Author: Brenda Kellow (c) 24 January 2002
Pretenders exist among us in the genealogical community. Not only are some people claiming to be something they are not, there is also a college turning out fake credentials. This isn’t new, people claiming to be something they are not has been happening intermittently for years. The college has existed since 1979 when it was incorporated in Illinois, thus a diploma mill was begun.
Last week I received an email from someone with postnomials following the surname that implied that the person was an A.G. or Accredited Genealogist. The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) has a legitimate testing program for certified individuals and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) has had a legitimate testing program for their accredited genealogists. This could have been misleading to an unknowing reader, however, I read further and found that the person was accredited from the American College of Genealogists. Something reminded me that this was one of those credential mills. I checked it out on the Internet. It was not there. The only mention of that college was related to the person who contacted me and one other person claiming to be accredited.
To double check, I contacted one of the leading genealogists in the country to inquire about the college and found that my suspicions were well founded. Indeed, I was told, this was a bogus college that turned out unearned certificates. By unearned, my source explained to me that the “test” consisted of listing your published articles or books and listing all hereditary or patriotic societies, national numbers, and any offices held. I was told that for that information and a check for $50, all who apply are either issued an Accredited Genealogist or a Certified Genealogist certificate. If you want, the college will even grant you a Fellow of the American College of Genealogists or FACG.
How did it get started? Apparently a disgruntled person from Illinois who did not pass the strict testing of the highly respected BCG and the LDS founded the bogus college. It isn’t something new; it is just a problem that keeps surfacing from time to time to cause problems.
People posing with these credentials have been brought to the attention of the Arbitration Boards of the BCG and the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) for unethical practices. Since these Arbitration Boards only regulate their members, the client is the one who loses in these cases.
Double-check the credentials of the person from whom you ask assistance and pay a fee. BCG in Washington, D.C. is a legitimate body offering proper and stringent testing to those wishing to become certified. To help you in this selection, the BCG publishes a directory of certified people with their fields of testing. Each associate must sign the Code of Ethics. Seldom is there a problem, but in case there is the client has the prerogative of bringing the problem before the Arbitration Board where the problem will be considered with impartiality. The Directory is in most libraries and also on the Internet at www.bcgcertification.org/. The APG also has a directory of its members in most libraries, the areas of concentration, and like BCG, an Arbitration Board. APG does not have a testing program for its membership. For more on APG, go to www.apgen.org/.
Brenda Kellow, Certified Genealogist and Certified Genealogical Instructor, has a bachelor’s degree in history and teaches genealogy at Collin County Community College and computer genealogy at Southern Methodist University Plano Campus. Send queries, reunions, announcements, notices of books to review, etc., to: TracingOurRoots@gmail.com. No research commissions are accepted.
Tracing Our Roots columns are published first in the Plano Star Courier, Plano, Texas.
Document 04: "For over 30 years, Paul Joseph Bunnell has devoted himself to genealogy and Loyalist studies. He later took credited classes through Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, greatly improving his skills and knowledge in the field. Accomplishments are wide, awarded an Accredition and later a Fellowship of the American College of Genealogists of Illinois in the mid-1980's (May 08, 1900) ...."
Document 05: Fellowship of the American College of Genealogists, Inc. of Illinois No. 77 dated May 08, 1990. Signed by Richard E. Wilson.