National Genealogical Society

References for Researching

Becoming a Professional Genealogist

So you've been tracking down your ancestors and helping friends and neighbors find theirs, too? Perhaps you enjoy this challenge so much that you're wondering whether you should become a full-time professional genealogist. The resources below may help you decide.

Conferences and Seminars

Attend every local, regional, and national genealogy conference you can to learn more of the skills you need to be a professional researcher. Besides the absolute field day you'll have meeting and visiting with like-minded family historians, the annual NGS Family History Conference provides four full days of a variety of sessions that cover topics such as

  • becoming a better researcher;
  • preparing for certification or accreditation;
  • compiling and writing genealogies; and
  • effectively using computer tools in your work.

Professional Publications

Read, read, read every case study, methodology, and problem-solving article you can find. Subscribe to such respected journals as the National Genealogical Society Quarterly to learn by the examples of other researchers.  

Genealogical Institutes

For on-site study, consider intensive week-long courses such as those offered at Samford University's Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) held in June in Birmingham, Alabama, or the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, sponsored by the Utah Genealogical Association and held annually in January in Salt Lake City. Both offer courses at several levels and on various topical, regional, and ethnic specialties, so many serious students return year after year.

The one-week National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR) held at the National Archives in Washington, DC, provides an understanding of the myriad federal records that can apply to family history research.

Extended Study

Many professional genealogists who hold certification credentials began their family history education with the aclaimed NGS Home Study Course on CD, working at their own pace at home. The course is available with a graded option, which includes feedback from experienced genealogists, or a self-grading option. NGS members receive a discount on the course CDs.

Boston University offers a new Certificate in Genealogical Research through on-site Saturday classes. Some top names in the genealogy education field teach this course of studies. NGS members receive a 10% tuition discount when they enroll in the Boston University program.

University Degree Programs

Few university-based programs in the United States offer a degree in family history or genealogy, but studies in history, sociology, geography, and other topics related to genealogy can be helpful. Be sure to read the requirements and understand the credits you'll receive for completing a degree at any institution.

Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, offers a Bachelor of Arts in family history.

Professional Organizations

If you are interested in becoming or hiring a professional genealogist, visit the website of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG).

Credentialing Organizations

Two credentialing organizations evaluate and test applicants. For more information, visit the website of either.


The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), based in the Washington, DC, area bestows Certified Genealogist credentials on associates who meet its qualifications.


The International Commission for the Accreditation of Genealogists (ICAPGen), based in Orem, Utah, confers Accredited Genealogist credentials on members who comply with its requirements.

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Conferences & Events

Registration for the NGS 2014 Family History Conference is now open. Stay updated by following or subscribing to the conference blog.

A Genealogist's Dream! Salt Lake City

Access to millions of records from all over the world, under one roof. at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Join experienced  leaders and other family historians for the research trip of your dreams. Learn more.

Click here to learn more and to register for the 2010 NGS Fall Research Trip.