James W. Petty, AG, CG 12/12/07 More thoughts on Professional Designation in Professional Genealogy
As a professionally-designated practitioner in the industry of Professional Genealogy Research Services, I have been very busy with clients and the Christmas Rush. With the elves working hard, I finally have a moment to respond to the current discussion on the APG-l topics “Ethical Membership and a place for hard discussion, etc” and share my thoughts with you all. I will use a copy of the currently website-listed APG bylaws as a backdrop for my remarks. I have copied and pasted them at the bottom of this posting for your easy reference. I will refer to each item by Article and number as needed in my discussion with the bylaw excerpt given in “quotes”. It is my desire to encourage the formation of a venue where the member practitioner can discuss and grow the industry of Professional Genealogy.
“Article I. NAME – the Association of Professional Genealogists…APG”: It is quite obvious by the name that the organization is intended for professional genealogists. The problem is: The Association of Professional Genealogists which was first organized in 1979 in Salt Lake City Utah by a group of career commercial practitioners in the industry of Professional Genealogical Services, did not use the modern term Professional Genealogy to describe their industry nor did they delineate the standards or qualifications for who was a practitioner. They just use the term professional genealogists in the name of their association and they used the term professional genealogical services for what they did. They knew what they meant by these terms and I suggest we go to our roots and to “Article II. OBJECTIVES” to discuss what is a professional genealogist and the industry of professional genealogical services.
“Article II. OBJECTIVES”
“The Association shall be operated as a nonprofit, educational corporation under the laws of the State of Utah, no part of the net earnings of which shall inure to the benefit of any private individual.”
APG is a Utah non-profit educational corporation. Does this mean we are not a professional membership group – but merely designed to educate the professional about the association objectives about professional genealogy and this education is available to the public including vendors, affiliates, hobbyist, wannabees, and self appointed and self-designated genealogists and professionals? Is the association intended to be where the practitioners, vendors, affiliates, and hobbyists, etc. have banded together under the umbrella to educate one another about Professional Genealogy and all the associated practitioners, vendors, affiliates and hobbyists, etc.? These are issues that must be resolved if the practitioner is to have a professional membership group.
1-A: “Promote international awareness and interest in professional genealogical services.” This means a practitioner conducting a business doing research on the family tree (Professional Genealogy Research Services) and professional writing and speaking by practitioners about their career experiences and the components of the industry – Professional Genealogy.
1-B: “Promote professional standards in genealogical research, writing, speaking.” No mention of all the other kinds of genealogical vendors or affiliates; just the practitioner who does research for clients and writes and talks about it. In my mind, when I as a consumer want to know what are the professional standards in an industry (like law, medicine, accounting, etc.) or the latest going on in that field, I do not go to Reader’s Digest. I go to the Professional journals and Professional conferences where the Practitioners write and speak about their professional experiences. In these professions vendors, affiliates, amateurs, hobbyists, wannabees, self-appointed, and self-designated are not recognized at this level as qualified “Practitioners” and therefore, not considered members of the professional community. Example: the MD and his wife. The Police Officer and her mother. The Dentist and his office manager. The Attorney and his Private Investigator. Each has their own credentials for membership in their own professional community and unless qualified for membership, is not in the association of members. They have their own venues for interaction and networking. Setting standards should be done by the practitioner as he learns what works for the consumer. This keeps both the Professional Genealogy business and the Professional Genealogy industry viable.
1-C: “Engage in activities improve access, facilitate research, and preserve records used in the fields of genealogy and local history”. I take this to mean: for the professional community. With the Patriot’s Act and other privacy laws and Financial and Internet Privacy issues, it is inherent in the professional mantra that the Practitioner be involved through a professional membership organization to promote such access. Amateurs, hobbyists, wannabees, self-appointed, and self-designated will all naturally benefit by these efforts of the professional community. Because of the inherent nature or desire to know one’s family tree, it would behoove the professional community to establish an appropriate venue where the Professional Genealogy Practitioner and the non-professionals, the vendors, and the consumer share the professional knowledge and exchange information. Professional practices, properly established Family Trees and amateur abilities will grow through this interaction.
1-D: “Promote awareness of activities and/or laws which may affect genealogical and historical research”. Ditto what I have said for 1-C.
Currently, the line is quite blurred in Professional Genealogy, with the umbrella approach, anyone can join, anyone can take the tests; non-commercial work qualifies someone for credentials.
Example – Anyone can join APG. There are no qualifying professional standards for designation as a professional genealogist. I would like to see APG encourage the institution of the formal professional designation process for our industry Professional Genealogy which is the same route followed in medicine, teaching, law, cosmetology, astronomy, accounting and other professions that want secure professional designation as a practitioner: B.A. and M.A. College degree Education, Training on the job, Membership in members-only organization, Experience in the practice of Professional Genealogy, Credentials available to practitioners only, Licensing by appropriate governmental agencies, Industry-wide accepted Business Standards, Best Practices, Ethics, Continuing Education.
Example: Just look at what takes place in the field/industry of Astronomy. They have their professional practitioner-membership who set the standards and have the professional journals and conferences. The hobbyist, vendors, and students, etc. have access to some of this as the practitioner shares in the appropriate venues that are directed at the hobbyist who is a star gazer. They can’t use the Hubble Telescope to search the sky, nor can they be members of the professional association at professional status. But vendors, affiliates, and hobbyists, etc. have been given industry recognized venues as well as public opportunities for learning, interaction, sharing, and networking. So should professional genealogy. We need to provide such venues for the professional, the vendors, and hobbyists, etc. needs, including a professional members- only association and networking opportunities. As an educational corporation, APG can do as the astronomy industry has done and set up different classes of membership and promote networking among the various groups. We have the NGS, FGS and many local conferences, magazines, journals, Internet Newsletters and the APG-L. These are all areas where there is much potential growth – especially to meet the needs of the practitioner with continuing education and teaching the non professionals who choose not to become professionally-designated.
1-E: “Educate the membership and public through publications and lectures.” Educate the association’s membership and the consumer about the objectives through the APGQ, APG-L, Conferences, and encouragement of the practitioner to join APG because it is means qualified membership and accountability.
1-F: “Provide support for those engaged in genealogical pursuits as a business.” This objective clearly states what APG should be – supporting professional genealogists – those qualified individuals who are practitioners in genealogical pursuits. In 1979 that was a researcher who worked for clients and could speak and write from his professional experiences.
This has been along posting. I hope you will take the time to digest it and a conference will be called for the APG member practitioner to discuss and grow this industry as per the objectives of APG.
(Click here for .pdf version)
Adopted 7 May 1981; revised 5 August 1985, 31 May 1991, 6 December 1993, 15 November 1995, 30 September 1997, and 22 October 1998, corrected 8 August 2002.
ARTICLE I. NAME
The name of this association, organized as a nonprofit (501(c)6) corporation, shall be the Association of Professional Genealogists, hereinafter referred to as APG or the Association.
ARTICLE II. OBJECTIVES
The Association shall be operated as a nonprofit, educational corporation under the laws of the State of Utah, no part of the net earnings of which shall inure to the benefit of any private individual.
The objectives of this Association shall be:
1. A. To promote international awareness of, and interest in, professional genealogical services;
B. To promote professional standards in genealogical research, writing, and speaking;
C. To engage in activities which improve access, facilitate research, and preserve records used in the fields of genealogy and local history;
D. To promote awareness of activities and/or laws which may affect genealogical and historical research;
E. To educate the membership and public through publications and lectures; and,
F. To provide support for those engaged in genealogical pursuits as a business.
ARTICLE III. MEMBERS
Section 1. Membership. Membership shall be open to any person or entity willing to support the objectives and the code of the Association.
Section 2. Classifications.
A. Voting. Voting members shall be individual, associate or life members. Each member is entitled to one vote.
B. Non-voting. Subscribers are not members and shall not vote.
Section 3. Dues. The dues shall be set by a majority vote of the Board of Directors.
Section 4. Good Standing. A member in good standing shall be one whose current dues have been paid in accordance with the provisions of the procedure manual and who is not under disciplinary action. Only members in good standing may vote, hold an elected position, or chair a committee.