You are here

Money Changes Everything – Or Does It?


[Editor’s Note: this is the fifth and final post in a week-long series of posts at GeneaBloggers entitled Genea-Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money).]

Money. Moohla. Filthy lucre. Bread. Dough. Change.

Money was one of the “big three” topics that you just didn’t talk about, at least that’s how I was brought up. The other two, politics and religion, I was admonished to not talk about with anyone but family.  But money – well, it seems you couldn’t even talk about that with family.

For the most part, I save talk of politics and religion for my personal genealogy blog and I rarely discuss it.  I think some folks would be kind of surprised if I did talk about those topics. Like how I attended a seminary for almost a year.  Seriously.

What I Found

Out of this week’s conversation which seems to have rippled across not just the genealogy blogosphere but over to Facebook, Twitter and other social media, here are my observations:

  • Not everyone followed the conversation and in fact several folks sent me some very pointed and not-so-polite emails. That comes with the territory and sometimes you just need to let these things roll off your back. Such vitriol is not a reflection on me but on them and their behavior.
  • I’m still just realizing – believe it or not – the impact that my voice can have here at GeneaBloggers.  Often I see myself as a very small voice in the community believe it or not. I’m just Thomas. I need to choose my words carefully so as not to muddy waters, confuse or hurt.  I seek clarity at all times and I hope you’ll be patient with me.
  • Speaking of words – I’ve come to realize that as a genealogy community we need to work on our terminology and vocabulary.  Perhaps things are moving so fast that some of the terms we use – like “hobby genealogist” or “amateur genealogist” – are not adequate and can’t keep up with changes in the industry. Many terms come across with a negative connotation, such as “for-profit genealogy conference.” I think a future post on terminology here at GeneaBloggers with input from the community would help determine an accurate vocabulary.
  • Despite my best efforts, several groups feel as if I portrayed them negatively or vilified them.  If so, that was not my intent.  As I said in Us vs. Them earlier this week, I think we as a community are still working on “perceptions” of what constitutes genealogy and family history, who is a vendor or is the better word “provider,” what or who is a professional genealogist, etc. As someone who was made to feel “small” most of my childhood, I ask that you never, ever let anyone make you feel small.  Don’t give anyone that power.  Ever.
  • Perhaps I’ve been too honest and too transparent. Someone suggested I snag the domain name for The Naked Genealogist.  Still available from what I can see. But I think this is something that had to be done so folks understand the realities of trying to make a living in the genealogy industry.
  • And I didn’t even touch upon the darker side of what it takes to try and make it in this business. How about the lack of health insurance? How about the stress and strain on family relations as your spouse and/or children help to support your crazy dream? Much credit has to be given to those that support us and prop us up. I know I wouldn’t be here without my support system.
  • Finally, 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.

Where Do We Go From Here?

So what’s next? Well, here is what I have planned for the future, both immediate and long-range:

  • I’d like to create a “pro” site or sub-site of GeneaBloggers where professional genealogists and those transitioning can exchange ideas, post forms and templates, and just converse in a safe place with like minded folks.  Is this fracturing the genealogy community or the genealogy blogging community? I don’t think so. I do want GeneaBloggers to keep its focus on genealogy blogging for everyone.  If folks want to participate in a “pro” discussion they will need to agree to some ground rules and access the site – for free – with a login and password.
  • I really like these week-long series and I think there is even a way to extend the conversation perhaps with a tie in to GeneaBloggers Radio or other outlets. I’d like to host a discussion about genealogy conferences next week here at GeneaBloggers since we are coming up on the summer conference season. We’ll discuss everything from being an exhibitor, to being a conference planner, to what happens at a conference and how to prepare for a genealogy conference.  I hope you’ll join me.


But I seem to have broken some barriers and some taboos here at GeneaBloggers this week with my talk of money and genealogy and trying to earn a living in the genealogy industry. Whether this is a good thing or not, time will tell.

But I’d much rather have conversation and dialog than to not talk. I learned this, unfortunately, a little too late in life and now I seem to be making up for lost time. Too many times I did not speak up and I can tell you that if I have any regrets in life, that would be the major one – remaining silent.

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

29 thoughts on “Money Changes Everything – Or Does It?

  1. Thomas,
    I must say that I was hesitant to say anything when all this talk first started.
    I finally came around and probably still didn’t have anything relevant to say but at least I tried.
    Thanks for taking the time to try to “guide” us.
    I’m sorry for any negativity you may have experienced this week. I am still of the opinion that, for the most part, the geneablogging community is a great community to belong to.
    One last thing, if you do snatch that URL, please keep it clean! 🙂 LOL
    Thanks for all you do!

  2. I enjoyed the series this week and took no offense at anything you wrote. I found it thought provoking. Thanks for all you do for us genealogy/family history bloggers. I appreciate it.

  3. Personally I thought it was a good discussion. I am trying to figure out what I can do to make money while I don’t have a job and being able to talk about the relevant issues in a frank manner was extremely useful to me.

  4. Thank you for starting this conversation. It needed to be explored.

    I would love to see a “pro” sub-site at Geneabloggers, or at the very least a dedicated spot where the “Business of Genealogy” discussion can continue. This is my vote for that to happen.

  5. As a former HR professional, I know that the surest way to keep people from making lots of money is to keep them from talking about how much they earn. Nobody wants to give specifics…but we all benefit when somebody has the nerve to do so.

    It will be interesting to see what the long-term impact of this conversation is.

  6. Thomas – thank you for this week of thoughtful reflection on the “making money from genealogy” theme.

    Not many would have the courage to bring this topic forth. I applaud Marian and the others who prompted this discussion and you for giving us a transparent overview of your experience.

    It provides insight for those of us who are passionate genealogists but don’t necessarily want to make a living at this. We “Genea-Bodies cheerleaders” will help others who do as it benefits the genealogy world as a whole.

  7. Thanks, again, Thomas. Good series.
    P.S. I like Amy’s suggestion of “The Business of Genealogy” – it would include both full-time career and part-timers, who might like to be full-time sometime… what does it take, what are the options, what are the pitfalls…. Where are the legitimate and proper money-making opportunities? 😉

  8. Yes! to continued dialogue.
    Yes! to the idea of a “pro” site or sub-site of GeneaBloggers.
    Thank you, Thomas, for providing a platform for discussion of this very important topic.

  9. I’ve been following your series all week and believe that it has been a good one. I see nothing wrong with trying to make a living by doing something you love, whether it started out as an intended career or evolved from a hobby. I think your series opened a much needed discussion on the topic, and thank you for doing so.

  10. I loved this series and look forward to others you come up with. I am particularly interested in the pro aspect to GeneaBloggers. As a transitioning genealogist, I look forward to the conversations that could occur. Please let me know if I can help in any way.

  11. Thank you, Thomas, for this discussion and for having the courage to talk about your experiences.

    I am also for the “pro” site or subsite. I very much want to participate in the discussions.

  12. Forgot to say that I would be interested in participating in ‘Business of Genealogy’ discussions. I am considering submitting the blog post at (after a bit of editing) to journal editors of at least one genealogical society to which I belong. What do you think? Would it be helpful, too controversial…?

  13. Even though at this point in my life, I don’t intend to be anything but a ‘hobbyist’ family history buff, nothing you said was offensive to me.

    I appreciate your honest comments and transparency and those of everyone who joined in. It’s refreshing.

  14. Thank you Thomas for a thoughtful and revealing series. Your honesty and generosity is much appreciated, as are some of your comments about no longer keeping quiet, which particularly resonated with me, having had a similar childhood.

  15. I give you a standing ovation for your boldness and honesty in your thoughts on the subject you have written on this week. I don’t believe anyone else could have said it any better and these issues needed to be addressed. I would be highly interested in your “pro” site that you mentioned. I have never done this per say as a job or career but I am highly interested in doing so. Pulls out a pen and notepad and begins to write you a book on my thoughts. Wow! I am looking at a mirror image of your thoughts! Trashes the notes and awaits with pen in hand to learn even more from you!!! Keep up the great work!!! Bravo!

  16. Great job on this series. I think it’s important to provide a separate location for the business-minded among us (not me, I’m a hobbyist–say it loud, say it proud!). It’s what I’d want if I were in that category.

    My observation is that there IS an Us and a Them. It’s healthy for the industry to recognize different segments. It just shouldn’t be “versus” each other. Us + Them can equal We. (Unfortunately some people will always try to raise themselves by lowering others. I just pity those people and try to ignore them when they get nasty.)

  17. I supplement my retirement by tutoring high school students in math. In the beginning, I worried about pricing–you don’t want to charge too much so parents can’t afford you, but not so little that you can’t make a little money after gas. And, of course, as a lifetime teacher I know you always meet folks who think “dedication” and “love of the subject” and “desire to help others” should be enough. Then I read an article in our local newspaper about a middle school student making $45 and hour teaching folks how to master a video game, and how he had a waiting list of students.

    I’m over it.

    Great series!

  18. This is a great series. As a genealogist thinking of becoming a for-profit professional, it’s given me a lot to think about. I would be very interested in a “pro” site.

  19. Thomas, I thank you for this weeks series. When I started genealogy, seriously about 1990, the general thinking was that genealogist shared EVERYTHING, FREE. Money just was not a topic.

    I am glad it has changed. I am not a professional. I have tried to help many friends to get started, which usually ended up me doing the work until I had to finally had to stop so I could get back to my own research. A few have offered me money, but I always said no, please just ‘pass it on’, which of course they wanted their family history but were not really interested in ‘working’ on it any further than I took it, so they would never be ‘passing it on’. ~laughs~

    I would usually burn myself out for awhile after researching other families and my own research would suffer. I still probably will not charge, but I am very interested in your new “pro” group. I think it would be great to learn what it takes to be a professional and read what the professionals have done to get to where they are. I think non professionals could learn to appreciate them more.

    I have learned so much from you and so many other Geneabloggers this past two months. This is an amazing group and I really agree it should not be a they vs us group. For a good group, we need diversity. I still like FREE, but really, how many ‘professionals’ actually share for FREE so much of their time and talents, All of them from what I can see here. I respect that they can make money from their love of genealogy, and I envy them! ~smiles~

    Thanks Thomas, for taking ‘money’ out of the closet!! I apologize for the long post, got carried away . . .

  20. Thanks so much for this series. I really liked the idea of covering an issue in depth and from many angles (you are, in my mind, the Genealogy Newshour (I like to watch the PBS Newshour for the same reasons). More in-depth and serious discussion of topics that are important and need to be discussed and no screaming talking heads. My only problem was the daily topics were so cogent and responses so interesting that I felt the need to respond in kind. Keep it up and I look forward to a business or pro aspect – count me in.

  21. Thanks, Thomas, for your articles this week. I too would be interested in the Pro site. From the looks of all the comments I’ve read, we’re with you!

  22. Hi Thomas,

    I finally finished your week long posts.
    You have nailed it; the world of genealogy.

    Many of us, now, have a reference and a guide to help in figuring out what we specifically need to do to move our genealogy businesses forward.

    Peace & Blessings,
    “Guided by the Ancestors”

  23. Thomas,
    This was such a wonderful series of posts. We need more discussion about the topic of making money in this industry and the perceptions that are out there so that we can have a healthy industry–which is good for everyone. Have I missed the coming series about conferences and the pro group? Or are they still coming?
    You’re awesome Thomas.

Comments are closed.