“The Need for Professional Standard of Quality Control in Professional Genealogy Research Services”

You are absolutely right about the need for a professional standard of quality control and entities that live by those professional standards in genealogy. Unfortunately, in 2009 there are no such animals because there is no formally established sovereign profession for the profession of professional genealogy research services. We have an umbrella approach right now that says “everyone can play and have a say” – even if they do not do genealogy as a profession, but just as a hobby or as a supplier of information – be it through talking, writing, speaking, publishing, researching, development of technology, Internet sharing and so on. It is a real hodge-podge of people putting out and storing family tree information and driving the technology, the science, the production by hobbyists, and the practice by professionals – be they real professionals or not. There is no one professional body of practitioners with standards, like in golf or medicine that sets the definition of terms, the ethics, the best practices, education, methodologies and other hallmarks of professionalism. As has been said before, it is what it is in 2009.

The Genealogy Industry is not professionally based, and revolves around the hobbyist production of family trees, “citizen genealogy”, that has no standards or regulations. Like Golf, this amateur player is never going to change in genealogy. Hobbyists (most of them) in genealogy game want the truth and accuracy about THEIR family tree and are always searching for the next new wave in genealogy that will take them there quickly and cheaply. But like the professions of Medicine and Golf, there is a great need and a desire for professionalism. People want to play and get hole-in-ones and they want to live and be healthy.

Family tree production today is composed of a myriad of entities, mainly hobbyists and societies, and a very small group of professional genealogy providers, and practitioners who are all served by the umbrella of businesses within the industry. There is little or no standardization, except where these entities intersect with other professions (“in my real job I learned…). Most who proclaim professional status, do not want a sovereign profession or even at bare minimum, earned credentials. They want to do their own thing and make their own cheese, their own way. Hence, we have a real lack of quality control in genealogy in any single entity except on an in-house basis.

Lots of volunteer work is done in this environment by all of these groups, resulting in an enormous amount of time, efforts and results that have few if any shared or recognizable consistent standards, ethics or best practices. No one has to live by any rules, not even the practitioner titled “professional genealogist, who if he were in a profession that was real, would be the highest on the pyramid. Not so in Genealogy.

Self appointment as a professional is the rule today in Professional Genealogy. Few practitioners seek to earn professional designation and adhere to the hallmarks of professionalism. Everybody wants to be on top of the pyramid, and king of the castle, a professional genealogist. Anyone with the time, money, and/or just desire can proclaim professional status and research, report, produce, teach, write, speak, publish, share, put out on the Internet, create a database or world-recognized publication, or start a business all by self-appointment and charge money or do it for free. All with no professional quality control.

And if it sells, it must be good. If it is used, it must be accurate. If it is documented, it must be right. If the producer is popular, what they say and do is correct and based on professional work experience. If they are under the umbrella, they must be a real professionally qualified researcher – a “professional genealogist”.

In such an environment, entities in genealogy do in-house quality control that may or may not meet the long term quality control needs that would be best for creating an accurate family tree. There is no recognized verifier, just a scramble of entities calling out to the consumer, come buy my wares or use my website for free information. The consumer is responsible for determining whether or not the information is accurate and trustworthy. There is no profession that has established quality control standards that benefit the profession, the practitioner and the consumer.

How do we get quality control in Genealogy? First and foremost – a profession needs to be established for the minority of producers – the willing and actual practitioners who agree upon qualifying membership standards or hallmarks of professionalism such as education, best practices, production standards and ethics. Such professionalism and professionals would be qualified to set the quality control standards for the production of accurate family trees for those databases, publications, websites, educational programs, and genealogical entities that want professional level verifiable accuracy. Unless we professionals do it for ourselves, outside groups or entities under the umbrella, by the sheer force of the massive non-standardized production of family trees by hobbyists and non professional business interests, will continue to keep the standards at the current level that allows the most to participate for the cheapest amount of money with non-verified quality.

A member’s only body can be an influence for good on the vast production of genealogical materials by the majority, the citizen genealogists. Look at Golf or Medicine as examples. The professional body must come first, in-order to influence the development of entities that support professional standards. Through quality control on the profession level, standards have not hurt Medicine. We are healthier today than in any other generation. In golf – more hobbyists play today than ever before. They all know what they are aiming for. Let’s give the hobbyist this in Genealogy.

Copyright March 23, 2009 © 2009, Heirlines Family History & Genealogy, Inc. All rights reserved.