OnBoard, Volume 7, Number 1, January 2001
As you research your family history, have you ever wondered
about BCGs history? Beyond knowing when BCG was founded,
do you know any more about how this organization evolved?
The fact that BCG was founded in 1964 is well-known; it
appears on the website and in most publications. By whom?
And why then? The early sixties after all were the era of
hippies, flower children, and free thinking. Founding of
an organization whose goals were to promote more strict
research standards appears to be contradictory to the thinking
of the time. Then too, the genealogy explosion that followed
Roots was more than a dozen years away.
BCG has its roots in the American Society of Genealogists,
an elected organization of highly respected practitioners
of genealogy. ASG sprang from academia. It was established
in 1940 to, in part, elevate the profession of genealogy
to the same literary and scientific level enjoyed by history.
By 1963 the fellows members of ASG had become
concerned that there was no organization that set scholarship
standards for professional genealogists. Such an organization
was necessary, they felt, if genealogy were to be treated
as a serious research discipline.
Several ASG members initiated talks with leaders of the
National Genealogical Society and with librarians. By February
1964, plans for the Board of Genealogical Certification
had been finalized. The first trustees represented different
groups. Among the names are a veritable whos who of
genealogy: Dr. Jean Stephenson, John Frederick Dorman, Walter
Lee Sheppard Jr., and Milton Rubicam from ASG; Colonel Carleton
E. Fisher, Mary Givens Bryan, and O. Kenneth Baker from
NGS; and Dr. Roy F. Nichols, Dr. Walter Muir Whitehill,
and Mary Lucy Kellogg representing historians, archivists,
and/or librarians. The remaining trustees were Cameron Allen,
Meredith B. Colket Jr., Kate F. Maver, Isabeth E. Myrth,
Herbert F. Seversmith, and Kenn Stryker-Rodda. The first
board meeting was held in April 1964.
According to the first policies, the board would certify
genealogists and record searchers, but not heraldic artists.
Nominal fees would be charged for certification. The first
trustees would serve from one to three years, thereafter
five trustees would be elected every year. The trustees
would elect a permanent chairman from among themselves.
The name did change slightly, to The Board for Certification
of Genealogists. There are still fifteen trustees, though,
and five are elected each year to three-year terms. In a
major change made just last year, all certified individuals
in good standing may vote for the trustees. Previously only
current trustees were involved in the election.
Initially two research categories were established: Certified
Genealogist and Certified Genealogical Record Searcher.
Dr. Jean Stephenson, a member of the NGS Fall of Fame, had
the distinction of receiving CG #1, which was dated 21 February
1965. Miss Sadye Giller became CGRS #1 on 6 August of the
These two categories continue to be the most popular. In
the years since 1965, 425 people have been certified as
CG and 805 as CGRS. Most associates renew their certification
once it has been awarded.
An interesting sidelight to this history is that the Family
History Librarys Accredited Genealogist program also
started in 1964. That program has now been discontinued
and BCG is welcoming those with AG credentials into the
The intervening years have seen other changes. New categories
were added as the field expanded. To address the needs of
societies looking for high caliber speakers, the Certified
Genealogical Lecturer category was created. Students who
were seeking instruction from highly qualified teachers
could look for those with the Certified Genealogical Instructor
credential although only two individuals have met
those extensive requirements. The lineage research categories
Certified American Lineage Specialist and Certified
American Indian Lineage Specialist were also designed
to meet specific needs of the genealogical community and
its patrons. In another change, those two categories were
recently combined into Certified Lineage Specialist to indicate
the widening scope of lineage research.
Research standards too have changed or, more precisely,
have become more and more demanding. The
BCG Standards Manual, published last year, shares
with the entire field what is expected in high quality research.
Who is BCG today? As of September 1999, 140 associates
hold the CG credential and 170 hold CGRS. Eight hold one
of the lineage specialties; two of them have requested a
change to the new CLS category. Many associates hold a second
credential as a Certified Genealogical Lecturer. John Frederick
Dorman, CG #4 granted 21 February 1965, is the earliest
certified in that category who is still active. Joanne H.
Harvey, CGRS #10 granted 6 April 1966, holds the same distinction
in her category.
Most of all, though, today as in the past we stand for
excellence in genealogical work. We can, and should, all
use our credentials with pride.
This article was originally published in OnBoard,
BCG's educational newsletter and is protected by copyright.
Individuals may download and print copies for their personal
study. Educators are granted permission to provide copies
to their students as long as BCG, OnBoard, and the
appropriate author are credited as the source of the material.
Republication elsewhere is not permitted.
It's been almost five years since this article was published,
and a bit longer since it was written. During that time,
BCG has continued to stand for excellence in genealogical
Recognizing the importance of educational opportunities
to further its mission, BCG sponsored Skillbuilding lectures
at national conferences in 2002 and 2005 and will do the
same at the 2006 gatherings. Each of these sessions is designed
to help researchers improve their skills based on current
standards in the field.
The BCG Education Fund, founded in 2000 as a charitable trust, advances the educational aims of the Board for Certification of Genealogists by funding learning programs consistent with standards promulgated by the Board and by providing incentives for study and scholarly research in accordance with the Board's standards. (To read more about the BCG
Education Fund, click here.)
The Board has continued to review application requirements
for the various categories to ensure they accurately reflect
current standards and goals of the field. In October 2003,
the Certified Genealogical Instructor category was opened
to those holding any research category certification. Previously
only those holding the Certified Genealogist credential
could apply for CGI.
In a return to the organization’s original organization
of a single credential, trustees approved the consolidation
of all three research credentials. Effective 16 October
2005, any individual holding another BCG research credential
would thereafter hold Certified Genealogist. At the same
time, the Board established requirements for the new single
Board president Connie Miller Lenzen, CG, of Portland,
Oregon, explained that the change was made for two reasons.
“First, regardless of the type of work they do, all
genealogists have the same core skills. Second, having three
research categories was confusing to both the genealogical
community and the general public. The categories were different,
but the differences were not well understood. The new requirements,”
she continued, “will measure competence of applicants
in the general skill areas of research, reporting, evidence
analysis, and kinship determination that are essential for
effective genealogical research.”
As BCG moves into its fifth decade, it will continue to
work towards its mission of fostering public confidence
in genealogy as a respected branch of history by promoting
an attainable, uniform standard of competence and ethics
among genealogical practitioners, and by publicly recognizing
persons who meet that standard.
Kay Haviland Freilich, CG
1. "American Society of Genealogists," <http://www.progenealogists.com/fasg.htm>,
downloaded 19 September 2000.