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Money Changes Everything – Or Does It? A 2012 Update


[Editor’s Note: this is the fifth and final post in a week-long series of posts at GeneaBloggers entitled Genea-Opportunities – 2012 Update.]

What I Discovered During The 2012 Update

Out of this week’s conversation which started here at this blog and carried over to Facebook, Twitter and other social media, here is what I’ve observed:

  • When I first ran this series of posts in April 2011, I received some downright nasty emails.  I remember one in particular and actually it is one that I keep printed and posted on my office wall: the person said that I was “ruining genealogy” and that I was “the Rupert Murdoch of genealogy” with all my crazy talk and my new ideas.  However, 15 months later, there was quite a bit of engagement with others in the genealogy community and lots of great input. My belief is that people understand that my main goal is to advance the genealogy industry and one way of doing so is to not just analyze what is going on, but tap into the community and solicit their input.
  • For each individual post, I made sure to post it in an email to the Transitional Genealogists Forum and the APG mailing lists.  I realize that many of the participants may not be active blog readers and I wanted to make sure they had an opportunity for input.
  • I greatly appreciate all the other bloggers who posted replies to my posts and offered their own perspective.  Especially Michael Hait of Planting the Seeds, Caroline Pointer of, and Randy Seaver of GeneaMusings who also provided their own series of posts.
  • Based on the comments, posts and feedback, I’ve determined that the genealogy industry still is in a working mode on defining itself and its components.  Last year’s heated discussions have transpired and transformed into a more collaborative working of offering ideas and suggestions.  One I like in particular is Michael Hait’s suggestion that a person who focuses more on non-research work within the genealogy industry could be called a “genealogy professional” instead of a “professional genealogist.”
  • Once again I’ve tried to be very transparent about what I do for a living in the genealogy industry and how I do it.  What was downright “scandalous” last year now is being treated as valuable information to be studied especially by those entering the genealogy industry. And as I’ve said, I don’t expect anyone else in the business to be as transparent – it is just something I am comfortable with.
  • And finally, once again I couldn’t have done this without you the reader.  Please know that I greatly appreciate every comment, every email, and every bit of feedback. There are days when that is what keeps me going. You are the best.


Money makes the world go round and I’ve come to the conclusion that in order to keep genealogy attractive to the general public and especially to newcomers, the money-making side of the genealogy industry must continue to grow and expand.

That growth comes not just from new ideas and new products, but also by honest discussions among the genealogy community about:

  • How we see ourselves as well as how we are perceived by the public as genealogists.
  • How open we are to new ideas and to change, especially when it comes to technology and marketing.
  • How to develop new products that do more than just “sparkle” and attract the “bright and shiny object” crowd to our field, only to see them exit out of that revolving door in short order.
  • How to not just attract new consumers but how to set them on the path of sound genealogy research and full enjoyment of all that genealogy has to offer.
  • How the genealogy industry will look in 5, 10, 15 years from now and beyond.

©2012, copyright Thomas MacEntee

6 thoughts on “Money Changes Everything – Or Does It? A 2012 Update

  1. Thomas, “How we see ourselves as well as how we are perceived by the public as genealogists,” hit on a very important issue. One part of that has been the age-old discussion of what the term professional genealogist means.

    Some in the field insist the term professional genealogist applies to anyone who strives for and achieves professional standards and quality in their work. Others in the field go with the more traditional definition that a professional is someone who works, not as a hobbyist, but rather as someone engaged in making a living from the field.

    IRS certainly is one agency that clearly defines professionals, especially for hobbtists who are trying to write off expenses. 😉 Ask just about “anyone on the street” and I bet you’d find few folks, if any, who believe a professional genealogist is the first example and a huge majority, if not all, who would consider a professional genealogist to be the latter example.

    Nothing will ever stop just anyone from calling themselves a professional genealogist. But our profession sometimes appears to have its head in a cloud that the term professional has a different meaning in our world than it does in other professions. Folks can pretty well define a professional golfer, professional football player, professional dog walker, professional mechanic. But the mere attempt to discuss the issue in our profession causes a firestorm. One thing that might improve our perception by the public would be defining our profession and its specialties.

  2. I’ve been away this week and did not participate in the discussion. However, I do want to express my appreciation for your contributions and your transparency in those contributions. You leading these discussions is very valuable. I’ve also had a chance to read Michael Hait’s comments which I also find extremely useful. Thank you, again, for continuing these important discussions, for the benefit of the entire genealogical community. 😉

  3. Thanks for leading the way again this year, giving everyone plenty of food for thought. Baby steps but we’ll get there.

  4. Ugh! What a terrible time to have been off the grid for a week. I missed this invaluable conversation. Thank you, Thomas, for this amazing series of posts. I am currently transitioning. Determining what I ‘need’ to do versus what I most ‘like’ to do has been slowing me down. Your posts on income vs expense and value perceptions were particularly enlightening.

    To Dee Dee’s point, I spent an inordinate amount of time deciding whether to put ‘professional genealogist’ on my business card. I have been doing serious genealogy for myself and helping others free for years. I am now hanging out my shingle. However, I’m not yet making money and I’m not certified by any accreditation organization. I believe I am doing professional quality work but that I haven’t yet earned the right to call myself that. I simply put ‘genealogist’ on my card for now. There are too many people in this industry I respect to claim myself in their league. I hope to get there, but I know I’m not there yet.

  5. Great series. Glad it has sparked a lot of thoughtful interaction.

    I did however spit my coffee out when I read the Rupert Murdock reference from last year.

    The question of who or what constitutes a professional is old for me, partly because I am old 🙂

    Also because I have worked in many emerging fields.

    In the decade I spent working with lawyers and accountants as a software developer, I was told that there were only three “professions,” theirs and that of doctors. Yet they would make jokes about the “oldest profession.”

    Words are elastic.

    But every time a journalist says or writes “primary sources,” it is like nails on a blackboard for me.

    I have learned analysis techniques from the methods and standards developed by the genealogy community that I have not found as standards in many other fields and “professions.”

    Let’s talk about value, the value of genealogy to other fields. That is where I think the growth will come.


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