Careers Paths

Eight Steps to Becoming a Genealogist

The purpose of historical studies is to teach us about the past. Understanding one’s family history can be achieved through genealogy, the study of lineage. Determining if the field of study is right for you can be aided by learning what it takes to become a genealogist. In this post, we define a genealogist, describe their work, and describe the process of becoming one.

Who are the genealogists?

A specialist who investigates family ancestry is known as a genealogist. They gather data from witness statements, historical records, and genetic analysis. The value of ancestry can be imparted by genealogists through published material or presentations based on their findings. They might also be employed as private company proprietors, historians, or archivists.

The work of a genealogist

A genealogist often examines the ancestry of a single client. A client’s ancestry may be uncovered by a genealogist in several ways, including:

  • Historical records
  • Witness accounts
  • Genetic analysis
  • Immigration history
  • Property and tax records
  • Certificates of birth, marriage, and death

Professional genealogists assist clients in comprehending and connecting various pieces of genealogical information. The goal of genealogists may be to organize this information into a format that may be distributed to customers’ immediate or distant family relations.

Competencies for genealogists

To deal with customers and historical information, genealogists may employ a range of talents, such as:

  • Research abilities: Skilled genealogists can do genealogy research utilizing sources like documents, databases, and DNA research. Also, they can find information by visiting record-keeping establishments like courts and libraries.
  • History knowledge: Genealogists can get familiar with the census, legal, vital, and land documents to properly collect data. To present facts that are true in context, they might also research legal history.
  • Latest research techniques: Genealogists can present their study to conferences, organizations, and associations. To stay current with research techniques, they can also explore databases.
  • Portfolio development abilities: The ability to establish a portfolio is something that professional genealogists frequently do by researching topics that are unrelated to their client studies.
  • Written communication: Genealogists need to have great written communication abilities to present the findings of their research in books or papers.
  • Public speaking abilities: Genealogists may participate in public speaking activities to talk about their areas of expertise. Some experts become professors or give lectures in private.
  • Skills in translating information: They are adept in deciphering complex data to assist clients in comprehending research findings. They might also translate ancient writing.
  • Attention to detail: Recognizing and comprehending the relevance of historical details can lead to present discoveries.
  • Good time management: Since genealogists occasionally run their businesses, having great time management abilities can be helpful.
  • Problem-solving skills: Because genealogists occasionally work with incomplete data, creating a complete history could call for in-depth problem-solving.
  • Business savvy: Freelance genealogists may be able to manage and design company plans, timetables, and tactics.
  • Financial understanding: If a genealogist works for themselves, their firm may benefit from having financial savvy.
  • Networking abilities: Genealogists can connect with other researchers to compare findings, cooperate on projects together, and exchange research methods.

How to start a genealogy career

If you’re keen on exploring a profession in genealogy, think about taking a few of the following actions:

1. Set goals

When starting your genealogy career, think about what area of research you want to focus on. Genealogists can compare DNA by studying DNA structure and assessment using genetic studies. Genealogists might broaden their historical expertise through historical research, opening up new job prospects. However, not all expert genealogists spend their entire careers working with customers. Certain genealogists may concentrate on careers as educators, writers of fiction, social services, or investigators.

2. Think about enrolling in a degree course or continuing your education on your own

Although formal education is not necessary for genealogy, certain universities do provide bachelor’s degrees in the subject. You can gain expertise in analyzing data, put together genealogies, and efficiently conduct resource searches via genealogy software. You can learn some new analysis techniques and how to get ready for full-time genealogy work by attending workshops and seminars. To expand your study, think about reading materials like books, magazines, and journals that deal with genealogy.

3. Launch individual projects

Creating your genealogy project could assist you to gain better abilities. If you choose to interact with customers in the future, investigating personal initiatives might assist in building a credible company portfolio. To choose the aspects of genealogy you are particularly interested in, think about researching and finishing a wide range of genealogical tasks.

4. Enhance your business skills

Consider honing your business abilities if you want to work as a freelance genealogist. You can learn more about economics and advertising by taking college classes in marketing and finance. Consider minoring in business if you’re seeking a bachelor’s degree in genealogy to enable you to get ready for customer employment later on.

5. Improve your writing abilities.

When you start your genealogy research, think about honing your language and writing abilities because genealogists prepare reports to record their results. The elective writing classes you take while pursuing your degree in genealogy can help you advance your abilities. If you’re not going for a degree, think about enrolling in a quick writing course online or at a workshop.

6. Offer to do genealogy work for free

Start a volunteer project with a nearby genealogical organization. You can build your abilities and your network of fellow genealogists by working together on projects. You can broaden your expertise by volunteering to do tasks like transcribing a document or index data.

7. Read every page in genealogy journals and magazines that you subscribe to

Both our own and other people’s research can be a source of learning. Case studies are frequently published in prestigious journals. Regardless of whether the research issue is in a different region from the one you typically examine, take the time to carefully read and consider the papers. You’ll discover something, I assure you.

8. Examine the Courthouses, Library, and Archives in Your Community

Everyone is aware that nobody is entirely certain of where everything is, such as the courts or the library. And as everyone is aware, jewels can be discovered in the most unexpected locations! Spending hours browsing through card indexes, archival catalogs, and bookcases are the only means of finding those riches. Your findings as a professional will elevate you in the eyes of certain of your clients and coworkers due to your understanding of local records. Your research represents another way to keep learning.

9. Continue learning more about yourself and your family history

We have completed a circle. When we discovered how much we enjoyed pursuing our personal family history, the desire to pursue a career in genealogy emerged. Continue! To discover fresh sources or research methods, we will devote greater effort to a problem involving our family background rather than to a customer for whom we must plan the time. More important, though, is the value of our family history, which should never be put on hold.

10. Become a member of the Society of Professional Genealogists.

High expectations for genealogical research are supported globally by the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), a genealogist organization. The APG upholds a moral code that forms the basis for expert genealogy. You can network and acquire educational opportunities by joining the APG. A quarterly publication with articles on subjects like professional work, certifications, and home office solutions is also available to members.

11. Make a certification application

Becoming certified might assist you in honing your genealogy expertise. Professional genealogists can become certified in both research and instruction through the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). The board demands a work portfolio together with your certificate application to grant you certification. Becoming certified may open up teaching opportunities or assist with self-employment tasks like locating clients.

Professional Organizations

The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (also known as AGRA) was established in 1968 with the goals of promoting, upholding, and securing the interests of its members and customers while upholding the highest standards of ethical conduct and knowledge in the fields of genealogy, heraldry, and record seeking. The members and associate members must abide by a code of conduct to maintain their membership. This is available to highly skilled professionals who have worked for a while as archivists or genealogists. Now, there are more than 100 members spread out across the British Isles.

Now, there are more than 100 members spread out across the British Isles. The public can locate a researcher by name, by the region in which they reside and work, or by specialties like intestacy or paleography via the AGRA website. Most are probably lone proprietors or members of small partnerships and are primarily self-employed. Typically, candidates for AGRA membership must have two years of full-time or an equivalent number of similar part-time paid research expertise. Conversely, they can have a pertinent degree from a similar field. In 1992, associate membership was established to offer assistance and support to those who weren’t yet prepared for full membership.

To maintain the efficient operation of AGRA, an appointed Council meets about five times a year. A quarterly Bulletin is also distributed. Members can converse and share ideas on an internet site as well. Professional growth and other educational events are organized by AGRA. The Code of Practice that ties members is described on the AGRA website, along with instructions on how they can join. Each member’s contact information is listed, along with their email accounts and web links. The advice sections are very worthwhile to read because they provide more details about how researchers operate and how much they charge for their services.

AGRA collaborates with the Scottish Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives. Visit this website to learn more about the Accredited Genealogists of Ireland, formerly known as the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland. Both resemble AGRA in how they function. Similar “professional” organizations exist in other nations, providing some security while interacting with their members. They are frequently discoverable through online searches or by clicking on links from

Genealogists typically oversee the research, whereas record agents or archival researchers carry it out. So, the genealogist serves as a consultant, deciding the direction of the inquiry and starting, managing, and engaging in the labor that it involves. He then updates the customer on his findings and, as necessary, proposes potential directions for additional investigation. The job of an archive researcher involves looking through specific documents for information that a genealogy, historian, or biographer might need. Many skilled genealogists, though, take on both of these roles when necessary.

Although there are significant variations in the costs associated with hiring a professional genealogist, they are based mainly on an hourly charge for the hours spent (including providing guidance), in addition to the price of disbursements (photocopies, paid search costs, certified copies, etc.). Many researchers are willing to estimate the amount of time it will take to search within a specific record count, but in circumstances where the research is much more open-ended, a limit, such as the equal of one or two days’ worth of labor, is proposed. The financial benefits of genealogy research are rarely significant due to the volume of useless communication that advertising attracts and the time spent reporting rather than conducting an actual investigation.

Education and credentials in genealogy

A professional genealogist does not require any formal training. But, just looking at one’s family is insufficient. It takes extensive knowledge of numerous sources and domains. Although these possibilities are uncommon, it is frequently best to achieve this through serving as an apprentice to another genealogist. A solid understanding of society and local historical sources, both in their physical and digital forms, as well as a decent foundational education, are prerequisites for genealogical work. Most genealogists have degrees in history or library or archival training. Furthermore necessary are some Latin and palaeographic skills.

Similar to any other job, customers will want their reports to be professionally presented, therefore it can be helpful to be conversant with the software programs used to store genealogical data and generate genealogical reports.

The Society of Genealogists offers seminars, lectures, and other activities for genealogy enthusiasts of all experience levels. The SoG website has a copy of our most recent calendar of events, which includes a complete listing for the rest of the year and allows for online reservations. Upon receiving an SAE, a printed copy of the activities journal can be mailed to you. Requests for booking forms and more information should be sent to Typically, the SoG events schedule is released in October or November. As a component of the Genealogy as a Profession stream, it frequently offers day seminars and classes. Family history skills sessions for beginners, intermediates, and senior students are regularly offered by the SoG in the evenings in London.

The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies offers classes and a correspondence program at 79-82 Northgate in Canterbury, Kent, CT1 1BA that are designed to help students prepare for differing stages of assessment and exams, along with a Record Agent Assessment. The Institute’s course syllabus includes a description of these. This syllabus is generally followed by the Society’s own in-depth skills classes for beginners, intermediate, and expert students over about 30 weeks of study. Occasionally, the Society of Genealogists offers workshops to persons considering taking the IHGS exams.

There is at least one regional family background society in every county, the Society of Genealogists, numerous local WEA sections, and university extra-mural departments all provide short programs in paleography, historical heritage, and genealogy. The Society of Genealogists and local Federation of Family History Societies conferences are educational and give attendees the chance to interact with other professionals.

Several adult education facilities provide programs, some resulting in diplomas, like London University Birkbeck College. The Open University’s DA301 Family and Community History 19th and 20th Centuries, which heavily draws on sociological and demographic research, aimed to put localized family histories and individual family histories in a larger historical and social context. (The required texts for this class are still readily available and of value.) There is no information on whether this course will likely be offered again once it ended in February 2001. Students who took this course can still access a journal and newsletter, which may be of interest.

An introductory course for beginners that focuses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century materials was developed by The Open University and offered as a brief online course (A173) in May 2003.

Local Societies that are affiliated with The Federation of Family History Societies frequently disseminate details about activities, programs, and credentials offered by educational institutions and family history instructors around the nation. You can find information about your neighborhood family history association on the websites of the Federation of Family History Societies and local family background societies.

With its Institute of Local and Family History, the University of Central Lancashire provides postgraduate studies linked to regional and family history that can be taken remotely. Nevertheless, these courses emphasize social history instead of genealogy.

A complete master’s degree or a postgraduate certification in family and local history are both available from the University of Dundee Center for Archive and Information Studies.

In the fields of genealogical, palaeographic, and heraldic studies, the University of Strathclyde provides a completely online Master’s degree, Postgraduate Certificate, or Postgraduate Diploma.

Distance learning programs in genealogy are available from Pharos Teaching and Tutoring. Family History Abilities and Techniques (Intermediate), a collaborative distance learning certification course offered by Pharos Teaching and Tutoring and the Society of Genealogists, started in 2010. Information can be obtained at Pharos Teaching and Tutoring.

Numerous colleges and adult learning facilities offer community and family history programs that are closer to social history than genealogy in nature.

Career Possibilities

It is recommended to pursue training and a first job in a relevant sector, like archive management, historical analysis, librarianship, or teaching, if you’re young, enthusiastic about genealogy, and intend to make it your life’s job. They provide professions in and of themselves, as well as chances for pursuing genealogy as a pastime.

It may occasionally be possible to search records by a client’s directions while gaining pertinent experience. By doing so, you can build a solid foundation from which to seek scarce openings inside a company or possibly launch a modest side business. In the latter scenario, you’ll generally want to focus on a specific record type, subject, or region of the nation. If you have created a specialized index connecting in some manner to individuals belonging to this category or area, you will discover it to be a helpful tool that might later be used professionally for fees and, possibly, utilized as the basis for papers and lectures in addition to adverts.

Several professionals will have advertisements in the Genealogists’ Bulletin and its web professional database (only those from members with five years of membership or individuals who are already members of AGRA are approved), as well as in the widely read genealogical media, online and printed directories, and forums. The following list contains several ad hoc professional genealogy organizations and groups that use social networking services like Twitter and LinkedIn.

Although many genealogists focus on very small geographic regions, it is advantageous to be capable of driving to local archives. A strong memory, rigorous meticulousness, orderly and logical thinking, and working habits, as well as a healthy dose of skepticism to avoid overly simple and frequently incorrect solutions, are required.

There are now opportunities for individuals to combine their knowledge of genealogy sources with their expertise in web creation and data technology thanks to the advent of digital genealogical archives and websites designed specifically for genealogists and featuring digitized genealogical materials. A few of the bigger genealogical sites online do post-employment openings on their sites.

There are some prospects for genealogy researchers because of the growing number of television programs about family history. Others who are adept detectives have used their genealogical expertise and method to look for lost heirs and surviving individuals.

The American Association of Professional Genealogists’ website illustrates the range of careers that genealogists can pursue, including writing and editing books, generating magazine sections and publications, composing house records, instructing, organizing conferences, organizing family reunions, or conducting forensic research. The growing use of DNA research in genealogy may open up prospects for genealogists with scientific interests.


Education is a consistent thread throughout every stage of becoming a professional genealogist. Maybe for that reason, the occupation is so alluring. There is ever something new to discover, learn, and share.

While considering a career as a professional, keep in mind that it can be amazing, but it also might be more difficult than you anticipated. As a result, it is a lifelong path that requires you to make a commitment to lifelong learning and embrace the duty of gradually accumulating more genealogical expertise through a variety of assignments, extra training, and practice. You must also gain business management skills.

Frequently Asked Questions about Genealogists

  • Are genealogists in demand?

This is in great demand, particularly from seasoned family historians or genealogists who are aware of precisely what they would like you to find for them. Most of the time, the client won’t tell you all the information about the family they are helping.

  • Is genealogy a lucrative endeavor?

Yes, that’s the response. You can make money operating in the family history industry if you have solid genealogy research abilities, excellent organizational skills, and a great sense of business. Yet you will require to plan, just as with any commercial endeavor.

  • Who does genealogy research?

Lists of ancestors are compiled by genealogists, who then arrange them in lineage charts or other official documents. The words “genealogy” and “theory” are both Greek words that mean “family” or “race,” respectively. The term “to trace ancestry,” which refers to the study of family background, is so derived.

  • Are there professions in genealogy?

Genealogy careers are as diverse as the skill sets that individuals contribute to the field. Every individual wishing to pursue a profession in genealogy can do so, from forensic genealogy to historic landmark preservation. Freelance work and full-time corporate positions are also possible career paths.

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