Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Primary Care Genealogists

Today our ProGen12 Study Group meet for a review of our assignments concerning this month's focus on "Educational Preparation". As we discussed competency levels, the concept of a "primary care genealogist" was suggested by Cheryl Henderson.

Professional genealogists are quite capable in specific areas of expertise. Certification from BCG and/or accreditation from ICapGen reflect one's focus. But if you take that genealogy professional and put him in a new locality, he becomes a newbie all over again.

The same is true in other fields, and Cheryl was spot-on when considering highly competent, educated and well-trained medical professionals. I wouldn't think of going to a gynecologist if my heart needed a triple bypass.

So, in the world of genealogy shouldn't we recognize "primary care genealogists" who can oversee the general health of your compiled family history and point to weaknesses in supporting documents, providing suggestions for further research? Just as my "primary care physician" refers me to a specialist for my heart, so too, can "primary care genealogists" refer us to specialists in the field.

Other areas of expertise may include:
  • ethnic group studies
  • local history
  • local record group peculiarities
  • migration patterns
  • varied time periods (1700s, 1800s, and 1900s research can be quite different for any given locality)
  • language 
  • handwriting
  • legal terms and practices
  • social history
  • writing
  • publishing

The ability to go beyond the basics is something every genealogist must do to develop meaningful results.

"The basics, you say, Ol' Myrt? What does mean?" The basics would be to blindly accept a single document listing your ancestor and his parents by name and relationship. Ol' Myrt's term "beyond the basics" is the type of inferential reasoning that Tom Jones speaks of when he explains one must piece together bits of information from a variety of document in his online Inferential Genealogy Class  with 3 case studies.

Our ProGen12 study group concluded no one can expect to know it all, but we are thankful for myriad opportunities on and off the web for honing research skills, expanding writing capabilities and striving to incorporate principles of the Genealogical Proof Standard into our every-day practices.

Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and LibrariansAmong our assignments this month, we developed individual education plans for the coming year. Ol' Myrt posted hers here. Our study material was:

Bettag, Claire. "Educational Preparation," in Elizabeth Shown Mills, editor, Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001).

You'll also be interested in Research Courses at FamilySearch including Christine Rose's US Courthouse Research, a variety of locality-specific courses (Australia, England, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Mexico, Russia and the United States), beginning and a handwriting series.

Mr. Myrt says we need to better define "Primary Care Genealogist". I am thinking as we progress with educational and research pursuits, we may attain that level of competency in our own research project. We would be looking to experts in the field for additional research suggestions by following their body of published work; attending their lectures, seminars and institute courses; or by scheduling a paid evaluation of our existing research conclusions.

As professional genealogists (genealogists for hire) are there "Primary Care Genealogists"?

What say ye, my DearREADERS? 

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.


  1. Are Primary Care Genealogists the experienced Family History Center and volunteers in the genealogy department at our local libraries?

  2. That makes sense. Would that include the librarians or just the volunteers?

  3. I think reference librarians with an interest in genealogy are certainly "primary care genealogists".

  4. As a transitional genealogist, I like the idea of a Primary Care Genealogist. Seems like a great way to advertise services and get 'wet feet' prior to having a specialty. There are many things I am competent to do at this point, but I haven't started a business because I feel I am somewhat required to specialize. This post gives me something to think about.

  5. What a great topic to dicuss with your Progen group! I will have to bring it up with my Progen group.

    A primary care physician is defined as a "doctor who provides both the first contact for a person with an undiagnosed health concern as well as continuing care of varied medical conditions".

    I think that most professional genealogist could be categorized as "Primary Care Genealogist". We are many times the first contact for a client that may have an undefined genealogical problem, and we assist in the continuation of clients research. It is knowing our limits that is important.