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Ah – to have an answer to that question.

One must first understand the cheese associated with this term.

Traditionally, cheese refers to the commercial activities and in genealogy this would be work done by practitioners in Professional Genealogy Research Services. But in genealogy because it is so rooted in our very sense of self, this cheese has taken on personal, volunteer, pro bono publico definitions and uses in addition to the commercial applications. Hence, the wide scale nomenclature of the term genealogist. Currently, anyone can self designate as a genealogist and self define its meaning. Everybody seems to be climbing the family tree, talking about it, teaching it, writing about it, doing it. They are all genealogists or professional genealogists. The umbrella is very large because there is no profession of genealogy research services to set the needed definitions, standards, and ethics for the professional designation as genealogist or professional genealogist by education, methodologies, skills, training, continuing education, best practices, credentials, and competency in practice and commercial activities.

While Commercial Genealogy Research Services has not professionalized, attempts to use the adjective “professional” as a “noun” or “state of being” for the personal, volunteer, or pro bono publico aspects are taking place. These are and will shape the commercial enterprise and activities, and the growth and development of a formal profession in professional genealogy research services. I foresee the day when “genealogist” will have meaning as the profession of professional genealogy research services is formally organized and supports the “professional genealogist”. And properly so, the personal, volunteer, pro bono publico and commercial cheese in genealogy will know what constitutes a genealogist and a professional genealogist.

Submitted by Mary E. Petty, BA (History), BA (Genealogy)

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