Maybe I’ve had my head stuck in the sand for awhile about this topic, but apparently there is a still a bit of a raging storm that is going on about the differences between “professional” and “amateur” when it comes to being a genealogist. So here is my opinion.
I’ve done some reading of blog posts from different people. Some are more well known, like Thomas MacEntee, and by others who dabble in it here and there. I’ve also briefly had this discussion with a few people (local and national) that have differing opinions on this subject.
At one time, I did purchase a packet from the Board for Certification of Genealogists. I went through the contents and did what was asked. I also hit a problem. While the work itself was easy, I apparently offended them because I had stated on my website that adhere to their rules of ethics. I received an email from BCG that was harsh and ignorant of their own ethics. In my reply, I pointed out these errors. I was also throwing together my original website and while doing no promotions whatsoever, some pages were published for my sake so I wouldn’t lose track of my notes and other info I needed (because I couldn’t always log in and it was easier to view on my phone than lugging around a laptop that needed a WiFi connection).
However, the attitude I received did in fact leave a sour taste in my mouth. I didn’t appreciate the criticism during an upstart. Would I really want to be associated with these people? I don’t care how “professional” they are, even though I did accept the subsequent apology that followed. I decided to keep my money for the fee and forget the whole thing.
In my experience, I have met wonderful people who would be deemed “amateur” by these “professionals” because they didn’t pass a designated test. The work they shared with me was astounding! It was detailed, well documented and professional in every sense of the word from top to bottom. They were meticulous in their research. I was not only impressed, but honored that they were comfortable sharing their very private research with me. (All of which I will not share without their written consent, because I respect them, the work they did, and their wishes.)
So what is the difference between a Professional and an Amateur? A piece of paper that was awarded because you submitted your genealogical proof to someone else per a set of standards they believe to be superior to anything you would use. This award would also mean you would be subject to their scrutiny if they deemed you did something wrong. Mind you, I have two degrees from two different colleges, I plan on getting a third one when time allows, and I have State and Federal licenses for other things I am involved in. I know something about being licensed and educated. I can also tell you that being educated and licensed neither makes you smart nor professional.
In another instance, I was not thrilled about having to do any travel to attend a class in another State because someone else said I had to, to do something I already know how to do, and in fact I could probably teach the class better than they did. I have met Professionals who were great at what they did and some who should be ashamed of using the title Professional at all. It was a bit of a mixed bag of results, again, in my experience.
I received another email from a separate organization I was interested in because I quoted, cited, and sourced them on my website. At the time, I had no free time whatsoever to even deal with any headache it was about to cause so I simply unlinked and unpublished the page. While I respect what they do, I drop kicked that idea in the trash can as well. It was another case of not having the resources or energy to attempt any third-party approval for something I know how to do. Not to sound entirely smug, but how hard is it to go to the county office and get copies of records then write a detailed report about it?
I can assure you that the connections I’ve made to connect relatives in my family tree were not done by standards for “proof” others would deem necessary. I know I’ve written about this before too. My methods are unusual because I see and think differently about things than most other people. It’s just simply how I am. I use the term “professional” for myself because of the overall quality of work I produce and the amount of combined hours I have in experience (which rolls into the several thousands of hours). If someone who jumped through the hoops to join a club looks down on me for that, then it’s simply their problem and their own opinion. I’ll compare my work to theirs.
If you’ve read some of my Facebook and blog posts, you’ll also know that I speak out against genealogical plagiarism too and bad genealogical “work”.
So what is the difference between a professional and an amateur? To answer the question: it is the quality of work you apply to what you are doing.