Family research and genealogical study is a giant growth industry at the moment. The public has taken a great interest in their personal heritage and the roots of their being. This is partially fuelled and aided by popular television series such as ‘Who do you think you are?’ But it can safely be said that family tree research has snowballed of its own accord as well.
This surge in interest has created a hunger for knowledge; so much so that a lively and growing job market is being formed around the practice of family history research. Many individuals are generating income by conducting family history research on a freelance basis. This ranges from a simple weekend job to full time self employment.
A typical genealogy researcher will work for private individuals who hire them to create or extend upon a family tree for their bloodline. However, in exceptional cases, researchers may work for a trust or academic institution researching historically important bloodlines and relationships.
How to get started as a professional genealogy researcher
If you want to be recognised as a professional in the family history field it’s better to be accredited. There are certain bodies that you can join which are widely known and respected. This will give you much more credibility and authority when potential clients come across you online or otherwise. Entry to these bodies is not completely open as they have certain standards to maintain. But if you can gain entry you’ll be among the elite; and be able to gain a lot more work because of it.
The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (AGRA) is the main respected body in the UK for professional genealogy researchers. Members have to abide to strict codes of practice and are accountable for their conduct and actions. This means that clients can have confidence that the majority of AGRA accredited researchers are trustworthy and provide genuine expertise. If you decide to join the AGRA the good thing is that it pretty much pays for itself. You’ll pick up new work and more clients as researchers and customers are actively connected through the organisation.
If you want regular high paid work obviously you’re going to have to build a reputation for yourself. The best way to do this is set yourself up like a serious business (even if you’re only doing this part time). This means having a website to showcase your services. It is extremely easy to get a small business website set up cheaply without technical knowledge these days. For a small monthly fee you can have a professional looking easy to control live website. Having a portfolio style website allows you to put up customer testimonials, examples of your work and quote indicative prices. A lot of people find information via search engines these days, by having a website you give yourself a good chance of being in front of their eyes when they search!
What to charge for your services
Finding the right pricing level for genealogy research services can be tricky. Prices are dependent on exactly what you are offering; for example a simple family tree will cost much less to produce than a full demographic profile of someone’s traceable descendents. The best way to make sure you cater to multiple customers is to offer a variety different options which are charged at different prices.
You should also have the option of custom pricing for more specific/specialist work should it be requested. Try and be consistent with your pricing, set an hourly rate of what you want to charge and price services according to how long tasks will take to complete.
Typically prices will start at about £50 for a simple family tree creation. However for more complex packages or specially presented data, prices raise into the hundreds. It is up to you to decide how much to charge for your services. Most providers find an optimal pricing point after testing the waters a few times. It’s all about trial and error when it comes to finding the right price to charge.
Conducting your family history and genealogy research
If you’re serious about genealogy you’ll already know where to conduct your research and how to collate data. However for the beginners there is a wealth of resources online to help you get started. Here are some great informational sources for gathering your data:
The beginners guide to family history research from the BBC is particularly useful. See it here.
Official sources for England & Wales
- The college of arms
- The general registry office
- Commonwealth war graves commission
- National archives
- Society of genealogists
- LLGC – National Library of Wales
- British library
Official data sources for Scotland
Official records of the Republic and Northern Ireland
International free family history records
Presenting your work to clients
The presentation of your finished family tree or research findings to clients is just as important as the content itself. Make sure that you have a set of high quality templates prepared to put your final data into. This will help give your work consistency and build a brand whilst keeping customers happy.
Some genealogy research providers do as little as using headed paper or having a stylish front cover/page. However others create personalized folders, albums and other highly visual additions to enhance the impact of the findings. Quite often this is offered as an optional upgrade for a fee, but sometimes it’s included in the base price.
Make sure that you explain your findings to clients and take them through what is given to them. This not only ensures that they can put your findings into context, but that they receive a truly personal service from you. Providing good service will allow you to gain more customer referrals and increase your business.
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