Genealogical Researchers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Genealogical researchers have top-notch research, problem-solving, analytical, and critical-thinking skills in order to efficiently locate and assess genealogical information. To build these skills, take classes such as social studies, government, and philosophy. Computer classes (computer science, data science, data analysis, and database management) will teach how to use computers and the Internet and analyze and store data. Writing and speech courses will help you to become a strong communicator. You’ll need these skills to write reports and letters of inquiry as you conduct research and to develop strong working relationships with co-workers, clients, and keepers of information such as archivists and record office clerks. Learning a foreign language will be especially useful if you work as a citizenship reclamation specialist, but it’s a valuable skill regardless of your specialty.

Postsecondary Education

Genealogical researchers have a variety of educational backgrounds. Some people start out as traditional genealogists and gradually acquire specialized knowledge of probate research, forensic genealogy, and other specialties via classes at colleges and universities and/or those offered by professional associations. Some build their knowledge by attending conferences such as the International Conference on Genetic Genealogy, which is sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA.

An aspiring forensic genealogist may choose to earn a bachelor’s or graduate degree in genetic science or bioinformatics. Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, offers a bachelor’s degree in family history. Some aspiring genetic genealogists earn this degree in conjunction with a certificate or dual degree in genetics. Visit https://history.byu.edu/family-history to learn more about the program.


Some colleges—such as Boston University, Brigham Young University, Salt Lake Community College, and the University of New Haven—offer certificates in genealogical research, family history research, forensic genealogy, and related fields. Many schools offer certificates in genetics and genomics.

Other Education or Training

Genealogical researchers often augment their college degrees by taking classes and webinars and participating in conference presentations that are offered by professional associations. The National Genealogical Society provides many classes for general genealogists such as American Genealogical Studies: The Basics; Reading Old Handwriting; and Transcribing, Extracting, and Abstracting Genealogical Documents. It also offers specialized courses such as Understanding and Using DNA Test Results and Genetic Genealogy-Autosomal DNA. You can learn more at https://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cgs. The Forensic Genealogy Institute (the educational arm of the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy), Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, National Institute for Genealogical Studies, and the Association of Professional Genealogists also provide in-person classes and webinars. Contact these organizations for more information.

Colleges and universities offer specialized classes that will be useful to researchers in various specialties. For example, Excelsior College offers Introduction to Genetic Genealogy (an eight-week, online course) and Advanced Genealogical Research (a 15-week, online course). Visit https://explore.excelsior.edu to learn more.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

General genealogists can seek voluntary certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists (which awards the certified genealogist and certified genealogical lecturer designations), International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (accredited genealogist designation), and the Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes [genealogical record searcher (Canada) and certified genealogist (Canada)].

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Aspiring genealogical researchers should obtain several years of experience in general genealogical research before starting a specialty practice. Before hiring you, many clients will want evidence that you are a skilled researcher and have a successful business. It’s also a good idea to participate in an internship or co-op experience at a company that specializes in genealogical research or a law enforcement agency that employs genetic genealogists.

Genealogical researchers have superior research skills and the patience and tenacity to continue their research when they encounter roadblocks during the investigative process. They must have top-notch communication and interpersonal skills in order to effectively interact with clients, co-workers, and managers of archives and other places where they conduct research. Since genetics and DNA testing play such an important role in genealogy today, they must have expertise in these areas. Other important traits include excellent organizational, and time-management skills; an analytical personality; and strong problem-solving abilities. Genealogical researchers must be highly ethical and respect the confidentiality of their clients.