No. Completion of a genealogy course is not necessary to create family trees. Many people create their family’s history without formal genealogist qualifications or even prior study in genealogy. Your average genealogist is an information soak, and while they may have no formal qualifications, they do have good research skills and are continually learning. Where you should undertake a genealogy course, is, if you intend to do paid work for other people. They are going to want their family history presented in a detailed professional format, with the knowledge that you are a competent genealogist with broad experience across many sources and areas.
If your interest in genealogy is just a hobby and all you want is to increase your knowledge.
Then, there are any number of organizations in many countries that can help you develop your skills and point you in the right direction if (when), you hit the proverbial brick wall.
Earning income from your genealogy hobby is a different breed of dog.
The qualifications required range from certificate courses to university degrees.
What Genealogy Courses are Available
There is no shortage of places for informal learning.
In many countries, there are short courses in paleography, local history, and genealogy organized by a Society of Genealogists and run by family history societies.
These are ideal places to become involved.
Usually, with these short courses, there is some nominal cost involved to cover the use of facilities and materials.
A lot of people overlook these popular sites below, but sometimes some gems of information that can get your genealogy project collated in a cohesive way can be found within them.
- Websites like Ancestory.com has family history records and genealogy trees.
- Other websites like My Heritage, Irish Genealogy, Afrigeneas, Findmypast.com, and others have blogs, short tutorials, and videos.
- Offline groups like historical societies in your local area often run workshops on genealogy and have regular meetings.
- U-Tube videos
- Independent genealogists in your local area may have classes.
- Udemy which has probably the largest collection of online learning tutorials in the world does have some genealogy courses.
Genealogy as a Business
For people wanting more advanced knowledge, or wanting to treat genealogy as a business, there are online certificate courses available that can be done at your own pace and completed within a few months.
Other more formalized training is done at colleges and universities. This is a longer route to gaining a qualification as well as being a lot more expensive.
A certificate course is the least you need to get started if you intend to operate as a paid-for service.
Obviously, genealogy is popular and there are probably hundreds of courses to avail yourself of.
One online college I have found to have reasonable prices and a very good reputation is IAP college.
So without doing a stack of comparisons here, you can use it as a benchmark against other online genealogy courses you may be considering.
It is also a suitable program for beginners to get a good foundation in genealogy, and how to structure a genealogy business.
Joining a Genealogy Association
If you are wanting to do paid-for research, then for sure, it is a good move to join a local historical society.
Most have prerequisites and will normally want a genealogy qualification to become a member.
They will also have a code of ethics to abide by and hold regular meetings.
Those who do not meet the prerequisites required can apply for associate membership (if that is offered).
By doing that the society/association can then provide help and mentor you to become a full member.
One other benefit of these associations is, they are a source of information for the public to find help in locating a researcher by name, area, or specialty, or seeking information about a family project they are working on.
Also, they are often sought by the media to give insights into the past.
Many members of these associations are sole traders, small partnerships, or self-employed.
So they are a great conduit for networking.
Most countries have them and it is not uncommon for associations to cross-reference with other associations in different countries.
A good secure source for locating reputable associations in most countries is Cyndislist.com
How much do Professional Genealogists earn?
In the USA an average figure of around $48,000 has been derived from various employer advertisements and other 3rd party data by Ziprecruiter.
The problem with this data is that it only includes genealogists who are full-time employees in libraries, legal firms, government archivists, transcribing and indexing records, and maintaining databases.
As well that figure probably includes research assistants who would be paid at a lower classification.
The skills of a genealogist are generally transferable to other occupations, and while it is not expected that someone could earn a full-time income doing family trees for people, there are other opportunities where you could be paid by assignment.
To research historical databases for legal teams or real estate companies for example.
The website of the American Association of Professional Genealogists gives a good insight into other areas genealogists can diversify into to earn additional income.
For those with a scientific mind, DNA genealogical research may provide further opportunities.
Genealogy is often quoted as the 2nd most popular pastime in the USA.
That would be the same in many other countries I would imagine.
Associations of Genealogists in many countries run courses, lectures, and events for all levels of interest in the subject of genealogy.
As a career, it checks a lot of boxes.
Can you make money doing genealogy?
Yes. The IAP genealogy course gives you the knowledge and tools to make money but, as always you need to apply yourself to the business for it to be successful.
How do I become a genealogist?
Although there are no formal qualifications required to be a genealogist, many genealogists have a history degree or librarian or research qualification. A certificate program moves it from hobby status to where you can earn income, and from there you can do further studies.
How do genealogists get clients?
The best place to start is to become involved with historical associations in your local area. Letting friends and relatives know about your business can also generate referrals. Having a website and an online presence in forums can generate referrals but it takes a lot longer to get paying clients compared to offline methods.
Thanks for reading.
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