Aspects of Genealogy
You can make money working as a family historian or a professional genealogist.
There are many different ways to earn some money doing what you love. Granted, from my experience, there are not a lot of genealogists earning a really good income, but most genealogists do it for the love of it too. The lucky few, have found their niche, or specialize in an area of genealogy that make them more sought after. These genealogists have almost always made a name for themselves through marketing themselves as a brand or through social media. They are authors or have worked for organizations like Ancestry or other genealogical societies. They are well known in the genealogical circle because they have devoted themselves to furthering our reputation by developing standards and criteria that must be met in order for us to be regarded as professionals at what we do.
Many family historians or genealogists write blogs. You don’t even need to be a professional because some have made a name for themselves by just posting about their love of genealogy and their own personal family stories. Some have side bars with ads that pay them per click or per subscription by that particular company. Some are associates with other companies and feature them and their products on their blogs.
Many well known genealogists are also authors. Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG is famous for her contribution to our field through her books like Professional Genealogy, A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians, 2001 or Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian, 1997. She has given the best, in my opinion, resources for genealogists to do their work properly.
From the above book, you can see how genealogy can branch out into many other fields.
Tom W. Jones, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA has also written a book called Mastering Genealogical Proof, 2013 which is the go to book used by genealogists to use the correct method to PROVING their findings.
Some genealogists prefer just doing lectures or speaking engagements. They are seen on a regular basis at various conferences, meetings, schools etc. speaking about their particular fields of genealogy or their specialties in that field, such as specializing in American Civil War history, or Irish ancestry etc.
They usually get paid a stipend or charge a fee for their lectures. Sometimes they are paid for their travel expenses such as hotel accommodation, food and airfare.
In North America we have large conferences such as RootsTech, Ontario Genealogical Society Conference, NGS (National Genealogical Society) Conference , Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), Federation of Genealogical Societies National Conference (FGS) and more.
Each of these functions requires speakers for their classes or lectures. Some lecturers come from overseas and some are local, but all are paid.
Some genealogists write courses for genealogy classes at universities and colleges. They also do online webinars for these institutions.
Archivist, or Librarian
Genealogists or family historians can be hired by local Archives or libraries. They are responsible for helping run and maintain the archives or library or support them in a customer service aspect by helping people who come to these places looking for help on their own family histories.
This is my personal favourite. Just plain research. I do research for individuals or what we call Private Client Work. This is usually done by someone contacting us via our website or blog or association that we belong to. They hire us to do work for them and we earn money by charging them for our time and expertise in putting together a professional report along with all the sources to prove our findings. Some genealogists do research for other, busier genealogists! They help do some of the leg work because these genealogists have many jobs on the go at the same time.
We also get asked to do research for people, or genealogists who live overseas but need help in the particular area we live in, or in the area of expertise we specialize in.
Some genealogists organize travel/research trips for individuals or groups who want to go to the country of their ancestors but have no idea where to begin to get their research done. The organizer plans everything out- from the airfare, to the hotel accommodations, to the restaurants and sightseeing trips. They also take care of the pre-booked visits to the archives and repositories that are needed for these individuals. For about 6 months to a year prior to the trip, the organizer holds meetings (in person or via a webinar) coaching the participants on what they will need to have in advance (such as making sure they have all the family history documents already in their possession, etc.) They also explain to them what they will actually be doing when they arrive at the archives.
Some of these trips include visits to the local parish churches, cemeteries and villages of their ancestors.
One area of genealogy that has become important is transcribing and translations. Most North Americans are originally from somewhere else in the world. If you go back far enough, there is most likely another language involved, such as French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, German etc. Even if you are of English, Irish or Scottish descent, the documents from the 17th, 18th and even 19th centuries can be extremely difficult to read. These documents were usually written by a secretary who was trained in a certain handwriting to write these papers because most people were illiterate at the time. Spellings and actual letters were written differently and some documents, like wills, had monetary information that would be different than what we know today. I’ve personally hired these specialists to transcribe a will from 1585 and 1651 because it was nearly impossible for me to read them (even though it was in English and I had taken classes on how to decipher this handwriting!). These people are experts in what they do and it’s worth the money to know exactly what an ancestor from 400 years ago was saying!
So you see…..genealogy is a multi faceted career. It can be anything from just wanting to do your own family tree to becoming an author, historian, lecturer, blogger, researcher and even an archivist. You can write articles for genealogical magazines, teach, do travel trips and transcribe or translate documents. You can specialize in a specific type of genealogy- like only working on Native American ancestry, be a Military expert or specialize in French Canadian ancestry, DNA research…the possibilities are endless.
Lastly, if you don’t care about making money and want to contribute, you can volunteer by joining all kinds of organizations that do cemetery transcriptions, help at conferences, do look ups for people (if you belong to an organization that allows this), and work for local genealogical societies (most of which are ONLY run by volunteers).