Genealogy Wise

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Advice again please - Are there any 'professional' genealogists?

Hi Guys,

Hope you don't me asking yet another question. I work in an Internet Cafe and teach computer iliterate people how to 'surf' safely and basic computer skills. I've noticed that a lot of these people (usually the older generation) are really interested in their family trees but don't know how to go about researching.

I'm thinking about starting my own little business (in the evenings) helping these people if they have their own computers and internet access. Most of them don't but I could set it up for them if they were really keen.

I just wanted to know what you thought about this. Does anyone here do this sort of thing?

I'm not a professional genealogist but could start these people of on the right track.

Any ideas?


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Hi, Ursula

Very enterprising of you. I'd recommend starting them out with learning how to filter their returns from search engines so they don't get porn or commercial websites, teach them also how to use email and web browser protections and how to remove temporary cookies while surfing (they add up!). Proper and efficient use of search engines is a must for anyone but surely for genealogists as the more general the search terms the more return hits you get and people get frustrated when it comes back with sometimes millions of websites listed. Also branching out using search engine terms, like maybe the name they are searching plus the city, town, region, state, military unit, etc. Show them the difference between free and paid genealogy software and information websites, so they know what to expect and where. For a great example, when possible show them a listing of their parents, grandparents in an online Federal census...that can be an easy eye-opener and get them to see how easy it is to find the information (just reassure them so they don't get scared of it, too!). Demonstrate how to use a genealogy forum to ask questions, offer information, memories, etc. These things, just by themelves, would be very helpful, I think, and get them started on the right track with the right skills. Good luck with it!
I think William is into computers far more than your beginners will be. I think you don't start by worrying a beginner with stuff like filters, cookies, web brower protections, etc. You hope whoever he/she bought his/her computer from installed the protective stuff, or you do it for them, but if what these folks want is to "do genealogy," you'll totally turn them off if you don't tease them with some genealogy stuff FIRST. Where you start to search is going to depend on what is available for free. If you are working in the library, or if your public library has a means of accessing their genealogy database from offsite, then I agree with William that the censuses are a good place to start. If that isn't possible, and you are working in someone's home, I guess you could have him/her sign up for the two-week trial of or start with Maybe show your student Cindy's list. Forums, rootsweb family trees are okay to learn about, but make sure your student knows they should not accept everything there as "gospel" but rather as a jumping off spot to do their own confirming research.
I would not call myself a "professional genealogist" for that type of work. Maybe a "computer genealogy consultant". A "professional genealogist" accesses many types of records to find specific information, much of it non-computerized, such as courthouse documents, etc. They know where to locate obscure and hard-to-find information. Good luck with your ambitious and needed business!
I notice you are in Britain but, typically, there has been an assumption you are based in the US!! Never mind!

My comment would be that, as an exercise in teaching illiterate people to read information, formulate questions and carry out basic research, developing basic interest in history, family relationships etc. genealogy seems a very acceptable route to get them interested/motivated. FreeBMD would be good for births/marriages of parents/grandparents. would be great for the 1881 Census. A forum like at 'Rootschat' would be great for asking questions and getting friendly replies.

On the other hand, if I was paying for a genealogy service like you suggest, I would expect the tutor to have an excellent knowledge of genealogy, genealogical records and genealogical research. As a previous poster says, you need to teach how to understand sources, know whether to trust information, where it comes from and why it was collected (and by whom). Genealogy is fraught with pitfalls for the enthusiastic but unwary! Good luck!!
For a while I ran a similar course here in Canada teaching people how to use the internet to search for their British ancestors. As Sean said if you are wishing to teach people how to use computers for genealogical research you need a good understanding of the sources available, free and paid, how to access them, what dates they cover, what they will tell you, the pitfalls and limits of each source, (such as submitted entries on familysearch and the fact freebmd is not complete). While free sites are good you also need to have a subscription to at least one and preferably 2 or 3 commercial sites so you can show people what sort of information they hold and how to search such sites. You also need to explain how they can obtain bmd certificates from the GRO. Don’t forget many people will also have Scottish and Irish ancestors and you need to be able to tell them how to access those records.
You also need to make it clear what you cover and don't cover - are you just covering British sources or worldwide, I would recommend concentrating on one geographic area you know.
Having said all that it is very rewarding helping people get started. Good Luck

Thanks for all the responses. Great help as usual. I've decided to go for the 'I can help you get started for a moderate fee' approach :-)

I have a broad range of computer knowledge - internet safety, free downloads such as Avg, firewall protection etc- I'm not an expert by any means but I think I could be helpful to novice's.

No, I don't intend to blind them with least not to start with but can get them 'up and running'.

I am a single parent with two children and although I work full-time as an Internet Cafe Manager I'm on minimum wage (I work for a non profit making charity), so money is always tight. I'm not going to charge these computer beginners anything for software which can be downloaded for free. If I can get open source software I will.

I would explain to them that I'm not a professional and will help out in any way possible. I won't charge per hour, I would simply negotiate a fee. If I weren't happy with my research results, I would charge accordingly. If I were really unhappy with my results I wouldn't probably charge anything anyway.

I would like to start of small and learn from the experience (I should imagine researching your own tree is a completely different learning curve than researching a strangers tree) and grow from that.

I'm not out to make loads of money - some would be nice of course - and I'm not our to fleece novice computer users either - just thought it would be nice to help someone on their way on the genealogy tree for a very minimal fee (whiich would also help me and the kids out) that's all.

Thanks for all the great responses. I do appreciate your time and expertise.....


I am also from the UK and have been involved in genealogy and using computers for some 20+ years (yes, I'm an oldie!) and would certainly not consider myself a professional - even over here there are recommended courses and diplomas for those who wish to follow that route, although they are not mandatory.

The starting point for anyone are their own memories and information held by relatives and one needs to work back from there. Information on birth marriages and deaths up to the last few years can be obtained from paid sites such as or etc. but you really need to get back to the 1911 census before you can get anywhere. You have to pay for access to all censuses except for 1881. Vouchers can be bought for £5 - £6.

See my own site: for resources available.

Good luck
Hi Ron,

Thanks for the advice and your own site has given me a few ideas for a simple blog that I have. Thanks for sharing that.

I do have quite a good knowledge of genealogical resources. I've have been researching for about 12 years or so now. Not claiming that I know everything of course, especially todays with the ever changing internet sites and resources.

I am a subscribed member to Ancestry and CuriousFox to name but a few. I also use BMD and LDS etc etc ususally for cross referencing.

I think I'll start of slow and explain to any potential customers that I would charge them fairly.

I set-up my Aunty on her genealogical road, from ordering and installing FTM and teaching her how to using it, to bookmarking sites such as BMD, Freecen, LDS, etc etc. She is now competant of researching for herself and loves it! I had to go round a few times to 'fix' her computer or printer etc etc but I didn't mind, just seeing her so excited was reward enough. Not bad as she'd NEVER used a computer before!

Thanks for all the advice, it's been very helpful and has given me a few ideas.

Sorry Ursula, I don't know from where I got the idea that you were new to genealogy. Having looked back at the thread I can only suppose it was a feeling I picked up through the other correspondence, or more likely my head was in the clouds :-)
Hi Ron,

No worries :-) maybe I didn't explain myself properly. I do have a good insight into genealogy but compared to some I'm still an amateur! All the DNA sites leaves me shaking my head in wonder!

Thanks for sharing your site, it's has really given me some good ideas...

Go to the APG
Ursula: I attend two groups in Illinois, the Schaumburg Library sponsors one group, some sites are free through the library, Another group meets in the library the third Saturaday of the month. Each group has speakers which are very helpful.
I suggest a new person start with the census and follow-up with LDS films to prove the census information. I have just ordered my 4th film from the LDS family history room. Thanks, Bruce, Seaweedman



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