Professional Genealogy – Ethical Membership – by James W. Petty, AG, CG
This topic has really covered a broad discussion; starting as a concern over APG Executive Committee management, to what the name of APG should be, to how we think about ourselves. Where is it going to take us from here? The question over Ethical Membership is NOT going to be resolved because we have no ethical membership in place in APG. Tom Jones asked some pointed questions about who we are, and what our field is? We’ve had factions encouraging education, and credentialing, and other factions complaining that credentialing is sophistry and nonsense, and those who claim credentials are snobs. We have those who argue that Professional Genealogy is about doing genealogy for hire to make a living, and those who declare the being a professional genealogist is all about how you think of yourselves. Professional genealogists were once those people who did genealogy for hire, and now the organization advocates all who can fit under the genealogy umbrella to sit and define the profession with them. No wonder there are questions about ethics; we don’t even know who we are, or what we are going to be.
How can we worry about ethics when we can’t even agree over what it means to be a professional genealogist? It has been reported that I advocated (in a private conversation, I might add) that APG should change its name to AGP, for Association of Genealogy Professionals, because the organization isn’t about professional genealogists anymore, and isn’t interested in professional genealogists. I did argue in support of such a change. But the name isn’t the problem; it’s the loss of direction and purpose that is the problem.
I consider myself a professional genealogist, because I sought to learn about genealogy, I sought to train as a genealogist, I sought to qualify myself as a skilled genealogist by the credentials and degrees I earned, and I make my living doing genealogy for clients. Doesn’t that qualify me to define what the ethics of my business should be, along with others who share the activities of my profession? Yet today there are many people who are genealogy professionals, but not professional genealogists, who want to define what my business and profession should be. When those who are not professional genealogists define what a professional genealogist should be, or tell people who don’t conduct themselves in the business of genealogy, that they a professionals because thinking good thoughts will empower them, my profession is diminished.
What is the public consumer to think, when looking for professional genealogy assistance, when those calling themselves “professional genealogists” don’t provide that commercial service, and those who do provide it are ridiculed because of their credentials? Isn’t there a question of ethics because of that dichotomy? How can the Executive Committee of APG promote ethics when they don’t know who or what they are serving?
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