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®.

The rigorous online program affords students the opportunity to:

  • Hone genealogical skills for personal or professional development
  • Work with source material to reach sound genealogical conclusions
  • Gain skills to find and evaluate information found online

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
  • Researchers with on-site experience at libraries, archives, repositories – meaning that you have used microfilm, touched original records, gone through record books, etc.
  • Subscribers and frequent visitors to sites such as FindMyPast, FamilySearch, genealogical society membership databases, etc.


Students who have completed the Genealogical Principles Course and have applied those skills after the conclusion of the course; students who have completed the Genealogy Practicum Course; and/or students who have successfully completed 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 may also submit a resume and research paper to the Program Director.

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.

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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