Training to Become a Professional Genealogist (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started, Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skillbuilding, Methodology - Part 3: More Strategies, Methodology - Part 4: Effective Searching and Recording, Methodology - Part 5: How To Prove It, and Methodology - Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice  by Louise St Denis, Brenda Dougall Merriman and Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).


The book Professional Genealogy contains a wealth of reference and information for all who want to understand and apply recognized standards in both research work and business practice. We can scarcely recommend this book highly enough. Clifford’s How to Become an Accredited Genealogist is another publication with good, practical advice although she (1998 edition) refers to “primary sources.”

You can also learn from:

  • Memberships in societies where your interests lie, and in professional organizations.
  • Subscriptions to respected journals, wherein methodology and problem-solving and proper formats for genealogy presentation and source citation are commonly featured and act as learning tools.
  • Audiotapes recorded at major conferences are another valuable learning aid; there are hundreds available. JAMB Tapes Inc.  is one company that has recorded a number of conferences.
  • Websites with free “how to” articles or instructional courses should be treated somewhat cautiously, by scrutinizing the qualifications and reputation of the author, instructor, webmaster or institution. Some of the better ones are at: and World GenWeb has a multitude of information pages, an example of how some participating website owners can help educate their visitors CanadaGenWeb

One way of self-testing your readiness for the big step of hanging out your shingle can be found at “Test Your Skills” on the Board for Certification of Genealogists web site; see also their “Skillbuilding.” At you can “Learn How to Become an AG® Professional.” While both organizations are recommending that you acquire genealogy credentials, their requirements are indicative of the standards to which you should aspire.


Professional Organizations

Organizations for professionals may be based simply on a membership fee, or some may have qualifications that require nomination or referral by a current member, or perhaps a written work sample. They also vary in their purposes and membership benefits, but most have a code of ethics by which the member must abide. If they provide newsletters, journals or websites, we recommend taking the time to study their articles.

*Archival repositories and libraries sometimes require such a membership for inclusion on their lists of researchers.

Association of Professional Genealogists
Executive Director
P.O. Box 350998
Westminster, Colorado, USA 80035-0998
Telephone: (303) 465-6980

The best-known association in North America has worldwide members who pay an annual fee and are required to sign a Code of Ethics. Members are practising genealogists or interested family historians, as well as many related professionals—librarians, archivists, publishers, writers and instructors among them. The mission is “to support professional genealogists in all phases of their work.” APG is a well-structured organization that features Round Table gatherings, luncheons and speakers at national (US) conferences. Their online directory of members and the APG Quarterly magazine are the major benefits, as are the many local chapters that have formed. The APG Professional Management Conference held each year in conjunction with the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ convention has become a highly successful and much-anticipated event.

The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives AGRA
43 Bowes Wood
New Ash Green
Longfield, Kent, United Kingdom DA3 8QL

Association of Scottish Genealogists and Record Agents
Val Wilson
570 Lanark Road
Edinburgh, Scotland EH14 7BN

Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI)
c/o Honorary Secretary
30 Harlech Crescent
Clonskeagh, Dublin 14

Chambre de Généalogistes Professionnels
55 avenue Marceau
7516 Paris, France

Chambre Syndicale des Généalogistes et Héraldistes de France
231, rue Saint-Honoré,
75001, Paris, France
Online Annuaire (Directory) on website in French and English.

Australasian Association of Genealogists and Record Agents Inc.(AAGRA)
GPO Box 4401,
MELBOURNE, Victoria, 3001 Australia

Volunteer Work

Societies and organizations always need volunteer workers, and offering to help or run for office is one of the best ways to make yourself known locally or in another chosen area. In the computer age, it is possible to work for, and even hold office in, a society based far from your home. Even the smallest jobs, like typing indexes or transcribing records, are deeply appreciated by the executive and while there is no remuneration, you foster a lot of good will—and learn something new while doing it!

Once you have “established” yourself as a name in a certain group, others may depend on you to do more and more. And indeed, you will likely enjoy what you are doing and want to help when others don’t step forward—especially if you have the know-how! We advise you to consider a request or a new “job” carefully each time before saying “yes.” If you are working at making an income from research or allied work, you need to limit your volunteer time judiciously. The voice of experience says you can get swamped with a rising tide of interesting, but unpaid, chores that can drown your business efforts.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started, Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skillbuilding, Methodology - Part 3: More Strategies, Methodology - Part 4: Effective Searching and Recording, Methodology - Part 5: How To Prove It, and Methodology - Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.