Do you think that the genealogical profession is one that you will enjoy? Follow these simple steps to see if you have the necessary skill, experience, and expertise to offer your services to others on a fee basis. Includes tips on becoming a certified or accredited genealogist.
Time Required: Varies
How to Become a Professional Genealogist
- Read and follow the code of ethics of the Association of Professional Genealogists and the Board for Certification of Genealogists. Even if you belong to neither organization, this lets clients know you are serious about work quality and ethics
- Consider your experience. A genealogist must be familiar with the various types of genealogical records available and know where to access them, as well as know how to analyze and interpret evidence. If you are unsure about your qualifications, enlist the services of a professional genealogist to critique your work and offer guidance.
- Consider your writing skills. You must be knowledgeable of the proper format for source citations and have good grammar and writing skills in order to communicate your findings to clients. Practice your writing constantly. Once you have it polished, submit an article or case study for possible publication in a local genealogical society newsletter/journal or other genealogical publication.
- Join the Association of Professional Genealogists. This society exists not only for practicing genealogists, but also for people who desire to further their skills. They offer ongoing professional development in the skills needed to run a successful genealogy business.
- Educate yourself by taking genealogy classes, attending seminars and workshops, and reading genealogical magazines, journals, and books. No matter how much you know, there is always more to learn.
- Volunteer with a local genealogical society, library or group. This will keep you in touch with a network of fellow genealogists, and help to further develop your skills. If you have the time, start or join a transcribing or indexing project for additional practice at reading genealogical documents.
- Make a list of your goals as a professional genealogist. Think about what types of research interests you, the access you have to necessary resources and the profitability of doing research as a business. What do you want to do? Professional genealogists don't all do client research - some are authors, editors, teachers, heir searchers, bookstore owners, adoption specialists and other related fields.
- Develop your business skills. You cannot run a successful business without knowing about accounting, taxes, advertising, licenses, billing and time management.
- Get a copy of Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians. This book is the bible for genealogy professionals and those who want to become professional. It offers advice and instruction on everything from abstracting to setting up a business.
- Consider applying for certification or accreditation. The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) grants certification in research, as well as in two teaching categories, and the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen) offers accreditation in specific geographical areas. Even if you decide not to become certified or accredited, the guidelines offered by these testing programs will help you to objectively evaluate your genealogical skills.
- Practice your research skills every chance you get. Visit courthouses, libraries, archives, etc. and explore the records. Get as much experience as you can before working for others.
- Don't stop researching your own family history. It is most likely the reason you fell in love with genealogy in the first place and will continue to provide inspiration and enjoyment.