Genealogy Training for Professional Skills

There is now a fairly keen interest in professional genealogy. At each event where I speak, genealogists come up to me for information and advice about becoming a professional genealogist. So I decided a Genealogy News Sheet on this topic might be of interest to you. What is a professional genealogist?

Professional genealogists are people who engage in genealogy as a business or trade. They offer, for a fee, what others do as a hobby. The essential element that distinguishes a professional from a hobbyist is the earned income for work completed, although both the hobbyist and the professional may have equal training or experience and spend the same amount of time pursuing family trees. Because we have come to expect the highest skills and technical standards from someone who is paid, professional is also equated in the minds of potential customers with excellence and successful results.

Genealogy Training
Short-term education: Short-term educational opportunities in genealogy vary considerably for every pocketbook and interest. Over 85% of American genealogical societies offer workshops and seminars at least once each year and 81% meet monthly using both paid lecturers and local speakers to provide instruction. Some workshops last an hour, some run 2-3 days with a variety of subjects and speakers. While 52% of societies offer regular genealogy classes, 47% are aimed at beginners, 20% for more sophisticated genealogists, and 4% for college credit. Most societies maintain a website with details about their seminars and workshops.

National Genealogical Society
4527 17th St N
Arlington VA 22207-2399
NGS provides an excellent home-study course–American Genealogy: A Basic Course.

Family History (formerly My Ancestors Found) offers week-long Research Retreats at the Family History Library with a combination of instruction and practical research experience at the Library. Visit for current schedule. Next retreat: 27 Oct-1 Nov where Jimmy Parker and I will present the instruction and hands-on experience. (See my topics posted on this blog Oct 2008.) Family History Expos also co-sponsors 1-2 day family history expos in various locations. Check their website for dates, locations, and classes offered. Next event: 14-15 November 2008, Mesa AZ where I will present three sessions.

Leland and Patti Meitzler and their Salt Lake City Christmas Tour the first full week of December is in its 24th year. This week-long tour includes instruction classes by some of the leading genealogists in the country (including me) as well as guided research at the Family History Library. for details. Sign up today for Christmas 2008–7-13 Dec 2008. Bring a friend–for a discount in fees.

State and local historical societies and university study centers also sponsor community and public educational programs. These run from 1 day to 2 weeks. And state archives and national archives branches also provide seminars and institutes of considerable importance. Do a little online research to find those that are nearby your home or offer subject matter of special interest to you.

Institutes for Advanced Genealogical Study
National Institute for Genealogical Research
PO Box 118
Greenbelt MD 20768-0118
12-17 July 2009

Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research
Samford University
800 Lakeshore Dr
Birmingham AL 35229
14-19 June 2009

Middle Atlantic Genealogy and History Institute

George Mason University
4400 University Dr
Fairfax VA 22030

Family History and Genealogical Research Seminar
Brigham Young University Conference Center
770 East University Parkway
Provo UT 84602

Long-term education: In 1982, there were 64 colleges and universities with degree programs in family history. These were listed in the APG Newsletter 4 (Sep 1982): 9-10 and described in detail in Guide to Departments of History, current edition, published by the American Historical Association. Your local public library usually has one or more editions.

Check with universities and colleges within driving distance of your home–all of them are online with lists of their course offerings and curriculum requirements. Degree programs in demography, library science, archives management and administration, oral history, photograph conservation, geography, legal history or any other aspect of the law, communications, journalism, computer science and programming, and many more courses of study are also excellent training and provide academic credentials for genealogy as a career.

Brigham Young University, Provo UT, offers 28 courses in their current independent study program for European (French, Scandinavian, German) and General Family History. These courses do not require exams and do not offer credit. The university also offers a full community and family history program with specialties in the genealogy and family history of several countries. History 482: Professional Paths and Credentials in Family History is designed as a stepping stone toward advanced studies. It can assist in preparing you for accreditation. (See also Karen Clifford, Becoming an Accredited Genealogist, Plus 100 Tips to Ensure Your Success. Orem: Ancestry Inc., 1998.)

for links to other genealogical education programs and institutes. Your favorite professional genealogist, Arlene Eakle.

PS I am currently revising my book Professional Skills: Be Better Informed Than Ever Before. I am so amazed at what has changed since I first wrote that text for a series of classes I taught on professional genealogy at BYU. I will post the Table of Contents on this blog in the next few weeks. If you are interested, you can reserve your own copy by emailing me:

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply