Family History Skills & Strategies (Intermediate) with Certificate

SOG / Pharos Certificate Course
From Pharos and the Society of Genealogists

An assessed programme of ten online genealogy courses to be completed in 18 to 36 months

Family History Skills and Strategies consists of five Pharos courses and five from the Society. This partnership brings to the Web a package of online courses for those who are looking for an in-depth course of study and who want to work under expert guidance, with assessment, at an intermediate level in English & Welsh genealogy. The programme also makes these courses available individually with or without assessment.  

In addition to learning about records content and access, you will be shown how to analyse information and to plan the next stages of your research. Throughout the programme there is a theme of building practical skills and using historical and geographical context. At the end of the 10-course programme you will have been given the tools to develop into a competent researcher. You will be able to research with confidence online and in record offices and be able to compile a pedigree of and research the history of a family in England & Wales from the 17th century to modern times.

Those who choose to take the assessment and successfully meet the standards will be awarded a certificate to mark their achievement, presented by Pharos and the Society of Genealogists.

Students are expected to have at least two years research experience with knowledge of, and to have practised with, the fundamental sources for 19th century research (census, civil registration and parish registers) before embarking on this study programme. If you are unsure that your experience is broad enough, or are returning to study after a long break, please contact us for further advice. Please also make sure you read our FAQ section below. This will help you determine if the full programme is suitable for you. We have a variety of short unassessed courses that will help you build this knowledge. See our courses page for a full list.


The Family History Skills and Strategies programme consists of the following online courses, ranging from 3 – 5 weeks in length. You may take any combination of courses without having to complete the whole programme, each course is designed to stand alone.

Click on the course title to read more detail about the course components, including start dates.

The Certificate is available to those who successfully complete the full programme and assessments. The ten courses (also known as modules) run over 18 months. Each course will be repeated at intervals so that you can choose when to start the programme and you may take as much as 36 months to complete the requirements for the certificate.

The assessment for each module will be made up of exercises within each lesson, and two assignments. Students are expected to contribute to the class forum and attend chat sessions.

Family History Skills and Strategies offers a broad range of topics, small classes, excellent teaching, and an opportunity for genealogists to improve and measure their research skills.  

I remember contacting you before I started the certificate believing that I had the experience to start doing family history research professionally after researching my family tree for 8 years. How naive was I! I have learnt so much from Pharos in terms of the sources available, their advantages and limitations and context and historical background as well as how to critically analyse and interpret them. I particular enjoyed the module on migration which was very different to the other certificate courses in terms of making me think about locations and local history as well as research planning. I also know there is still so much to learn.

        [K. Sherry who successfully completed all 10 modules in 2015]


How do I pay and reserve my place?

Pay for each module individually and aim to complete all the modules within  18 - 36 months. We recommend you pay and book each module well in advance of the start date or risk it being full. Use the links above to see the module prices and dates and pay for your first one now.  We cannot guarantee that prices of some modules will not rise in future.

Also use this method if you do not want to be assessed by choosing the unassessed price option of the individual modules.

>>See more about How Pharos Courses Work

>>Enquire Further about the programme

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can I complete the courses on my own time schedule?  
A. Yes. You can take the individual modules over an extended period of up to 36 months.  However, each course has set start dates and deadlines for work to be completed.

Q. Will we progress from one course to the next, in some defined order, or can they be started and/or taken at different times and in a random order?
A. The order you take them in is not vital, but we recommend that you do 200 level courses before 300 level courses, and we recommend that '17th century sources' is taken towards the end.  You can find out more about course numbering here

Q. Can I take more than one course at a time?
A. It is not recommended that you try and do more than one course at a time unless you have more than 10 hours per week to devote to study.  Individuals vary, so if you feel you have the time, we will not prohibit you.

Q. Can I pay as I go?  
A.  Yes. You can pay for each course by itself.  The courses are all listed on the Pharos website as stand alone courses.  You can take the modules over 36 months, meaning that the full price is paid as you take the modules.  Be aware that payment should be made in good time before a course starts or it may fill up. Prices are not guaranteed and may rise.

Q.  Can I reserve a place on all the modules in advance?
A.  Unfortunately, we cannot take advance bookings without payment. The only way to reserve a place on each module is to pay for it.  If dates for some modules are unavailable, then it will not be possible to reserve a place for the future until new dates become available.

Q. What form will the assignments for assessment be in?  
A. Each module has two assignments as well as short answer exercises and questions which are designed to be practical. Modules vary a little, some have shorter answer questions, others require a longer piece of prose writing, for example to research and write a short biography of someone. The aim is to teach you to be a competent researcher.  Assessments are graded, so that you know how well you have done. The certificate has to mean something, and it is possible to fail. 

Q. If things get in the way of course work in our personal lives, will we have additional time to finish the required assignments?
A. We do recognize that “life” gets in the way of study from time to time and additional times to complete an assignment are worked through on a case by case basis with the course tutor. Please tell your tutor in advance if you suffer from a medical condition that affects your ability to study.

Q. How do you plan to assess a participant’s level of progress in order to eventually grant a certificate?  Will there be a grade or will the certificate be issued just for completing the group of courses along with the assignments?
A. There are two grades, pass and distinction.  The certificate is not granted for just attending the class and completing the assessments and it is possible to fail.

Q. Does the certificate carry any standing in the professional community, for example with
AGRA ?  Will it be useful in seeking professional accreditation or certification?
A. The course is not a “qualification” in genealogy, nor is it recognized by
AGRA , or any other body, nevertheless, we are working towards gaining respect for the course and its “graduates”. 

Q. I would like to know what the certificate level is - what does intermediate mean? Is it on par with GCSE's, ‘A’ levels or what?
A. The full programme has been adapted from the Society’s existing Intermediate course which is taught as an evening class.  Intermediate is meant as “not beginner” and yet not up to an advanced or degree level.  Most of the modules are taught at about ‘A’ level or first-year undergraduate level.  If you have previously been on a Pharos course, you will be familiar with the general standard of the lesson information.  These modules are no different.

Q. I have no formal academic qualifications, will I be able to cope?

A. Individuals vary greatly and how well you can cope will depend very much on the amount of time you have available, and the amount of research experience you already have.  Please contact us for further advice if you are in any doubt about whether the course is suitable for you.

Q.  I have been doing my family history online for a year and I want to fast track my learning, will this programme be suitable?

A.  We recommend you have been researching online and in record offices for two years.  You must be familiar with the census for England & Wales, civil registration records, and understand parish registers. If you do not know how to find a birth certificate, or where to find births prior to 1837 then you need more experience before embarking on this programme.  Students who have only ever researched online without also undertaking background reading to widen their knowledge may struggle.  Please contact us for further advice.

Q. Is it recognised with education bodies or just the SOG and Pharos?
A. The certificate is not recognized outside the Society of Genealogists and Pharos. However, it is taught with all the years’ of knowledge of the Society, the expertise of professional genealogists and qualified adult educators at its core.  We believe that it will come to be seen as a benchmark within the genealogy world.

Q. Will there be restrictions on class size?
A. Yes.  Class sizes are unlikely to be above 25 per class.

Q . Do you plan to offer advanced courses in a further certificate program? 
A.  Yes. It is the plan of the Society and Pharos to progress to offering an advanced set of courses.  

Q. Is it possible to use any other accreditation such as the credits I currently have with a university?
A. Sorry, no.

Your question not covered here?  Email us now for rapid response.