Truth is in the eye of the beholder and this is all the more important when the consumer and the public choose a history teacher or hire a professional genealogist. We should always use the professionally designated practitioner in order to receive the highest quality results and end product. Providers, who adhere to the professional career track of formal education, training, experience, membership, credentials, licensing, and industry best practices, ethics, procedures and standards, have an obligation to the profession and the public to protect and serve both with the highest standards and practices. Following professionally standardized discovery, evidence, and presentation processes in historical and genealogical research insures the public that the good faith and will of the profession stand behind the professionally designated practitioner. The consumer should use professionally designated providers, who have secured their professional status through the professional career track, rather than using self-designated businessmen and women (I think I will hang up my shingle) when they want accuracy in history and genealogy. A comparison of the two disciplines of historical and genealogical research clearly shows how critical the professional career path designation is for both the practitioner and the public.

History is what is perceived, recorded and taught from a particular prejudice, point of view or perspective. Professional Genealogy research is investigation, interpretation, and reporting of genealogical findings. Both need strict adherence to professionally designated industry membership criteria, standards, and best practices using existent historical records in order to accurately discover, document and report the truth about the past and about the family tree. They are two interconnected disciplines and the consumer needs qualified and professionally designated providers in each to deliver the truth about the past and the family tree.

Because we all only know what we know, it is important for both the practitioner and the consumer to be aware of individual knowledge, prejudices, views and perspective of the consumer as well as those of the provider. When a genealogist is hired to climb the family tree or a historian is chosen to educate the public about history, the consumer and the provider must keep this in mind so all can do their part in discovering and learning the truth and in sharing and receiving information. Hence the college teacher recognizes that the education process of lectures, homework, and tests have a two fold purpose – to learn how well the student understands the meaning and context of the studied material, and how well they can relay it. The first is important to the teacher’s role as a teacher, happy and competent; the second is important to the student in ways we are all familiar: tenured teacher and good grades. The same can be said for what the professional genealogist does for his client.

In their professional function to discover and document existent historical records to establish a client’s true ancestry, the professional genealogist must know the client’s current understanding of their family history as well as how to locate and correctly interpret existent records to give the client increased knowledge about their family tree. The professional genealogist must clearly comprehend the client’s knowledge of their ancestry and their desired research goals. This takes professional education, training, skill, and experience. With this professional background and ability, the qualified practitioner can properly research the appropriate records and professionally report their findings. The client is able to understand and use the negative and positive results learned about their ancestry during the discovery process. This makes for a pleased client and increased opportunities to continue the research on their family lines.

Both history and professional genealogy best accomplish these goals of revealing the truth when the practitioner is professionally designated. The historical and genealogical practitioner who is professionally prepared through formal education, training, experience, membership, credentials, licensing and best practices, ethics, procedures and standards is best qualified to deliver accurate results and superior information for the student and the client. This is in the best interests of the consumer, the pocketbook, the profession and the truth.

Posted by Mary E. Petty, B.A. Cum Laude (History)
Vice President HEIRLINES Family History & Genealogy, Inc. www.heirlines.com
Member of Salt Lake Utah Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists www.slcapg.org
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Ancestors are the People of History. Do you know who yours are?
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