Advanced Certificate Course Details

The Family History Skills and Strategies (FHSS) Advanced Certificate programme is awarded jointly by Pharos and the Society of Genealogists. The programme is studied over two years, commencing in September each year. It consists of nine online genealogy courses, presented in a similar way to the Intermediate Certificate courses. In addition to the nine courses there are additional tutoring sessions, learning activities and assessments for each year. You must pass the assessment packages and the courses to be awarded the certificate.

To enrol on the Advanced Certificate programme and receive the Advanced Certificate at the end of your studies you must have completed the Intermediate Certificate with an overall mark of over 70%. 

The process to the Advanced Certificate is illustrated below.

Progression to the Advanced Certificate

You can take any of the Advanced Courses separately as an assessed or non-assessed students at any time, but will not receive the Advanced Certificate, unless you have enrolled on the programme and complete the assessment packages for both years.

The Advanced Programme structure is illustrated by the schematic below. 

Schematic showing Advanced Certificate

The nine courses, with typical course start timings, are:


Old Handwriting for Family Historians (417) SEP
Manorial Records for Family and Local Historians (401) OCT
Researching Online for Advanced Genealogists (480) JAN
Advanced Methods & Reports (482) FEB
Church & Community; Selected Records 1540-1800 (485) APR


Researching in Archives for Advanced Genealogists (481) SEP
Introduction to Medieval Genealogy (501) JAN
Understanding Title Deeds (503)FEB
Family Feuds – how to find and interpret Chancery court records (504)APR

* NEW for 2023.

Courses can be taken as part of the certificate programme or individually, with or without assessment. Dates and running order of courses subject to change.

NEW: If you have taken one or more of the Advanced Certificate courses within the three years prior to embarking on the Advanced Certificate programme, you do not need to take these again if you do not wish to, provided you were assessed and passed the course(s). It will be expected that you work though the course materials again in your own time during the relevant year.

The end of Year One assessment consists of transcription, document analysis and research planning using documents taken from the 17th and 18th centuries. There are additional tutorials and work set in preparation for this.

The Year Two assessment takes the form of a Research Project, which must involve research in original documents. Research proposals are submitted in around October / November and students then spend 20 hours of research and reporting time to conduct their chosen project, throughout the year. Guidance will be provided as to what “counts” towards the twenty hours.

This course is suitable for both amateur genealogists who wish to work with early records at the highest standards, as well as aspiring professional genealogists.  You will be taught skills to research with records of the period 1540 - 1800 and write up the research process so that you are prepared for professional work. As with FHSS (Intermediate) there is an emphasis on practical aspects of research, but now working with records generally from an earlier period and at a more advanced level of understanding.

Pharos and the Society of Genealogists have worked closely with AGRA on the assessment process for the Advanced Certificate. This has resulted in the Advanced Certificate being recognised by AGRA as part of their Member application process. You can read more about this here: Join AGRA.


Students must be graduates of Family History and Strategies (Intermediate) and have previously achieved a good standard with an average pass mark above 70%. It is useful if students are able to make personal visits to England and Wales archives for their project work but options are also available for overseas students. We are currently unable to take credits from other organisations.


Students must register for and sign up for each year in advance.  Year one assessment must be passed before proceeding to year two. Current prices (for enrolment September 2022) are:

Year One: 
Registration and Assessment module: £300
Courses: £425
Total for Year One: £725

Year Two:
Registration and Assessment / Project module: £420
Courses: £353
Total for Year Two: £773

If you have taken any of the Advanced Certificate programme courses in the three years prior to beginning the Advanced Certificate programme you do not need to pay for and take these again, so long as you took the assessed option and passed those courses.


To register your interest in the Advanced Certificate Programme, please contact Karen Cummings:

For each year the appropriate fee must be paid in full before the deadline for that year (in August). You can reduce the amount to be paid as a single amount by buying gift vouchers in advance of the deadline. You will be sent an invoice for the final amount due, to be paid in August.

An example:

Susan wants to take the Advanced programme and passed the Intermediate Certificate with an average mark of 80%. Susan is therefore eligible for the Advanced Programme.
Last year she took the assessed versions of the Manorial Records (£91) and Church and Community courses (£88), totalling £179, and passed the assessment on both. These courses can therefore be counted towards the Advanced Programme.
This May her sister bought her a gift voucher to the value of £100, which she has not yet spent.
The total cost for Year One is £725.
Susan will be invoiced in August for £725 - £179 - £100 = £446 for Year One. 

She has paid the same amount, but paid different parts at different times upfront.


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. YES! The Advanced Certificate is recognised by AGRA as part of their membership application processes. You can read more about this here: Join AGRA

Q. Can I complete the courses on my own time schedule?  
A. No. The Advanced programme has a set structure with assessment at the end of each year. However, you can take any of the individual courses before beginning the certificate programme and have those marks count towards your final mark. 

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. Courses must be taken in the prescribed order throughout the year. However, you can take any of the individual courses before beginning the certificate programme and have those marks count towards your final mark. 

Q. I have taken some courses in advance, can I fast track to the certificate? 
A. The assessment for each year takes place at the end of each academic year. It is therefore not possible to pass the year more quickly, even if you have already taken some of the courses. If you have already taken a particular course, we recommend that, when this course is running (and you are not taking part) you spend that time refreshing yourself with the course notes and the feedback you received on your assignment. 

Q.  Can I reserve a place on all the courses in advance?
A.  You sign up for a year at a time, so yes you reserve places on all course for that year before the year starts.

Q. Do I have to buy any books?
A. There is a set text for each course within the Advanced programme that you will need access to, whether you purchase these or borrow them from your local library in time for the relevant course start date. You will be provided with a book list with your preliminary information about the Advanced programme.

Q. What form will the assignments for assessment be in?  
A. Each Advanced course is assessed with one end of course assignment of around 2,000 words. This differs from the Intermediate Certificate, where there was also assessment of forum exercises and participation in chat sessions. You should allow time at the end of each course to work on assignments, deadlines are typically two weeks after the course ends.

Q. Do I need to be able to visit archives in England and Wales throughout the programme?
A. Many of the individual courses in the programme will encourage you to build upon your research by visiting archives to access original records. However, this is not a requirement, the courses and associated assignment can all be completed remotely.

The year two project does involve research in original records and it expected that you will visit archives as part of your research. Overseas students may define a project that includes records available at an LDS Family History Center in lieu of being able to access England and Wales archives in person. Please contact us for advice on this.

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 recognise that life gets in the way of study from time to time and additional time to complete an assignment is 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. Will there be restrictions on class size?
A. Yes.  Class sizes are unlikely to be above 25 per class.

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

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