Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Furthering the discussion on certification

Craig Manson has written a very entertaining and provocative post entitled "The Discussion about Standards, Certification, Maturity, etc.: Useful or Divisive? Elitist Envy or Intellectual Inevitability?" I really enjoyed to the mock court room examination of the proposed expert witness on the subject of genealogy. The hypothetical testimony points out several serious questions; Can a genealogist (or anyone) become an "expert" merely by doing what many genealogists do all the time? Is there a need for formal education in the area of genealogical investigation to qualify someone for the "profession?" Is there genealogy a profession at all? Does that fact that there are two self-appointed accrediting organizations make their members better qualified merely by reason of their membership? What is the difference (or is there a difference?) between the two genealogical accreditation organizations and something like the lawyers' state bar associations? Is there a need to protect the unwary genealogical services consumer? Does the fact that a researcher belongs to the Association of Professional Genealogists or any other organization protect the consumer of their services? Does the fact that a genealogist is either accredited or certified make any difference in the level of their "professional ability?" Is that difference any greater than belonging to or being certified by something like the National Dog Groomers Association? (I am not denigrating the National Dog Groomers Association, I am merely pointing out that many different types of employment have registration and certification organizations. See Workshop and Certification Guidelines of the National Dog Groomers Association of American, Inc.). It is not necessary to belong to the national organization to be a dog groomer, any more than it is necessary to belong to either of the national genealogical accreditation organizations.

It is interesting that even though attorneys are only allowed to practice law in the courts of the State of Arizona while being active members of the Arizona State Bar Association, there is still a need for even more "certification." The Arizona State Bar Association has certified specialists in specific areas who have to have more training and pass additional qualifications. However, no one is prevented from practicing in the specialized areas merely because they are not additionally certified, but they are prevented from advertising that they are a "specialist" unless they are actually so designated. It appears that in any group or specialty, there will be those who automatically create an "in group" requiring some sort of "qualification." be it fraternity, sorority, club or service organization.

As long as people are impressed by letters after your name, there will be more ways to get letters.

This post was written by James L. Tanner, B.A. M.A. J.D.


  1. Yes, I think it does make a difference if you are certified by a peer-reviewed Board of certified professionals.

    Experts are needed in every subject area, and they don't all have to be PhDs or JDs. They do have to demonstrate excellent practices in the chosen field and ethical behavior.

    That doesn't mean that people without credentials cannot be excellent and ethical genealogists - just that they haven't met the certification standards that might be required by some courts in order to be qualified as an expert witness in a court of law.

  2. By the way, I agree with Randy Seaver. I think certification is necessary and in some cases, regulation.