Reflections on being a commercial genealogist

P1000338Officially I qualified as a genealogist last summer but had carried out some research for friends and family prior to that in addition to my own research that dates back to 2000. Over time I have found a mother of an illegitimate daughter, an habitual poacher, an aristocrat, a cinema pioneer and a family who were early immigrants to USA amongst 100s of others.

Now seems as good a time as any to reflect on some of the lessons learnt that might be of interest to my readers.

Sometimes people just cannot be found – this can be because the records have been lost or destroyed, they didn’t exist in the first place or ancestors deliberately muddied the trail as they did not want to be found. In this business nothing is guaranteed!

Sometimes our roots are just plain boring – with the vast majority of us being descended from ag labs (agricultural labourers) those exciting discoveries often just don’t exist.

On the other hand, our ancestors were ‘naughty’ to varying degrees – illegitimacy, bigamy, desertion, theft, prostitution often occur and I am often surprised at people’s reaction. Some love the idea that their elders and (supposedly) betters were not perfect while others are horrified and totally wracked with shame. At the ‘reveal’ of the research I have done this always has to be handled sensitively.

An ‘instant’ and free or cheap family tree just doesn’t exist – thanks to programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? there is a misconception that 10 minutes online and a quick visit to the local registry will result in the creation of your tree. It takes time, patience, expertise and detective work to know where to look and ….money even if you do all the legwork yourself.

The rewards can render people speechless – to end on a high note, I have seen clients reduced to tears with gratitude and had their lives transformed by knowing where they came from and family mysteries solved. Being a genealogist is hugely rewarding whether it is just creating the beginnings of a tree with a research plan to let people discover their own roots or creating an in-depth book as a family keepsake.

Anyone looking for a genealogy gift or help with research, check out my website at


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