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Genea-Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)


With apologies to the Pet Shop Boys (and their song Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)), I’ve decided to start a series of posts here at GeneaBloggers about genealogy and money.

Why? Well I am in agreement with several bloggers and others in the genealogy community that we don’t talk enough about how to take one’s passion for genealogy as a hobby and turn a profit. Some think this is dirty talk. Others think it is a betrayal of what the genealogy community stands for in terms of sharing and collaboration.

On the other hand, there are many of us who through various life circumstances are at a cross-roads in our lives and careers where we must pursue our passion in its business and money-making form in order to survive and support our families.


I’ll be posting all week on these topics – I hope you’ll join me in having a conversation within the genealogy community that is meaningful yet still allows a wide spectrum of opinions. Leave your comments in the posts or post at your own blog and cross-reference these posts. I’d also love to see the conversation picked up in the various genealogy mailing lists.

  • Monday: Genealogy Blogging – For Fun or Profit? – we’ll discuss whether or not a blog should have advertising, affiliate links, etc. and what constitutes a commercial genealogy blog, an individual genealogy blog and is there a balance that can and should be maintained?
  • Tuesday: Careers in Genealogy – this was meant to be the Open Thread Thursday post here at GeneaBloggers last week yet I never got around to posting. We’ll discuss the “traditional” genealogy careers and look at some genealogists and family historians who are thinking “outside the genealogy charts” as I put it to carve out their own career paths.
  • Wednesday: What Do You Mean It Isn’t Free? – how do we as a community deal with the perception that everything – and I mean everything – is free for the taking when it comes to genealogy. From commercial databases, to freely stealing content from a blog or website, to being incensed when a genealogist charges for a webinar or a syllabus.  This will be a no-holds barred looked at why certain perceptions exist in the genealogy community and how they must change in order for the industry to move forward in the 21st century.
  • Thursday: How Do You Make Money in Genealogy? – most readers here at GeneaBloggers and at my other sites know that I am a pretty open and transparent guy when it comes to disclosing my material relationships with other genealogy vendors and organizations. Well, I am willing to spell out what I currently do in the genealogy field to try and make a buck.  I’m not going to give exact dollar figures (because you will be greatly disappointed, believe me), but I will be upfront about some current projects.  I’m hoping my colleagues might consider doing the same.
  • Friday: Money Changes Everything – Or Does It? – finally at the end of the series we’ll recap the discussion and see how the genealogy community and industry needs to move forward in terms of its relationship to money.


I hope you’ll join me on what will prove to be an interesting and informative journey with a bit of soul searching thrown in.  If you have other topics you think should be covered, let me know.

I want to especially thank Joan Miller at Luxegen for her post Genea-Bodies – The New Somebodies which started some great conversations on Facebook and Twitter. Also thanks to Kerry Scott of Clue Wagon and Marian Pierre-Louis of the Roots and Rambles blog for their comments and insights.

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

15 thoughts on “Genea-Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)

  1. I want to thank you for continuing this conversation, Thomas!

    I also wrote a blog post in response to the LuxeGen post comments (I bet she had no idea of the can of worms that would be getting opened up!):

    And this afternoon, having given the topic more thought, thanks in part to the conversation taking place on Facebook (thanks again, Marian!), I have posted a second shorter response directly on the original “Genea-Bodies” blog post.

  2. Another related subject is the correlation between doing genealogy correctly and its cost. The more the researcher insists on reliable and verifiable evidence, the more s/he is going to spend on the hobby.

  3. I am currently in a situation where I am working on my dissertation but can’t get a job to save my life at the moment, particularly in the archives/genealogy field.

    I started out on Expert Connect and loved it. I managed at least a hundred a month. After they closed, I started my blog and got one research job in February/March. I haven’t had any income since then.

    I am still trying to decide where I should do something like an affiliate program to earn some money and what I should affiliate to.

    On one hand, I like have the blog as non-commercial so far as I can since I advertise that I am open to paid research projects.

    I really need to get some more research jobs or something soon because even though I do live with my parents there are some expenses I really need cash for, particularly books I need to complete my dissertation.

    I’ll be looking forward to what everyone else has to say because I need a lot of help right now until I can get a full-time or part-time job.

  4. As a newcomer to geneabloggers and as a hobbyist involved in family research for the fun of it, I’m a bit surprised by the controversy.

    Why shouldn’t someone who performs a professional service take actions to earn income? I don’t get it–is there some sort of purity-of-mission clause in genealogy? Certainly I hate ad clutter, but I don’t see a need for nasty-grams about it. Maybe it’s that Puritan heritage in some people–all a bit self-righteous, IMO.

    If I won the lottery, one of the first things I’d do is hire a bunch of you to take the rough (as in, raw) work I’ve done and turn it into something polished. And I’d get more subscriptions,etc, etc. But, alas, I have budget constraints. I can, however, easily use the Amazon affiliate link now that its been suggested.

    One clarification I’d like is about some of the references to those who do unpaid work. Does the fact that I have a personal family history blog with no ads hinder the efforts of the professionals? I hope not because I’m having fun with it. I’m doing it for family and for the Cousin Connect Effect.

  5. Thomas,

    So glad to see this topic addressed and the points spelled out so clearly.

    There are many eyebrows that often are raised when one speaks of genealogy and then bringing up the topic “fun or profit.” Eyebrows are often raised, because genealogy is often perceived to be a personal endeavor for many, and when many who were once lone researchers, put up their sign and become a “professional” in some way, questions will be asked.

    Personal blogs are platforms to share the journey that one has undertaken down the research path. Bloggers for profit—with most—they have taken their wisdom gained over many years to another level and have decided to share it.

    The question does arise though—What makes one a professional genealogist? And where does the blogger fit into that discussion of the professional?

    Blogging is of course something that anyone can do, and these days placing affiliate ads on blogs are today as common as blogging itself. It is high traffic that generates revenue to blogs and those of us who share our personal research successes and challenges; we will find that the ad revenue will not bring upon life-changing increases to one’s financial base. In other words, the revenue is modest.

    I have several genealogy websites in addition to my blogs, and one of my websites I have had since 1997. With over 14 years of writing and sharing what I have learned, 13 of those 14 years were without any financial benefit of any kind. Only in the last 2 years have I put time into Google and Affiliate ads.

    Another website, (not blog) I have had for over five years and in the past year, and now have Adsense ads there. Only in the past 2 years did I become aware of placing Affiliate ads, and Adsense ads on the sites. When I decided to enter the blogging community as a traditional blogger, I did add them to my account for Google Ads, and affiliate ads.

    BUT—-I think there is the issue of integrity of the blogger, which might be an issue for some.

    For me, having been a part of the community that I research—having been a part of the same research community, both online and in real time— I find now that I am also a regular presenter in the same community, that I my placing the affiliate ad is a logical extension of what I do.

    And I have been a part of the same community first as a learner, well before I chose to write, speak and now blog, this is not a conflict for me or for me to embrace the leadership found by others whom I feel have basic integrity as a genealogist.

    For most who are the professional bloggers, they too have taken that route—they learned first, then they grew in the field and finally later they emerged as a leader. Their status has been a natural progression, and I see no issues or conflicts there.

    Their leadership position is well placed, well respected and a natural result of their years and thousands of hours spent.

  6. I have been reading all of the comments in this discussion and decided to add my thoughts. I’ve been a genealogist for over 21 years. While I now engage in genealogical research both for fun and profit, I actually began my family history research as part of a thesis project while studying for an M.F.A. degree in nonfiction writing. I never imagined that I could earn money for genealogy-related work, but I am doing so–as a writer, instructor, and lecturer. At present, I still have a full-time job because like many of the others who have commented, I’m wondering if (and how) I can earn enough to equal or increase my current salary. My husband is self-employed and his income is not predictable from month to month, and another issue is health insurance, which I have through my full-time job. Also, like the others, I feel I have to diversify–I can’t rely solely on writing books or magazine articles, but need to supplement my income with speaking and teaching. I enjoy all three of these “hats” and feel I have been able to strike a good balance. One area I currently do not work in is client research. It’s simply a matter of not having time to do so. Because one of my areas of expertise is very specialized (Slovak/East European research), I get plenty of requests from individuals who want to hire me to research their family history. But, I have opted not take on such projects at this time, nor have I chosen to pursue certification. I don’t rule out the possibility of doing either down the line. However, for now, I’m happy to refer such requests to my colleagues who do offer professional research services

    I have also found that in genealogy more than other interests that there is a perception that things should be free. I think that needs to change. I have no problems with bloggers who want to blog about their own family history for free. I currently do not have any affiliate links on my blog, but I have no problems with those who want to earn money by blogging. I’m a proud member of the genealogy blogging community and learn so much from each and every blog I follow.

    I think there is room for everyone. I’m also a person who embraces risk and change. I’m excited about what is ahead for the field of genealogy, and about all of the potential roles those who share this passion can play in increasing the interest in family history and heritage–especially in the younger generation.

    Thanks to all of those who started this discussion rolling. I look forward to more dialogue.

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