By John Boeren, Student
The first thing I did when I decided to become a professional genealogist, was to register for a membership of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG). Quickly, I found out that (ongoing) education and certification are extremely important to the (international) professional genealogy business.
It worried me at first: would I be able to get some kind of degree in genealogy? In the Netherlands professional genealogy is still a rare phenomenon. Genealogy is very popular, but most people consider it a nice hobby and nothing more. The consequence of this line of thought is that we have lots of courses for beginners, but we lack education for Dutch professional genealogists.
After a while I started to see the challenge. I was convinced that I wanted to take courses to improve both my research and business skills. So I searched the Internet for information on genealogical studies. I found a couple in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. After reading all the available information and reviews on these courses, I was still doubting between two. In the end I chose for the National Institute for Genealogical Studies. Why? Mainly, because I was very excited about the Professional Development Certificate, a rather new program that “will benefit those who wish to pursue a career in genealogy, create a genealogy business or to augment their income potential by adding niche areas to their business plan.” After a good conversation with Louise St. Denis I registered for this certificate.
My first course was called Business Skills: Creating a Genealogy Business. It was scheduled for the 2nd of March. From the very first beginning, I liked the course. I read the course materials and made the assignments. In less then two weeks I finished all the modules and passed the exam. I was even disappointed that I did not register for a second course, because I had to wait more than two weeks before I could start with a new course!
At this moment I have finished six courses, including the research course Dutch Ancestors in the Netherlands. It is difficult to say already which course I liked best, there are still 34 courses to come! However, if I had to choose one right now, it would be Business Skills: Career Development – Choosing a Niche (part 1 and 2). The course made me think about my own genealogy business: what kind of income streams would I like to add? Would I like to be a writer of articles, columns or blogposts? Would I like to publish books, or be an editor? Could I be a forensic genealogist, a family archivist, a conference planner or a house historian? While I was answering the questions in the assignments, I realized that I have already done a lot of these things before but that I never made a clear choice. That is a thought I really have to give some extra attention.
After completing the course, I drew the conclusion that there are many options for a genealogist. It is still too early to say what path in genealogy world I will take. To my opinion the title of the course should be changed into Finding a Niche. Why? Because I think it is rather difficult to really choose a niche. You need time to find out what your skills are, what you like best in genealogy. A specialty is something you need to develop. And sometimes a niche just comes on your way. I think it is more a matter of finding a niche than choosing one.
There is one more thing I really want to recommend, especially to new students. Take part in the virtual meetings! These meetings give you the opportunity to ask about difficult topics, to have conversations about genealogy in different countries and to speak about your own experiences. But it is also a nice way to meet teachers and students of the institute.
John Boeren is a genealogist, researcher and writer, who is living in Tilburg, the Netherlands. He holds a master’s degree in Dutch Law (Constitutional Law and History of Law) and studied at the School for Archivists in The Hague. For almost ten years he worked for the Regional Archives in Tilburg, mainly as a manager of the Department for Research and Education Services. Nowadays he works as a part-time consultant for local governments.
He has been involved with genealogy since 1988. In his private research he focuses on the families of his four grandparents. His main research project is a one-place study on Loon op Zand, a smaller village in the Tilburg area.
In January 2015 he started his own genealogy business, called Antecedentia. He conducts genealogical research in commission (in the Netherlands and the Flemish part of Belgium), gives lectures, teaches beginners courses and publishes in books and journals.
John is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), of the Dutch Central Bureau for Genealogy (CBG), of the Dutch Genealogical Association (NGV), and of local historical societies. He serves as vice-president of one of the NGV chapters.