be too long!

The one drawback to this course is the cost. There are recommended books which may change over the years but those books can be costly. I already had all the books though as they are considered some of the must-haves for genealogy like Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills, Professional Genealogy edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills, Mastering Genealogical Proof by Tom Jones, and Genealogy Standards 50th Anniversary Edition from the Board for Certification of Genealogists. For me, this was a moot point since I already had them. However, the course itself is expensive. Being a part of the National Genealogical Society, Association of Professional Genealogists, or the New England Historical Genealogical Society does get a discount, which I also used. I feel it’s money well spent.

After my five years of college (changing your major 3 times does do that sometimes) and all of its costs, I learned more in this course then I did in ANY of mine from college. I don’t mean I learned more about genealogy, I mean learning in general. My college courses were fine and I did learn a lot, but this had such practical application and you had to do the work you intended to do in the future, that I found this course to be so much more valuable. I was an education major and NONE of my courses (besides student teaching) prepared me for my chosen career like this one did.

One last thing – I am NOT a certified genealogist. I earned my certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University. There is a difference. I still plan on becoming certified through BCG after ProGen is completed. I am currently on the wait list for ProGen and while I am waiting (and while I am taking it), I am going to take on clients and get as much experience as I can to help me to become successfully certified. This means that besides taking on clients, I will also be writing articles and lecturing.


That was a long post! I thank all of you who read through that. 🙂 If you have any questions on the coursework, please let me know and I will be more than happy to help you!

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  1. So proud of you for succeeding in following your dream. Now keep climbing!

  2. Hooray!! If I wasn’t super sick I think I may have actually jumped up and down for you for a minute. This is really exciting. I plan to do this too. Not sure when, but sometime in the future. I am curious about the cost. Would you be willing to email me and share that info? amberlysfamilyhistory(at)yahoo(dot)com. Again, congratulations.

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