Our genea-blogging community has an amazing range and combination of people from all demographic groups (even young people, thank God!), all walks of life, many different countries and just about every state of the United States, and, what is quite impressive and interesting, all parts of the professional-to-amateur spectrum as well as genealogy newbies and old hands that have been doing genealogy for 50 years.
As the genealogy blogging community has gelled, developed, and assumed an increasingly recognizable and well-defined identity, it has been joined by an increasing number of professionals, and, if I am not mistaken, the proportion of “semi-pros” (extensive background in research, solid skills, but not yet certified and/or only engaged in research for pay on a part-time basis) has always been fairly high. Add a good share of keenly interested and often very experienced amateurs to this mix, and the result is an eclectic group that in the aggregate covers almost every possible genealogy-related subject and possesses a huge fund of erudition and skills.
I note with interest that many of the “amateurs” are interested in pursuing some of the formal tracks of study such as ProGen study groups and genealogy institutes with the goal of eventually becoming professionals, and that many “semi-pros” are working toward certification. I haven’t really noticed any significant friction among the groups, although occasionally there does seem to be some concern about non-professionals feeling left out of discussions of topics of interest primarily to professionals such as certification and building a genealogy research business.
When I read posts or discussions on these subjects, I never feel left out or that I am being condescended to by the pros or the semis. But I have no intention of ever joining their ranks.
Don’t get me wrong: when I say that I want to remain an amateur, I certainly do not mean that I’m happy with just “amateurish” skills; like many other keen amateurs in our midst, I would definitely love to achieve professional-level skills and am doing whatever I can to learn as much as I can.
But, for a number of reasons, I have no desire to make a living at, or even earn money from, genealogy research. And while I love to help my fellow researchers - through translations, lookups, etc. - even if I could afford to, I do not want to be a full-time genealogy volunteer.
In no particular order, here are my reasons:
1. I already have a profession/vocation. I am good at it. I earn a living from it. I don’t want to give it up.
2. I like security. Some professional genealogists are able to earn a decent living, but getting to that point obviously takes a huge amount of sustained effort - in acquiring the skills, getting the certification, getting the experience, and getting the word out. Then comes the part where the professional must decide what kind of a professional/paying job or combination of jobs to pursue: his or her own business (and what areas that would cover), employee of one of a handful of genealogy-related companies or publications, archivist/librarian, educator/speaker, writer/editor/publisher, and so on. While any of these individually or in combination can be quite enjoyable and even somewhat remunerative, none of them really offers significant security. When the economy is poor, there is less money available to hire a professional researcher or pay for a genealogy class, and we all know that archives and libraries are some of the first items to go on the chopping block when budgets are cut.
3. I enjoy travel - but not all of the time. A professional genealogist does not necessarily have to do a lot of travel, but for many it seems to be a regular part of their job. I am a bit of a homebody and after a certain point, the hassles of constant travel would get to me.
4. I am not the greatest at marketing myself and would not be terribly skilled at or enthusiastic about the commercial/advertising aspects of being a professional genealogist.
5. I’m not sure I would be so good at handling poorly informed clients. “I want you to prove that I am related to Conrad Plinkelpoint.” “I can do the research that may prove you are or are not related to him.” “I want you to show that I am related to him.” “Can’t do.” You all know where this leads.
6. This one is something Sheri Fenley of The Educated Genealogist and others have addressed: When your client has contracted to pay for a certain number of hours and the research you have done has filled that number of hours, but you know that there is somewhere else you could search. In other words, the temptation to do extra work for no compensation - not a good business practice. In short, I am a good worker, but not a good businessman.
7. I want genealogy to be fun. That means no pressure. That means not having to put my own research on the back burner while I do research for clients. That means being able to keep my own work days to a manageable length (okay, workdays often get out of hand in my current job, but that’s another discussion) and to be a flibbertigibbet when I feel like it. When I discovered genealogy back in 2005, it met several real needs, mainly the need to learn about my family’s history and to do something that is incredibly enjoyable but enriching and educational at the same time. I was working very hard at my day job and at my rest-of-the-time job as a wife and mother, and genealogy sort of saved my sanity (no comments from the peanut gallery!).
It is still saving my sanity, and that’s what I want it to continue to do.