Professional Genealogist and Geneabloggers, Friends or Foes?

Professional Genealogist and Geneabloggers, Friends or Foes?

I think I am finally getting an understanding of what is causing all the uproar lately about genealogy bloggers, the profession of genealogy etc. etc.

A lot of it boils down to this…money… okay, maybe a little pride too.

As a professional genealogist, I totally get where some other professionals are coming from and if I was trying to earn all my income from genealogy it could be easy to fall into this trap. 

I think some professional genealogists are mistakenly under the impression that their competition for their livelihood comes from other genealogy bloggers…many who are not as accredited or as experienced as they are (or so they may think, though certainly not all, many geneabloggers may be hobbyists, but are often highly skilled). This thinking is flawed.

I do not earn a full-time living at genealogy because that was a conscious choice I made. I know quite well what would be required to earn more, but frankly I don’t want to work that hard. My husband makes enough to support our family quite well – I blessed that way and am grateful for that. This has allowed me the freedom to choose how little or much I work. I earn enough to support my genealogy addiction and not have it affect the family income and I have time leftover to pursue my own research and other interests and I like that!

If I was a professional genealogist trying to earn a full-time living this is what I would do:

  • Change my thinking from scarcity thinking to abundance thinking. Believing there is enough for all will open you to possibilities and reduce the fear. The Law of Attraction is worth considering here.
  • Determine who is your market, where are your customers and what is your niche. Most geneabloggers write for others like them and are read mostly by other geneabloggers. My clients do not come from other geneabloggers. BUT, my posts on my genealogy business website blogthat is targeted for my niche market does drive my website higher up on a Google search page which makes potential clients able to find my website easier. Know how to reach your potential customers and do not confuse all other genealogists as your competition, they can be your greatest allies.
  • Network with other genealogists. I have benefited from the contacts I have made and I know that I have personally referred clients and professional opportunities to others that I have met either at institutes, conferences or online through social media. FYI, I am a really good friend to have as I do not hesitate to recommend those I know. lol       More money is made in the halls and lunchrooms of conferences than was ever earned in the classroom. People refer those they know and trust. Work on networking and relationships with other genealogists. Generosity will be returned countless fold.
  • Determine what avenues of your work pay the highest return. For me, I did a cost analysis of public speaking. Genealogy speakers make peanuts. The amount of time to prepare and present a presentation as well as travel time, does not provide enough of a return to warrant the amount of time it would take me away from where I make the most money. I have a highly specialized niche and can command a higher dollar for research than speaking. It might be different for you, maybe you find most of your clients from speaking engagements, then the low speaking fee is immaterial to the financial return it brings you in the long term. You need to determine what brings you the most return and focus on those activities that bring the greatest benefit.
  • Volunteer. I have had several professional opportunities that came from volunteering. I do not volunteer with that end in mind, it is a serendipitous perk though. Give and you will receive.
  • Maximize your exposure. Monetize your website. Look for ways to create income that does not require your constant attention. 
  • Diversify. Have a core niche but see if there are related avenues that you can explore and develop. What about residual income? Publishing an e-book or writing publications for sale on sites like are smart ways to add revenue.
  • What is your online presence saying about you? Having no professional website or online presence is limiting your earning potential. Spend time learning about how to increase traffic to your website is worth the effort.
  • Social media is not just for socializing or telling people what you had for dinner. Today’s online market is based upon relationship and trust. Building a social media presence is worth the effort and time to learn how.
  • Realize that in a down economy you may have to supplement your income through other non-genealogy avenues until you have enough various streams of income contributing enough income to completely be self-sufficient. This takes a hard in-your-face reality check for some. If you can’t make enough right now to live off of, you may need to supplement your income with a part-time job elsewhere.
  • Join APG. Many of my clients have come from the APG website and many more have checked to see that I belong to this professional organization. Money well spent.
  • Joining genealogical societies and organizations makes you look more involved and professional. Clients may not know what they are, but they will choose someone who looks like they are very involved in their profession.
  • Protect your online reputation. Be careful what you post, you might want to read more about that here.
  • Provide good and excellent service. Client word-o-mouth is worth gold!
There is plenty of room at the table for professionals and non-professionals alike. I have been inspired by so many others. I have learned a lot of course from uber-genealogists like Dr. Tom Jones and Elizabeth Shown Mills, but I have learned just as valuable things from others who have no letters behind their names.

Having non-professionals online in blogs and elsewhere does not dilute the field of genealogy. Just like in the field of medicine, people will seek the very best professional they can find. The quacks and the inept will reveal themselves. Truth and skill will always rise to the top in the end. It is up to you where you end up, not what others do or don’t do. The power is yours!


  1. Unfortunately, there is no degree or certification that accredits a person to tag him/her “professional” in this field. Give a person access to for a few months and BINGO ! they think they know it all and can profit from it, scary !

  2. So, Anonymous, a degree or certification means ‘professional’ in the genealogy industry? In other industries, I’ve come across many degreed individuals who are not professional nor do they exhibit basic knowledge of the field their degree is in. To assume that everyone who has a degree is a professional is as silly as assuming that everyone listed in a census household is blood-related and that the male head of household is the legal husband to the woman listed directly beneath him and is the blood-related father of the children listed directly underneath the woman who is listed directly beneath the head of household.

    Assumptions can lead to erroneous results. I always question researchers who follow the letter of ‘genealogy law’ while performing genealogical research but fail to apply the same logic to other areas of critical thinking.

    Sound business concepts, such as what Valerie has listed above, will separate out for the consumer who is truly a professional and who is not.

    Let’s have a little faith in consumers as a whole. I for one would not stand for someone telling me who I could or could not hire based on whether the individual in question has a degree or not.

    ~Caroline Pointer

  3. Caroline you are so spot on. Thanks for pointing out that logic and reason extend beyond BCG guidelines.

    For the record, I haven’t gone through any accreditation boards because neither cover my specialty, which is Japanese research. FYI you cannot do that research on or anywhere else online. Everything has to be written and read in Japanese through specific channels in Japan and done in a very particular way. Let me know if you can do that. While not accredited, I adhere to BCG standards, I study and work hard at being professional in all areas of my business. I believe if you if act like a professional, research like a professional and can make a income as a professional than I certainly do not need someone else to validate me.

    I will eventually get certification, but it will be for my own person growth and not to satisfy others need.

    What you might question is why what someone calls themselves somehow threatens your own value. Just a thought.

  4. Valeria,

    Thank you for posting this after almost two weeks of the dialog that has been going around.

    As one of those non-Professionals, but a Blogger, I would submit to you, that some of the Genea-Bloggers support the Professionals in a number of ways.

    Talking about “your” blog, trying to put interested folks to your Blog. I have been known to drive 4 or 5 hours to be at a presentation of a Professional. In my own way, try to support “you”, as I learn from “you”.

    Being on the other side of the fence, I hope that both sides will get back to being the community that I am a part of.

    I have mentioned to a couple of local groups to bring in a Professional to one of our meetings, either in person or via the technology that we have.

    I am confident that “this too shall pass” and get back to our Family Research or research for others.

    Thank you,


  5. Strongly disagree with “Anonymous”. We don’t want a credential society. We unfortunately have that too much already. The market naturally sorts out those who can and those who cannot and some people are willing to pay for the service offered by those who “barely can”. If it provides them value, there is no harm.

    I agree with Caroline and Valerie. Great points, both of you!

    For the struggling professional genealogist, you have to learn to market yourself and spend as much time on the business side of things as you do on genealogical research. Great book “The E-Myth” talks about the entrepreneurial myth (applied to this case): I am good at genealogical research, therefore I would be good at running a genealogy consulting gig. Too many fall into the trap of following a passion into starting a business or working freelance in that area, but without knowing how to actually make the business click and market and find new clients.

  6. Let me add because in case I didn’t make it clear enough in my post. I have a great deal of respect for those who have worked hard to get credentialed. Big kudos and way to go! I just don’t like the attitude of a few who use those same credentials to determine what others can do and say. Read Polly’s blog post for good perspective:

  7. And might I add that my new blog,, is launching at the end of January ~right before Rootstech. There I will be discussing social media (blogging in detail) principles that can help the amateur genealogist to find cousins, the genealogy society to find members, and the professional genealogist to find clients. I want to try to use my skills and experience to help others. And make a living doing it.


  8. Amen, Valerie, amen!

  9. Russ, I agree, both sides need to join sides and support each other even if our goals are not always the same.

    Dave, thank you for mentioning that just because you are good at genealogy it does not necessarily follow that you are good at business as well. Business savvy is a skill just like anything else can be learned.

    Carolyn, I will definitely be checking out your new blog. You have the skill and the smarts to make it work!

    Thanks all for your comments.

  10. Valerie, Thanks for your post. You make some excellent points!

  11. I think this is an excellent post. I am a hobbyist, family genealogist at the moment, but want to work for myself in the field of Genealogy.

    I am going to get my certification, as I believe this will help me with what the standards are and I believe they offer accountability. I know that I still have a long way to go in educating my self about the resources available, but then I also know that I don’t have to know everything. With networking with all the wonderful genealogists, I can find those that are experts in their focus of genealogy.

    I agree with what Caroline stated also.

  12. Good conversation. Thanks for this point of view.

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  14. Luana,thanks – I need the prayers!

    NoOceaninKanasas Thanks my dear!

    Yvette, I as well do not know everything and am always looking to improve my skills and understanding. Networking is one way to do that.

    Kathleen, I am a big fan and I know you are someone who I could learn a LOT from.

    Thanks all!

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