I’m currently “on the clock” as they call it, working on my portfolio for BCG Certification. In case you don’t already know this, BCG stands for the Board for Certification of Genealogists, and, you guessed it, certification means just that. It’s basically the highest standard that a genealogist can achieve. “Since 1964, genealogists have looked to BCG for consumer protection, skill assessment, and respected credentials. Based in our nation’s capital, BCG is independent of any society, although its trustees and judges are always national leaders in the field.” In other words, if you’ve “got the stuff” to become certified, then you are one of the Genealogical Elite; one of the best in your field. One of the few people in the world who are “officially” qualified to perform professional genealogical research for pay.
This doesn’t mean that non-certified professional genealogists aren’t awesome. Most genealogists have many, many more years experience than I do; many of the non-certified are probably more qualified than me (SO FAR!!!). But BCG Certification means that the best of the best have reviewed your work and found it worthy of their approval.
This is a really big deal. So, why do I think I’m good enough to achieve this standard?
Well, because I’m awesome. And because, from the first moment I started researching my own family history, I have striven for perfection. My legal and scientific background prepared me to acknowledge that every single piece of evidence one provides must carry with it properly sourced and researched citations. I never consider a project “done” – and I only ever consider it to be “acceptable” when it meets those standards. But let’s face it – we are dealing with the entire lives of people we’ve never met – every person in the universe is much more than a birth, marriage, or death date. Until you can identify every single event in a person’s life (practically impossible), you’re never “done” with the research. But if you can provide evidence for the information that you have discovered, and you cite it properly, and describe your reasoning, then at least that part is complete.
So, my awesomeness notwithstanding, I have still felt a little overwhelmed with the process. The portfolio includes seven sections, five of which are genealogical endeavors (the other two are to sign the code of conduct and provide a CV). And this needs to be The Best of The Best Work You’ve Ever Done. Your portfolio is reviewed by a panel of experts and deemed either sufficient, or insufficient. The assignments themselves include extremely detailed case studies; well-researched proof arguments and kinship determination reports. You must be comfortable transcribing 300-year-old documents accurately and then preparing research proposals. Your work must showcase your ability to perform “reasonably exhaustive research”, meaning, you’ve checked out at least most of the commonly-used (and not so common) resources to solve your problem. Your source citations must be impeccable. Nary a single piece of information may go unsourced.
The funny thing is, this shouldn’t scare me: as I said, I’ve always striven to do these things in my work, from the very first day I started. And yet… and yet. I’ve also never really had my work reviewed by the cream of the genealogical crop before, either.
I’m writing this post today because I’m working on my portfolio and frankly, I needed a break, so I decided to talk about my experience. And of course, now that I’ve explained the process, I’m not sure what else there is I can say until I have done more of my portfolio. So keep an eye out for future posts, because I’m sure I will have more to say on this subject as the months go by and I complete my projects one by one.
For the record, of the five substantive portfolio sections, I’ve completed one, and have dabbled at least a little bit in the other four. Three of those four are about 60% done. Will I be willing to submit the whole thing as soon as I’ve completed all five projects? No. I will have to go back through each of them and rework them, at least one more time. Because I’m a perfectionist, and perfection never happens on the first try.