Genealogy Studies Program

Certificate Course

Get the Skills, Tools, and Methodology to Make the Most of Facts and Doubt

The Boston University Certificate in Genealogical Research is a 15-week online, non-credit course taught by exceptional Boston University instructors, world-renowned for their expertise and contributions to the field. The team includes Certified Genealogists and practicing professionals with various areas of expertise.

The Genealogical Research Certificate program leads to a certificate from Boston University and is excellent preparation for those who wish to seek certification through the Board for Certification of Genealogists® or accreditation with the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen).

The rigorous online program affords students the opportunity to:

  • Advance their genealogical skills for personal or professional development
  • Understand how to effectively plan and execute high-level research

Who Should Enroll?

This program is ideal for:

  • Professional genealogists looking to advance their careers
  • Practicing genealogical researchers with more advanced knowledge of the field
  • Subscribers and frequent visitors to sites such as FindMyPast, FamilySearch, genealogical society membership databases, etc. who have also researched on-site at libraries, archives and repositories (meaning that you have used microfilm, worked with original records, examined record books, etc.)


All students looking to enroll in the Certificate course must take the placement assessment to evaluate readiness for the course. Those students who do not receive a recommendation for the Certificate program after completing the placement assessment must have successfully completed at least one of the following requirements:

  • Completion of the Genealogical Principles Course and application of skills after the conclusion of the course (it is recommended that students wait one year after completing Principles to take the Certificate course)
  • Completion of the Genealogy Practicum Course
  • Completion of intermediate coursework including (but not limited to) Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research Course 2 (Intermediate Genealogy and Historical Studies), Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy Intermediate Foundations or Advanced Genealogical Methods, Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh Advanced Research Methods, and the National Genealogical Society Home Study Course in American Genealogy.
  • Students who have other high-level educational experiences within the genealogy field; these students may submit a resume and work sample to the Program Director

**It is highly recommended that students have the prerequisites for the course before enrolling. The Certificate Course is an advanced course that requires prior intermediate to advanced-level genealogical education. Advanced education in other fields is typically not sufficient to succeed in the course; it is highly recommended that prior intermediate to advanced level genealogical coursework is successfully completed prior to enrolling.

Course Structure

Recommended Time Commitment: 20-30 hours/week*

*The amount of time spent in the course is based on the student’s knowledge and experience in the field and on a student’s past educational experiences. Students that meet the prerequisites for the course are most likely to succeed and earn the course certificate.

The course includes the following five modules:

  • Module 1: Genealogical Methods
  • Module 2: DNA as a Genealogical Source
  • Module 3: Evidence, Evaluation, and Documentation
  • Module 4: Genealogical Writing
  • Module 5: Forensic Genealogy

Genealogical Methods

This module focuses on understanding the essential techniques and methodologies required to effectively tackle intricate genealogical challenges. During the course, you will develop logical reasoning and critical thinking skills, and will have the chance to apply these to real-world case studies. Focus is placed on understanding the research cycle; uncovering identities and making links between generations through affiliations; and applying genealogical theories and problem-solving strategies. Throughout the module, technological tools, particularly the internet, are placed in perspective and thoroughly explored.

DNA as a Genealogical Source

This module will explore and provide an overview of DNA testing, including Y-chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing; ethics with regard to the use of DNA; and how DNA test results can be used as evidence to solve genealogical problems. The discussions will also include concepts of maternal and paternal haplogroups, and how haplogroups can place ancestry in the broader context of human history.

Evidence, Evaluation, and Documentation

The module can be viewed as a three-legged stool, where citations make up one leg, while the other two legs are evidence and evaluation or the process of proof. Evidence and its evaluation are the key focus, and all else flows from that. Without a good understanding of a source, we can’t compose a good citation. If we don’t analyze information and evidence carefully, we risk incorrect conclusions or insurmountable brick walls. When building a case in a narrative format, elegant writing and technically correct citations won’t compensate for poor analysis.

Genealogical Writing

This module emphasizes the importance of writing for critical thinking, communicating research findings, and meeting the Genealogical Proof Standard. Students will learn the essential role of writing in the research process and delve into strategies and best practices for organizing their results into coherent written form. This module also offers the opportunity to study and gain experience with the appropriate formats and objectives for each of the three primary genealogical work products—research reports, proof arguments, and narrative compilations.

Forensic Genealogy

This module provides practical examples, intriguing cases, and in-class problem solving that define the parameters of ethical forensic work. Generally the most lucrative of the genealogical specialties, forensic research is done for legal purposes, often at the direction of an attorney, law enforcement, or the Department of Defense. Exercises in tracing heirs for probate, finding living individuals, and identifying unknown parentage through autosomal DNA are included among the course’s assignments.

Required Course Materials

The textbooks required for this course can be found on the Course Materials page.

Enroll Now

To learn more, contact an Enrollment Advisor at 617-502-8822 or complete the form below.

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