google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The <del>Religion</del> Business of Genealogy | The Armchair Genealogist

The Religion Business of Genealogy

It started out innocently enough, genealogy that is and our interest in it. We all have our own story of how we came to discover it. We played around in it for many years, learned a boatload of information. Some of us went on to grab a certificate, while others  found some paid gigs, some started blogs and shared their information and services. Then we found God. We created this little club, religion, call it what you will and considered ourselves somehow holier than the rest.

Others came after us, said "you are all welcome to the party anyone can do it." We said in our divine voice “not true.”

We cannot be hypocrites. We all started out with little knowledge of genealogy, we all have had our share of genealogy blunders.  We have all tripped along, learning the way.  Who among us has not sinned?

We do need to tell our story differently. In my opinion, this private club status has to go. We need to redefine our business models, and we need to throw the doors wide open to the church of genealogy and welcome all followers.  Do not hold on to an outdated ideology that there is only one kind of genealogist.

Some believe, more followers means less work for all. Some conjure; if others can discover their ancestors without our help, we will become obsolete. However, I believe followers are good, the more the merrier. If you are good at what you do, offer value and are current and changing with the environment, you will not only survive but you will thrive.

I do not perceive as a competitor. They are not some supreme deity. They have done us a lovely service; they have rallied millions of people to find genealogy. That has been a good thing for us. The many that flock to Ancestry want our services as well, they read our blogs, buy our books, and hire our services when their own knowledge can take them no further.

To the person who completed his family history in four months, bravo!  Any good businessperson knows there are those who will come in get what he or she wants and get out. Clearly, this person got the answers he wanted. Who are we to judge? Sure, there are others, that will stick around for 20 years or more, does that sound anymore sane. It takes all shapes and sizes, and all should be welcome.

Genealogy is a business.

Just as it takes all kinds of clients to make up a business, it also takes all kinds of businesses to service a market.  There are those who shop at Tiffany’s and there are those that shop at Wal-mart and everywhere in between.  It is about meeting the market demand.  We can’t demand that they all be Tiffany shoppers.  Therefore, since they can’t all be Tiffany shoppers, we have to embrace those who service the Wal-Mart shopper as well. There is a need for both.

If we want to open up the market, then we have to get off our high horses, we have to remember the days when we were just learning and embrace those who want to do the same.

I get standards and certification and all of that, but the average guy or gal probably doesn’t care, what they care about is if you found my family. What is my Great-Grandfather’s story? Can you help me on the most basic level?

I can equate it this way, when my dishwasher breaks down, and the technician comes in and begins reciting to me what is wrong with the dishwasher, my eyes gloss over and I’m gone. What I really want to know, can you fix it and how much will it cost me. My choice on who fixes my dishwasher will be a combination of his credentials, how much I can afford and his professionalism and or personality and his compassion for my situation. I don’t think choosing a genealogist wavers too far from this.  If I understood how my dishwasher worked, if I had all the answers, I could fix it myself; I wouldn’t need the technician and his $80.00 an hour bill.

If I had all my genealogy questions answered, if I knew all the available resources, if I had unlimited time and money I would do it myself.  However, the majority of us can’t or won’t’. Therefore, I will need a blog, a how to book or a genealogist for hire to show me the way.

The face of genealogy is changing; it has been for some time. We have to change our business models with it. The publishing industry is an excellent comparison. As we move to ebooks, the traditional publishing houses have been losing clients; some of their New York Time best-selling authors are jumping ship and self-publishing. Why?... because the traditional publishing houses are refusing to change, they want authors to continue to worship at their feet. Guess what ... they won't. They have been to slow to redefine their businesses, they are being left behind. Genealogists take a lesson here.

Genealogy is not a religion, with a bible full of hard and fast rules. It is a business, and all business is constantly changing. 

To answer both Mel and Marian,

Is genealogy changing, absolutely, is the business of being a genealogist changing, absolutely, the question is; are genealogists up to the change?  


Dana said...

Wonderful comments and a lot more for me to chew on - thank you!

Jasia said...


Kathy Reed said...

Well-written, comprehensive post. Very thought-provoking -- and so true!

CMPointer said...

Amen & Hallelujah [with hands held up high in the air]!!!!

Lynn, you are SO SPOT ON with this. I mean, seriously. Have you been in my head this week? LOL.

Also? 'Tis not a good business plan to make fun of your potential clientele base. Can I get an "Amen!"? If I hear one more comment making fun of people for their ignorance [which is quite bliss] that is mistaken as intended stupidity, I'm gonna scream.

On second thought, go ahead and make fun of them. I'll be glad to teach them quite anything they want to know about something I am so very passionate about ~ Family Stories.

Thanks Lynn!

Lynn Palermo said...

Thanks Caroline, Kathy, Jasia and Dana for your positive feedback. It's nice to know I am not alone in my thoughts on this subject.

Joseph Loerzel said...

Very well stated. I have been a member of for 4 years now and plan to stay with them for awhile. I enyoy researching and sites like them are very useful.

Lauren H Richardson said...

Well said Lynn.

Chris Paton said...

Amen also - been saying it for a while but thought I was being blasphemous! lol :)

A straightjacket is not a useful garment for the modern genealogist to wear...

Catherine Pendleton said...

Very well said! I'm not a professional genealogist and sometimes wonder if the "cool kids" will let me join them.

I think there would still be a market for the professional genealogist. Not everyone likes doing research even if the information is available on websites like (I've been a member for a few years), but they still want to know about their family history.

Along the lines of your dishwasher repair example, even if I knew how to repair my dishwasher, I would ask myself is it worth my time to fix it myself or should I hire someone so I can move on to something else.

Lynn Palermo said...

@Chris,thanks for the support,I was a little fearful this post might be construed as blaspheme,there is safety in numbers.

@Catherine, I consider myself a very proficient genealogist, however, I still hired a professional to do the dirty work for my Polish ancestors. Like I eluded to, clients come in all shapes and sizes.

Lynn Palermo said...

Thanks Lauren and Joseph I appreciate your support.

Anonymous said...

That was a weird analogy and not-so-subtle slam of the Bible. You could just as well have used the gracious teaching found in there as a model for what we should do as genealogists, like helping your brother and putting family before money.

Lynn Palermo said...

@Anonymous,usually I don't respond to anonymous remarks. However,I want to be clear,this was not a slam on the bible, but yes an analogy of how some may think genealogy is or should be conducted like a religion, when in fact it is a business. One of the points I believe I made was that there is room for all kinds of genealogists, including those who wish to give their services away out of the goodness of their heart.

no-free-lunches said...

Is genealogy changing? Absolutely! Is the business of being a genealogist changing? Absolutely, again. The question is, are genealogists up to the change? You bet, some of us are!