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Preparing for exams: Level 2 & Level 3

General hint

Visit a courthouse near where you live to familiarize yourself with how records might be organized, accessed, and worded.

Research binder

Your own resources can be consulted for the written portion of the exam. Prepare either a physical binder or files available online, such as Dropbox or as a toolbox on your website. You will not be permitted to use a flash drive. You will be allowed to use a facility computer for research and data entry. All files that you created will be deleted from the computer at the end of that test section. Collect sample documents, maps, links, research guides, and basic citation notes for quick reference as there will not be enough time during the exam to consult the original references. What follows is a sampling of some U.S general items that you might wish to include.

Document recognition

Potential clients might provide documents with insufficient citations, or no citations at all. Be familiar with documents over a range of years from the list of record types discussed on the United States General page and your chosen region page. Also be familiar with standard citation formats. (Note: United States General page has links to region pages.)


Understand the differences between transcribing, abstracting, and extracting. The FamilySearch Wiki “United States Handwriting” page provides a list of resources and other online links for understanding early American handwriting.

History, geography, records, and electronic sources

Use the research binder discussed above. Include related items from each of the states in the region of interest as well as regional resources.

Pedigree analysis

Use localities and dates from a basic pedigree to develop a research plan. Consult the FamilySearch catalog for possible records and availability. Understand name variations and recognize date inconsistencies (e.g. the child’s birth date listed as before that of a parent). It is recognized that the plan is adjusted as research progresses but this exercise does not include any actual research.

Research project

Practice researching a limited project (2 ½ – 3 hours) in the region of interest. It is not unusual for only one third of this time to be available for the actual research. Allow time for planning, documentation, and report writing. (Some researchers write as the research progresses.) Include in the report a plan for continued research. This isn’t about finding “new’ information but about the research process.

Oral exam

This is an opportunity to address any weaknesses exhibited in the previous exam sections. Take notes for further improvement.

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