Overview of the Certification Process

The Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes examines and certifies people who wish to establish their competence in the fields of genealogical research. The first level of certification is that of Genealogical Researcher [Canada] [GRS (C)]; the second is that of Certified Genealogist [Canada] [CG(C)].

By completing a preliminary application form that assigns points for education, genealogical research experience, and publication, a candidate discovers whether he or she has points sufficient to apply for certification at either of these two levels.

People applying to become a Genealogical Record Searcher must prepare a report related to a research problem of their own choosing, in order to demonstrate their ability to locate genealogical sources, to do research, to cite or document sources, and to provide copies and prepare abstracts of documents.

People applying to become a Certified Genealogist must prepare and submit a work sample (limited to twenty pages) demonstrating their ability to research, analyze, organize, record, and footnote a family history. Each complete work sample is assigned to three evaluators who grade it and offer comments concerning its strengths and weaknesses.

Candidates who complete a satisfactory work sample are invited to sit for a written examination testifying to their knowledge of genealogical research. The examination is graded and, in an interview, the work sample and written examination are discussed and suggestions for further study are offered. The Institute’s Code of Ethics is reviewed and signed by the candidate, fees are paid and certification follows.

Applications, work samples, and examinations may be written in either English or French. Experience suggests that the entire certification process, from preliminary application to the receipt of a certificate, requires approximately one year.

Deadlines are not imposed for submissions or examinations, and each applicant may proceed at his or her own convenience. The certification process is not intimidating. Genealogists experienced in researching primary or original record sources, secondary or printed sources, and in analyzing and evaluating genealogical facts, and who have learned to cite or footnote sources, generally have little trouble with either the work sample or the written examination.

The following descriptions make clear the difference between Genealogical Researcher and Certified genealogist, while noting important qualities that they have in common.

Everyone wishing to become a Certified Genealogist should read both sections carefully.

Description of a Genealogical Record Searcher

A Genealogical Record Searcher [Canada] [GRS(C)] is someone who on behalf of a client, (1) examines records for the purpose of discovering, whether they contain sufficient genealogical or biographical information to solve a particular research problem, and (2) reports, accordingly, to the client. The candidate must be able to understand the research problem as presented by the client and, then, to take steps to solve it by searching original primary sources and published secondary sources.

A Genealogical Record Searcher must understand the use and location of birth, marriage, death, immigration, church, land, probate, court, school, military, municipal, and township records, and the various other kinds of genealogical records used in compiling a family tree. This researcher must be able to read old handwriting, to comprehend what is written, and to cite or document carefully and accurately the source of every record consulted.

A Genealogical researcher must prepare and submit, to his or her client, a neatly typed, error free, businesslike report indicating the records searched, provide proper citations, and stating the results. Reported also must be those consulted records that did not yield anything useful, and suggestions must be made concerning likely sources for further profitable research. The candidate must be able either to provide copies of documents requested by the client, or to prepare abstracts (including mentioned names, facts, and dates of the records.
The Genealogical Record Searcher must, in all research and client-related activity, be completely ethical.

Description of a Certified Genealogist

Certified Genealogists must have all the characteristics noted above in relation to the Genealogical Researcher and should possess, also, a complete knowledge of the principles of family history research and be able to apply it to identifying research problems and in determining the records appropriate for use in solving them.

A Certified Genealogist must have a sound knowledge of genealogical, biographical and historical books and of other secondary sources, as well as being familiar with available genealogical finding aids appropriate to their research. He or she must be able to locate and use a wide variety of original or primary records and be familiar with genealogical abbreviations, terminology, and language. The applicant should be able to read old handwriting, and, in relation to his or her area of expertise, have a general knowledge of history, geography, place names, occupations, and spelling and language variations.

A Certified genealogist must also be able to analyze and evaluate genealogical facts and to reach a sound and well-balanced conclusions concerning their applicability to research problems at hand. Candidates must be capable of explaining conflicting information and of offering suggestions to resolve it. A Certified Genealogist must be prepared to be ethical, always, in dealing with clients and with archival institutions.

A Certified Genealogist must be able to demonstrate his or her ability to prepare a well-planed and organized genealogy that places the clients family within its proper geographical, historical, and social context, that contains the genealogical facts discovered, and that presents a clear lineage. This genealogy must be neatly arranged according to either Burke Peerage or the New England Register method, or in some other acceptable format. Record sources must be fully cited, footnoted, or documented and the family history must be typed without typographical, grammatical or spelling errors.

Filling in a Preliminary Application Form

Everyone wishing to become a Certified Genealogical Searcher or Certified Genealogist must complete a preliminary application to determine both his or her level of genealogical experience and eligibility for preliminary appraisal. Applicants will complete the form to determine by assigning to themselves points for education, genealogical research experience, and genealogical publication.

The point evaluation system indicates to the individual applicant, and to the Institute’s evaluators, whether the applicants qualifications are sufficient. To become a Genealogical Record Searcher, the applicant must have at least seven points. To become a Certified Genealogist, at least fourteen points are required, with at least two coming from each of the three evaluative categories.


1. Education

(maximum eight points)

  • University Degree    4 points
  • University, no degree    3 points
  • High School Diploma    2 points
  • High School, less than a diploma    1 point

Genealogy courses

(maximum 4 points)

  • Courses taught    2 points each
  • Courses taken    1 point each

2. Experience

(maximum fourteen points)

Practice or work on genealogical records

(maximum 10 points)

  • For each year of experience    1 point each

Nature of participation in genealogical organizations

(count one of the next four items)

  • Chairperson or president    4 points
  • Executive officer    3 points
  • Active membership    2 points
  • Passive membership    1 point

3. Publications

(maximum six points)

Works in genealogy, biography, demography, or history can be counted. Collected and organized material that has not been published, but is available for consultation in a repository open to the public, also may be considered.

  • (a)Books    2 points each
  • (b)Articles    1/2 point each
  • (c)Collections    1 point each

A brief report explaining the points claimed in each category must be appended. Each applicant is asked to provide the names, addresses and telephone numbers of three people familiar with his or her qualifications and to state the positions that each holds within genealogical, archival, or other research organizations.

The applicant must attest that the information in the preliminary application form constitutes an accurate representation of eligibility for certification by the Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes and, also, the applicants understanding that, if the application is accepted, the applicant shall be required to submit a work sample and to complete a written and oral examination. The application must be signed, dated and mailed to the Institute, accompanied by the preliminary application fee. If an applicant’s credentials are acceptable, a formal application and the payment of a certification fee will be required.

Those wishing to apply please write to the registrar at the address given. Responses will be made by regular mail within six to eight weeks.