Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Guest post: What Getting A Credential Meant To Me

Dee Dee King, CG(sm), is a Texas-based forensic genealogist who doesn't have a blog, so I let her borrow mine during a week when FGS in Fort Wayne may monopolize my attention. Her thoughts:

I made a career change in my 50s - genealogy as a profession beckoned.  Having been in social services much of my adult life,  I was keenly aware of missed opportunities because of no degree in the field and some credentials dependent upon that degree.

What would my career path be in the profession of genealogy?  Education, education, education, networking and credentials.  Even my telephoneman’s blue collar field advanced his position and pay with each training and certification.

I piddled with my application.  Until hubby lost his contract work, we moved to Houston for a job that turned out to not exist, and we wound up living on his unemployment.  Go get a “real job” or kick myself in the butt and accomplish what I wanted for a career?  Against the advice of friends and family, we tightened the belt. Hubby fully supported my banishment to the office each day to craft a portfolio pretty much from scratch.

Within two years of tentative investigation into the career, I received that email saying the approved CGSR(sm) board-certification would follow by postal delivery.

What did that credential mean to me?  “Damn! I did it!”  Hubby beaming with pride.  Son-in-law congratulating me - I’d become board-certified in my field before he was board-certified in his. New business cards and updated website. Renewed confidence that I had been tested and /could/ make it.

New hourly rate higher than the hard-working ladies who cleaned area houses. Customers with a better expectation of professional services and more money to spend on research. Fewer customers who thought a fifth genealogist might overturn four who proved the customer was not 1/4 Indian Princess. Real depth of work to break brick walls or build the life story of a grandfather who abandoned his family.

The credential was the key on the resume to approach attorneys about legal work.  It convinced the judge to appoint me to the first probate case, over three genealogists who did not have credentials.  The legal field understands the term “board-certification.”  Another bump in hourly rate.

The credential helped lay the foundation to qualify as an expert in the field. It got the jobs that built experience on the resume. It demonstrated work had been peer-reviewed according to the accepted standards of my profession.  It demonstrated training and education beyond that of the “lay person in the field.” [Their words, not mine.]  The credential helped establish that working to those standards meant the research and conclusions were reproducible by following the same path and methodology.  That helped qualify as an expert witness.  My services were more valuable, another bump in the hourly rate.

I could not do the work that supports my family now without that credential. There would be no big legal cases, maybe a few small-estate probates where only an independent witness was needed.  I certainly would not be speaking everyday with family members of unaccounted-for Navy personnel. This is a humanitarian effort unique to this country - a congressionally mandated effort to locate, identify and bring home those who gave their lives for this country. A credential was required to even be considered for the competitive contract. My husband could not have quit his job and retired two years early.  We could not have bought a dream home in the country with grandkids romping amongst our cows, goats, chickens, piggies and garden.

No, it wasn’t all about the money.  It was about carving a career path that provided a decent, professional-level wage, a great deal of satisfaction, and a service necessary to those who hire me.  Pretty much what most of us want from a job?

The path to forensic genealogy is not for everyone. But this is an example of how a credential can, and did, make a difference in a career.

Dee Dee King, "Guest post: What Getting A Credential Meant to Me," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 21 August 2013 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]


Kerry Scott said...

Love this. I have to say--I'm shocked that you came to this field relatively recently. I had always assumed you'd been doing it for far longer.

Melissa said...

This is great...very inspiring to those of us who are on the clock!