Though I have been doing genealogy for myself, relatives, and clients for about 20 years now, there is still much more to learn. Personal growth is partly why in 2014 I decided that if I were ever going to pursue my passion for genealogy full-time, I needed to take proper steps and learn how best to succeed within certain boundaries. One of the natural progressions was to help others with their genealogy in a formal way. So why not a business? This question was answered easily after I took a trip to Germany in May 2014, specifically to Hamburg to visit a German Genealogist who had helped me the previous two years with my paternal side, in former Prussia and Northern Germany, part of Poland today. I remember listening to my contact in Hamburg and the idea to become genealogist was a natural next step to take. I would be able to challenge myself again and merge my passion for history and genealogy together. I had already helped non-blood relatives with their family history research and done the analysis of records. I could now organize and reach out to others in the genealogy field to see if my experience and ideas could be fruitful. Where to find my niche in the larger genealogy business world?
Part of that start was to begin to talk with people who were doing client work or assisting the public at repositories. In the years that I did my own family research I had met and learned from librarians and archivists at the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS), right in my hometown of Madison, WI. I setup a meeting with the Outreach Genealogy Librarian at WHS in late Spring 2014. 

What I learned is that I should develop a work plan that included, educational and learning sources available at WHS. I also needed to enhance or develop research skills on key sources, such as, vital records, church records, courthouse records, probate records, land records, learn about other archives/libraries, and finally cemetery information. The focus was to start a process from a local level and build out to state and then later a national level. The resources I was told to learn included: Ancestry.com, Familysearch.org, FindAGrave.com, learn about DNA genealogy, and finally blogs, like Dick Eastman’s.

During this process, I also learned from WHS staff about local, state, and national genealogical associations. I first heard about the Association of Professional Genealogist (APG) from WHS. So, through outreach I gathered key and trustworthy information from reliable sources and could develop an action plan. One of the first items I considered was to go to an APG Professional Management Conference in Salt Lake City, in January 2015. 

I reviewed the APG PMC Conference syllabus and decided to go. By this time, I had also started to review a study guide for starting your own business and reached out to potential resources in my community that could help me with small business development. Prior to going to the conference, I had already had one client who contacted me about gathering Pre-1907 Wisconsin Vital records at WHS. This client provided the marriage, death and birth citations but wanted a copy of the actual records. I successful found, verified, and provided the data in a timely manner, so my client (a Genealogist and author) could finish a book for their client in Minnesota.

Going to the APF PMC Conference was a wonderful experience, I made contacts, learned new items and verified for myself that my steps to become a ‘real’ Professional Genealogist was the right decision. The passion still was there. 

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