Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Forensic Genealogy Institute in Dallas, Texas

For the past few days, I have been in Dallas, Texas, where I participated in a great genealogical educational opportunity.  I attended the Forensic Genealogy Institute, offered by the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy (the second time they've done this).  Forensic here means "genealogical research, analysis, and reporting in cases with legal implications" (from the CAFG home page).  I and about two dozen more genealogists -- most of us professionals, but some just starting to test the waters -- had more than 20 hours of instruction that included real-world work examples and resources.  Sessions covered an overview of different applications of forensic genealogy, legal and ethnical considerations, the role of the forensic genealogist, and business aspects.  We each earned a Certificate of Completion (not to be confused with being certified!).

I have been researching my own family history for almost 40 (!) years now, and other people's for close to 15 years.  Working as a genealogist has no set educational or experience requirements, so the background I already had in history, research and analysis techniques, writing reports, multiple languages, indexing, etc. was enough to get me started.  Over the years I have attended many, many talks on genealogical topics and techniques and have learned quite a bit.  But I was impressed with how much information the institute managed to cram into our heads over such a short time.  The case studies and real-world experiences related by the instructors were by far the most valuable part of the institute.  I recommend that anyone considering forensic genealogical work watch the CAFG Web site and sign up the next time the institute is scheduled (current plans are for next March).

Another enjoyable aspect of the institute was actually getting to meet several people I've previously communicated with only by e-mail.  It was a pleasure to meet Dee Dee King, Leslie Lawson, Kelvin Meyers, Michael Ramage, Debbie Parker Wayne, Amy Coffin, Janis Martin (who has the same birthday as I do!), and Charlene Pipkin in person.


  1. I'm so glad you got to experience this - it sounds wonderful!

    You said: "We each earned a Certificate of Completion (not to be confused with being certified!)." This got me thinking...what certifications ARE out there? What certifications (if any) should someone looking to hire a professional genealogist expect someone to have. What certifications do you currently have, and what would you like to earn? Maybe the answer to this would be a good subject for a separate blog post?

  2. The two certifications available in the U.S. are Certified Genealogist (CG), controlled by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, and Accredited Genealogist (AG), controlled by the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists. (Other certifications are available in different countries.) Most professional genealogists have neither, and neither is required to work as a professional genealogist or to do professional-quality work. Going by the information on their respective Web sites, there are currently 169 AG's and 249 CG's. I think there are probably quite a few more than 418 professional genealogists in the U.S. Being certified is particularly useful for getting some jobs that require a certification (such as some government contracts) and for qualifying as an expert witness for courts.

    I am one of the many professional genealogists who are not certified (though some people might say I'm certifiable). I have not found a need to be certified, as I am not trying to get government contracts nor to testify in court. I am waiting for CAFG to create its certification for forensic genealogists, which I will probably want to earn.

  3. Thank you for the wonderful insights into your experience at the Forensic Genealogy Institute. And it was a pleasure to meet you.

    Dee Dee, CG
    CAFG Secretary-Treasurer

    1. Thank you, Dee Dee! You and the other instructors made it a very valuable experience.



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