Author Topic: Working as a Genealogist  (Read 7285 times)

Offline KatieJJones

  • RootsChat Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 113
  • Census information Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
    • View Profile
Working as a Genealogist
« on: Saturday 15 July 17 09:45 BST (UK) »
Hey RootsChat,

Today I want to ask a quite serious question and please respond back honestly. Since March of this year I have started my own Family Tree Business. This is something I am very passionate in and enjoy and in all honest I'm not good at anything else!

I've put all my effort possible into this, doing what anyone would starting any business. Created a website, social media pages, bought advertising. I have commited to this 100% and before I started doing it (when it was just in the works) I had everyone's support. However, since actually taking it live and spending my own money on it (which honestly I don't have much to my name anyway) people have decided to switch their views on it and told me that it is not worth it. Being a Genealogist is a thing of the past. This has made me semi kick myself because I got motivated to start doing this from the words of the same people that are no demotivating me.

Since May I have had 3 customers so far and since everyone on here has had experience with building their own or other people's family tree's I'd like to know your opinion on this. Have I wasted my time and lost money that I simply can't regain? or do you think this is something that I should stick with.

Thank you.
Brady, Carrington, Cox, Dunham, Everill, Few, Hartland, Johnson, Jones, Neep, Sanders, Walker, Ward and Wilding

Offline groom

  • RootsChat Marquessate
  • *******
  • Posts: 21,133
  • Me aged 3. Tidied up thanks to Wiggy.
    • View Profile
Re: Working as a Genealogist
« Reply #1 on: Saturday 15 July 17 10:01 BST (UK) »
That's a shame Katie as you seem to have thought about it and done everything right. I think part of the problem could be that a lot of people prefer doing their tree themselves as it then means so much more to them.

Often people like the idea of having a tree but when it comes down to it don't want to pay out a lot of money. Now that a lot of the main companies offer free trials or reduced subscriptions it is easier and cheaper for people to get started. Then of course there are sites such as Rootschat where people give help and advice for free. There are probably a lot of people, like me, who have done Family Trees for friends for nothing apart from the cost of certificates, just because we enjoy it as a hobby.

Do you have any proper qualifications? If was looking to have a tree done, I would look for someone who had at least taken a course.

This sounds rather negative I'm afraid, but I hope it gives you something to think about. Good luck.

Census information Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Offline KatieJJones

  • RootsChat Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 113
  • Census information Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
    • View Profile
Re: Working as a Genealogist
« Reply #2 on: Saturday 15 July 17 10:07 BST (UK) »
That's a shame Katie as you seem to have thought about it and done everything right. I think part of the problem could be that a lot of people prefer doing their tree themselves as it then means so much more to them.

Often people like the idea of having a tree but when it comes down to it don't want to pay out a lot of money. Now that a lot of the main companies offer free trials or reduced subscriptions it is easier and cheaper for people to get started. Then of course there are sites such as Rootschat where people give help and advice for free. There are probably a lot of people, like me, who have done Family Trees for friends for nothing apart from the cost of certificates, just because we enjoy it as a hobby.

Do you have any proper qualifications? If was looking to have a tree done, I would look for someone who had at least taken a course.

This sounds rather negative I'm afraid, but I hope it gives you something to think about. Good luck.


I have taken a course to do this. I figured I would at least need someone to prove to people I am qualified to do it. As for the cost of it a lot of people rung bells in my ear that I was offering my services too cheaply. I do everything on a monthly basis of either 35 or 50 a month. I spent a long time working up on this that I never got a qualification in anything else nor have I done anything else as a job and at the age I am now. I won't be able to get a job without nothing as proof.
Brady, Carrington, Cox, Dunham, Everill, Few, Hartland, Johnson, Jones, Neep, Sanders, Walker, Ward and Wilding

Offline groom

  • RootsChat Marquessate
  • *******
  • Posts: 21,133
  • Me aged 3. Tidied up thanks to Wiggy.
    • View Profile
Re: Working as a Genealogist
« Reply #3 on: Saturday 15 July 17 10:38 BST (UK) »
35 to 50 a month sounds incredibly cheap to me, most charge that per hour! How many hours work do you put in during that month and does it include the cost of certificates or your visits to record offices?
Census information Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk


Offline KatieJJones

  • RootsChat Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 113
  • Census information Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
    • View Profile
Re: Working as a Genealogist
« Reply #4 on: Saturday 15 July 17 10:43 BST (UK) »
35 to 50 a month sounds incredibly cheap to me, most charge that per hour! How many hours work do you put in during that month and does it include the cost of certificates or your visits to record offices?

I put in 8 hours of work a day. Apart from Saturday where I'm too busy to do any work. I wanted to create a business where it's more acceptable for even younger people can look into their tree. As I can't say I know many people that can afford paying out at least 20/hr. My prices include visits to record offices, Archives. A customer also asked me about if It was possible for me to trace where their ancestors were buried so I now go hunting for that as well now.
Brady, Carrington, Cox, Dunham, Everill, Few, Hartland, Johnson, Jones, Neep, Sanders, Walker, Ward and Wilding

Offline PrawnCocktail

  • RootsChat Veteran
  • *****
  • Posts: 628
    • View Profile
Re: Working as a Genealogist
« Reply #5 on: Saturday 15 July 17 10:47 BST (UK) »
I do this too - when I can get the work - and I charge 16 an hour, plus the cost of photocopies / photographs / certificates. That is still cheap compared with the local Record Office. Wasn't getting much work, as, like someone else said, people don't want to pay too much for it, and then the local PRs went online. That has killed it. There's still loads of material I can look at for people, but mostly they seem to be happy with just the names from the PRs.
Website: http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~towcesterfamilies/genealogy/
Towcester - anything, any time
Cheshire - Lambert, Houghland, Birtwisle
Liverpool - Platt, Cunningham, Ditton
London - Notley, Elsom, Billett
Oxfordshire - Hitchcock, Smith, Leonard, Taunt
Durham - Hepburn, Eltringham
Berwickshire - Guthrie, Crawford
Somerset - Taylor (Bath)
Gloucestershire - Verrinder, Colborn
Dorset - Westlake

Offline groom

  • RootsChat Marquessate
  • *******
  • Posts: 21,133
  • Me aged 3. Tidied up thanks to Wiggy.
    • View Profile
Re: Working as a Genealogist
« Reply #6 on: Saturday 15 July 17 10:55 BST (UK) »
Katie, that means you are working for about 26p an hour  :o If that includes visits to record offices etc, I can't see how you can possibly hope to make a living out of it.

I think as Prawn Cocktail says the fact that more and more records are now on line does mean that people don't need to hire a professional to go and look them up.
Census information Crown Copyright, from www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Offline aghadowey

  • RootsChat Honorary
  • RootsChat Marquessate
  • *******
  • Posts: 50,743
    • View Profile
Re: Working as a Genealogist
« Reply #7 on: Saturday 15 July 17 10:59 BST (UK) »
The Internet has indeed changed the way family history is done. Many people are more impatient and expect instant results with very little money paid out. It's a big change from the days when someone would write a letter (outlining everything they knew and what they hoped to find) then wrote thank you notes for any information or advice given.

I'm wondering if the money you spent on advertising might have been a bit of a waste. Lots of 'free' advertising locally is possible. Try contacting local clergy (they often don't have the time or inclination to answer family queries), local historical society (not all members are genealogists), tourist information centres, bed & breakfast owners, perhaps a notice in local post office is possible.

Often groups are looking for speakers (WI, church groups, historical societies, etc.) and if you can prepare a talk (usually about an hour long is a good time) it could lead to more interest (as well as a small fee for giving the talk)- be sure to do something like a powerpoint presentation which you can use pictures to illustrate the talk (churches, gravestones, census records, maps, etc.). This will give people something to look at while you are talking and more relaxing than having people staring at you!

Also consider offering research on houses- many people not interested in genealogy do like to find out more about the house they are living in or once belonged to their family.

Like others have said, you really do need to re-think your pricing structure.
Away sorting out DNA matches... I may be gone for some time many years!

Offline AntonyMMM

  • RootsChat Aristocrat
  • ******
  • Posts: 1,081
  • Researcher (retired) and former Deputy Registrar
    • View Profile
Re: Working as a Genealogist
« Reply #8 on: Saturday 15 July 17 12:14 BST (UK) »
Congratulations for attempting to turn your hobby into a business, it is hard work to do and many people I speak to in exactly your position do give up very quickly.

As someone working as a professional, perhaps I can give a little advice.

The first thing is to decide - are you looking to run a business to make a real income or are you charging for research to just to subsidise your own hobby, which many do, whether they acknowledge it or not ?

There are very few professional researchers who make a full time real living income from genealogy - most come to it as a second career and have a pension income, redundancy payment or an understanding partner to help support them. Those that do make good money are often earning a significant portion of that from teaching, giving talks and writing.

I was told when I started out that it takes about seven years for your name to get known in the business - and that may be a little exaggerated but it does take a lot of time to build up a client base and a reputation - much work will come from recommendations and word of mouth so you need to stick at it.

Consider joining a professional body - you sound like a perfect candidate to join AGRA (www.agra.org.uk) as an associate - which will then give you access to like minded people in exactly your position who you can meet with and discuss your business and also get work referred from other members or through the AGRA website.

I have reviewed business plans from numerous new researchers and never seen  a monthly fee charging structure - but it is an innovative idea - but as pointed out by others you can only be earning pence per hour at the rate you are asking. I can assure you there are plenty of people out there willing to pay at least 20 per hour for good research work - and many researchers charge substantially more than that. Clients are paying for your time and expert knowledge but you also need to factor in all your costs - certificates, IT equipment, subscriptions, travelling, copying, printing, insurance etc.  to work out what you should really be charging. And don't forget you pay tax on the income (profit) you make as well !

The growth and ease of internet based research means that not many people these days are willing to pay to "have their family tree done". There are still a few around  but most clients who come to a professional are actually people who have done a fair amount of research themselves and have got stuck, or who want someone with specialist knowledge, or someone to visit an archive to look at original documents, the majority of which despite common belief are not available anywhere online. I also spend quite a lot of time unravelling existing research that has gone badly wrong (usually due to online research !) before I can even start to take things further back.

You need to know the holdings and workings of your local archives inside out and to see if there are any areas you can potentially specialise in - but don't take on work you are not qualified or competent to do. Many new researchers are quick to take on any project that comes their way even if it is way outside their expertise and knowledge which doesn't help them in the long run.

The Society of Genealogists also have a series of talks through the year loosely categorised as "Careers  in Genealogy" and there is one next Saturday on becoming a professional genealogist  which I found very useful when I started planning my business.

Good luck and please PM me if you need more advice.