20 September 2011

It Don't Mean A Thing, If It Ain't Got That Swing

Marian Pierre Louis over at Marian's Roots and Rambles brought up a topic that has been on my mind for a very long time  in her post "And So She Risks Everything By Being Completely Honest."

Marian was schmoozing with people in the audience before she gave a presentation on Deeds and Probates recently.  As she is working her way around the room greeting the people who had come to the  presentation, she came upon a couple of recent graduates of the Boston University Genealogical Certificate Program who questioned her qualifications to give the presentation.

Questioned her ability and knowledge BEFORE she even had a chance to give the presentation!

Well I have a couple of thoughts about this.  But first I want to make very clear that I think the B.U. program is a top notch course that was developed and is taught by some of the very best in the field of genealogical and historical research. Earning the certificate takes work and dedication.

However, that certificate doesn't give them the authority to become the Qualification Police. Kudos to those who take the course and earn the certificate.  But that is only one course. 

 I wonder how many times those recent grads have been to IGHR, SLIG or NIGR?  Have they completed the NGS Home Study Course? Have they earned a BA from BYU or post-nomials from the completion of courses at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies?  And while we are on the subject of post-nomials have they become a certified genealogist by BCG or an accredited genealogist from ICAPGEN?

On the other hand, there are a few genealogists out there who are just as (if not more than) qualified but their knowledge comes from many years of "on the job" experience.  The kind you don't get from books or classrooms or doing research on the internet.

Marian is a much sought after speaker because she knows her stuff.  Those recent grads with the bad manners have a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease   I mean they obviously did not stop to think about who was sitting in the audience and who had been contracted to give the presentation before they opened their mouths.

Degrees and credentials don't mean a thing if you 

don't have the experience to back it up. 


  1. Damn right. Marian was there to speak and they weren't. If they didn't think she was qualified, why were they there to listen?

    In my case, I also haven't gotten a degree, certification, or attended the workshops you mention. I learned it mostly by doing my own research, reading, and attending genealogy conferences. Even the "experts" can learn from others who might have even less "schooling" but different knowledge. (I'm sure I have.)

    The only time I have a degree to back me up is when I teach computer labs, because I have a BS in Computer Science. Of course, what I learned in the 90s rarely applies to what I'm teaching (usually Internet stuff), so even that is self-taught.

  2. Someone who attempts to "put down" a speaker doesn't accomplish anything except to reveal his/her own insecurity or inadequacy.

  3. I appreciate your post. As it is true that I am going to take the BU course in January, I am always saying I do not feel I should get paid and do a presentation without being certified. You have helped me realize that this does not necessarily "qualify" you. I have looked at other programs that are free, and will look at those too.

    I have always understood that a piece of paper does not make you the "expert." So many people have worked in fields and knew more than those that had the degrees. "That should give me some confidence."

    You are so right that Marian was there to speak because she was qualified.

    I have always believed that the certification programs have given us Genealogists the standards by which to serve others and our families when researching and doing reports ensuring that we do not miss and exhaust all clues and resources when compiling a Genealogical report.

    Anyway: Thank you again for your post as now I think my insecurity's and inadequacy has been pushed up a notch.

    Teach on Marian, and thank you for your service of teaching.

  4. Schmoozing, huh?!! Well, I admit I was schmoozing - it's fun. :)

    Now in fairness to the BU grad - we don't know why that person asked that question. Perhaps the person is socially awkward when trying to ask an otherwise innocent but poorly worded question and her timing was a disaster. Never ask speakers stuff like that right before they are going to speak. I'm going to give the poor newbie the benefit of the doubt. The post is really about my introspective reaction to the question rather than that person's faux pas.

    Thanks for your support Sheri!


  5. Amen! Amen! Ooo. I said that already. Amen!

  6. This is why I get belligerent every time people bring up the "you have to be educated with such and such a degree to be a real professional genealogist" argument. I know a lot of incompetent people with graduate degrees but Einstein didn't graduate high school. How's that for qualifications?

  7. Good post,thanks for the information! I have been doing research online looking at different Certification Programs so I can start a new career.