Board for Certification of Genealogists, BCG

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Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG)

As genealogists we all strive for accuracy. Standards—sensible, practical guidelines for research, reasoning, documenting, and writing—help us attain it.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) works to foster public confidence in genealogy as a respected branch of history in two ways:

• promoting an attainable, uniform standard of competence and ethics among genealogical practitioners, and

• publicly recognizing persons who meet that standard.

BCG is an independent organization not affiliated with, or part of, any group; a certifying body, not a membership society; and a nationally and internationally recognized organization. Certified Genealogist, the board’s research credential, is a registered trademark. Certified Genealogical Lecturer, the board’s teaching credential, is a service mark.

BCG has promoted standards in genealogical research since its founding in 1964. In 2000, it codified standards in The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual. In 2014, it updated, reorganized, and clarified those standards in Genealogy Standards.

Recognizing the importance of educational opportunities to further its mission, BCG has sponsored Skillbuilding lectures at national conferences for more than a decade. Each of these sessions is designed to help researchers improve their skills and meet standards. BCG also sponsors an ongoing series of instructional webinars. It publishes instructional articles in OnBoard three times a year, and frequent updates in its blog Springboard. Certificants volunteer to discuss standards and certification face-to-face at the BCG booth at major genealogy conferences.

Official website

BCG bylaws

Code of Ethics and Conduct

Board for Certification of Genealogists P.O. Box 14291 Washington, DC, USA 20044

Standards apply to all genealogists and to all genealogical ventures on line and off. But not everyone will choose to seek certification.

For those considering certification, the following sections outline the process and the substance as of October 2016. Those seriously considering certification should consult the references for exact details of requirements and their evaluation—just as genealogical research often moves from derivative to original sources.

How To Apply

The first stage in becoming certified is to acquire the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to meet the standards. No specific program of education is required; however, educational preparation via study groups, institutes, and conferences is extremely helpful. Applicants also benefit from frequent practice in research, documentation, analysis, correlation, conflict resolution, and writing conclusions. Successful applicants also study case studies and proof arguments developed by certified persons and published in national genealogical journals.

The second stage is to put together and submit a portfolio of work. Successful applicants are certified for five years, after which they can apply for renewal demonstrating their skills are up to date. Unsuccessful applicants can apply again using new material (although often a pause for education will be desirable).


Applying for the research-category certification is a two-step process. The first step is to file a preliminary application; the second is to submit a final application accompanied by a portfolio of materials demonstrating the applicant’s expertise.

Step 1: Preliminary Application

Complete a Preliminary Application Form indicating the geographic area(s), subject(s), time period(s), and any languages used other than English. This information will be used by BCG to select a document for Requirement 3 in Step 2. Return the completed form to the office with payment; then, the Executive Director will send out a final application package.

Step 2: Final Application

Complete the Category Application Form. Fill out the form and submit it to the BCG office along with the completed portfolio and the final application fee. All fees are non-refundable. 

Demonstrating Skills. BCG’s research-category requirements test skills in these areas:

·        understanding sources and research methods,

·        learning to ask focused questions,

·        planning, executing, and reporting the results of research,

·        citing sources,

·        evaluating evidence through analysis,

·        evaluating evidence through correlation with other evidence,

·        resolving conflicts in evidence, and

·        writing a clear, coherent, and convincing proof.

Work samples should meet the criteria specified in the relevant Application Guide. They should also meet the standards articulated in Genealogy Standards and the ethical provisions outlined in the Genealogist’s Code.

Portfolio Size. Final applications from initial applicants must be no more than 150 pages. As of October 2016, portfolios may be submitted either electronically or on paper.

Meet the Deadline. The final application portfolio is due before the end of one year—measured from the date of signing the Preliminary Application Form. A one-year extension of time is available for an additional fee.

Requirements for CG Applications

1.     Genealogist’s Code

2.     Development Activities

3.     Document Work (BCG-Supplied Document)

4.     Document Work (Applicant-Supplied Document)

5.     Research Report Prepared for Another Person

6.     Case Study: Proof Argument Resolving a Significant Question of Relationship or Identity That Cannot Be Resolved from

Uncontested Direct Evidence

7.     Kinship-Determination Project

Consult the relevant Application Guide and judging rubrics for specific requirements.

The BCG Application Guide

Rubrics for evaluating new applications

The Genealogical Proof Standard

Judging Process

Each portfolio is reviewed by three judges, acting without knowledge of the evaluation made by the others. Each judge prepares an analysis of the application’s strengths and weaknesses. Their evaluations and comments (anonymously written), along with the application packet, will be returned within a time frame of about five months.

Successful applicants join a select group of dedicated genealogists who publicly make a commitment to the maintenance of quality and public confidence in the field of genealogy. They have made an important step in educational growth—a step that will yield benefits for years to come.

Selected Bibliography

  • Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 50th anniversary edition (Nashville:, 2014).
  • The Chicago Manual of Style, sixteenth edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010). 
  • Joan F. Curran, Madilyn Coen Crane, and John H.  Wray, Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families, and International Kin (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2008). 
  • Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2013).
  • Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2015).
  • Elizabeth Shown Mills, editor, Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001).
  • Skillbuilding opportunities including selected articles from past issues of OnBoard


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