by Jill Crandell, AG®
Used by permission ©2014 Jill N.
[NOTE: This article, written for the NGS 50 Year booklet, is an abbreviated version of the chapter Jill Crandell wrote for the ICAPGen book, Becoming an Excellent Genealogist. A Kindle edition of the book is available on Amazon.com. Jill is one of the original Commissioners for ICAPGen and is Director of the Center for Family History and Genealogy at Brigham Young University, as well as an Assistant Teaching Professor in the History Department.]
The study of history frequently reveals events that have transformed our world, events which may not have seemed momentous at the time they occurred. The early 1960s brought forth several such events in the field of genealogy, culminating in the birth of credentials for professional genealogists. By 1964, two credentialing programs had been developed by two separate sponsoring organizations, forever changing the world of professional genealogy.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founded the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) in 1894 for the purpose of assisting church members in identifying their ancestors.1 By 1924, the GSU board established a Research Bureau with responsibilities that included undertaking member research requests at a low cost. However, by October 1961, the volume of requests had overwhelmed the research department, and they were up to five years behind in completing requests. On 19 November 1962, the GSU minutes state, “We are unable to work out our backlog of research orders.”2 The board then suggested that professional researchers outside of the society were needed to relieve the volume of requests, but board members were concerned that GSU should only recommend qualified researchers. In response, “Frank Smith and Henry Christiansen were appointed to meet and prepare suggested testing outlines in order to license researchers for commercial research in [the GSU] library.”3 Almost a year later in April 1964, Eric B. Christensen passed the Danish exam and became the first Accredited Genealogist researcher.4
Professional genealogists responded positively to credentialing, and by the end of 1964, eighteen individuals held a total of twenty-four accreditations.5 Within a two year period, the Accredited Genealogist program quickly relieved the backlog of requests in the GSU research department, and on 13 April 1966, the board decided to discontinue patron research by the end of the calendar year.6 As of 31 December 1966, eighty-eight professional genealogists held 110 accreditations in sixteen testing areas of the world.7
Accreditation exams were administered by GSU for thirty-five years, resulting in a steady increase in the number of genealogists holding the AG credential. However, at the end of 1999, GSU considered various options for ending its sponsorship of the accreditation program. The Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) was asked to submit a proposal for the creation of a non-profit organization to continue maintaining the credential independent of GSU, and on 25 February 2000, the UGA board created an Accreditation Committee.8 The Genealogical Society of Utah officially transferred its sponsorship of accreditation to the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen) on 31 August 2000, with Jimmy B. Parker, Ray T. Clifford, and Jill N. Crandell as founding commissioners.9 During its sponsorship of the accreditation program, GSU granted a total of 546 accreditations to 477 genealogists.10
The articles of incorporation for ICAPGen state the organization’s primary purposes “to promote high standards of genealogical and family history research, and foster expertise and ethical practices among all genealogists; to provide opportunities for the education, instruction, and training of candidates for the accreditation process; to distribute the names and contact information of Accredited Genealogists in good standing; to support the work of local, state, and national genealogical and historical organizations, and to promote and foster the active interest in and scholarly reputation of genealogy.”11
Over the years, the accreditation program has continued to grow and adapt to the progress of technology and today’s research strategies. Techniques for locating and searching digitized sources could not have been imagined in the microfilm era of 1964. Historically, tests administered by the Genealogical Society of Utah were conducted exclusively at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the travel expense prevented some from completing their credentialing process. Today, the ICAPGen commission proctors exams at various repositories around the world, and a number of oral boards have been conducted through electronic meetings. The testing process has been divided into three levels, allowing applicants the opportunity to test in sections, with preparation time between. As we look forward to the next 50 years, it is exciting to anticipate the growth of professionalism and credentialing in the genealogy field.
1 James B. Allen, Jessie L. Embry, and Kahlile B. Mehr, Hearts Turned to the Fathers: A History of the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1894-1994 (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, Brigham Young University, 1995), 11.
2 Genealogical Society of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah) “Board of Trustees Minutes, 1894-1975,” vol. 7, 19 November 1962.
3 GSU Minutes, 8 May 1963.
4 GSU Minutes, 5 May 1964.
5 1964 annual list of Accredited Genealogist researchers created by the Genealogical Society of Utah and transferred to the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists on 31 August 2000.
6 GSU Minutes, 13 April 1966.
7 Annual lists of AG researchers created by the GSU, 1964-1966.
8 Utah Genealogical Association (Salt Lake City, Utah) Minutes, 25 February 2000.
9 Elder Richard E. Turley, Jr., Salt Lake City, Utah, to Jimmy B. Parker, letter, 15 September 2000; held by ICAPGen, P.O. Box 970204, Orem, UT, 2000.
10 Annual lists of AG researchers created by the GSU, 1964-2000.
11 Articles of Incorporation, no. 4923274-0140 (2001), International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists; Division of Corporations and Commercial Code, Utah.