Thursday, June 7, 2012

How Do We, as Genealogists, Measure Our Progress?

Yesterday I received my ProGen 9 certificate of completion. Even though I was thrilled in April when I finished the program, it was very gratifying to hold the certificate in my hands. It suddenly felt very official. A symbol of progress. Or is it?

For the past few days I've been kicking around the idea in my head of, how do you measure your progress as a genealogist? The obvious answer is certification. That carries a stamp of professional recognition and competence. However, what if you are a transitional genealogist? My goal is to eventually become certified, but until then how do I know I'm getting better at my profession? I've attended conferences, institutes, and completed home study courses. They have all added to my knowledge base and skill. There is always that lightbulb moment, when you learn something, that you apply to your own research.

Working as a genealogist is a very solitary endeavor. The majority work out of their homes on the computer, or at repositories. When working at repositories, one usually is neck deep in microfilm, manuscripts, or books. Solitary work. Sure, occasionally you ask the librarian for help locating a source, or ideas about how to find out a piece of information. However, these are most likely not people who can measure how your skills have improved based on this interaction.

The only true judge of your skill advancement is yourself. It requires being honest with yourself, which is not always an easy task. Sometimes your acquired knowledge may take you by surprise. A few months ago, I glanced down at a citation and thought, "That's not right."

As soon as I had this thought, I was surprised. Sure enough, the citation was missing an element. For a moment I was impressed, but quickly decided that it was just one citation out of many and I shouldn't get too carried away. A month later I caught two more citations that needed fixing. My skill set had improved, it wasn't a fluke. Now, this is not to say that I am master at citations. Far from it. However, it is a measurement of improvement from a year ago. A year ago I wouldn't have been able to recognize if a citation was wrong.

So is a certificate of completion a symbol of skill advancement? I think so. It is hard to participate in a course, or a week long institute and not walk away with more than knowledge than what you started with. How do you measure your progress?

1 comment:

  1. I just started ProGen Study Group last week. Thank you for your encouraging good words. I look forward to improving on my skills.