Genealogy is the study of the descent of an individual, family or communities. Genealogists, also known as genealogy studies professionals, conduct research to identify the lineage of a person. They not only tell us who our ancestors are, but also draw family trees showing our relationships with family members. If you have a good level of natural curiosity and an academic background in history, you could become a successful genealogist.
What Do Genealogists Do?
Genealogists are tasked with mapping a specific family back to their ancestors using family historical information. This involves:
- Consulting genealogical tables from countries of interest
- Studying and analyzing the genealogical data in documents such as marriage certificates
- Creating diagrams and charts showing a family’s ancestry
- Highlighting particular points of interest, for instance, if there is an adopted member in the family
- Preparing reports on their findings and presenting them to clients
- Supervising and instructing archival technicians and record clerks
- Maintaining databases, archives and libraries.
Full-time genealogists work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Freelance genealogists, on the other hand, have irregular work schedules.
These professionals perform most of their duties from their offices even though they at times visit libraries, churches and other areas to obtain information.
This job also involves a lot of travelling. For example, you may be required to conduct research in a foreign country. This means spending time away from your family.
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Annual Salary Range
To qualify for employment as a genealogist, you should earn a bachelor’s degree in family history with concentrations in genealogy. Few universities offer this program. Some of those offering it include:
- Brigham Young University, Utah
- Heritage Genealogical College, Utah
It is also possible to get started with a degree in general history or library studies.
To improve your competence and ability to attract employers, you should obtain professional certifications offered by the Board for Certification of Genealogists.
Important Skills and Abilities
To become a successful genealogist, you should have:
- A detailed knowledge of evaluation criteria, citation styles and genealogical data communication
- Strong research and analytical skills to locate and use historical sources and information
- Good computers skills to use a variety of genealogical data programs
- Good oral and written communication skills
- Good presentation skills
- Good interpersonal skills
- Good record keeping skills
After getting a job, the on-the-job experience you acquire will play a crucial role in your career progression. Success often lies in tracing missing persons and presenting accurate family trees to clients.
Besides, you can:
- Pursue a master’s degree in genealogy
- Join the National Genealogical Society to access profession publications and other career development resources
- Learn one or two foreign languages.
Although many genealogists work on a freelance basis, you can find full-time jobs in:
- Social services agencies
- Archives and libraries
- Genealogical research companies.
After gaining enough experience and obtaining a master’s degree, you can move into consulting, or teaching in colleges and universities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide job growth projections for genealogists. Nonetheless, genealogy is a small field with few employers. If you are not passionate about studying family history, chances are this career will frustrate you.
But if you have a deep interest in helping other people trace their family histories, you will thoroughly enjoy this career.
Perhaps the best thing about genealogists is that they transferable skills. So you can easily move into careers such as authoring, editing and high school teaching.