How To Become A Genealogist
Career Video: Genealogist
Genealogy is the study of families, and the tracing of lineages and family history. A genealogist is a type of historian, who uses historical records and DNA analysis to obtain information about families in order to study a family’s history. This information is often displayed in a chart, called a family tree. Genealogists often become more experienced in their field through certifications and conferences.
Why Become A Genealogist
Many people are interested in knowing about their family history. Your lineage can teach you interesting things about your family, such as where you originally came from. It can tell you how long you have lived in a certain area. It can tell you who you are related to. Your DNA analysis may also be able to tell you certain information such as what genetic illnesses you are predisposed to.
People want to know more about their family history, but it is hard work gathering all of that information together. A genealogist knows where to look. A genealogist is a historian who can help families answer specific questions about their family background: Do I have Jewish ethnicity? Did my ancestors come over on a slave ship from Africa? What country did my great-great-grandparents immigrate from? Who is my real father?
A genealogist spends time finding documents online, analyzing and translating them. They look at documents they have found and resolve any conflicting information, trying to find out the truth. They write out all information they have found in a family tree. DNA results and paper trails all are used in helping to piece together a person’s family tree.
This is a good job for somebody who enjoys genealogy as a hobby, is great at research, and wants to help others piece together their family tree.
Genealogists must possess the following qualities and skills:
- High attention to detail
- Research skills
- Writing skills
- Problem solver
- Good communicator
Genealogist Work Environment
A genealogist spends the majority of their time in an office environment. They spend time researching. They utilize online and offline research methods. They go to libraries, archives and courthouses to find the documents and records that they need. A genealogist may meet with clients to determine their own individual needs. This position often involves traveling, as a genealogist has to visit many local areas such as libraries, local history museums, chambers of commerce, and more to seek information. According to the Board for Certification of Genealogists, more than half of all genealogists are currently working part time.
The median annual salary for a genealogist was $57,125 in 2016.
There are many factors that determine salary. Many genealogists do not get paid a flat salary for their position. Instead, they charge an hourly rate for their services. Services may include the time it takes to meet with clients, do research, and travel. Because many genealogists are responsible for setting their own hourly rates, this can vary widely. Genealogists in large metropolitan areas will likely earn a higher salary. Genealogists who have several years of experience will likely command a higher salary. These are some things to consider when thinking about salary in this field.
Genealogist Career Outlook
Employment for genealogists is expected to grow by two percent from 2014 to 2024, which is minimal growth compared to other occupations in the United States.
While genealogy is a fascinating hobby for many people, the opportunities for professional careers in this field remains minimal. Many genealogists currently practice on a local and informal basis. Many genealogists rely on public funding in order to remain active. Paying jobs for genealogists still are quite rare. There are volunteer opportunities available. Many genealogists work on a part-time basis only.
If you are interested in becoming a genealogist, read below for more information.
Step 1: Undergraduate education. Unlike most occupations, there is no formal education required to become a genealogist. There are a few universities within the United States that offer programs in family history and genealogy, such as Brigham Young University. These educational programs will give you insights into the field. Any courses that involve history, writing and research will prepare you for this career. It takes four years to receive a bachelor’s degree.
Step 2: Attend conferences. Conferences are the way that many genealogists meet with each other, network, and learn about the newest information in the industry. There are five major conferences held for genealogists in the United States each year: RootsTech, held in Salt Lake City, Utah each February; National Genealogical Society holds a conference every May; Southern California Genealogy Jamboree is held in Los Angeles every June; International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies holds a conference each July; and the Federation of Genealogical Societies holds their conference in August.
Step 3: Certification. The Board for Certification of Genealogists offers two certifications: Certified Genealogists and Certified Genealogical Lecturer. The certification is based completely on examination of your portfolio of work. Genealogists submit their portfolio of work to the board, and three judges must approve it in order to grant certification.