Is professional genealogy dead?
Is it still possible to be an independent, professional genealogist? It was always a precarious livelihood, dependent on finding intelligent, trusting clients in an unregulated market not short of sharks. The internet has been good for the shark population, and has also put the raw materials of research at the everyone’s fingertips. Why pay someone you’re not sure you can trust to do something you can do yourself?
Because it will take you a month to find something that a competent professional can find in half-an-hour. Vast jungles of genealogical half-truth and supposition have spread online, and the need for experienced guides has grown, not diminished. To some extent, this is a self-evident truth about expertise in general: it is perfectly possible to extract your own tooth, but the job is better left to an expert.
The difference with genealogy is that some of what we used to do was gate-keeping, allowing access to offline records because we happened to be where those records were. That part of the job is now mostly dead. These days, we have to be more like research escorts to a client, clearing a lucid chain of evidence with our trusty machetes of scepticism. More like Indiana Jones, I like to think.
Which brings me to the recent name-change of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (apgi.ie), of which I am a member . We are now Accredited Genealogists Ireland. The reason is internet-driven globalisation. A much larger US-based group called the Association of Professional Genealogists (apgen.org), an excellent organisation that acts as a support group for anyone involved in the family history business, is now much more prominent world-wide. They don’t offer accreditation, with its implicit guarantee of competence to potential clients, and we do. So we are getting out of their way.
Like many other things the internet was going to sweep into the dustbin of history, professional genealogy lives on.