Marketing Your Genealogical Services (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started, Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skillbuilding, Methodology - Part 3: More Strategies, Methodology - Part 4: Effective Searching and Recording, Methodology - Part 5: How To Prove It, and Methodology - Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice  by Louise St Denis, Brenda Dougall Merriman and Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Marketing Your Services

Let’s divide this into two sections: Free and Paid. Here are some general ideas to get you started. The opportunity to market yourself is only limited by the extent of your imagination.


  • Volunteer Work
    Over and over again, we emphasize that volunteer work is not only much appreciated, but serves to strengthen your abilities and bring your name to a wider public. Nowadays you can even perform volunteer work from a distance via the Internet and email. Genealogical and historical societies, museums and libraries are obvious targets.
  • Repository Staff
    Introduce yourself to repository staff so they will know you by sight and by name. If you want to learn from them about their resources, prepare yourself with intelligent and concise questions.
  • Researcher Lists
    Many resource centres will have a compiled list of researchers for hire. Find out if they have certain requirements for inclusion on a list. Some will add anyone’s name, and some may require references or credentials. Most will have a disclaimer that they are not responsible for the quality of individual work.
  • Client and Colleague Referral
    Think about asking clients to refer you to friends and associates, if they are happy with your work. You can also develop networking with colleagues when your chosen fields complement each other.
  • Internet Communications
    Try joining Internet Mailing Lists, Message Boards and Chat Forums that include the area or subjects of your research interest. Answering questions from “newbies” is a way to make your name known. Of course you must be careful to offer accurate advice and cite your sources! Thousands of Mailing Lists can be reached through the RootsWeb website. Volunteering on the GenWeb can also be rewarding. Alternatively, joining genealogy specific social media sites, such as GenealogyWise, is another way of connecting to others with your research interest.
  • Press Releases, Interviews
    Starting up your business is an occasion for publicity; the trick in having a press release actually published is highly dependent on where you send it. Think about where your potential market is, and research the appropriate publications. If you can get enough attention, you may be asked for an interview for print or radio or TV media. Or you can contact them that you’re available for an interview about genealogy in general!
  • Publish
    Writing articles about research problems is one way to get your name before the genealogy public. Writing articles about genealogy in general for non-genealogy magazines is a way to get your name out to the general public. Another way to get attention is to transcribe or index original records as small publications of your own.
  • Local Distribution
    Chambers of Commerce and Tourist Bureaus get requests for local genealogists, so send a supply of brochures to the one(s) of relevance to your work.

  • Cards, Brochures
    Business cards are still a standard item for introducing yourself, or as reminders to clients, colleagues and other professionals. Paper brochures can be even more eye-catching. Obviously they will contain details of your resume—qualifications, experience, memberships, services offered and so on.
  • Memberships
    You can’t network if you don’t join anything, or know who your colleagues and peers are. It should be clear by now that networking can be a learning experience, as well as a business benefit. Subscriptions to scholarly journals, commercial magazines and Internet “e-zines” assist your learning curve and keep you current.
  • Business Community
    You are a business person. Consider joining a business-oriented local group. Whether it’s based on socializing, self-improvement or charity work, it’s another opportunity for both you and your type of business to become known.
  • Advertising
    This is another obvious avenue: ads in magazines, journals, newspapers. With limited financial resources, it takes thought to choose where your ad will do you the most good. In local newspapers? In genealogy publications or other readerships? Again, where is the market you want?
  • Website
    Here is a way to promote yourself in a creative fashion, although you will still need to promote references to your site (such as on a business card, and links from other sites). As with brochures, the design and content is all yours. You not only want to feature your own experience and services, your site must foremost be appealing and informative enough to attract anyone who is not yet committed to family history. Unless you are technically proficient, you may have to hire someone for all or part of the work. An option for having your name appear on an Internet search engine, is to have your name and personal information viewable on a collective website, such as an online membership directory, or online lists of researchers.
  • Displays
    Setting up a table or exhibit for your services should not be restricted to genealogy conferences. You can investigate local historical functions and other types of conventions or trade fairs where potential clients may be. Chatting with passers-by can be rewarding, especially if you have books to sell or other products. The cost of it has to be weighed against possible income that might result. Tablecloths, banners, and display racks are useful; your cards or brochures are essential. Other suggestions for display items, depending on your specialties, could be general information about the profession, a background of the geographical area you work with, a description of a resource centre you work in, outlines of lectures or courses you offer, and so on. Some might go so far as to prepare press kits as handouts.

The APG Quarterly (a membership benefit of the Association of Professional Genealogists) often features articles about marketing and promotion.

Last Words

Without extensive experience or a specific specialty, the usual practice is to begin as a localized record agent or record searcher. In other words, it’s a solid foundation for novices who are strengthening their usage of basic sources and learning all the ins and outs of less-familiar sources, as they are encountered. As you become familiar and comfortable with all of them, you should find that you are learning to evaluate and analyze, taking on more extensive or complex cases. The initial hourly rate you set may then be increased accordingly.

The fact remains that years of experience do not guarantee being a good researcher! Observing standards of information-gathering, evaluation of that information and analysis of evidence for each step of a research project—reported to your client, and undoubtedly later circulated through the genealogy world in one form or another—are still the lasting measurement of professionalism.

Personal time management is critical, the busier you get. Take “stock” of your business routines from time to time. Although you no doubt have a pleasing level of job satisfaction, it’s important to analyze what you are doing, how you do it, how much time it takes and how you might do it more efficiently. For example:

  • Do you repeat some procedures over and over again? What can you do to accomplish them in less time?
  • Are you constantly searching your office for something, or losing bits of paper? It’s time to take a hard look at your filing methods.
  • Are you spending a lot of time at your desk but not making a lot of money? Examine your priorities regularly, perhaps revise your business plan; consider additional options for income.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started, Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skillbuilding, Methodology - Part 3: More Strategies, Methodology - Part 4: Effective Searching and Recording, Methodology - Part 5: How To Prove It, and Methodology - Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.