Citizenship reclamation specialists are employed by genealogical research firms and law firms. Heir searchers work for attorneys, estate administrators and courts, and probate research firms. Military repatriation experts are employed by private companies that provide services to the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies. Genetic genealogists are employed by for-profit companies that provide DNA analysis services to customers. Major companies include 23andMe, AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage DNA, Sequencing.com, and HomeDNA. Genetic genealogists also work for police departments and other law enforcement agencies, government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, and private forensic science consulting firms. Some genealogical researchers operate their own consulting firms.
Most genealogical researchers first begin their careers as traditional genealogists and gradually expand their knowledge of a particular specialty—such as forensic genealogy—by taking classes that are offered by colleges and universities, professional associations, and for-profit education companies to build their skills. Some participate in internships or other experiential opportunities at genealogical research firms. With experience, they begin offering their genealogical research services to clients until they build a strong reputation in the field.
Once they have a successful business, they can obtain clients by word-of-mouth, by promoting their business on social media and at their Web sites, and by networking at law enforcement or genealogy career fairs and related events.
Other than growing their businesses, there are no clear advancement paths for self-employed genealogical researchers. A researcher who works for a company or law enforcement agency can advance by receiving higher pay and/or managerial responsibilities or by moving from a smaller employer to a larger one. Some genealogical researchers become educators, and teach classes on general genealogy, probate research, or genetic genealogy. Some became well-known in the media by writing books, giving interviews about the field, or even participating in television shows or documentaries about genealogical research.
Tips for Entry
Contact genealogical researchers to ask for advice on breaking into the field. Perhaps they may be able to offer you an internship or a part-time job. The Association of Professional Genealogists has a member database (http://www.apgen.org/directory) that you can use to find genealogists. The database includes categories for “heir searcher,” “DNA specialist,” and other specialties.
Read the Journal of Genetic Genealogy (https://jogg.info), Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly (https://www.apgen.org/cpages/apgq), and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (https://www.ngsgenealogy.org/ngsq) to learn more about genetic genealogy and the general field of genealogy.
Attend the National Genealogical Society’s annual Family History Conference (https://www.ngsgenealogy.org/conferences) to network and participate in continuing education classes.
If you’re unsure on how to start a business, the Small Business Administration offers a wealth of advice and information on startup funding at https://www.sba.gov.