The current GeneaBloggers discussion on Genea-Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money) couldn’t be more timely. I have just returned home from the New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC) in Springfield, Mass. and a week of extended ancestor hunting across the Green Mountains of Vermont. In those ten days I met every kind of genealogist and had my eyes opened to “how they do it” in New England.
Like most conferences, this one attracted a good mix of family historians and professional genealogists. Not surprisingly, when presenters queried their audience in a session, there were relatively few who admitted to “beginner” status. After all, New England researchers have been at this endeavor a very long time. So, if most attendees seemed to NOT be beginners, where did they stand? Of the people I met, I would say that most were serious, experienced, genealogists, even though they may not be making money at their craft.
I attended the evening Special Interest Session with Elissa Scalise Powell, “Becoming a Professional Genealogist” where the group of 25 or 30 asked pointed questions about the certification process and value of professional status. I faded with jet-lag before the end of the 90-minute session but didn’t hear any questions at all on “how to make a living” as genealogist. The assumption was that clients means “paying” clients. There was no devaluation of the desire to achieve this goal.
In fact, Yankees have a noted affinity for frugality and resourcefulness. It only makes sense that a room of New Englanders would be interested in turning a honing a talent for research into a paying occupation or avocation. I spoke with some attendees who were doing pro bono research and wanted to have the qualifications to justify a fair fee for their services.
But it wasn’t all about the money, either. One of the most popular features at NERGC was the Ancestor Road Show — two days of free twenty-minute one-on-one consultations with professional genealogists. I thought I could sign up on site, but really missed out. Although there were nearly 40 genealogists (12 CG) making appointments, the sessions all filled up quickly.
What does all this say about the New England genealogists I observed at NERGC? It tells me that they see professional status as a Board Certified Genealogists as a valuable and helpful skill for anyone wanting to make an income as a genealogist. In addition, it showed that one doesn’t need to be CG to be a professional, i.e. earning an income from paying clients.