Dr. Phil on TV tells us that spousal abuse is one of those drop dead deal breakers in a marriage. He tells the abused spouse to get out of the situation immediately.
Are there drop dead deal breakers in preparing professional genealogists? Or preparing genealogists to behave like professionals?
I was thinking about this and reflecting on a couple of recent events. First, there was the a client from my past looking for a professional genealogist to research her Indiana/Tennesee/Kentucky based Jackson Ancestors. Second there was couple of former student who were struggling with serious problems understanding the genealogical proof standard and its application to writing a basic proof argument or proof summary. Heavan knows these are not simple ideas to wrap your brain around and then do! But they are learnable.
I'll give my client some suggestions for a researcher, and some guidelines. However I personally think any professional who I hire to do anything other than a very simple lookup will need to show me evidence of the following either by work sample or by external assessment in an accredtation program like ICapGen, or certification process like the Board for Certification of Genealogists:
- An understanding of the nature of sources, information and evidence sufficient to comment intelligently on any source they encounter in English.
- An understanding of the Genealogical Proof Standard and compliance with it in solving research problems.
- Skill in transcribing and abstracting historic documents
- Skill in analysing research problems
- Skill in writing client reports revealing all searches, successful or otherwise
- Skill in writing proof arguments or proof summaries.
These are deal breakers for me: if these skills and knowledge are missing– yo are not going to last on my project. But above all these, two characteristics of the best professionals are these:
Humility: The researcher who is humble is teachable. Being humble, my friend Paul Hyde taught me 35 years ago, is not thinking little of oneself, but rather not thinking of oneself at all. So the greater the humility, the greater the desire to satisfy the client, and the greater the ability to learn from experience.
Integrity: The characteristic of integrity in a researcher is manifest in the consistancy of application of the values and standards of our profession, and the honesty in dealing with the men and women in the world they work in: clents,of course but also archivists, librarians, courthouse and vital record repository staff.
With these character traits in place, a professional or a hobby genealogist can learn the other knowledge and skills
Are we there yet? No, not quite but lets press on toward that goal. Lets counsel with students who are underperforming. Lets raise our expectations and set the bar higher for ourselves and those we teach. We know better. We can do better.
When I need help and the professional steps up to offer his services, if these are not met, its a deal breaker. I'll take my business elsewhere.
Am I getting too preachy ?