Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Who are the genealogists? An update.

During the past year, I have written and read several posts about the identity of a "genealogical community." Whether or not a community exists, who are these people that we consider to be genealogists? What constitutes the practice of genealogy? In some states, not Arizona, there are laws against people practicing law without a license. What if there were laws that you had to have a license to practice genealogy? How would you prove you were a genealogist? (Actually, the laws in Arizona about practicing law are complicated. Technically, you do not need a license, but the Arizona Supreme Court has rules concerning who can appear in court. The Supreme Court also licenses document preparers as distinct from attorneys).

Let's suppose that we wanted to have licensing requirements for genealogists, (ignoring the fact of whether or not this makes sense), what would you have to do to become a genealogist? Most licensing requirements for professionals, trades people and such, require a test, certification, proof of experience or some kind of education. But even in Arizona, you don't need an attorney to represent yourself in court. So, it would make sense that you would not need a license to do your own genealogy. But what about people like me that do genealogy for others? Is there a need for us to be licensed? In Arizona, like most states, the Arizona State Bar Association has a monopoly over the licensing of lawyers. You are either a member of the Arizona State Bar Association or you do not practice law in the Arizona State court system representing clients. Do we want to give that type of licensing authority to an organization controlling the genealogy profession? By the way, it doesn't matter whether or not I am being paid to represent someone in court, I simply cannot practice law by representing clients irrespective of whether or not I get paid. So should genealogists be licensed even if they were doing genealogy for free?

Now, who are these people that might (or might not) need to be licensed and what does it mean to "practice genealogy?"

Well, one way of determining who we are is to look at the demographics of my blog readership relative to the general Internet population. (I know, I have talked about this before, but in a different context). Here is is:

Age: 55+
Education: Graduate School
Gender: Male (this is a dramatic change from previous reviews of my demographics)
Has Children: No
Browsing Location: Work
Income: definitely over $30,000 a year with a lot of readers over $60,000 a year
Ethnicity: I am definitely not popular in Asia and decidedly Caucasian (whatever that is)

If you compare my demographics to, for example: has a slightly lower age readership has fewer graduate school readers and more general college educated readers has decidedly more female than mail readers, just the opposite of my blog has the same demographic for people with no children is decidedly a home based program contrasting to my at work readers has a similar, though not as marked income distribution is more popular among African Americans than I am

Has this changed?  As noted, yes, apparently I now have more male readers than the general Internet population.

So who are the genealogists today? A well educated, older person, with no children (I would assume this means at home), that makes a better than average income. Hmm, just the type of people who are ripe for regulation and licensing. Just kidding.

Now let's get this straight. I think certification is desirable for those who are professionally involved in providing a service for hire. I do not think there should be any qualifications requirements at all for anyone else. I certainly do not want to get the government involved in issuing any kind of license for genealogists.


  1. How were your blog stats determined? It seems a little skewed.

  2. In Florida, we have the Department of Professional Regulation, which regulates the practice, including licensing, of many professions from beautician to building contractor to doctor. (The Florida Bar Association takes care of the lawyers.) I would imagine that, if Florida were to become of a mind to, regulation and licensing of genealogists would come under the DPR.

    The first thing they would do is to establish standards. These would include, I am sure, education. But what would comprise an acceptable genealogical education for licensing purposes? A college degree, I would imagine, but the only degree-granting program so far is at Brigham Young University (at least, that I know of). Not everyone can afford to travel to Provo to attend classes. My genealogical education has consisted in my own independent study and the non-degree 40-course program from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies, through the University of Toronto. That's in Canada. Would that be acceptable to the DPR? I don't know.

    So it seems to me that the first step in such licensing, if it indeed becomes the norm, would be for there to be more degree-granting programs in genealogy at American universities. That is still a long way down the road, especially in today's hamstrung economy.

    Interesting thought, though. I am of two minds. It would be a hassle for people who want to practice genealogy to go through. On the other hand, it would afford an extra layer of protection to the consumer.