Open letter to my fellow practitioners in Professional Genealogy Research Services,

I am a professional genealogist. I am not a lawyer. I am specifically interested in movements that have effect on my profession, Professional Genealogy Research Services, on a national, if not international, basis. That is the lens through which I read the Texas 2009 Legislature Heir Finder Bill SB 1243. I can’t see the future, but I know incrementally, baby steps are being taken to form this profession as a real one. I would like to see the career practitioners define it, set the parameters, and the qualifiers – not have this done by outsiders, even the Texas State Legislature.

If we were a real profession, our collective voice would have said to Texas, “ban heir finders as defined by SB 1243. Such Heir Finders are unqualified self-proclaimed practitioners and what they are doing is unauthorized by our professional standards, ethics and criteria of membership.” Instead, as a profession, we let Texas say they are a valid occupation able to do genealogical research, but must operate the way Texas wants them to. That round went to the outsiders; the profession gave that one away sitting down.

Sorry. but If Texas can do it to one specialty in Professional Genealogy Research Services, it can do it to another. I wish we would have had the guts to stand up as a group and say “No” and in my dreams we would have said “the people who want to genealogy work as a profession in Texas must adhere to the Profession’s standards, ethics and membership requirements and criteria.” That is self policing by a sovereign profession. Jim and I said it, but we were alone in supporting Professional Genealogy Research Services.

In fact, we have no profession. We are just a loose group of people who do genealogy and have individually defined our own pie or work activity. Some of us are going to be devoured, as were those that were taking fees over 10 % in Texas. No profession – members only body – stood up and said “Hey, these so called heir finders are not professional and are operating outside of our profession’s self-policed standards and ethics and criteria for membership. Such a group could have helped the profession, but no such group exists because there is no profession.

Good Luck in your work. Your pie is safe for now. But I do wonder who the powers that be are going to come after next. What state will take the next move? Little by little our work is being defined by others because of our unwillingness to organize la trade union or professional body .

I am glad a group is getting together in Sept. Maybe from the specialty of Forensic Genealogy will spring the sovereign profession movement. Here, it is the practitioners, not some outside source, that sets the criteria and the standards, the methodologies, and most paramount, the required education, training and experience needed for credentialing as a professionally designated practitioner, who has earned the privilege to practice in the field, and I hope some day, the profession, of Professional Genealogy Research Services. We need to come up with a way to professionalize the Forensic Genealogy branch, with real standards and criteria. I am interested in participating. We hope there is a mechanism in place for inclusion of those who are not able to attend in Sept, to participate. Please keep me in the loop.

Sincerely yours,

Mary E. Petty, B.A. (History), B.A. (Genealogy)
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