As a Genealogical Business Owner

Besides my first genealogical research experience with a local society as a consumer, what has my business experience learned in working with genealogical societies?

I recommend that when you start a genealogical business to collect a list of your local, county and state-wide genealogy society contacts. To gather such information you can go to your local library or find them on the internet. The key is just to have easy access to a list that you as a business owner can quickly access when doing work for your clients. You can either keep a hard copy, an electronic document or spreadsheet. Whatever works for you is the key to having a system that helps you to be efficient and timely for your clients.

As a working genealogist I have learned that developing relationships or contacts with genealogical societies is important to a successful business and satisfied clients.  In my business I have traveled to local genealogy or historic societies and charged mileage for use of my own personal vehicle for travel.  For my business I have determined that a radius of about 100 miles from my home office is reasonable for clients. For clients that have records or needs outside of this mileage radius, I work with Area Research Centers in my State, and local genealogy society researchers who can look for records on site to help my client. [In a prior GenBiz Solutions article, I refer to this as a strategy for collaborating with other genealogists]. Prior to any extra expense for my client, I first provide a detailed written explanation by email about what other resources we may need to finish record collection. I don’t believe additional work should be done without full disclosure to the client that other expenses may incur to locate the records originally requested or that are newly found and will add to the family history search.

For example in the last year I had a client whose paternal family was located in a city that has an active historical society. Prior to going to this location I made sure to have my research log for this family current with findings. The main item for those starting a genealogy business is to think about your purpose and what you are looking for when you start field research for a client. I made contact with the local historic society through email and a follow-up telephone call to work out a date to visit and what records I was expecting to review during my scheduled visit. My experience has been that the local societies like to have time prior to a genealogist’s visit to prepare properly, so they can have the necessary index or books available along with someone there to help with questions. Remember that many of these local societies are managed by volunteers who like to help those doing family history searches. As a business owner it is prudent to leave the society a donation for their services. Remember you may use their services another time or another genealogist will, so acknowledging them is beneficial to all of us.

The result of my travel and time at the city (local) historical society was fruitful in the amount of information I found for the client’s family, including information about the business they owned over 100 yrs ago in the city. Due to the business and civic events this family was involved with I found a number of historic pictures that were not known by my client’s family.

A most recent experience for a client looking for probate records led me to make contact with a local society that is some distance from my location. This society after reviewing my request and credentials sent (at no cost) the records to an Area Research Center near me, where I reviewed the probate records. This is an example of how a genealogist works with their local societies and regional genealogical centers to find and provide access to the records for business clients.

Working with fellow genealogists, volunteers, and librarians can be rewarding for its shared passion of family history, and making connections can aid in your professional development and in the marketing of your business. Plus we always learn something new and enhance our skills as professional genealogists.