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. Each faculty member teaches a different topic, exposing students to the entire team.

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:

  • Students who have completed the Genealogical Principles Course and have applied those skills after the conclusion of the course
  • 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.
  • Professional genealogists looking to advance their careers

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 four modules:

  • Evidence, Evaluation, and Documentation
  • Forensic Genealogy
  • Genealogical Methods
  • Genealogy as a Profession


“Evidence, Evaluation, and Documentation”

This module addresses key elements in determining the credibility and authenticity of evidence. Students learn about sources, information, and evidence, and how classifying these leads to the identification of the best-quality data. On this foundation, students are introduced to proper citation formats and construction principles to accurately identify sources and describe their quality. Examining how genealogists articulate research questions, students see how to build proof arguments to resolve conflicting information, and assemble evidence to support a conclusion. This prepares students to express their own research in a written narrative format.

“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, the medical community, or the Department of Defense. Exercises in tracing heirs for probate, identifying people in old photographs, finding birth parents or lost children through autosomal DNA, or naming the unknown dead will expand students’ genealogical toolkits.

“Genealogical Methods”

This module emphasizes techniques and methods necessary to identify, understand, analyze, and solve complex genealogical problems. Students learn logic and critical thinking skills and apply these newly developed skills to a variety of real-world case studies. Emphasis is placed on the research cycle process, discovering identity and kinship through affiliations, and the use of genealogical theory and problem-solving strategies. Technological tools, particularly the internet, are placed in perspective and thoroughly explored. Students explore how Y-chromosome DNA and mitochondrial DNA are used to trace ancestry and family lineage.

“Genealogy as a Profession”

This module highlights the opportunities for turning a genealogy passion into a profession and emphasizes the qualities, experience, and skills expected of a professional. Students explore business considerations through discussions on genealogy specialties, client relations, business plans, and marketing. Written assignments provide students hands-on experience researching in repositories, creating research plans, conducting research, and writing formal research reports. These skills are valuable to genealogists looking to take clients, and those seeking to produce quality work for their own families.

Required Course Materials

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

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

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