APG-L ArchivesArchiver > APG > 2007-11 > 1195502785
From: "James W. Petty" <>
Subject: [APG] BA in Genealogy Studies
Date: Mon, 19 Nov 2007 13:06:25 -0700
I need to add my two cents worth. As I have stated in many missives, Genealogy is my career. I am a professionql, commercial, genealogy researcher and business owner. When I came into this business thirty seven years ago, I did so with the intent of becoming a professional genealogist, and I set out with the image of my father who was an MD. I started by getting a BS in “Genealogy Technology” from Brigham Young University in 1972, followed by various Accreditations (AG), followed up by a CLS (Certified Lineage Specialist), and later a CGRS (Certified Genealogy Records Searcher), which became a CG (Certified Genealogist). I thought education and certifications were the professional approach for this field. Neither my accreditations from the Family History Department (later ICAPGen), nor my certifications from BCG are equivalent my college degree in Genealogy. In fact, neither of my certifications are equivalent to even a semester of my college education in Genealogy in terms of education, training, and experience. I say this without any disrespect to either BCG or ICAPGen. The purpose of these credentialing boards is not to teach and educate, but to test and evaluate that which is already learned. This is an important purpose, and in my mind, we shouldn’t try to integrate the certification with the educational program because it confuses the matter, and diminishes the value and purpose of each program.
Several people have expressed the opinion that genealogy education is important, but they didn’t want to take the time to go back to school to get a degree this late in their career. That is perfectly understandable. This is a field that is still just emerging, and many of the people involved in professional genealogy research have grown up in a non-standardized environment. Nevertheless, the importance of education in genealogy continues. If you want to have a broad scholarly background in your chosen field you have to get the education. Otherwise it is a matter of piecemeal preparation, a class here, a course there, a seminar, a conference, whatever can be found to provide the needed education. Piecemeal usually doesn’t cut it. I have a brother in law who is a doctor, and over the years has developed a specialty in “pain intervention”. To his surprise, since the time he began his practice, pain intervention has become a major specialization, requiring education, internship, and testing for a fellowship. To move ahead in a field he had helped pioneer, he had to close his business, move to a new city, and work as an assistant to another doctor who had the credentials to provide the needed education and training to get the fellowship. Are we that serious about our business in genealogy? The need for genealogy education shouldn’t be about “me”, rather it is about training the young people who are gravitating towards this field, and who in the next generation are going to provide genealogy research services to tens of millions of people around the world who will be clamoring for assistance in finding their genealogy history.
When I was in college, I took beginning, intermediate, and advanced genealogy courses in English research, German research, Scandinavian research, as well as American research (broken down into New England, Mid Atlantic, Southern States, Midwestern, and Western genealogy research. My instructors were men and women who were professional genealogists, and were experts in their areas of specialty. Knowledge of research in several countries as well as areas of the United States was needed so as to be able to trace families from one place to another. Classes were taken in Immigration and Emigration, Migration Patterns, Paleography, Report writing, Probate records, Land records, and other record types. Recently, a correspondent on APGL reported confusion trying to do research in the southern US after a career of New England States research, and being very confused by the difference in resources and methodology. That is the value of a broad education. Because of a good educational experience, I am comfortable tracing a family from Tennessee back to their origins in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. There are different record types in each state which are of special importance for that state; and understanding those records allows me pursue research where ever I need to go. I am experienced with searching wills in the English Court of Canturbury and Sasines in courts of Edinburgh. If research takes me from the port of New York City back to Naples, Italy, or Hamburg, Germany, or to Bristol, England, I’m ready to deal with it; because of my education.
College programs need to be developed to train the professionals of the future. The courses need to be taught by practioners who have been professional genealogists, who have excelled in areas of research, and have had the diversity of experience that comes with working for clients. Instructors should not be merely instructors reciting information from a book, for which they have no real experience to back up their words. Nor should they be students, who have not yet had experience in the field. On the other had, this doesn’t mean the instructors have to be the top names in genealogy. There are thousands of genealogists in this country who have had good experience in professional genealogy, who have expertise in specific and general areas of interest. They all have something special to contribute to students.
I am not here to promote myself, but rather to advocate the importance of a good college education for the field of Genealogy. I am not talking about a week long seminar at a respected college or library, where you can get a few concepts on a topic, or attending conferences that only offer suggestions to consider. I took thirty to forty classes, 16 weeks for each class, with assignments, reading, and testing. That is what education is about. And then I followed it up with internships and training as well as many years of hands on research in every part of the world from Australia to Russia, South Africa, Brazil, or England, to every state in the U.S. Without my education in genealogy, I would probably be a businessman in another field, who like to do genealogy in my spare time. More likely I would be hiring someone knowledgeable to do my genealogy for me.
James W. Petty, AG®, CGSM, B.A. (History), B.S. (Genealogy)
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