Professional Genealogy Careers and Jobs

If you have a passion for genealogy and researching your family history, you might have considered a career using those skills. In this article, we'll cover some of the career opportunities available in the field of genealogy and research.

You may have started researching your family tree years ago and find it a fascinating even sometimes relaxing pastime. In the early days, it was all a bit trial and error but you have been honing those skills and maybe you have even taken some genealogy-related courses to get better.

At what point does our passion for family history research become a viable option to maybe one day become our profession? They say you don’t always love your job but what if you could? There is a lot involved in taking genealogy to that next level and you may need to be prepared to go back to school.

So let's say you have a few good years of research experience on your own and you have taken some classes and gotten some qualifications along the way. What jobs are there out in the world that could use your passion for historical research?

Private Investigator

Let's start a little out of the box here because if we’re honest what are genealogists if not investigators of family history? You may not think there is a connection between private investigating and family tree research but there is definitely a niche for genealogists in this market.

Within genealogy, there is a specialist sector called forensic genealogy. This type of genealogy uses our skills as family history researchers to locate the living descendants of certain individuals. This can be helpful in the case of heir hunting whereby we trace those who may have a legal claim to some ancestral land.

As a genealogical based private investigator, you can use modern websites and research skills to help track people down. This can bring work from court systems that have lost track of criminals or the plaintiffs of lawsuits.

Military Repatriation

This is a unique field that requires the ability to determine potential descendants of those killed during times of war. During conflicts such as World War II, thousands of servicemen were killed and disappeared.

The remains of some of these individuals may lay in unmarked graves or be found buried below European battlefields. It is the repatriation expert's job to try and find an identity and possible next of kin for these individuals.

This can take a combination of genealogical research to trace potential living family members and also DNA testing. The ultimate aim is to bring the remains back to where they belong so they can be buried by their families.

Genetic Genealogist

If your passion for genealogy is also combined with a scientific background a career in the genetic genealogy field may be the right fit. There are several paths this may take you down including a law enforcement route or working with private clients.

As a genetic genealogist, you could help clients understand the DNA tests they have received from Ancestry or 23&Me. These can be extremely confusing for most people but as a genetic genealogist you can help them organize their matches to possibly answer some important questions.

Assisting adoptees, or people who may not know who one of their parents was can be a challenging undertaking but ultimately very rewarding.

Recent successes with law enforcement around the globe have seen a number of high profile cases solved with DNA and family history. Making a specialty of genetic genealogy may lead you to a career of capturing criminals through this growing law enforcement method.

Historic Preservationist

Those who are also good with their hands might find a passion for genealogy could lead to a career in historic preservation. Capable hands and an eye for detail combined with historical knowledge could open up a career in restoring old homes or furnishings to their former glory.

This highly skilled profession may seem like a departure from genealogical research but you would still be using your skills to determine the correct way to restore things.

Within the houses or furnishings that people restore also lies the story of those who once lived there and used these items. Historic preservationists would have to research how a house may have been laid out during a particular era and strive to find the correct fixtures and fittings to complete an accurate restoration.

Dual Citizenship Specialist

There has been a growing trend of people trying to determine if they may be eligible for dual citizenship through a recent immigrant ancestor. This particular field not only requires genealogical research but may also include international record collection.

The initial job requires determining if the client meets the requirements for citizenship in another country based on their descent from an ancestor who was born there. Once it is determined that they are eligible then the client will need help gathering all the pertinent documents required to make an application for citizenship.

This is an undoubtedly growing field which has a few unscrupulous companies that will mislead clients regarding eligibility. It takes a lot of focused research and perhaps fluency in one or two foreign languages but can be tremendously rewarding.

Genealogy Researcher

There is always of course the obvious profession of genealogy researcher whereby you assist clients in their bid to create a family tree. This can be extremely varied work and could range from building a tree from scratch to answering one or two questions.

This is a job where you might find yourself working for a genealogy company or perhaps starting your own business.

Why Work in Genealogy?

It may not be an easy world to get into but as a career genealogy is often a passion for those who work in it. The vast majority of professional genealogists started by working on their own family tree and spent many happy hours searching libraries, repositories and records offices in the pursuit of answers.

If you have a knack for solving puzzles and love to research then genealogy may be a great career move. As the world changes many of us are deciding between working to live and living to work. Increasingly we are deciding that being miserable in our job isn’t worth it anymore so we are seeking something that we love to do.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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