How to Start a Genealogy Business

Researching family history as a business

Genealogy is the study of lines of descent and can provide insight into who our ancestors are, where we come from and who we are in turn. History – and family history, in particular – is an interesting subject to study and it’s no wonder genealogy has grown quite popular in modern times. Due to readily available DNA test kits and websites focused on revealing family history, the demand for genealogy services has grown exponentially in the past few years and with no necessary certification or diploma (though they do help) to dub yourself a genealogist, it might seem like genealogy is the perfect hobby to start making a living from. Yet anyone interested in starting their own genealogy business should know that not many genealogists rely on genealogy as their only source of income. A business built around genealogy can be a profitable one, but the path to success will undoubtedly be paved with challenges, so expecting anything but a rocky road would be highly unrealistic.

Why the sudden popularity?

Genealogy services have experienced rapid growth in popularity because people have spent more time isolated due to COVID-19 during the past few years. An increasing number decided to spend that time on research regarding their roots. They would start gathering information from all available sources and become thrilled at how quickly they were able to gather clues. And then, inevitably, they would hit a dead end, the research would become increasingly complicated and time-consuming and the thrill of the rapid progress so visible at first would fizzle out. At that point, many decide to consult an experienced professional rather than give up altogether. 

The tools of the trade

Since you’re aiming to see yourself among the expert genealogists one day, it’s important to know exactly what skills are going to be necessary for you and your business to prosper. An authority in the field, Pam Anderson, has revealed the five key attributes a genealogist should have, and they seem to be:

  • Proactivity
  • Goal-orientation
  • Client centeredness
  • Ability to perform detailed analysis
  • Communication

Besides these mostly personal attributes, your professional success is also going to depend on your technical know-how. A genealogist is supposed to be able to cite sources effectively, as well as create abstracts and extracts, all while complying with the standards of genealogical proof. Writing clear and concise reports is also going to be essential. As a genealogist, you will also be doing plenty of research, so perfecting your methodology is going to be essential. Starting from one living person, you are going to be using all of the sources (online and offline) at your disposal and following the thread of generations through the ages. You’ll be following a trail of breadcrumbs left in libraries, courthouses, church records, military records and census data, at the end of which you should find your client’s ancestors.

Starting a business

If you take your career as a genealogist seriously and want to be taken seriously by your clients in turn, you are going to need a strong business plan and the discipline necessary to follow through with it. You may have wanted to avoid focusing on the entrepreneurial part, but a genealogy business is a business all the same, and putting in the effort at the beginning will save you a lot of trouble later on. Here’s what you will need to prepare:

  • An overview of your business, including your name, location and goals
  • A list of products and services that will be available to your clients
  • An analysis of the genealogy industry, your potential customers and competitors
  • A marketing strategy to help you get on the centre stage

Getting certified

As was already mentioned, getting certified is not mandatory, but it will surely add to your reputation and authority, especially until you’ve gained some popularity among your clients. A certificate will be proof that your research and reports are valid and that you’ve been dubbed a professional by an authority in the field.

Decide which business model fits you best

There are many business models to choose from, and which one is the best is largely going to depend on what fits you best personally and under what circumstances you are starting your business.

Do you like to work alone or in a team? Do you like flexible working hours or a fixed routine? Are you going to register a company or work as an independent contractor? Familiarise yourself with the financial and legal implications of whichever business model you choose.

Market to your market

Whichever business model you choose and however expertly you handle the challenges of research, advertising your services to your clients is going to make an impact. It is a fact that nowadays marketing is a key part of any business. It’s going to help you surpass your competition, get new clients and get new products and services on the radar of old ones. People are going to have to hear about you one way or another – you might as well be in control of your image through exceptional marketing.


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