How to Become a Professional Genealogist

Many people who have researched their family trees as a hobby find they enjoy the work and want to do it for others for pay. If you're one of them, you may want to become a professional genealogist. Becoming a professional genealogist involves more than advertising your research services to prospective clients and getting paid by them. Here are the steps you need to take.


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    Attend genealogy seminars and conferences. Whether it's a seminar at your local library, a conference at a nearby large city or the 4-day-long Family History Conference sponsored by the National Genealogical Society (NGS), genealogy seminars and conferences will help you improve your skills in researching your own family history and give you a taste of what it takes to become a professional genealogist.
    • Other national genealogical conferences are sponsored by the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) or the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), which hosts the annual Professional Management Conference. The Utah Genealogical Association hosts the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy each January in Salt Lake City.
    • Some seminars and conferences are put on by colleges and government agencies. Samford University hosts the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research each June in Birmingham, Alabama. The National Archives in Washington, D.C. offers the week-long National Institute of Genealogical Research to provide attendees with an understanding of federal records available to amateur and professional genealogists.
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    Read professional genealogical publications. Publications such as the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and the APG Quarterly present case studies by other researchers where they share their research methods and show how they solved problems in finding necessary information.
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    Get formal education in genealogical research. A few colleges and universities offer degree programs in genealogy, such as Utah's Brigham Young University, or a certificate program, such as Boston University or the University of Washington. You may be able to find a program at your local community college, or you can study online through classes at places such as Hawaii's Akamai University.
    • You can also learn the basics of genealogical research through home study. The National Genealogical Society's Home Study Course, available on CD, is designed for self-paced study with options for self-grading or grading and feedback from professional genealogists.
    • In addition to studies in genealogical research itself, studies in history, geography and the social sciences can help you in becoming a professional genealogist by providing you with the context in which your clients' ancestors lived.
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    Continue discovering genealogical resources on your own. While many genealogical resources are online, many archives, courthouse records and library resources are not. Deepening your understanding of these resources will help you with researching your own family history and also make you an expert in consulting them as a professional genealogist.
    • Indexing and abstracting these records for others will further your understanding of them and also improve your ability to decipher others' handwriting. You can later publish your work in one of the genealogical quarterlies to enhance your reputation as a professional genealogist.
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    Develop your business skills. In addition to performing genealogical research, you must also perform the duties of any other businessperson: advertising, promoting, accounting, business correspondence and management. Formal study in these areas, from either a university or community college, will help you to succeed as a professional genealogist.
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    Join a professional genealogical society. Organizations such as the international Association of Professional Genealogists, the National Genealogical Society and your state's genealogical society provide you with resources to further your studies as a professional genealogist and to network with other genealogists to share information and tips and find prospective clients.
    • You can also volunteer with your local genealogical society, which will put you in direct contact with local resources to enhance your research, as well as give you experience in writing and lecturing about family and local history.
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    Get certified as a professional genealogist. Certification as a professional genealogist is available through the Washington, D.C.-based Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), and accreditation is also available through the International Commission for the Accreditation of Genealogists (ICAPGen) to those genealogists who apply, and complete a 2 part competency exam at 90%. BCG-certified genealogists are entitled to place the initials CG (Certified Genealogist) after their name, while those accredited by the ICAPGen use AG (Accredited Genealogist) as their title.


  • Keep working on your own family history while learning the ropes of becoming a professional genealogist. You'll spend more time on your own family history than another client's, and that extra time will give you the experience to be able to solve your client's problems more quickly. More important, the value of your research on your own family history is beyond price to you and your descendants.

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